Archive for May, 2008

Thursday’s post, Saving for Plane Tickets, Part One, broke down airfares to different destinations into a daily, weekly and monthly savings budget. Of course, the most straightforward way to save $3/day is to divert it immediately from your paycheck into a separate account, preferably one earning higher interest and which is difficult for you to access (that is, spend). Those who are so disciplined must be applauded. The rest of you should probably keep reading 🙂

This post delivers six ideas for building up travel savings without too much thought or deprivation, by putting your essential and non-essential spending in perspective and “snowflaking” the positive effects of any money-saving measures you may already follow. Find my advice after the jump.


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U.S. credit card and bank account holders, today is the last day to submit your Currency Conversion Fee Refund Claim.  It’s at least $25 absolutely free if you used a credit card or ATM abroad (or purchased anything in foreign currency) between 1996 and 2006.

This is totally legit and the easiest money you’ll earn (back — remember, it was yours in the first place) today.  Read all the details about it here.

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Vacationing in the New York or Los Angeles areas? Perhaps a local without air conditioning seeking reprieve from the summer heat? A fun and free activity is to become a member of a live studio audience for one of your favorite talk shows, game shows or sitcoms. (Heck, you never know — you may be called down to be the next contestant! Plus, talk shows are always giving their studio audiences great swag.) I once attended an evening taping of the show “Dharma and Greg” while in Los Angeles for a newspaper conference. It was interesting to see the set and the actors up close and get a sense of how the industry works, and it definitely made watching “my” episode on the tube more exciting!

Find all the details, including where to request tickets for your program of choice, after the jump.


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Want to fly overseas in the next year? Here’s a quick calculation of what you’d have to save over the next 12 months to pay for your flights:

$2000+ = plane tickets between U.S. and Australia/New Zealand

  • At the lower end, this works out to $5.55/day, $38.89/week, $166.67/month.

$1500 = plane tickets between U.S. and Africa, really unlucky peak season fliers between U.S. and Europe

  • This works out to $4.17/day, $29.17/week, $125/month.

$1200 = peak season (Easter-September, Christmas-New Year’s) plane tickets between U.S. and Europe, U.S. and Asia

  • This works out to $3.33/day, $25/week, $100/month.

$800 = off-season plane tickets to the above

  • This works out to $2.22/day, $15.55/week, $66.67/month. At $100/month, you’ll have finished in eight months rather than 12.

$600 = plane tickets between U.S. and Central/South America

  • Over 12 months, $1.79/day, $12.50/week, $50/month. At $100/month, you’ll have finished in six months rather than 12.

Through the cheapo’s eyes, we see:

+ Plane tickets will be the shoestring traveler’s largest single expense. Therefore it pays to shop around: changes to airlines, itineraries, days of the week can shave off hundreds of dollars. Sign up for email notification of sales. Know what a bargain price is and when to jump on it!

+ Travel more often by traveling off-peak. Summer in Europe is nice, but is it four months of saving nicer than fall? Put another way, in five years of $100/month travel savings, you can experience 5 European summers or 7 European falls, winters or springs. Wouldn’t you rather take two more trips for the same amount of money?

+ Consider other travel destinations. Keep saving and you will someday get to London. In the meanwhile, you can visit Costa Rica *and* Peru for the same airfare (and your money will go further on the ground as well). Don’t be afraid to try unusual destinations you can afford; embrace the fare as guide!

Tune in tomorrow for the Friday Freebie. Saturday’s post, Saving for Plane Tickets, Part Two, will outline creative ways to put travel savings in perspective to get you socking money away without excessive deprivation.

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Readers are often skeptical at first that I travel as cheaply as I say I do, and the first target of their criticism is usually the cost of my flights. Looking over my budgets, you’ll see that I don’t crack the 30 euro mark on airfare, even when my trip is made up of six different flight legs. I revealed my secret here, but the short version is: let RyanAir pay the taxes and fees! If I still haven’t convinced you of my sincerity or cheapo cred, head over to the RyanAir site right now: they are holding another no-taxes/no-fees sale for the month of June, which they’ve extended till Thursday. You too can book your own flights for 1.51 euros!

