Trav­el­ing Light

Gone are the days when travel was per­ceived to be some­thing for the wealthy. With cheap flights and in­no­va­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions, you don’t have to burn a hole in your pocket to go on a trip. Read our ex­pert tips for trav­el­ing on a bud­get.

Good Housekeeping (Philippines) - - Your Money -

Trav­el­ing is fun, and it’s good for you: Stud­ies have shown that tak­ing trips sup­ports our phys­i­cal health by re­liev­ing stress and pro­mot­ing phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity. It like­wise im­proves our emo­tional and men­tal well-be­ing by introducing us to new per­spec­tives, en­hanc­ing cre­ativ­ity, and build­ing self-con­fi­dence.

But it can also be heavy on the pocket. When you travel, you shell out for food, trans­porta­tion, and ac­com­mo­da­tions, among other things, which can eas­ily set you back thou­sands—un­less you know where to look.

Most of the time, you don’t re­gret spend­ing for travel, what with all its ben­e­fits. Still, you must won­der: Is there any way to min­i­mize ex­penses? What are my op­tions?

Sea­soned trav­el­ers and ex­perts share their tips for spend­ing wisely and get­ting the best value for your money.

PLAN AHEAD

Un­less you’re a no­mad—or a mil­lion­aire— who can drop ev­ery­thing and travel to a new des­ti­na­tion at a mo­ment’s no­tice, or you have no qualms about pay­ing for things on the fly, the best way to make a trip truly cost-ef­fec­tive is to take time to plan it.

Ex­perts and ex­pe­ri­enced trav­el­ers say you should ideally give your­self a few months to a year to plan a trip, iden­ti­fy­ing where, when, and with whom you want to go. It is by do­ing so that you can get the most bang for your buck.

Plan­ning can help you take ad­van­tage of lower rates, travel ex­po­si­tions, and seat sales. Each year, var­i­ous air­lines, travel agen­cies, and even banks come to­gether at local travel fairs, like the Philip­pine Travel Agen­cies As­so­ci­a­tion’s an­nual Travel Tour Expo, held ev­ery Fe­bru­ary, to of­fer low prices and deals for their prod­ucts and ser­vices. Th­ese mas­sive events typ­i­cally don’t hap­pen just once, but sev­eral times a year.

Al­ter­nately, air­lines also hold seat sales, or their own travel ex­pos, across dif­fer­ent months and oc­ca­sions each year. “The best time to book flights is dur­ing a seat sale, of course,” says Gretchen Fi­lart Dublin, free­lance travel writer and blog­ger (fil­ip­ina­ex­plorer.com). “Seat sales usu­ally hap­pen when there’s a ma­jor hol­i­day, like In­de­pen­dence Day or Chi­nese New Year, so keep an eye out for that.”

Just how big do th­ese sales go? Other than Cebu Pa­cific’s fa­mous Piso Fare promo, Qatar Air­ways, for one, once of­fered a “kids fly free” promo. And re­mem­ber when Philip­pine Air­lines of­fered up to 75% off on flights for its 75th an­niver­sary in 2016?

With­out a doubt, such events are a must-visit for any­one look­ing to travel for less. But cheap flights tend to sell out fast, so you need to be ready to book them. For Terri Swa­ger, a re­tired air­line and ho­tel ex­ec­u­tive, and true cit­i­zen of the world (she went on 11 trips, both local and in­ter­na­tional, just in the past year), hav­ing a plan bet­ter en­ables you to get the best out of th­ese short win­dows of op­por­tu­nity. “Don’t go to th­ese travel fairs say­ing, ‘Ah ma­g­a­nda yata diyan, I think I want to go there,’” she says. “Those will never hap­pen. You have to write them down and say, ‘I want to go to th­ese places, on th­ese dates.’”

Terri and her hus­band, Hadrian, like to make a list of the top places they want to visit at the be­gin­ning of each year, so they know what to watch for. “The best time to plan is af­ter New Year,” she says. “So ev­ery year, in Jan­uary, we de­cide, ‘Th­ese are the six places we want to go to.’ It doesn’t mean we will, but they’re on our list, and then we watch na for the fares that will go down for th­ese par­tic­u­lar des­ti­na­tions.”

