BootsnAll prompt: Every traveler has a budget; for some it just might be higher or lower than for others. What’s your style? What do you spend very little on and what are you always willing to pay more for?
I’ve traveled on a variety of budgets from plush and seemingly non-existant to near-complete lack of funds. All of them have been fun. I think it’s because no matter what my budget, I splurge on something.
I’m most likely to splurge on food and activities. I always shop budget transportation – why spend extra cash on just getting somewhere if there’s a cheaper (but still reasonable in terms of comfort and time) option? High-end accommodations are great, but when I travel I don’t spend much time in my hotel room. I usually go for a hostel that in the mid-range of hostel price for a given region. I’ll spend the five or ten extra bucks on my bunk bed for a higher rated place with a cleaner bathroom closer to what I want to see and do.
Where I spend my money is on the fun stuff: food and cultural activities. My parents raised me to be that way. Once, we made a weekend trip to Maine where we woke up early Saturday morning and drove the six hours to Pine Point grabbed lobster rolls for lunch and then took a nap in an inexpensive motel. We took a walk on the beach, licked cones of grape nut ice cream, and had a seafood dinner. On Sunday, we had muffins and took another walk on the beach. We hit up the Clambake for fried clams and lobster stew for lunch before driving back to our Adirondack home. It was one of the best uses of a weekend ever.
My brokest trip (and one of my favorite) was Copenhagen. I almost didn’t go because I was so broke. But I’d bought a nonrefundable ticket, so off I went to meet my friend Tess and explore. We stayed in nice hostels in the center of the city but most of our money went to our plane tickets and the hostels (we had to move hostel mid trip because of last minute bookings and availability). Even though it was December, we spent a lot of time just walking around the city, which is the best form of free cultural immersion. We spent a hours at the National Museum (which had free admission) and Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (which had significantly reduced admission because of renovations and exhibit closures). We kept our costs extremely low, but we didn’t feel cheated at all.
We’re both foodies so we ate well. I was coming to Denmark from the U.S. and Tess from England so we both stocked up on some favorite inexpensive snacks before we left our respective countries. On our first night, we splurged on a beer out at a bar and then went back to the hostel and dug into Chex Mix, Hob Nobs, Pringles, and Walker’s crisps. For breakfast, we started with the granola bars I bought and Hob Nobs for a morning snack every other day and the other days we tried Danish pastries from traditional bakeries marked by a golden pretzel above the door. Lunches were eaten out, but still on the cheap. We ate hot dogs from the carts that dot the city of Copenhagen a few times. One day, we stopped into a cafe that was so nondescript we were a little nervous to go in. We were rewarded with some of the best sandwiches of our lives – I had a smoked fish sandwich. All one of us has to say now is “Remember those sandwiches?” and we both know exactly the ones the other is talking about. We also tried the famed smorrebrod from a little shop near the hostel.
At dinnertime, we went to the grocery. It would always be dark and cold and we’d be ready to call it a day in terms of sightseeing. We’d go to the big grocery store and seek out things that were inexpensive, interesting looking, and Danish. The supermarket actually had labels of the Danish flag next to anything made in Denmark, so it was easy to stick to our rules. We’d get something with protein like smoked fish or cheese, then some junk food or carbs, and a can of beer or cider apiece. Back at the hostel we would feast on our new finds for hours. Twelve course meals have been eaten more slowly; it was just fun. When we got home, we realized we didn’t go to a single sit-down restaurant during out trip. We were so satisfied with our experiences trying local food we didn’t even notice.
On our last night, we splurged on tickets to Tivoli to see the lights, do some holiday shopping, and get some dinner. Tess bought a packet of candied nuts and I bought a cup of spiced wine. We shared both and then went back to the grocery store one last time – it was more appealing than anything we saw (and we saw some really good food).
When I travel now, I always give thought to my priorities and think back to Copenhagen and trips with my parents. Whatever I really want to do, I always make it happen, sometimes by sacrificing something I only kind of wanted to do and sometimes by just going for it and doing everything regardless of budget.