Slow travel on a budget
By Patrick Robertson
Most of the world has decided to live with COVID-19 and other strains that are emerging and to live on. Weddings, summer camps, festivals and concerts are happening again this summer.
We are always cautious and always shy about crowded events and wear masks in crowded stores. That said, we have made four major trips since the beginning of the year; Vancouver Island, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Yuma, Puerto Vallarta and Alaska. So that’s not holding us back too much.
I am currently planning five major trips; to Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills of South Dakota in September, a still unknown hot destination for November, to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in January, to Santa Clara, Panama in February and March, and to Italy, Sicily and Malta in September and October.
Needless to say, I spend a lot of time planning trips, so I know a thing or two about planning trips. It is important to be thorough in your planning. You want to make sure all the important things like travel and accommodation are fully planned and booked.
I hear people say they want to be spontaneous and they don’t like to plan their trip too much in advance. I hear lots of frustrating stories of people who didn’t book accommodation and ended up in a dump for lots of money, or even had to sleep on the beach because all the places were full. Or, they waited too long to book their flights and now all the seats are sold out or the price is triple what it was six months ago.
Planning is the most essential part of travel and it can also be the most fun! Planning allows you to experience the trip before you go. It accelerates the release of endorphins which gives us a feeling of happiness and pleasure. It also reduces the level of anxiety people feel about travel because you have the main things planned and set in your mind.
The first step in planning a slow travel on a budget is to have a destination in mind. Sometimes it’s a bucket list destination, or a place of interest, or in some cases because of the deal.
For example, I booked a 6,000 square foot condo with a private pool in an exclusive tower with a million dollar view located in a luxury resort in Puerto Vallarta in July 2021 for May 2022. I took the risk that the pandemic would be over the next year and that we would be able to travel to Puerto Vallarta and that was a deal I couldn’t pass up.
The place normally rents for $15,000 a night – that’s right, $15,000 – but I was able to get it for $2,500 a week. It was so amazing that we booked two weeks in January 2023.
When I find and book these deals my wife is always concerned that the deal is too good to be true and when we get there it will be a scam. In the 20 years of doing slow travel on a budget, we have never been stung and have stayed in some remarkable places.
Once the destination has been chosen, you must plan your trip and your accommodation. Either your dates are fixed or they are flexible. In the example above, my dates were fixed but I was able to book flights 10 months later and got business class seats for the price of economy seats due to ongoing pandemic sales and I had the option to cancel for any reason.
If your dates are flexible, you can choose the cheapest dates for your trip and accommodation. It can make a difference of thousands of dollars. Flexibility is the key to getting the lowest prices available. Let me repeat that flexibility is the key to getting the lowest prices available.
In my planning for our trip to southern Italy in the fall of 2023, my dates are flexible. The airline prices I found today for a direct flight from Calgary to Rome show $1,225 one day, three days later $989, and five days after $1,424. The lowest price is $435 or 30% cheaper than the highest price within a week.
For $435 I can rent a house in southern Italy for a week. For my wife and I, that’s a savings of $870, or two weeks of accommodation on our 10-week trip.
Before the pandemic, the best time to book international flights was nine to twelve months. Now with reduced flights, staff shortages, overbookings and flight cancellations, I’m waiting a few months, possibly until November, before making a decision on booking. In the meantime, I will set an alert for flights to Rome from Calgary and will be notified when the price changes.
Go to my tools page (http://budgetslowtravel.com/tools/) and use the four flight links to explore prices and set an alert for any flights you might be looking for over the next 11 months. Get an idea of what a good price is for your destination. Watch the alerts, wait for the lowest price and grab it.
Next month, I’ll give more tips for reducing travel costs.
–Patrick Robertson is a travel writer and longtime resident of Fernie. He is an expert in independent travel planning and finding budget travel deals. Go to his website for more information and photos from this trip to Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta (pictured above).