Tag Archives: Budget Travel

Spring Flight Fever

1 Mar
Signs of Spring

A sign of spring – outdoor tables at a local cafe.

I just took a stroll around my familiar but still impressive Vienna neighborhood. While there is still a chill in the air, there is a new fresh feeling and it seems possible… just possible… that spring is not far away. The cafés are putting their tables back outside and there is a new feeling of vitality as the heaviness of winter begins to lift.

The possibility of spring has me dreaming of new explorations… both here in Vienna and beyond. It’s always a pleasure for me to do a little flight treasure hunting, excavating flight possibilities with affordable potential.

While I have my “goto” search engines to easily give me a glimpse of what might be possible, sometimes, you have to dig deeper. Flight search engines are not created equal, and while there are many good ones out there, they each have their own unique set of benefits and characteristics.

skyscanner logoRecently I have come to appreciate the breadth and flexibility of the search engine Skyscanner.com. Typically, you can count on them for finding some of the lowest fairs on flights all around the world. But they also have a few distinct search options that have me singing their praises. Here they are:

Broad Departure and Destination Location Options.  With Skyscanner, you don’t have to choose just one city for your arrival or departure when digging for buried flight treasure. Perhaps you are looking for the cheapest flight to a region and are flexible about where you land. Or maybe you’re ready to have an adventure, but are open to where you go. Skyscanner is a great tool for you.

With Skyscanner you can select the country of your possible departure and/or destination rather than just a city. The gives way to a great deal of flight-searching ease and opens up a whole new world of affordable flight options.

Wide Flexible Date Search Options.  Looking for the best price on your flight but don’t have a specific date? No problem with Skyscanner! You can search for best prices on flights for a specific week, month, even year. With a little date flexibility, flight costs don’t have to be a limitation or deal breaker. There are some AMAZING prices out there that can easily light a fire under your next adventure.

Here are a few examples to wet your traveling appetite. All of these great priced flights were quickly found using the flexible departure and return date option on Skyscanner:

  • USA to London, roundtrip, $485
  • London to Tokyo, roundtrip, $451
  • USA (San Jose) to Costa Rica, roundtrip, $248

While some of these cheapest flights may not exactly fit your date or travel preferences, they can also be a good clue for budget airlines where you can investigate further. Also, when looking for amazing flight deals, don’t forget to check neighboring airports and locations that are just a quick cheap fight away.

Looking for more flight finding tips? Check out my earlier blog Save Money on Flights with a bit more on some of my “goto” flight search engines.

Well, do you have a little pre-spring flight fever? Once you see how affordable flights can be, it can open up a whole new door of travel possibility.

My easy Sunday afternoon continues here in Vienna. My hostess has just returned from her most recent work journey in the States. She and her family are happily reunited. Things are pretty quiet at the house as she wades through the deep sea of her jet lag. Never a fun process.

Good-bye for now from Vienna where I am hopeful for spring and enjoying my (not quite yet…) spring flight fever.

 

 

5 Affordable Ways to Take the Travel Leap

11 Jan

TRAVEL LEAPFour years ago I took the travel leap with very little money in my bank account relying mostly on a work exchange arrangement in Germany to make my way. As my initial 6 week journey expanded and grew, I began to discover new and useful resources that make it possible to continue to travel on a modest budget.

The point here is simple.  If you want to travel, internationally or even within your own country or continent, it is truly possible.  Money doesn’t have to be the thing the keeps you saddled at home.  Here are some viable travel resources that can help set free your travel dreams and make them a reality.

Helpx.net
This is my favorite travel resource and the one I have relied on most heavily in my travels.  The concept here is simple:  connecting hosts offering room and board in exchange for work with travelers. For a modest yearly subscription (20 Euros, about $24 USD, for 2 years) you literally get access to the world.

The membership gives you access to hundreds of hosts supplying detailed information and photos about their exchange opportunity. There is also a rating system allowing travelers to rate and offer input about hosts they have visited. This is very helpful and increases your confidence about a decision to stay with a host. There are even family friendly destinations so you can pack up the kids and go!

I have written in more detail about helpx on an earlier post, Travel the World with Helpx.

Workaway
This site is similar to helpx, offering work opportunities in exchange for room and board.  I have found many listings are the same on Workaway and Helpx… however there are still some differences and distinctions.  You can check out the listings for free.  If you find an opportunity that is calling you, membership and access to contact information is just 23 Euros (about $25 USD) for a two-year subscription.

Servas
Servas International is an international, non-profit encompassing an international network of hosts and travelers. They are founded on the premise that hospitality and cultural interaction are the essential tools for achieving conditions for people to live in peace and unity.  Members around the world offer homestay opportunities to member travelers.  If you’d like to learn more visit servas.org.

