Opinion | Tips for cheap, unforgettable travel experiences

The+Prague+Castle+is+a+famous+landmark+located+in+Prague%2C+Czech+Republic.+Senior+columnist+Andrew+Prozorovsky+provides+tips+when+it+comes+having+both+a+cheap+and+memorable+vacation.+

Andrew Prozorovsky

The Prague Castle is a famous landmark located in Prague, Czech Republic. Senior columnist Andrew Prozorovsky provides tips when it comes having both a cheap and memorable vacation.

By Andrew Prozorovsky, Senior Columnist

To some, traveling may seem like a sinkhole for money, often providing no durable goods aside from an airport snowglobe. In reality, traveling is almost always a valuable experience that, when one is privileged enough to do it, should be revered. 

Traveling will always unveil a new side of an individual. Are you more adventurous than you previously thought? Are you open-minded? Street-savvy? To travel is to learn something new about yourself and how you fit into the world. The exposure to new cultures and perspectives while having one’s own paradigms challenged is rich introspection that accompanies these exciting trip itineraries.

During different summers in my college tenure, my cousin and I used our savings to plan two backpacking trips: a month-long trip to Europe and a half-month long trip to Costa Rica. We returned with a lot of indelible memories and traveling wisdom.

In Costa Rica, we were able to stay in one country and begin to learn to understand its politics and culture, while in Europe, we backpacked quickly through many countries and were able to appreciate the differences between each of them — even small differences, like the different traffic conventions.

Here are some tips.

Planning considerations

Regarding planning, explore options for hotels and hostels.

Youth hostels can be found on HostelWorld and provide really high-quality accommodations with copious amenities, so long as you are okay giving up some privacy (but notably, not giving up security, as any good hostel will have quality lockers). If not, hostels usually have private rooms for a hotel rate as well.

The cheap hostels I have stayed at bested even my best hotel experiences. They will usually have a bar, a common area and lots of planned activities for guests such as bar crawls or excursions. It will save you money and provide you an excellent experience to bond will fellow travelers.

Furthermore, before visiting a country, do your research — especially about the political scene. In Costa Rica, it would have helped us to know prior to leaving that the IMF had the Costa Rican government restructuring its tax policy, which included raising prices for tourists.

In Europe, it would have helped us avoid purchasing a rail pass to use in France, where the rail companies were then on strike, so the trains were running without any conductors to check tickets.

Additionally, if you’re going to be in an area with little phone service or internet, download the regional map offline on Google Maps to help get around. 

Make sure to document your trip well with videos and photos. Additionally, make a music playlist for your trip. My cousin and I made trip videos and ran an Instagram account so our friends back home could follow our journey. If you learn the basics of film editing and find your trip anthem, you will thank yourself once the trip is over and it is time to compile the memories. You’ll have more to remember from the trip than just that airport snowglobe.

Budgeting

Budgeted well, a trip can be done more cheaply than anticipated. It depends on how flexible an individual is — some affordable flight deals may take him or her to places not initially considered. We weren’t considering Costa Rica until we saw the flight deal.

Use a money belt. Don’t be irresponsible and make yourself a target for pickpocketers. In general, you should take all measures to avoid looking like a tourist and blend as well as possible. It will be safer and less embarrassing. 

Cheaper often correlates to more authentic. Being a tourist is expensive. Cut costs by going to the grocery stores and using public transportation. You’re more likely to meet real locals there. In Monteverde, Costa Rica, we frequented a soda (the Costa Rican word for a small, local eatery) called “Soda La Salvadita.” It was friendly, more authentic and far more cost-effective than the high-end gourmet experiences peddled to tourists across the street.

If you strategically cut costs on food, lodging and transportation, you can use that money for excursions. In Costa Rica, we used those savings to go ziplining, horseback riding, surfing and visiting the national parks. In Europe, we tried scuba diving, hiking and museums.

Finally, resources like TripAdvisor, BlaBlaCar, “The Points Guy” or “Travel Pirates” can really help one save money.

Embracing the experience

Talk to the locals — you can learn so much from them. Sometimes locals told us about the culture and political scene. Sometimes they informed us of the nearby hidden gems. A few voluntarily showed us around town.

Similarly, appreciate new experiences and meet new people. You may never see many of these people ever again, and that’s okay. There is something beautiful about enjoying an experience together and parting ways. Embrace those encounters.

It depends what type of traveler you are — not everyone has the same style — but I encourage potential backpackers to break out of their shells through the pursuit of adventure. My cousin and I had a rule that we had to do one adventurous thing a day.

The best experiences are the ones you never intended to have. One should have a plan, but the plan should be able to adapt and allow for spontaneity.

If well-prepared, traveling can be a true blessing. It is the key to appreciating nature and culture all across the world. It helps enhance creativity and communication skills. It perfectly encapsulates the adage “knowledge is power.” There is wisdom to be learned in all corners of the world. Plan accordingly so you don’t miss it where you’re not looking.

 

Andrew is a senior in LAS.

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