When Your Travel Budget Takes a Hit, Retrench


Glasgow Street Art – Free things to do

You have been planning for 11 months a travel that will make up for what little you were able to explore the last time you went to the most spectacular country experience you could have imagined. When you attempted to master the travel experience of that country, you came back with the realization that you barely scratched the surface of its locals and people. You vowed to make it back and explore more than before, and take on an adjacent country to boot. And you were going to go for longer on the same budget because you learned a few travel budget things the last time. Speed forward a few months and you are prepping for the new trip becoming a reality. Tickets and bookings happened for great budgetary prices during the holidays. You have been setting aside a bit per month to buy currency. Then the shocker hits you. A disaster happens, like taxes. You have already invested so much, if you back out now you are at a loss. Can you still go on this amazing trip?

Such a wall of shock hit me this week. I spent 24 hours on one of the most stressful decisions all year: Call it a loss and stay in the US, miserable, or cut the daily travel budget in half and still have a wee bit of debt, but a wealth of experience. On day 2 I decided to go ahead and challenge my already challenged tight budget.

It’s an old term from the UK, meaning to get back into the battle. Recover from a loss. My brain had to wrap around how to get a daily budget for food and maybe the occasional fun thing to do paid for after taking a hit to an otherwise already tight travel budget.

Fundraising on funding sites won’t attract sympathy from anyone unless you’re traveling to do a scientific study, so how do you do it. It’s spring, it’s time for a garage sale. You need to clear it out anyway, look for items you can sell in a garage sale and or on eBay. You may be able to get a few days of meals out of it.

Hopefully you were smart and shopped at AirBNB or other sites and found the best rated spaces for your very limited budget to begin with. Think if you can about the type of place you are staying in. Part of a vacation is that you want to spoil yourself a bit if you can. Well, if you plan really well and read reviews, real time, real people reviews, you may find some great bangs for your travel buck. One thing to consider, if you are in a location for more than one night, find one with service or kitchen facilities in the room. Even a small fridge will do. You can pick up a few items of food or a bottle of wine, mix up a picnic lunch and save some money. If you save a bit, and some days you have a bit left over, you have money for a little splurge later. If you are lucky enough to travel and have patience with travel partners, room and other costs can be combined, and you can stretch your more. Just plan for some “me” time on your trip so you don’t get into a horn lock with your travel mates.

Decide how you can save daily expenses in a city. Cities are very expensive to live in, but if you have been a university student in a large metropolitan city like where you are visiting (Dublin), you can find the best places to eat for a tight budget. Think like a starving student. Chose where you stay to help with your budget. Is the place you are staying only accessible to high-end restaurants, and can you walk or bus it to where you can get groceries if you have a refrigerator at your disposal. Granted, one of the great things about travel is fantastic food. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive restaurant in town that has the best. Again, think like a student. Amend look for pop up restaurants, great variety and smaller overhead can help your budget.

In the city, try to walk as much as you can. It’s the best way to experience it after all. I have been in training for the last two years with travel in mind, I sometimes walk 12 miles or more a day when I am visiting a city. Walking is free, but make sure you invest in good shoes before you leave. Cabs are very expensive, plus there’s the tip you should give. I usually only do them coming from an airport and getting to one if the bus is too difficult. Bus systems in most cities may seem an alien experience to you, but can save you loads of money and you can talk to locals. By keeping your transit to walking and buses, you can save money for a splurge on a tour maybe. Start by booking any train travel about a month out. Many trips can be purchased in advance and be really cheap with your fees being prepaid. If you wait too long, the prices double and treble. Most rain travel is accessible by internet booking now and you can set up an account with the train line that you can access later. Make sure you know where you can pick up your tickets, as not all railway stations have machines.

This year I am going for the festival experience. This means a plethora of overwhelming amounts of theatre and arts venues, and way too many choices. Shop ahead online before you go if you have a particular artist you want to see, or surprise yourself and load one of the festival apps with GPS. Venues with tickets still available will show, and if you are lucky, some days of the festival like Monday or Tuesday are cheap seats days. There are many free performances and street performers are pay as you like.

