One of the big expenses of extended travel is finding a place to stay. Every one should try to set out guidelines when they travel and part of that guide line has to be how much money you are willing to spend on lodging each day. When Charlene and I travel I try to keep us in a $30 dollar a day budget for lodging. That means we will spend about $900 a month on keeping a roof over our heads.
One of the problems that immediately presents it’s self is that Mrs. Sedar refuses to stay in a $30 dollar room. In order to give you an idea of how I will set up a typical month of travel to meet Mrs. Sedar’s needs and my budget.
First thing to remember is that you can design any combination of lodging in order to accomplish these goals. Typical types of lodging are: hotels, timeshares, vacation rentals, cruises, volunteer lodging, train sleepers and visiting friends and family.
We are lucky because when we were working we spent the money to buy timeshares, too many time shares, so timeshares have become an intricate part of our lodging plans. Timeshares have an amazing advantage in that if you take advantage of last minute trips you can go for as cheap as $199 a week and stay in really nice resorts see the article on maximizing your timeshare and the article of buying your first timeshare. That’s $28.43 cents a day and under my budget! What can I say I’m a Geezer.
Although the $199 dollar time share sounds good they usually are a little more expensive but timeshares are a great tool to stay on budget and live the good life. You know jacuzzi tub in your room and the ocean off your balcony. Let’s face it timeshare lodging is a very nice way to travel and can be within even this Geezers budget. One thing Charlene and I try to do is get 2 bedroom units and invite friends. This has two great benefits. First your friends make the trip more fun and second it’s free when they reciprocate. In the past we have done trips with friends where we supplied the timeshares and they rented the car or bought the flights with their air miles. It’s nice to have friends that are business travelers the poor devils just have too many travel assets and they need your help to spend them. Oh well.
Because our timeshare assets are a little crazy we often will center trips around our timeshares. A month in Spain staying a two or three weeks at timeshares and flying on air miles can be cheaper then staying home.
Timeshares are all well and good but they have their pitfalls. A big pitfall is Cities, timeshares are rarely in cities and lets face it a lot of the cool stuff is in cities.
Hotels work in cities but you can burn thru a scary amount of free hotel points fast in expensive cities. Thru our credit cards and motel stays Charlene and I will usually manage to capture maybe 20 to 25 free hotels a year but if your traveling a lot you will still have to pull out your wallet once in a while and get a room. When it comes to rooms find the best hotel chain for you and stick to them. The high end hotel chains like Marriott and Hyatt offer good programs but to be honest the rooms are a little to rich for my blood unless I’m getting free rooms from a credit card bonus. I like the Choice Hotel chain. They have a modest international presence and a huge presence in the U.S. The Choice products always seem to be clean and almost always offer breakfast. Free breakfast is a huge deal as is a laundry, free internet and free parking. Some one has to explain to me why when I stay at a $60 Comfort Inn they give me free internet, free parking, they have a laundry and they offer a hot breakfast and when I pay $140 for a Marriott I also pay for breakfast, internet and they don’t offer a laundry. WTH. Oh well I guess they make their money screwing the business guy who’s spending someone else money.
Choice Hotels are always running specials and if you have a Choice Privilege Credit Card between you loyalty points for the room and paying with your choice card you can often get every third or fourth room free. Also they some times run stay 2 nights and the third night is free specials. I tend to gather these points and free nights up and sit on them like an old hen because with Choice Hotels I get much better bang for my buck in places like Europe and Australia. In Europe a free room can save you a $200 beating in a City like London or Paris. I would point out that getting trapped into a $200 room plays havoc on my $30 budget. On March 15th Charlene and I are doing a road trip across America. We will be gone for about a month and a half. My best guess is we will stay at about 25 motels during the trip and I’ll have to fork out an average of about $60 a night but between staying as some time shares and staying at friends and family I’ll be pretty close to budget. The sweet deal is I’ll have around 15 free rooms built up that I plan to use in Australia in 2018. Rooms down under are way expensive and with Choice Hotels a free room is a free room. So the words out I’m not a big spender when it comes to hotels. All I want is a clean room, maybe a laundry, internet so I can work and of course a free breakfast.
In June and July Charlene and I are taking our grand daughter to Europe. When your traveling with a teen ager for 10 days motel rooms can get old real fast and on this trip timeshares don’t work. My solution is a solution I’ve used in the past, vacation rentals. Between Airb&b and HomeAway the Europeans are stepping up to bat and giving great deals in cities like Paris. The Euro is taking a beating and the French economy is hurting so you can get a nice two bedroom flat for about $50 a day that comfortably will sleep the three of us. Another great advantage of the vacation rentals is you often get a host that becomes a friend. We have made friends all over the world staying at HomeAways and have even had a few of our vacation rental hosts come see us in America. If you want to travel on a budget meet the locals and have the comfort of a kitchen and maybe an extra bedroom vacation rentals can be great.
One of my all time favorite forms of lodging is the Cruise ship. with a little shopping you can find cruises for less then $50 dollars a day. Ok so at $50 per person you are looking at $100 for room and board and entertainment and if you’re a return customer a chance at getting free booze. You’ll get hooked possible with a ~$24 a day surcharge but still for $124 a day you’re living the good life. I’m personally overly fond or repositioning cruises, whats not to like you get from Miami to Barcelona and they feed you and entertain you and house you and your entire bill for 2 weeks is less then $1300 for the both of you. Subtract the cost of a flight to Europe and getting to 4 or 5 cities during the trip and the reality is I call this lodging free. One great thing about a cruise is you will rarely spend 14 days on a cruise ship without making a few life long friends. As Charlene and I look back on our lives at least 10 of our favorite travel companions we met on cruises.
A form of lodging we have only done a few times are train sleepers. My short experience with them was they were cool but uncomfortable and the food if there was any it was poor. Most places in the world have overnight trains and they are a fun way to get from point “A” to point “B” but I doubt we will make a habit of this type of travel. Maybe the Orient Express when I’m 80.
I saved volunteer work almost to the last because if you’re ready to step off the deep end and really play with the locals this is definitely the way to go. Charlene and I spent 45 days in Thailand volunteering. I’m a dumb old cowboy from Wyoming and Charlene is a farm girl from South Dakota and by no means are we touchy feely, were down to earth and we loved the experience. We walked away form Thailand with a dozen life long friends we still travel with and communicate with. People we care deeply for and people we respect. The living arrangement were harsh, the food was good but strange, the experiences were exhilarating and the learning experience the chance for personal exploration and growth was off the charts. Volunteer travel will be a big part of our travel plans in the future. Just an aside the companies who put farmers who need laborers and tourists together and you work on the farm for room and board. We have not done this yet but free lodging? Free food? All I have to do is a half days work. I’m in!
I saved the best for last. For twenty years Charlene and I have been traveling the world and one of our favorite things is going to other countries and visiting friends we’ve come to know over the years or having them come visit us in the states. The more you travel, the more you step off the beaten path, the more you smile and laugh the more friends you will make the the more places you will have to go and the more good friends you can go see. I work on the fish rule and try to hold our visits to about three days but it’s usually a wonderful time. Charlene is in charge of FaceBook and it never ceases to amaze me how she keeps tabs on everyone but if one of our friends from overseas gets within 500 miles of us and doesn’t come stay Charlene is sad.
I started this article because I wanted to make an initial introduction to all the variables available as far as lodging when you travel like a Geezer but during the course of writing I’ve realized the traveling and lodging is just the start the friends are the spice and they are what make all this “wondering of the world” worth it. So travel like a Geezer and keep the budget low and the fun and adventure high.