According to the United States Travel Association, over $1,000 billion was spent on travel last year! $1,036 billion to be precise. Out of this, almost 70% or $718 billion was leisure traveling. Of course, this includes some high-flyers who splurge thousands and thousands of dollars on a summer vacay. But for the most part, it includes millennial Americans who spend on average not more than $1,373 on a summer vacation. 96% of people aged 25-34 are likely to travel independently. Air travel has become more accessible and relatively affordable to people. Millennials, especially, as a generation do not believe in international exposure through the Discovery Channel on Spectrum cable. So they’re taking advantage of cheaper airfares and traveling internationally on a budget.
Why Travel on a Budget?
Want a better product? Pay more. That’s how it usually works in our consumer-oriented lives. After all, a Peugeot can’t compare to a Ferarri. Business class is always better than Economy. But honestly, in my experience, paying more doesn’t always work while traveling. On the other hand, traveling on a budget saves you money while also offering a richer (pardon the pun) experience. Here’s why I think that:
- More immersion
- More conversation
- More presence in the moment
- More flexibility
- More connections
- More exploration
- More travel
Let’s dive right into them.
When you’re staying at a flashy five-star hotel in a posh area, are you really enjoying your traveling? I doubt that. When you come out of such hotels, you normally don’t get the proper feel of a new place. Tourist trap hotels are not going to experience the true flavor of your vacation destination. You won’t find bona fide locals near the place, unless on the staff. Compared to that, renting out a dirt cheap apartment in a hip and safe neighborhood gives you so many opportunities. You’ll be able to immerse yourself in the experience. You’ll get to meet more locals, see more sights and get a better perspective. Especially on how life here is different from or similar to back home.
Visiting Turkey? A hotel guide offers to take you on a tour of the bazaar for a “reasonable” sum of money. What’s a little bit of cash when you can interact with the locals? Doing it yourself. When you hire local guides, you insulate yourself from your surroundings. The guide does everything for you. He or she will take you to the usual tourist spots, interact with street vendors for you and handle the conversation. So are you really getting the right experience? Budget travelers are on their own, and handling all interactions with locals themselves. Sure, language barriers are real, but when traveling, you’ll find most human interactions are universal.
More Presence in the Moment
So you’re in Thailand, on a boat, heading towards one of the islands at sunset. A beautiful sunset, to be precise. What do you do? You take out your phone, snap a couple of pictures and selfies and upload them on social media. All hail international data roaming, right? By the time you’re done uploading, the sun has set, and all you have are some digital images. Now imagine if you’re a budget traveler without data roaming. You’ll have to wait to get back to the hotel because you have no internet service. You snap some pictures too, but you drink in nature’s beauty once you’re done. That memory of a perfect moment is more real than the images you post for likes and views.
Big-budget vacations involve a lot of planning. You need to have your logistics down pat. You need hotel reservations, guides, transport, rentals and so much more. And once you’re actually traveling, you stick to your itinerary because you spent so much time on it. Take a budget traveler on the other hand. They plan the next step of their trip on the fly. All you need is a smartphone and an internet connection to plan out a quick trip to wherever. It only takes a few minutes compared to the endless hours of planning a big vacation. You like a city very much? Stay an extra couple of days. Storm forecasts on the beachfront? Postpone your beach days for clearer weather. Unless you’re traveling at the peak of the tourist rush, you can always find a place to stay. Even last minute. Especially if you’re using Air BnB.
So you’re in London, and you decide to visit an opera. That’s just the kind of high-class, elegant experiences define the British. You get in the box and find your seating is with an old aristocratic couple, who completely ignore you. Yes, that has actually happened to a friend of mine. Compare that to my visit to England last January. I was on a tight budget, so instead of the opera house, I went to a rustic country pub. Within seconds, my accent attracted attention and the jolly middle-class Brits were fighting to buy the Yank a drink. What I’m saying is, by all means, attend sophisticated cultural events. But for the real people, and making real connections, a budget bar or coffee shop is a much better setting.
Another thing about hotels insulating you from the real experience is that you don’t get to explore much. Hotels pride themselves on offering every possible (legal) service a guest could want. So if you want shaving cream, razors, medicine or food, the hotel will be happy to supply it to you. If you’re eating every meal in your hotel, getting everything delivered to your room, you’re not really experiencing the place. You’re only experiencing the comfort of the hotel. Compare that to a small studio apartment you rent above a busy city street with an all-night street food scene. Budget travelers tend to put themselves right in the middle of the action. That’s why they have better travel experiences.
So what’s the biggest advantage of traveling on a budget? You’re spending less, just like with Spectrum Double play bundles. When you’re spending less, you have more money leftover at the end of the day. Invest this back into your travel experience and travel even more. Extend your trip, visit distant friends or save up for another getaway. Travel is food for the soul, and you can’t get enough of it.