For less than 17 euros airfare (that’s four tickets), June will find me traveling to Seville and Granada, Spain, via Frankfurt-Hahn airport. So my wise and fearless readers, I’m once again seeking your advice. I’m looking at two days near the airport and four nights in Spain. Have you successfully visited the “Romantic Rhine” without a car? Would you split Seville and Granada with two days each? Any hot tips on Andalucian cuisine?

Further, I’m making plans for daytrips with a visitor to Berlin and am looking at Rostock or Leipzig. Been there and have a preference? I’d love to hear about it.

Your wisdom can earn you a modest prize if I deem your advice the best. I’ll select a winner for each destination. Enter the contest by leaving your comments below!

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Planes, trains and automobiles! We’ve got it all in this week’s news roundup.

Traveling around the UK over a bank holiday weekend can lead to major delays on public transportation, warns Pam Kent of the IHT Globespotters Blog. In a recent post (inspired by tomorrow’s holiday), she notes,

Network Rail, the government body that looks after the rail network, tries to schedule engineering work on weekends, particularly those with a public holiday tagged on. That may be a plus for business travellers and commuters. But if you want to get away on a public holiday weekend, beware!: . . . [this weekend] major road and rail disruptions are expected, including the complete closure of the main railway line north out of London, between Euston and Birmingham. There are alternative routes to destinations on this stretch but they are not as direct. 20 per cent of the network will be undergoing improvement – in many cases replacement bus services are laid on for the stretches that are closed – but these lengthen the journey time considerably.

It’s always a good idea to find the transportation authority websites of your destinations before you travel and note (or bookmark) the section on delays, construction and strike warnings.

Greyhound has announced a new service in the vein of other low-cost bus services called NeOn, connecting Toronto and New York twice daily. A limited number of seats on each 10-hour ride (ugh!) are available for the low, low price of $1. The good news: like BoltBus, the buses are equipped with WiFi and each seat has its own outlet to power laptops and portable DVD players. Even more good news: in celebration of its launch, all seats from May 29 through June 1 will sell for just $1.

If you’re planning to book, here’s the salient pricing info: maximum round-trip (refundable) fare is $165 (excepting holiday periods, when the maximum fare rises to $192). 1-day advance purchase will net you $150, 2-day $120, 3-day $90, 4-day $50, 5-day $30, 6-day $2 round trip. However, discounted fares are strictly limited, with no more than 5 seats each (searching shows max. 3 at $2 and $30 and max. 4 at $50 and $90) at the lowest four levels. It pays to book these tickets early! $1 tickets are now available for itineraries till September; check the booking website directly for more details.

Thanks to This Just In for the tip!

Finally, unless you live under a rock, you’ve likely heard the news that American Airlines will begin charging passengers for all checked luggage. This follows the announcement in February of $25 fees for the second piece of checked luggage, a move which quickly became standard across U.S. legacy carriers. Price for the first piece of checked baggage on all American flights after 15 June is $15. Interestingly, there’s still no mention of the change on the airline’s luggage FAQs. While this is standard fare among low-cost carriers in Europe (a checked bag on RyanAir currently costs the equivalent of $21, including the necessary airport check-in fee), the public is likely to react negatively to perceived nickel-and-diming by major (read: expensive) airlines. Here’s hoping the rest of the industry doesn’t follow suit this time . . . In the meanwhile, keep honing your carry-on packing skills, just in case.

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Anheuser-Busch is offering single free admission to its theme parks for active duty servicemen and -women, Guard members and their families (max. 3 dependents). Offer is valid through the end of 2008.

The parks included are:

Fill out and print the form on this website, gather your military and dependent IDs, swimsuits and sunscreen and plan a fun day out!

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+ Before you take off on your trip, purge your wallet of all unnecessary cards (library cards, gift cards, Blockbuster, etc.) and leave them at home. Better yet, use a different wallet for your trip and selectively and consciously put items you need (ATM card, credit card, insurance information, driver’s license if you’ll be renting a car) into it. Not only does this lighten the weight, it also minimizes the costs and hassle should your wallet be lost or stolen.

+ Speaking of petty theft, many travelers already know that keeping your valuables in a difficult-to-reach place helps protect them from pickpockets. If they don’t know where you’re keeping your money, they can’t steal it, right? Two more useful tools in the fight against five-finger losses: 1) a plastic bus pass holder for your transportation tickets and 2) a coin purse. Instead of pulling out your entire wallet, simply flash your pass or use the coins (or small bills) in the coin purse to pay for most of your daily transactions. Keeping these items separate keeps your wallet more secure!

