I travel a lot with my job and I also own my own business, so that means every single travel expense comes out of my bottom line. I don’t have an American Express expense credit card or turn in an expense report every month for reimbursement – it’s just me.
A lot of times travel isn’t paid for when I go to a conference, a cruise ship, speaking on a panel or meeting a client in another city – so I have to travel on a budget – with that has come some serious lessons learnt from my travels.
Lessons from traveling cheap:
1. Greyhound Bus
A couple years ago I was looking for an economic way to get down to a cruise event in South Florida, so I purchased a bus ticket. I was looking to get from point A to point B, the price was right on the bus, so I bought it. However, we stopped at this one quaint Florida town along the way and picked up a bunch of passengers all wearing the same thing, khakis pants and blue shirts. After talking to one of the men, turns out they were all released from state prison and were given a one-way bus ticket to where ever they want to go. Not that the prisoners were a threat to me, in fact, they were harmless, but I could that intimidating some travelers.
Lesson learned: I’m not saving I will never travel on a greyhound bus again, because some of their newer buses have wifi on the express routes and I like that, but I am going to be more careful and advise other travelers to do the same.
2. Spirit Airlines
I like this airline, I really do. I think they have clever marketing, low fares and great routes when you are in a pinch for affordable travel. The only thing I wasn’t expecting (my own fault) was that I was going to be charged not only for my baggage but also for carry-on bags and anything I wanted in the cabin during the flight.
Lesson learned: To look at the airline website and compare fees charged from one airline to another before making my decision.
3. Hotewire Hotel
Anything 2-star or lower will be less-than compelling. When in a pinch I’ve used a two star to be close to the airport or what-not, but those are few and far between.
Recently at my state in Fort Lauderdale, I had a night before my flight to Barcelona so I booked a 2* Hotwire room on the fly. It was a Quality Inn in Hollywood, Florida; the door didn’t lock, the carpet was soaking wet from a slab leak and transients in the lobby.
I called Hotwire and they wanted to call the property and mediate my claim but I didn’t want any part of that. The place was rather ran down and un-safe feeling so I didn’t want to jeopardize my safety by telling Hotwire this was a crappy hotel. My own fault for booking a 2* property because this wasn’t the first time, this happened once in Orlando and once in Atlanta. Actually, the one in Atlanta had shag carpet and two adult movie channels. Pay by the hour type hotel.
Lesson learned: Never book less than a 2.5-star hotel on Hotwire and cross check your areas with Hotwire/Priceline websites like BetterBidding.com before you buy!
If you’re not familiar with airBNB.com, it’s a website that connects vacation homeowners with people looking for rooms, it’s quite clever because the only communication can be done through the website or app., so they have a captive audience and make a fee per connection. You can read past reviews of guests to see what the place is really like, but even those should be taken with a grain of salt because people don’t want to make the owner mad.
Lesson learned: Scout out the area of the rental. While our airBNB rental felt completely safe, we were next to one of the busiest nightclubs in Miami’s South Beach and if I wasn’t a heavy sleeper, I’d of been up til 4a every night.
5. Rental Cars
Rental cars a must for me, especially when you’re doing client visits, interviews and cruise ship photography packed into a couple days. While renting a car can be fairly inexpensive, sometimes as low as $14 per-night, the extras add up. The people behind the counter at the rental car company are sales people, they earn a commission on every up-sell they do. Keep that in mind when you’re at the next time you rent a car. They up-sell for GPS to the car insurance, but with a little research you may not need it.
Lesson learned: Checked your insurance policy or credit card account to see if they cover rental car damages, it can save you a lot of money for your rental (up to $50 per day).
The only thing that is worth purchasing from the rental company up-sell is their unlimited toll pass for $8.99 per day, especially if you’ll be on expressways, turnpikes or express lanes.
These are a few lessons I learned from traveling cheap over the past few years, some mistakes and a lot of lessons learned.