I was looking at my travel pictures and I was surprised by what I just realized. Aside from how much weight I gained the past year, I realized I have traveled a lot and I didn’t spend much. Since July last year, I have visited Palawan, Iloilo, Guimaras, Cebu, Pangasinan, Ilocos, Tagaytay, Batangas, Tarlac, Cebu again, and Sagada. In fact, the soles of my feet had been itching the past four weekends that I traveled to Lucban, Quezon (Pahiyas Festival); Mahayhay, Laguna; Anawangin Cove in Zambales; Subic Bay; and Bohol. Add to that, I flew to and spent three days in Singapore last October. I spent 33 days traveling in 16 different tourist destinations in a year.
Yoshke at Anawangin Cove in Zambales, Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Magellan’s Cross in Cebu, and the beautiful Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte
I am shocked by the number of awesome places I have visited and the amount of cash I have shelled out. I’m not saying I’m an authority on budget traveling (far from it) but allow me to share with you how I pulled it off. So here, Yoshke’s top 10 tips on traveling cheap aka the Poor Man’s Guide to Traveling.
10. Travel in a group. Big group.
The more the merrier. And cheaper, too. When I traveled to Anawangin, I was with 11 of my college friends. And we were 20+ in Coron, Palawan.
Yoshke and officemates at Mt. Tapyas in Coron, Palawan and Kiltepan Viewpoint in Sagada, Mountain Province
Traveling in big groups has its disadvantages, of course. (Imagine the chaos, the time spent waiting for the group to be complete, the constant asking where a certain person is, the taking of group pictures every part of the tour, and the frequency of stopping over because someone needs to pee.) But hey, look at the bright side. Being in a big group means more people dividing the expenses (transportation, accommodation, food). More people chipping in means there’s more that you can do and less cash to spend.
9. Find a good budget travel agency.
You have no idea how many there are. They’re just around the corner waiting for your call. If you’re not aware of any, head to this awesome website www.philippinesbudgettravel.com and choose the destination and the agency you want. Their rates and contact details are displayed there.
Why so cheap, you ask? It’s simple really. Most of these travel agencies work on a “big group” mechanism. This means that even if you’re traveling alone or with only a few friends, you’ll be traveling as part of a bigger group. This way, you can still travel with a low-budget because the entire group will divide the total cost of the trip. Most of these packages already include transportation, food and lodging so you don’t have to worry about anything.
Also, these are budget travel agencies. Don’t expect five star hotels and limousines.
8. Avail of flight promos and discounts.
You have no idea how much you will be saving if you grab the chance. Remember that more often than not, the bulk of the expenses goes to airfare. It’s usually the biggest roadblock when traveling and these promos remove just that so you might want to take advantage.
For example, last week I booked a flight to Cagayan de Oro and Tacloban City for P100 (US$ 2). Yes, one hundred freakin’ pesos only. How? Twice a year, Cebu Pacific comes up with “Piso Fare” promos. Yep, you only pay one peso per flight. (Of course, add taxes and all that other shit, it’ll fall around P50-P100.) NOT BAD AT ALL!
Piso Fare promo isn’t the only one. There are almost ALWAYS flight promos out there, you just need to be updated all the time. Follow your favorite airlines on Twitter and like them on Facebook. When the time comes, be quick in booking flights as they sell out as fast as your favorite rock band.
7. Travel light.
Dude, you don’t need to bring your entire house when traveling. Just bring the essentials — enough clothes, sun block in sachets, among others. Checking in luggage will cost you P400 minimum. Not to mention you’ll also save yourself from waiting for your bags when you arrive.
Traveling light makes your trip faster, more comfortable and worry-free. I’ve heard enough horror stories about losing baggage along the way. One of them, his bag failed to make the flight. Another, his bag was found in Thailand. Can you imagine?
6. Join contests.
You might be laughing at this tip right now but I’m frakkin’ serious here. I flew to Singapore last year without spending a cent. I just joined an online contest sponsored by Pringles (Yay, thanks) and I just found myself having the time of my life overseas.