+ Universities are a great resource for a no-budget traveler. Head to the library for free internet access, photocopiers, and lockers where you might stash your luggage. When desperate, head there for free bathrooms and taps to fill your water bottle. During the daytime, the university’s cafeterias offer inexpensive hot meals.  If you need assistance, university staff and students are the native population most likely to speak English well.

+ Still thirsty? During working hours, many banks offer water coolers in their lobby, with both hot and cold varieties available.

+ Traveling on the German Autobahn, you will soon discover that the restrooms at rest stops are monopolized by a company called Sanifair. Your 50-cent admission purchases a coupon that not only gets you in and out of the turnstiles to the toilet but also grants you a face-value discount on any purchase at the rest area. These coupons are good for one year and fully transferable, so save them up or pool the tickets from your travel group to purchase meals, drinks and snacks for free!

+ Didn’t find one postcard for sale in the small town you visited, or simply didn’t have a chance to pick some up? Head to the post office; they almost always have local postcards for sale, and while their selection is generally limited, it is better than nothing when your loved ones are expecting mail! Bonus is the post office can also sell you the appropriate postage at the same time.

Thanks to Megan for help with this list!

Looking for further tips?
Random Travel Tips #1
Random Travel Tips #2

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Less Than a Shoestring will be participating in a live blogging event held today over at Europe a la Carte. Topic is the ever-popular “How to get more from your Euro”; you’ll find advice from a star-studded lineup of budget travel bloggers. You can read more about us here, and even get yourself a reminder of the start of the event here. Looking forward to your questions and the responses from our panel!

Readers from the UK will join us at 8 p.m. their time, readers from continental Europe at 9 p.m., Moscow fans will stay up till 11 p.m., readers in New York can take a break from work at 3 p.m., Chicago tunes in at 2 p.m., Tokyo’s early risers can read along at 4 a.m.; if you miss it for whatever reason, you’ll find the transcript archived at Europe a la Carte. (I’ll link here once it’s permalinked.)

Think you can stump the experts? Come on over and give us your best shot!

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Welcome to this week’s edition of the Travel on a Shoestring Carnival. It’s been a good long while since our last carnival, so instead of trying to catch each carnival up individually, we will throw them all together (hopefully resetting the BlogCarnival listings) and hold the very first SUPERCARNIVAL. In this adventure, we’ll circle the entire globe twice in search of the best posts on travel for those without a lot of money to spend. So without further ado . . .

If you’re looking for a quick spin, try on these first 15 16 posts for size!

Let us start down under, where The Frugal Travel Mum presents A Frugal Guide to Melbourne, a must-read for first-time visitors to the city.

Heading up to China, Joyce Hor-Chung Lau takes us on a hilarious tour of snack stands and popular, low-end cuisine in What in God’s Name is That? Hong Kong Street Food, Part 1 and Part 2 and (update!) Part 3 at IHT Globespotters Blog.

Across the Pacific, Tim Leffel over at Cheapest Destinations is pushing the idea that Central and South America are where weak-dollar travelers will find the greatest bang for their buck. His recent posts on Cheap Fares to Latin America and Prices in Honduras (divide those in the photo by 19 for dollar equivalencies!) certainly have me convinced!

With all the talk of summer gas prices and higher airfares, there is certainly pressure for U.S. consumers to narrow their travel horizons this year. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a wealth of fun, interesting and cheap destinations in your backyard. No matter what corner of the U.S. you’re looking to explore, you’ll find inspiration from the following authors:

Hopping the Atlantic, we find advice from Christine on enjoying Barcelona on 10 Euro Per Day For Two People posted at Me, My Kid and Life: An American Single Mom Living in France.

Pam Kent explains how to see world-class performances in Britain for free in Get Outdoors this Summer in England at IHT Globespotters Blog.

Kristen Gunderson presents a collection of delightful and often-overlooked small museums in the French capital in Paris House Museums posted at Intelligent Travel.

Have you gotten your feet wet? There are even more quality posts after the jump!


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