"On Being A Cheap Tourist" cheap_tourist's Profile
When I was choosing my user ID for VT, I was surprised to find that "cheap_tourist" hasn't been selected yet. Of the thousands of travelers out there, one or two must be budget conscious (i.e., cheap). There must be one or two who are heroically trying to explore the world on a shoestring budget. I can't be the only one!
I'm not really cheap. Okay, maybe I am. I actually always look for "value for money." While I try to save, it doesn't mean that I am not willing to pay for once-in-a lifetime experiences.
A case in point is the Grouse Mountain in Vancouver during winter. I don't engage in winter sports so I really don't have much to do when I get to the top. Thus, the C$27 admission fee, which to me will be good only for a roundtrip cable car ride, a tour of the chalet, and watching two movies at the Theatre-in-the-Sky; looks pricey. But I have to do it--once--so I paid. Will I go back? Of course not!. It's too expensive.
I have one basic rule on being cheap: never do anything illegal. If I have to lie or cheat to avail of a promo offer, forget it! There are other opportunities to save.
These are some of the techniques I used to save money:
1. Stay with relatives. For my trip to Kansas City, I stayed with my uncle for a week. For my trip to Vancouver, my sister put up with me for two weeks. Don't abuse their hospitality, however.
2. Stay with friends. If they are really your good friends, you can impose on them at least once in this lifetime. I do this rarely because of their spouses and kids. I did stay with a friend in Sacramento for a week. Well, he was a friend since college days.
3. Stay at hostels. For my trip to Chicago, Seattle, and Portland, I stayed at the local Hostelling International hostel. You stay in a dorm with other experienced travelers which means that they get out of your way. Accommodation is spartan but you're usually out anyway.
4. Use Amtrak to explore nearby cities. When I visited Sacramento, I used Amtrak to tour (on separate occassions) nearby San Francisco and Reno. When I was in Vancouver, I used Amtrak to make a side trip to Seattle and Portland. As a resident of Los Angeles, I have taken Amtrak to Santa Barbara and San Diego. It's like hitting two birds with one stone--very cheaply.
5. Check out museums' free days. Usually, a museum has one or more days during which admission fee is waived. See if these free days can be included in your itinerary. I sometimes build my itinerary around these free days. For example, a Sunday was allocated to Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum because it was its free day.
6. Use coupons. Before exploring a city, see if you can get discount coupons to any of the attractions you plan to see. For example, Universal Studios Hollywood often gives "buy one, take one" coupons. Since admission price is more than $40, the potential for savings is great. There are also coupons for restaurants, hotels, and entertainment. Seek them out.
7. Use public transit day passes. What can I say? I explored Chicago, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, and San Francisco with a day pass in hand. They are not only value for money, they are also convenient--you don't have to look for the exact fare every time you get on board. By the way, on January 1, 2004, Los Angeles County's transportation authority will begin selling day passes.
This page is a work in progress. I have other tips that I'll add in the near future. Au revoir!
I joined VT fairly recently although I have already been traveling fairly a lot. Bottom line is I don't have many pictures of my travels because I collect post cards. I figured that any picture I take can't be better than the post cards cheaply available.
VT (and I) respects copyrights so I have many tips for which I don't have pictures. Those are probably related to pre-VT travels. I have a handful of pictures with me included. It was not possible to crop myself out. Again, pre-VT travels. These days, I have a 5-megapixel digicam so no more pictures of me spoiling the scenic shot. This would make for better pages--as if anyone reads them!
Once upon a time, five blind men who have never encountered an elephant before were brought to one and were asked to describe it. One blind man touched the elephant's trunk and said that the elephant was like a snake. Another touched the elephant's ear and said that the elephant was like a fan. The blind man who touched the elepant's side said that it was like a wall.
"The elephant is like a tree," concluded the blind man who touched the elephant's leg. The blind man who touched the elephant's tail thought that it was like a rope.
The moral of the story: If our travel observations differ it's probably because we are two blind people who touched different parts of the elephant!
Here are some of the occasions when VT (and VTers) helped me.
1. During my Vancouver trip, tips from VTers made me add the Vancouver Public Library to my itinerary. Without this information, I probably would have missed it.
2. For sentimental reasons, I was looking for more information on this huge statue of the Virgin Mary which I visited during my trip to Sunnyvale five years ago. Internet search proved futile. After posting this question on VT forum, a fellow VTer informed me that this statue of Our Lady of Peace may be found in Santa Clara. I was at peace.
3. The forum on L.A.'s Chinese New Year parade made me decide to check it out. Well, it was an experience.
4. A VTer advised me on the best way to get to San Diego from Carlsbad by public transportation. His advice led to my first Coaster train ride.
5. VTers facilitated my first trip to Venice Beach and the canals of Venice with their accurate transportation tips.
I also enjoyed the plethora of information that one can find on VT. I'm sure that they've made me a more savvy traveler.
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