Couchsurfing
I am not an expert couchsurfer, but I am glad the option exists.  If you are not familiar with couchsurfing, it is similar in its mission of servas seeking to build connections and foster understanding across cultures.  Many members offer a “free couch” or bed for a few nights.  Profiles are quite descriptive and there is again the opportunity for feedback from other members allowing you to travel and make plans with greater confidence.

I look to couchsurfing when I want to take a quick getaway, perhaps for just a few nights, and would like to stay with someone local and also keep my budget low.  It is definitely an option to consider when navigating the globe, or just looking for some new scenery for a few days.

Trusted Housesitters
Have you considered house sitting?  I have… and while I don’t have much experience with it on the international scene, I just became a member at trustedhousesitters.com.  This is the largest site on the web and the fastest growing with the best functionality.  With a New Years deal, I received an annual membership for about 60 Euros ($70 USD).

I imagine this site, much like other online opportunities, begins with a well completed profile.  They provide the opportunity to file a police check as well as external personal and professional references.  It might be the ticket to your next international adventure.

What are you waiting for?
Whether you are seeking to change your life and travel full-time or simply for a way to temporarily launch beyond the boundaries of your current location, these are some great ways to do so.  With some common sense, a bit of preparation, and attention to details — these are all safe, viable and accessible ways to take the travel leap. Why not check them out?

And if hitting the road (or the airways) is not your destiny at the moment, remember with many of these organizations you can also be a host.  Helpx and Workaway may be a great way to get that gardening project underway or whatever it is you have been putting off around the house… and be of service to a traveler and bring a little international flavor into your life.

Do you have any travel plans on the horizon?  Or experience to share with any of these organizations?  It’s always great to hear from you!

 

Travel the World with Helpx

22 May

It’s a typical Thursday afternoon at English Village in Paju South Korea.  It is my “weekend” and I am busy sifting through plans and possibilities for myself and my life.  Spring is here and while it is finally lovely it is also a sad little season.  Here in Paju it seems bossy summer starts to fight its way in before Spring has even had a chance to settle.

Yesterday was a refreshing break from the land of Paju as I met with a young Korean friend from my SGI Buddhist group in the nearby city of Ilsan.  It is near by car I should say, as the meandering local bus is more than a short journey.  But it was worth it to connect with her and her friend visiting from Malaysia.  Both went to university in the States with very agreeable English and inspiring dreams and attitudes.  It is fun and fresh to spend time with both of them.

The highlight of our easy afternoon was a visit to Ilsan Lake Park featuring a stunning rose garden.  I had flashbacks of the many hours I spent in my favorite parks in New Orleans, playing among the live oaks dripping with spanish moss.  Ilsan’s park seems like a distant cousin to the parks of New Orleans as Korea does parks differently from the sultry ways of the South.  In Ilsan the park was open and spacious but complete with tidy boxes of flowers and neatly laid paths. The rose garden, however, was unexpected and off the charts.  To me it seemed like everything Korean.  Colorful.  Neat and tidy.  And utterly lovely in its never-ending patterns and displays of roses of all colors.

As I am poking away at my own travel plans, it has me thinking once again of helpful travel tips to pass on to you – tips that might open doors, ignite some excitement or stir up a dream or two.  In my past three years of unfolding international adventures, one of the best tips I received was being turned on to the website Helpx.net.

What is helpx.net?  Quite simply it is a network of people in locations around the world willing to provide travelers with room and board in exchange for work.  It is one of the best inventions in travel and can open up the world to people who have ruled it out because they “don’t have enough money.”  It can also be an economical way to “getaway” or have a change of scenery even in your own country.

Who are the hosts?  Helpx hosts are business owners, farmers and private people and families who want to open their doors to travelers.  Businesses may include bed and breakfasts, resorts, hotels, or farms.  I once stayed with a helpx family who ran their own business from home and were looking for a graphic designer.  You never know what you may find that is a match for your skills and interests!

How does it work?  It is quite simple really.  You can view the website without becoming a member, but if you want to contact a host you must pay the modest fee to join.  Once you are a member, contact a host or hosts that are interesting to you.  If they feel the same way, they will get back to you.  The length of stay can vary greatly.  Once an agreement is reached between you and the host, all you have to do is make your plans and show up!

How many hours do I work and what do I do?  This will vary by host.  Some hosts are laid back and are mostly interested in meeting people from other parts of the world.  Others really rely on the helpx work for the vitality of their business.  I would say average expectation is 5 hours a day, 5 days a week.  But some hosts will ask for 6 hours a day, 6 days a week with one day off.  And others may not set hours and just ask that you help as needed through out the day.

Work varies widely as well.  In my experience I have cooked, cleaned, mowed lawns, painted ceilings, chopped wood, taken care of children.  Some people need help with construction, caring for their farm in some way or teaching a language.  There are also unexpected little pockets or work needed that are best found through exploring the site.

