One of the key skills that sets expert travelers apart is how they balance time and budget. You can decide to trade time for money, or vice-versa when traveling. What most people would struggle to do is that… they don’t!
If you had an unlimited budget, you could probably be picky about how much of your day you’re willing to spend doing things. How much time you’d spend to get yourself around, how much time you can linger over a glass of wine. Time is easy to find. Conversely, if you had months to spend you’d inevitably save money doing the same activity, just by spending a little more time in line or waiting for the bus.
Here are a few simple ways to save money by trading time, and how to smartly trade money for time. To be clear, sometimes spending time or money is not an either/or relationship. Many of my favorite travel experiences were made by walking back to the hotel, or standing in line for food with the locals, or flying to vacation in business class. You choose!
To save MONEY by trading TIME
1. Stay in the next town over from your destination
I learned this in my snowboarding days, but it works for nearly all travel. If I was going snowboarding in Jackson Hole, I’d stay in Driggs, Idaho, 30 minutes away from the resort. I’d save 40-50% over what staying in Jackson, Wyoming costs.
2. Prepare your own meals
I really look forward to eating the local food wherever I’m traveling. Doing that means dining out. But you can get a different but equally memorable experience if you prepare your own meal using local ingredients. You’ll need to shop, and that means going where the locals go. Another benefit!
3. Spend time getting informed while on the road
As an experience-focused traveler, I really prefer to follow my instinct and let my feet and nose do the deciding. But this can get very expensive! What I do is get a grasp of what I would like to go experience, and then find the best deal going for that activity. Two examples: some culinary schools and academies have restaurants that serve the public awesome meals at rock-bottom prices, but only during limited hours. Museums too: many museums offer free entry but only on a particular day. This beats paying $25 or more for entry for each museum.
To save TIME by trading MONEY
1. Fly Business class and sleep on the plane
For most overseas flights, this saves a day each way, so in effect, your vacation is 2 whole days longer. Overseas Business Class is in my experience a bigger leap in creature comfort as well: food, entertainment, and comfort are a big step up from coach on overseas flights. This also is true for sleeper cars on trains — the most tranquil place on many trains is the private berths, not to mention more secure.
2. Take a private tour or book a private table
In many attractions, high demand means long lines, something to avoid at all costs if you’re careful with your time. Talk to your hotel concierge, and see if they can arrange a private tour for you. This also works for restaurants. Ask your concierge about getting a tour of the restaurant you’re interested in, and dining at the chef’s table, which is another word for the kitchen. I highly recommend it!
3. Book a hotel room next door to your destination
The most consistently time-saving technique I use is to sleep as close to the attraction as possible. For instance, if you’re visiting the Louvre, stay in the 1st Arrondissement. Pricier! But a 5-minute walk beats 45 minutes.
4. Take care of personal chores in the hotel
Ever wonder what’s the difference between 4 and 5-star hotels? The real difference? It’s guest services. Time taking care of the little things is time taken away from your visit. Small-time stealers add up. In top hotels, you can arrange for most things to be done for you. I especially like having my laundry done, it’s one of those things that feels like a luxury when I travel. Haircuts, too. And of course, room service.
That’s our way on how to trade time for money (and vice-versa) whenever possible. Choose the appropriate strategy for the appropriate setting, and you’re all set!
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