As soon as you get a con­crete idea of where you want to go, make like Terri and Hadrian and put it into writ­ing. “Af­ter you’ve de­ter­mined that, you’re poised, so ’pag nakakita kayo ng air­fare dis­counts or deals, or you know they’re com­ing, you need to be quick. And you will not be quick if you’re just de­cid­ing, ‘Where will I go?’” says Swa­ger.

Maritess Gar­cia Reyes, travel blog­ger (www.mate­treyes.com), gen­eral man­ager of on­line travel agency Trip Repub­lic (face­book.com/thetriprepub­lic), and mom of one, also be­lieves in the ben­e­fit of plan­ning ahead. “Plan­ning in ad­vance can save you money and en­ergy in the end,” she says. “That said, I al­ways plan our trips usu­ally a year ahead as this is also the time when promo fares are at their low­est.”

She con­tin­ues, “Buy tick­ets way, way ahead. If Holy Week is in March of the fol­low­ing year, buy tick­ets in Jan­uary of the cur­rent year. Plus, some­times air­lines have pro­mos dur­ing New Year, like a Piso Fare cor­re­spond­ing to Jan­uary 1; or Valen­tine’s Day, where air­fare can be as low as P14 cor­re­spond­ing to Fe­bru­ary 14.”

If you can’t catch a seat sale or travel fair, keep an eye out for other travel deals, which are usu­ally ad­ver­tised through­out the year. “Now, more and more, air­lines part­ner with credit card com­pa­nies and they of­fer two-for-one deals,” says Swa­ger. “I think the news­pa­per is a good source for th­ese.” You can also down­load air­line apps and sign up for email alerts so you’re the first to know about seat sale an­nounce­ments.

When you plan ahead, you get to bud­get the big-ticket items. Plan­ning gives you time to cre­ate an itin­er­ary, which can help you strate­gize your ex­penses for the trip. Read up and find out what sights you and your com­pan­ions want to see, and what unique ac­tiv­i­ties you want to ex­pe­ri­ence at your des­ti­na­tion, then al­lot a

bud­get for each. Out­side th­ese ma­jor ac­tiv­i­ties, keep ex­penses to a min­i­mum. Do­ing this will al­low you to bet­ter pre­pare for your trip fi­nan­cially, and to avoid spend­ing more than what you can.

Take An­ton Diaz, founder of travel and food blog Our Awe­some Planet (ourawe­some­planet.com), who trav­els at least twice a year with his wife and four sons. “Let’s say go­ing to mu­se­ums, eat­ing at this restau­rant, or ex­pe­ri­enc­ing this location—we make sure na naka-bud­get ’yun, and we don’t go out­side that,” he shares. “We don’t typ­i­cally spend on the go lang. Or, let’s say kakain kami, for ex­am­ple in Ja­pan, we’d eat sa 7-Eleven lang, yung mga street food, ganu’n. So we bal­ance it. We have a list lang of where to go na main ex­pe­ri­ences, para alam na namin kung ano yung mga main bud­get items. And then, more or less, we don’t go out of sight of our bud­get.”

Reg­is­tered fi­nan­cial plan­ner and char­tered wealth man­ager Rowena Suarez rec­om­mends a sim­i­lar tac­tic: “I al­ways have a sched­ule: Mon­day, Tues­day, Wed­nes­day, this is what we’re go­ing to do. You have to fol­low the sched­ule be­cause if you don’t, some­times you just lose out. The day’s fin­ished, and you didn’t see or do any­thing.”

TIME YOUR VISIT

It’s old ad­vice, but one worth re­peat­ing: Avoid trav­el­ing to your cho­sen des­ti­na­tions dur­ing peak sea­son—that is, dur­ing the sum­mer months and fes­ti­val sea­sons— be­cause ev­ery­one else will most likely be head­ing there, too.

Bear in mind that, like any com­mod­ity, air­fare is af­fected by the law of sup­ply and de­mand. “If you plan to have a va­ca­tion dur­ing Holy Week or Christ­mas, put in mind that other peo­ple think of do­ing the same thing, so the de­mand for air­fare will be higher to­ward the date, hence the price will def­i­nitely bal­loon,” ex­plains Trip Repub­lic’s Reyes.

