Do more of what makes you happy, they say. So you decided that 2018 will be the year you finally give in to your wanderlust and travel frequently. And why not, when you live in a country as vast, as varied, and as beautiful as India, not travelling out is almost a sin. Now let us come to the real reason you do not travel quite as often as you’d have liked – budget constraints. Travelling on a budget or even a shoestring is not very difficult if you plan it very ahead in time. Here are a few tips to plan your vacation without running up a huge bill.
Pick the right destination
Picking the right destination makes all the difference to your pocket. It goes without saying that domestic travel will cost a lot less than international destinations and you need not compromise on the service or experience. Aauli, for example, offers a world class skiing experience at about the fraction of the cost of a trip to the ski resorts in France. Snorkeling off the Andaman coast is just as enriching as snorkeling in New Zealand.
Consider off-season travel
Most tourist destinations become exceptionally expensive during the peak tourist season. The hotels in many of the prime tourist destinations such as Kerala, Rajasthan, and Goa are almost double the off-season rates during the tourist season. Most tour operators offer attractive discounts during off-peak months. Remember, however, that off-season is just that for a reason. Getting stuck in a hill station due to rains and landslides can be very frustrating.
One of the greatest advantages of being flexible is being able to travel in a budget. Wait for your favourite airline to announce a ticket sale and plan you vacation around it. Travel on the week days rather than the weekends. Plan you travel dates around the discount package offered by your favorite resort. If traveling in a group, negotiate hotel tariff and perks such as airport transfer and additional meals. Stay on the lookout for government run clean guest houses with basic amenities rather than opting for hotels.
Get creative when it comes to planning your vacation. Look for coupons and promocodes that could take a percentage off the cost of travel or accommodation, hunt for deals on restaurants at your destination on mobile applications such as Nearbuy or Groupon. Redeem any credit card reward points you may have accumulated or travel miles you may have to bring down make your travel a lot more affordable. Many cities offer bus passes, suburban rail passes etc that help save on transport; invest in these.
Try home exchange
The greatest expense (apart from air fare and train tickets) is that of accommodation. Home exchange is a great way to do away with almost all the accommodation costs. Various home exchange networks allow users to look for people to swap homes with when they are travelling. This way you get a real lived-in home to stay, a functional kitchen, at no cost. Do be ready for your own home to be lived in (or messed up) when you get back, though. Airbnb is another great option you may want to consider when it comes to cutting down on accommodation costs.
When in Rome…
…do as Romans do. Travelling on a budget also means living the life that locals live. One of the best ways to travel on a shoestring is to take the local modes of transport – trains, busses, auto rickshaws, barges and ferries. Look for local food options and opt for fresh foods from local markets – fruits, vegetables, dairy products – rather than opting for fine dining on a regular basis. Try out the paranthe wali gali in Delhi, Sarafa market in Indore, and Chinatown in Kolkata for great but inexpensive eateries. Enquire with the locals about the best museums and attractions that do not charge an entrance fee, look for authentic experiences that do not cost a bomb.
Collect experiences not memorabilia
Ever been out on a vacation and picked up a number of curios and bric-a-brac that you almost never end up using after the holiday has ended? Shopping is a big wealth guzzler. Instead of lugging around memorabilia from all your travel destinations, collect experiences. The Ganga aarti at Haridwar, the Hornbill festival of Kohima, trekking to the Dudhsagar falls, enjoying the nightlong Theyam performances in Kerala – these are among the best memories you can gather. These will last a lifetime, not the handicrafts you buy.