Planning for a budget slow travel trip
By Patrick Robertson
Most of the world has decided to live with COVID-19 and other strains that are popping up and to get on with life. Weddings, summer camp, festivals and concerts are all happening again this summer.
We are still cautious and still shy away from crowded events and wear masks in crowded stores. Having said that, we have been on four major trips since the beginning of the year; Vancouver Island, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Yuma, Puerto Vallarta and Alaska. So, it is 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 yet unknown warm destination for November, to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in January, Santa Clara, Panama for February and March and 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 trip planning. It is important to be thorough in your planning. You want to make sure that you have all the important things like travel and accommodations fully planned out and booked.
I hear people say that they want to be spontaneous and that they don’t like to plan too far ahead for their travel. I hear lots of frustrating tales from people that didn’t book accommodation and ended up in a dump of a place for a lot of money, or even having 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 or the price is triple that of six months ago.
Planning is the most essential part of travel and it can also be the most fun! Planning lets you live the trip before you go. It accelerates the release of endorphins that gives us the feeling of happiness and pleasure. It also reduces the level of anxiety that people feel about travel because you have the main things planned and set in your mind.
The first step in planning for a budget slow travel trip is to have a destination in mind. Sometimes it is a bucket list destination, or a place of interest, or in some cases because of the deal.
For example, I booked a 6,000-sq.-ft., condo with a private pool in an exclusive tower with a million dollar view set in a luxury resort in Puerto Vallarta in July 2021 for May 2022. I took a chance that the pandemic would be over the following year and that we would be able to travel to Puerto Vallarta and it was a deal that I could not 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 for the week. It was so over-the-top incredible 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 that when we get there, it will be a scam. In the 20 years we have been doing budget slow travel, we have never been stung and we have stayed in some remarkable places.
Once the destination is decided on you need to plan your travel and 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 out and got business class seats for the price of economy seats because of the pandemic sales going on plus I had the ability to cancel for any reason.
If your dates are flexible, you can pick the cheaper dates for your travel and accommodation. This can make a difference of thousands of dollars. Flexibility is the key to getting the lowest prices available. Let me say that again, 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 that I found today for a direct flight from Calgary to Rome is showing $1,225 one day, three days later $989, and five days after for $1,424. The lowest price is $435 or 30% cheaper than the highest price within the span of a week.
For $435, I can rent a place in southern Italy for a week. For my wife and I it is an $870 saving, that is two weeks of accommodation on our 10-week trip.
Pre-pandemic, the best time to book international flights was nine to 12 months out. Now, with the reduction of flights, the shortage of personnel, and the overbooking and cancellation of flights, I am holding off for a few months, maybe until November, before making a decision on booking. In the meantime, I will put an alert for flights going to Rome from Calgary and I will be notified when the price changes.
Go to my Tool Page (http://budgetslowtravel.com/tools/) and use the four flight links there to explore prices and to set an alert for any flights that you may be looking for in 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 will give more tips on reducing travel costs.
– Patrick Robertson is a travel writer and long-time resident of Fernie. He is an expert in planning independent travel and finding budget travel deals. Go to his website for more information and pictures of this trip to Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta (pictured above).