To dodge the steep fares, avid trav­eler Swa­ger sug­gests trav­el­ing dur­ing the shoul­der sea­sons, or the two weeks be­fore and af­ter peak sea­son. “Be prac­ti­cal in your choice,” she says. “Un­less you re­ally want to go to the festivals, in which case, you should be pre­pared to pay more money.”

If you want to cut down your costs even fur­ther, travel writer Dublin rec­om­mends book­ing a mid-week ver­sus a week­end flight. She says, “Avoid flights that com­mence on a week­end; I find they are usu­ally more ex­pen­sive.”

GO FOR PACK­AGES

Cruises re­cently be­came the talk of the town and here’s why: all-in tour fees. Star Cruises’ (star­cruises.com) flag­ship liner, Su­per­star Virgo, which docked in Manila early this year, of­fered five-night cruise pack­ages for USD655 (around P33,000), which trav­el­ers can some­times get at a dis­counted price of USD600 (P30,000) for two per­sons at travel fairs. The fee cov­ers cabin ac­com­mo­da­tions, meals, and use of the ship’s fa­cil­i­ties, not to men­tion the op­por­tu­nity to travel to Kaoh­si­ung in Tai­wan and Hong Kong.

“Cruises are very fam­ily-ori­ented, be­cause in a cabin, you can put up to four peo­ple,” says Swa­ger. “When you’re trav­el­ing with fam­ily, you have to con­sider safety. And I think cruises are very safe. You can eat as much as you want; you don’t have to worry about the kids com­ing home, ’cause they’re just there; there’s a doc­tor on the ship; all that. And bud­get-wise, you know your gas­tos, walang pon­der­able.”

Un­for­tu­nately, the Su­per­star Virgo’s last cruise for 2017 departs on May 23, and no an­nounce­ments have been made re­gard­ing its re­turn to Philip­pine shores. In the mean­time, you can find other travel pack­ages to var­i­ous des­ti­na­tions at travel fairs, agen­cies, or on­line. Th­ese pack­ages make great deals since they in­clude all com­po­nents of a trip—trans­porta­tion, ac­com­mo­da­tion, meals, and tours—for a price cheaper than what it would cost to pay for each com­po­nent separately.

“Pack­aged tours can be a good deal be­cause you don’t have to think, ‘Do I have ex­tra money for my meals?’ No, ev­ery­thing is in­cluded in the fee,” ex­plains Swa­ger.

TRY AL­TER­NA­TIVE OP­TIONS

When it comes to ac­com­mo­da­tions, Airbnb is cur­rently all the rage. “Kasi ang mura ta­laga niya, sig­nif­i­cantly, ver­sus all the other op­tions,” ex­plains food and travel blog­ger Diaz, who says he and his fam­ily pre­fer to book Airbnbs when­ever pos­si­ble on their trav­els abroad.

A quick search on the of­fi­cial Airbnb web­site (airbnb.com) re­veals prices as low as P1,200 to P2,500 to rent an en­tire home or apart­ment in Sin­ga­pore for a night. That same price range can get you a sin­gle room at a hos­tel for a night. A de­cent ho­tel room will cost you a lit­tle more.

“Airbnbs are avail­able ev­ery­where na,” says Diaz. “May mga nu­ances lang. For ex­am­ple, in Ja­pan, some of the res­i­den­tial com­mu­ni­ties don’t like mai­in­gay na kids. Eh, usu­ally, Filipino kids are rowdy, so hindi ad­vis­able ang Airbnb in a sense.”

Echo­ing this sen­ti­ment, Swa­ger says she is a fan of Airbnbs, though it might not be the ideal choice for ev­ery trav­eler. “The Airbnb con­cept is good be­cause you get to live like a local, ver­sus a ho­tel.” she says. “Now, a ho­tel, I would sug­gest, is good for those who have never been to the des­ti­na­tion, be­cause they have a front desk or a bell­man who can tell them where to go, etcetera. But in an Airbnb, they only give you the keys, some tips, and you’re on your own. So I like Airbnb when I have a very well-sea­soned group of trav­el­ers with me. Or es­pe­cially, I take Airbnbs when we have been to the des­ti­na­tion be­fore.”