How to choose a host.  I found it helps to be clear about what matters to you and screen hosts for those things.  How many hours do you want to work?  Do you want to be in a city or out in the country?  What kind of work are you willing to do?  Do you want to be around a lot of other people or do you like solitude.  Can you go with the flow with whatever your hosts cooks or do you have diet requirements?  How long do you want to stay?  Do you want to share a room with others or do you prefer privacy… the clearer you get, the easier it is to choose and shorten your list and start making contacts.

You will have more options if you plan at least a few months ahead of time as there is less “last-minute” availability. Additionally, I found it useful to contact more than one host for the same time period as some people don’t get back in touch or have changed plans.

Is it safe?  With all of my helpx experiences I always felt very safe.  There is a place for reviews on all helpx hosts and reading those is very helpful.  Once when I still had more questions, I contacted previous helpxers to get more information. If you’re still unsure if a host is right for you, its never a bad idea to get a second opinion from a wise and trusted friend.

Is it worth it?  Absolutely!  It provides intimate experience into a different life and sometimes different culture.  New experiences, new people, new skills.  Don’t get me wrong, sometimes there is some hard work to do or relationships to be managed.  But that is all the depth and color of the experience!

Daytime is melting away on this quiet almost summer day in Paju. I am listening to English Village top 40 leaking through my window from the speaker outside.  Ah the sounds of life at English Village.

If you have any questions about Helpx, feel free to write!  Always happy to share my experience!

Photo at top. A bright array of flowers neatly displayed at Ilsan Lake Park.

Save Money on Flights

12 Mar

Another few weeks have slipped by in Paju, South Korea.  Mostly it’s life as usual in the unusual world of Gyeonggi English Village. This week the ROK Military joins us for a break in their busy routine and a big dip in the pools of the English language.

The winter freeze is slowly melting away no thanks to an unexpected snow shower earlier this week. Nevertheless, Spring is still on the horizon.  As many of us are finding our way out of winter hibernation, it seems like an appropriate time to share some money saving travel tips.

Let’s begin with the basics for any good journey – an affordable flight.  Finding the cheapest rate and best flight schedule is paramount for me in creating my trip itinerary.  Tenacity is often your best friend when looking for the most suitable rate and flight.  But here are a few shortcuts I’ve discovered to save you some time and money.

Flight Search Engines
Not all search engines are created equal.  In the mission to find the best flight, I find it never hurts to peruse the gamut.  There are, however, a few search engines that are my go-to sites in the adventures of flight finding.  Let’s begin.

kayak

Kayak.  Kayak is a reliable search engine and a great starting point for a flight inquiry.  They offer a wide array of airlines with a good selection of budget-friendly flights.  You can choose a three-day date flexibility in their searching parameters allowing you to see rates and times on a variety of days.  This is a great way to find the best prices as they can vary daily.

whichbudget

Which Budget.  I learned of this search engine while living in Europe.  If you are on the hunt for the lowest price ticket, you should definitely check this out.  On Which Budget you can glimpse prices for a wide range of dates and easily investigate the cheapest flights over a period of time.  They include a broad spectrum of budget airlines making it a good source for finding the best priced flights. (Note:  For some reason, I have had less success using this search engine in Asia.)

cheapflights

Insanely Cheap Flights.   I think the name says it all.  I used this search engine to purchase my flight from the US to South Korea.  On several occasions I have found them to offer the cheapest flight I could find.  My flight to Korea was purchased and redeemed with no problems.  I easily bought the ticket, was able to speak to a real customer service person when I had a question, and arrived in South Korea at a price I could afford.

More Good Ideas

condor

Cheap Flights from Europe.  If you are in Europe looking to purchase a flight for the next leg of your journey, you must check out Condor Airline’s listing of their Longhaul Flights.   Condor is a German-based airline with a regular listing of discounted flights leaving from Frankfurt International to all over the world.  Cancun, Chiang Mai, San Jose, Lima… just to name a few.  No matter where you are in Europe, you can easily catch a cheap flight to Frankfurt and then save big bucks on your long distance flight.  I purchased my ticket from Europe to the States from Condor.  I saved some money and was happy with the flight and service.

travelzoo

Travelzoo.  Have you subscribed to Travelzoo?  If you haven’t you should!  They provide regular emails with travel deals for destinations all over the world and their offers often include flight sales.  I bought my first ticket from US to Europe through a flight deal I discovered through Travelzoo.  Worth checking out!

No matter where your next adventure may take you, some persistence and these resources will help you save some money and find that flight that best meets your needs.  Happy travels… wherever you are going!

Do you have any great flight finding tips to share?  It’s always good to hear from you!

Featured image a Spring snow shower at Gyeonggi English Village.

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