Set Your Daily Budget
The reality is if you only have so much money to take with you, budget the cash divided by days. Logical right. There are articles and books on doing cities and places on x $ per day. Many things can and will add up to an expensive day. Taxi rides to and from to the airport if public transit is a no go. Food. Food doesn’t have to be extreme. There are plenty of great priced places and great articles out there on top food choices on a budget. Don’t forget farmers markets, many towns have them and you are supporting locals v. Corporate farms. If you can get the breakfast at the inn deal, sometimes they are a bit tasteless.  Then you only have to worry about dinner. If you are very conservative and keep your big splurges down, you can save from your budget for a great treat at the end. Remember, really experiencing a place is all in the wandering. I keep a list of free things to do in each city on my phone. And warning, going to the pub is much more costly in Europe than in the US or Canada. So if you can get that kitchenette, it’s cheaper to buy bottles and stay in.

So, the budget vacation doesn’t have to be boring. True travel adventures don’t need to be costly if you plan ahead and think about real value. Avoiding high costs like car hires unless you have 4 people minimum will help keep your budget under wraps. Public transit and walking everywhere save money for food and the occasional theatre ticket. It can be done, besides, it’s what the locals do.

© 2017 photo by Alison McEwan

St. Pat’s Aftermath: Musings on Celebrations and Why the Excess


I apologize, it’s after the day and I am writing about it. Should have been done before, right? Well I never do things in a way that anyone expects, so why start now? Today I walk the streets of Portland, OR and see the aftermath of trashed pubs and taverns the next day. It’s the Merican St. Pat’s ideal recovery day. Fuzzy heads and yeah, our ever present rain. We’ve had 7 days of sun in 3 months, that’ll get anyone to drink.

Okay, so yes Dublin of course goes nuts for St. Pat’s with celebrations. It’s expected. But Irish traditions are much watered and mashed up here in the States, commercialized and legend-ized. It’s the the way of the great migrations, where many European traditions got mashed-up in Americana. Then commercialized by Hallmark with silly St. Pat’s cards like St. Valentines cards. Funny thing is, many of the people celebrating are Protestant, and some Non-Religious. It’s an excuse for beer carnage, and why do they dye it green? Really? Because people just get nuts for an excuse to party.

I guess we make it fun for the kids too. That silly Leprechaun figure on decorations. It’s a Saints day and while the population here on the west coast of the US is high in the Catholic numbers, everyone celebrates it. Any excuse for a celebration right? My mum has the Irish and Scots on her side. We have Collums/McCollums and Caffees from one of the earliest migrations in the States from the fair green isle. Thing is they were protestant, not Anglican that also recognize the Saint or Catholic so what the heck. Not many records survived, but most of the family is not Catholic, or they quickly converted here in the North Carolinas where many Irish and Scots settled and intermarried. So why celebrate the day? Mum would cook corned beef on the day and boil cabbage. I was confused a bit as a child because well, Saints were not really a thing with the religion we supposedly had. But I always thought anyone who did good deeds deserved recognition, right? So how did the traditions get so mixed in here in the States, and what were they really is what my meandering brain wondered while looking at the party aftermath on the streets?

In Ireland, it is a public holiday. You are encouraged to speak Irish more.  Modern traditions include a drink called “Drowning the Shamrock”, the placing of a Shamrock sprig at the bottom of glass and filling with beer or some whiskey. After it’s wet, it’s either drunk or tossed over shoulder for good luck. Funny, I always thought that the church frowned on such superstitions, but the Irish always seem to mix that little pagan belief in, don’t they? It’s the marking of the day the man died, it’s his feast day. So really it is all about celebration. Also, why would the Irish waste a drop of alcohol?

And food then there’s the food. Many Irish traditional foods are consumed, modernized of course. In the States it’s mostly corned beef and Irish Stew. Some bake soda bread, a particular favorite of mine. Some more modern foods are Guiness Treacle, potato cakes, mussels, lamb, Guinness braised meats pork and beef, colcannon. So if you are not too ingrained in the the yearly massive party downtown, creating a party with friends and having a traditional Irish spread might be more appealing. After talk to anyone on the street that has been here for a few generations and someone is Irish in the family. The migrations happened in the millions over time. So next year plan for a more intimate celebration with friends and family instead. Oh, and don’t forget the cabbage.


St. Patricks Parades Around The World