Yoshke with FlairCandy at Asia Pacific Blog Awards in Singapore
If it won’t harm you in any way, if you think you’re lucky or talented, go ahead and join a contest and you might just be checking in on something awesome.
5. Choose a hostel over a hotel.
There’s a lot of difference. You can have impeccable service, free breakfast buffet and a big over-the-top room in a hotel but if you only need a place to sleep in, who cares about that? Might as well choose a cheap inn or hostel. What matters is that it’s clean, safe and comfortable. And chances are, there’s an inn like that where you are.
But if you really want a hotel, at least choose one that offers tour packages. This should include airport transfers or pickup, food, and tours at the various key tourist spots in the area. This saves you not just money but also effort.
However, bear in mind that this is not always the best choice. If you’re able to find a hotel with none of these offers AND a local travel agency which has affordable tours, then go for it.
4. Spend the night at the airport.
Better yet, why check in at a hotel at all. If you don’t have that big a luggage, just tour right away. If you’re trip is only overnight, just spend the night at the airport!
If your trip isn’t overnight, then stay at the airport on your last night. Instead of reserving a room at a hotel or hostel for three nights, book for just two!
I’ve done this at Mactan International Airport in Cebu just for the heck of doing it. My friends initially wanted to feel like we were on the Amazing Race and try sleeping at the airport. It was not as comfortable as I was in bed BUT the next morning, I did not just feel like on the Amazing Race, I was also a few hundreds of bucks richer than I could’ve been had I checked in at a hotel that night.
You see, if your flight is at wee hours or early morning, why stay at the hotel? Remember that most hotels and resorts have their check out time at 12 noon. On your last day, check out at noon and spend the last night at the airport. Assuming you have little baggage.
3. Take advantage of business trips!
If your company looks for someone to send to a faraway land for an official business trip, grab it! It’s not everyday that your company shoulders your travel expenses. It’s not everyday that you get to travel for free. When you do, do whatever business you have to do but don’t forget to have fun. Extend your stay for another day so you could enjoy and explore the place even if that means you will have to shoulder whatever you spend on the next day.
I’ve been sent to Cebu and Tarlac the past year. Add a couple of company outings (Sagada and Bohol)!
2. Go run to a friend!
You can avoid staying at a hotel or spending the night at the airport if you know someone in the area. This is the part where you could put your being Ms/Mr Congeniality in good use. Ask a friend if you could stay at his/her place! You shy? Don’t be! You’re not being user-friendly, your friend is just fulfilling his/her duties as a friend! LOL. Forget about the time you called her a backstabbing bitch, or that moment she spilled all your secrets to the entire university, or that day you swore you would not talk to him/her as long as you live. Fuck it! Past is past, s/he’s from there, you need a place to stay, GO ASK!
Seriously, if you know someone — a friend, a distant relative you only knew existed while preparing for this trip, or an online buddy — do yourself a favor and be a dear to them. Ask whether it would be okay with them if you stay at their place. Just recently, one of my aunts got mad at me for not staying at their house when I was in Palawan. When I’m in Pangasinan, I also stay at my friend’s resort (I didn’t ask, he offered).
Staying at a friend’s place has a ton of advantages with it. You’ll not just get free accommodations, you’ll also have a free tour guide, some free meals, and a free time to reconnect with them.
You know what? They might just be waiting for you to ask them.
1. Plan ahead.
Combine all the nine tips above and it can be succinctly put in two words: PLAN AHEAD.
Sure, traveling out of impulse is cool and exciting but it is also expensive. When you plan way before your scheduled trip, you are giving yourself time to wait for an airfare promo, learn more about the destination you are heading to, invite your friends to travel with you as a group, choose an affordable place to stay, or use a friend contact a friend living in that city to guide you while you’re there.
It’s all about planning and planning well.
There you go. My top ten tips on traveling cheap but worthwhile. These are things that I assume you already know but you might have been dismissing all this time. I’m telling you, it works. It’s fun to travel. But it’s more fun when you know you’re not hurting your pockets.