For trav­el­ers who pre­fer the con­ve­nience of ho­tels, web­sites like Agoda (agoda.com), Tri­vago (tri­vago.com), and Book­ing.com, among oth­ers, are a great way to find com­pet­i­tive rates for ho­tel rooms based on your bud­get. The web­sites have fea­tures that al­low you to search for op­tions based on the star rat­ing and price range you pre­fer.

When it comes to trans­porta­tion, con­sider tak­ing a ferry in­stead of a plane to local des­ti­na­tions, if the op­tion is avail­able. It’ll take you longer to get there, but you’ll be pay­ing a frac­tion of what it could cost you to fly to your des­ti­na­tion. For in­stance, a one-way plane ticket to Coron,

Palawan, is priced at nearly P4,000, while a sin­gle ticket for a 15-hour ferry ride with 2Go Travel (travel.2go.com.ph) amounts to P2,000 or less. “I think this is a wise al­ter­na­tive if travel time is not an is­sue,” says travel blog­ger Reyes.

GO FOR MUL­TI­FAC­ETED DES­TI­NA­TIONS

You know what they say—you can’t please every­body. Some­times, what one fam­ily mem­ber likes isn’t some­thing another would be in­ter­ested in. In this case, pick a des­ti­na­tion that has a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing for ev­ery­one, in­stead of plan­ning a bud­get-bust­ing cross­con­ti­nen­tal tour. Crowd fa­vorite Ja­pan, for ex­am­ple, has tem­ples and mu­se­ums for cul­ture buffs, de­lec­ta­ble cui­sine for food­ies, and ex­cit­ing theme parks for kids. Fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sor and mom of two Suarez says Tokyo not only of­fers de­cent meals for as low as JPY500 (P220), but also has Tokyo Dis­ney­sea and Dis­ney­land for the kids. Swa­ger, on the other hand, counts Osaka as a fa­vorite. The gourmet cap­i­tal of Ja­pan also has Univer­sal Stu­dios and plenty of shop­ping op­tions, and is only a short train ride away from Kyoto, which shows the more tra­di­tional side of Ja­pan.

CON­SIDER GO­ING LOCAL

But, of course, you can never go wrong with local des­ti­na­tions. You’ve heard it count­less times: The Philip­pines is home to some of the best beaches in the world. But apart from sea­side at­trac­tions, the coun­try also boasts ma­jes­tic moun­tains and land­scapes that have be­come true must-sees for tourists all over the world. Con­sider your­self lucky to be liv­ing so near th­ese sights—you don’t have to pay much or go out of your way to see them.

Travel blog­ger Reyes says her fa­vorite local des­ti­na­tions for fam­ily trips are Siqui­jor, Palawan, and Baler. “There’s a lot to do for ev­ery age and in­ter­est.”

Mean­while, fel­low travel writer Dublin’s fa­vorite des­ti­na­tions in­clude Al­bay, Benguet, Batangas, and Ilo­cos Norte, where there also never seems to be a short­age of things to see and do.

Both Reyes and Dublin es­ti­mate that a bud­get of P1,000 to P1,500 per day, per per­son, is rea­son­able for a local trip. For an overnight stay, Dublin says P2,500 is enough to cover ac­com­mo­da­tions, trans­porta­tion, and food. How­ever, some des­ti­na­tions like Coron and El Nido, for ex­am­ple, will re­quire a big­ger bud­get.

Trav­el­ing lo­cally is a rea­son­able op­tion. Be­sides be­ing in­ex­pen­sive, it could also be a more prac­ti­cal course to take if you wish to travel with younger chil­dren. “I don’t re­ally ad­vise bring­ing tod­dlers to long trips and far des­ti­na­tions. They might not even re­mem­ber it, and there are a lot of things to bring on your trips, too, when your kids are younger,” says Suarez. “The whole ex­pe­ri­ence would be dif­fer­ent, I think, when the child is about seven. So give them first ex­pe­ri­ences like the beach, and save your money for other trips when they’re older.”

Our Awe­some Planet’s Diaz takes his sons to beaches around the coun­try at least once a year. Aside from the fact that the kids en­joy swim­ming, he con­sid­ers it another way of ed­u­cat­ing them. “What we want to do is teach the kids also, ‘Th­ese are the best beaches in the world.’ Para when they go out­side, there’s that in­her­ent pride.”

Plan­ning can save you a lot of time and money.

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