The Intelligent Traveler

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My wife and I love to travel. There is nothing more exciting for us than going to a new and exotic location, preferably tropical, but any place will do. We especially love cruising.

The only thing we don't like about travel is the usually high costs normally associated with it. So we have found ways to help make our vacation trips a lot less expensive. That is one of the reasons that we like cruising so much. Once you arrive at the ship everything is taken care of. Typically you will find that you can cruise for around $100 per day per person. If you shop around enough and are flexible with your dates you can sometimes find a cruise to a great location for as little as $65 per day per person. For this low price you literally wake up at a new location each day with no time lost driving from location to location, no time lost to finding a place to stay for the night or checking into a hotel. You no longer need to worry about hotels, rental cars, transportation, entertainment, or especially meals and snacks.

As someone with a particularly large appetite I find the freedom to snack at anytime for no additional cost to be very appealing. As soon as we get on the ship we make it a point to no longer pay for any meals or snacks. We will have breakfast on the ship before embarking on the day's journeys. We also make sure to always bring along packages of Ziploc bags and a small, soft sided, insulated cooler bag. Instead of paying for lunch while off the ship, we will simply order sandwiches and a plate of fruit from room service the night before. In order to keep our food cold and fresh we will put ice in a water bottle or two and pack this in the cooler. Now you can relax and enjoy your snacks throughout the day instead of having to worry about getting back to the ship for lunch or, even worse, having to buy lunch, a snack, or some water. Our soft sided cooler is well insulated and has kept our food fresh in even the hottest of tropical days.

Often the most expensive part of a trip can be the flight. This can be avoided all together if you are lucky enough to live near the location that many cruses leave from. If you can easily drive to a port you have already saved a large portion of most peoples travel expenses. Living in southern California we have the option to cruise out of San Pedro or San Diego, both less than an hour away. If you don't have this option or you would like to travel somewhere more exotic then special care will need to be taken to make sure you squeeze the most out of your flight dollar. You will often see that the prices of flights will very greatly over time. If you know your target destination and take the time to frequently check the price of the flight you will often see that you can fly for several hundred dollars less per flight. This does require some vigilance the more often you can check prices the better. It also helps if you have an open time frame for the date of your trip and plenty of time before hand to shop around.

One thing that we have done to avoid the high cost of airfare is the extensive use of rewards credit cards. We try to make all of our purchases with our credit card that awards you flight miles for all purchases made. We stick to American Airlines as they have a very large group of airlines that they have partnered with and you can use your American Airlines miles to purchase flights through these partner companies. We use these cards not just major purchases but everyday purchases such as grocery shopping. These expenditures certainly add up! As long as you are able to pay off your credit card balance each month these miles are completely free. My wife's job also requires her to travel occasionally so this is another way that we have managed to accumulate miles. Flying on miles has saved us over three thousand dollars over the past two years alone

As soon as possible after landing, try to find a local grocery store. Try to find a grocery store that the locals are shopping at. Not only does this give you a little local flair and the ability to get a taste of the natives and their taste in food, this is a big money saver as you can stock up on staple items like hand fruit and water. If you have a good supply of food and drinks on hand you will be less inclined to eat at expensive restaurants or to buy impulse items from tourist trap stores.

Also, many grocery stores will have souvenir items like refrigerator magnets and postcards for much less than you will find them at touristy stores. Recently while on a trip in Tahiti, we purchased the same postcard from a grocery store for 60 cents that we saw earlier that day for four dollars.

Now, depending on your tastes there are even cheaper ways to travel. Hostels and campsites are great way to cut down on the lodging expenses. Australia in particular has some very clean and safe hostels and campsites. A housing swap is also a great way to save on lodging expenses as long as you are comfortable with a stranger living in your home. For those that are fortunate enough to have a relative that lives on a tropical island and doesn't mind some company this is obviously a great route as well. However some of these options are sometimes not to the standards or taste of your traveling party. With a bit of practice you learn what your tolerances are and to save where you can.
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