Traveling is expensive, but not everything you do while traveling has to be. Use these tips to keep costs low and experiences high!
When we travel, our first instinct is to SEE everything and DO everything while we’re there. This, however, isn’t friendly to our wallets or sustainable for long-term travel. I’ve found that adaptation is the best way around this. Putting down the travel guide’s Top 10 and doing some research yourself. More often than not, this returns more authentic experiences and opportunities for self-growth (with money leftover!). Don’t believe me? Keep reading!
1) Go on a Date with Nature
No matter where you are, there’s usually nature nearby. Seek out your local parks, lakes, beaches or coastlines, and make a whole afternoon of it. Pack your satchel with your favorite book, personal journal, or postcards for family members. Podcasts and music are also a good accompaniment. Bring your water bottle and a few snacks, and stay as long as you’d like!
2) Be a Photographer for a Day
Cameras are totally underutilized for things like this. Sure, they’re great for capturing your destinations. But what if they WERE your destination; the purpose of your day being your viewfinder. When you’re forced to spend time on something, you perceive it differently. You appreciate it more.
That monument over there? Snap a photo. Then… snap 10 photos, all from different angles. Notice the curvature and detail. What crops make it most interesting? What position puts in the best light? You’re experiencing the city through new eyes, while bettering your camera skills for all destinations thereafter.
3) Tour the City
How often do you walk a city, not really knowing what you’re looking at? Just me? Well, this is embarrassing…
It’s this feeling that made me research touring solutions! Most cities advertise free walking tours online. If not, you can probably find something through CouchSurfing Events. These give you some general knowledge of where you’re visiting and guides to the major landmarks: monuments, memorials, gardens, city centers, etc. (note: tips suggested).
Another one of my favorites is Geocaching (or what I call, real life treasure hunting). All you need is a smartphone to get started. There are over 2.8 million caches hidden in 180 countries all over the world. Their containers (that come in a range of sizes/styles) hold stories, logs and trinkets for the next explorer. And typically, are hidden in notable parts of town. I’ve discovered areas I otherwise would have never seen through geocaching. Download the app
4) Soak in Some Culture
Believe it or not, there are extensive opportunities for free (or bargain) cultural excursions. Check out your city guide to see what days museums or zoos offer free/discounted entrance. Galleries and art exhibits are usually open to the public as well. And theater/comedy shows are a delight!
5) Explore Local Hangouts
One of my favorite and best ways to know a city: meet the locals! There are numerous online resources for local gatherings. These could include educational workshops, entertainment, or social hangouts. My best experiences have come from: Meetup.com, CouchSurfing Hangouts, and Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree.
Are there others you recommend? Leave them in the comments!
6) Find Local Events
It’s hard to make plans when you don’t know what to look for. Let local event calendars do that for you. A quick search usually surfaces farmer’s markets, festivals, and music venues – all a good start to learning a city’s culture.
But search in advance! Many of these activities only take place once a week, or certain days of the month/year. Schedule a few favorites; then, organize the rest of your trip around them.
7) Get out of Town
If adventure is your forte, explore beyond the boundaries of your booking! Research nearby day-trips through Google or of one of my favorite travel apps, Triposo. Many can be reached through public transit – which is cheap and easy once you get the hang of it. A whole pot of possibilities opens when you can learn the local commute!
If you really want to up the ante, rent a bike and cycle there. You’ll get some sun and connect with the landscape on a whole new level. Take the proper precautions if choosing this option (cycling laws and bike security).
8) Plan a Picnic
You can have a picnic almost anywhere – the park, street side bench, or even your own patio. Pack a blanket and your favorite treats from the local market. Depending on city laws, you could even bring a few beers or bottle of vino.
Better yet, make it a potluck! Invite your friends, and have each person contribute. This keeps costs down while allowing everyone to sample more flavors. You could even post the event online (see #6) or at your local hostel to make new friends in the process.
9) Take a Hike
“Hike” could mean anything here. Depending where you are, it could be as easy as a stroll in the park. Take it a step further, and you’re spending the afternoon hiking the hillside. A step more and you’re hiking mountains all day at a National Park.
What does “hike” mean to you? And what kind of hikes does your destination offer?
This is a win-win for everyone, and almost all locations offer volunteer opportunities to visitors.
There are international volunteer associations that help you participate in countries worldwide. These usually require an application process and short approval time. For those who want to start contributing right away, do a quick search online or visit your local message board. You’ll start finding openings once you start looking!