Why I don’t (always) travel cheap

It seems like these days, the hottest trend in travelling is budget travel – budget airlines, cheap hotels, free entrances, affordable dining etc. Everybody wants to travel cheap and it doesn’t take much effort for anyone to find the best bargain in the Internet as it is usually the subject of most travel blogs. There is really nothing wrong with cheap travel but it got me thinking, is travelling cheap really the best way to travel?

I also started travelling cheap especially when money was the big issue and time was not a problem. I’d only look for the cheapest airfare and the most affordable accommodation. Until I become a weekend traveller (most of the time) because of a full-time job and other settled-individuals’ responsibilities. This turned the tables on my travelling situation, time is now always the problem and money has become less of an issue. The nature of my job in shipping and logistic didn’t help either as my schedules can change in a day. Although I still look first for the cheapest choices of hotels and airline tickets, price is not anymore the top considerations when preparing for a travel itinerary. I abide by the rule you only get what you pay for and that applies in everything, travelling included. I now go for what gives me the most relaxing experience and that for me is one big part of travelling.

There are some advantages of budget travel and let me share four reasons why I don’t always travel cheap.

Crazy departure time

On my first solo travel in Madrid in 2009, I was ecstatic to have booked a round-trip flight with Ryanair for only 113euros. That was a steal but there was a catch that I didn’t paid attention to – flight schedule. I thought that with the departure time of 6:15, I can easily take a train from the Madrid center to the Madrid-Barajas airport. I was a dead wrong!

Since I was on a cheap travel itinerary, my budget does not allow taxi costs. What I didn’t know was, the trains in Madrid does not open until 5:00 in the morning and I couldn’t risk of missing my flight. So I decided to spend the night at the Barajas airport. It was in the middle of August so my clothes were all for the summer. You can imagine how I was lying there on the airport floor, with three layers of summer clothes, clutching myself silly because it was damn cold.

To make matters worst, it was the eve of my birthday.

Usually the cheapest airfares also has the worst departure time. And without considering the time difference in the countries where you are going, it can be a nightmare. This also happened to me when I went to Tallinn and had to be at the airport at 5 o’clock in the morning. And Tallinn was an hour behind the Netherlands so I have to haul my sleepy ass to the airport at 3 in the morning. From then on, I swore never to take the cheapest flight if it means waking up at dawn to be at the airport.

It doesn’t really makes sense that after spending a relaxing week in a beautiful place, you’re last leg of the journey would be a sleepless night and hurried packing to catch your plane which is leaving in an ungodly hour. The journey back home is as important as the travel itself. You would want to come home feeling rejuvenated and not hurried on your trip back.

Longer travel time

When husband and I went to Budapest, we decided to take Wizz Air and depart from Eindhoven. Seems like a good deal but Eindhoven is at least an hour and a half away from where we live. But the departure was 11 in the morning and we were prepared to leave early. At 7am to be sure.

The problem was, we have to take the train from Rotterdam to Eindhoven and unexpectedly, the train had a delay and stopped twice in a God-knows-where station. We were checked in already but of course we have to drop off our luggage. We ended up paying for a cab to the Eindhoven airport and with a lot of stress because the drop off time was almost closing.

When booking a cheap flight, you have no choice but fly from smaller airports. Smaller airline companies like Ryanair and Wizz Air usually have their flights depart from the smaller cities while the big companies seemed to have a monopoly on major airports like Amsterdam-Schipol airport. With a little bit more money, you can remove the hassles of early morning (dawn) flights and travelling extra to get to the airport.

Quality of service

This is especially important to me when it comes to accommodation and dining. Although I usually stay in bed and breakfasts and avoid the bigger hotels, I do not mind paying a little extra for a bit more comfort and peace of mind.

In very touristic places like Amsterdam and Venice, it is better to pay more than finding yourself in a hostel located in the not-so friendly part of the neighborhood. Cheap hotels are usually located in inconvenient places and sometimes you have to walk far to get bus or train stop.

Aside from that, they are not that well-maintained. I mean, why would the hotel owners hire more staff to make your room spunky clean when you only want to spend 15euros a night for it? Lower rates also means lesser responsibilities from the owners.

When I booked a cheap hotel in Lido Island in Venice last summer, I spent at least half of the night worrying that somebody will barge in my door and rob me. You cannot trust the lock on the door and the interior is like one of those crime series where you find a dead body in one of the rooms. It was very near the beach which was wonderful but from the boat terminal, it takes at least 15-min walking. And that is not very handy when you pulling a 30-kilo luggage.

Cleanliness, safety and security and hospitality of the staff are top priorities for me and you don’t usually find all of them in a 20euro/night hotel (unless you are in 3rd world countries).

And I would not even start on dining. Yes dining with locals is a wonderful and authentic travel experience but when you eat in cheap restaurants and have to share the place with noisy diners (and tourists) then it takes the fun out of the experience. Usually when travelling, I spend three meals dining in different local restaurants but after a while, I long for an ambiance where I can truly enjoy my food.

The crowd

Yes I want to lounge on the beach, enjoy the clear water and the blue sky and sip my margarita while watching the setting sun. But I don’t want to do that with 1 million other people. There are just sights and places that are best enjoyed in privacy or with less number of people. Unfortunately, there is a price to pay.

This is especially true with beaches, those which does not have entrance fees or not part of a private property.

The crowd is just unbearable and most of them does not care about their surroundings – young people who screams and drink themselves to death, annoying little children, locals selling you their products and services, those who litters the beach as if there isn’t any garbage bin on sight – these kind of people are unfortunately unavoidable in public places.

I love El Nido Island in Palawan, Philippines but in one of our island hopping trips, we shared the sandbar with a group of Korean tourists. I have to stop myself from walking to them and telling them not the trample on the corals. Aside from that, they were very noisy and seemed to be blocking your view all the time.

This is also true with museums and churches, especially churches with towers which we know don’t have much space when you get to the top. I don’t like to get stressed in squeezing myself in the crowd just to have a piece of the view. I would rather pay extra and enjoy a place in peace and quiet.

No I am not a big spender when it comes to travelling. I also observe my budget and try to get the best bargains. But getting the best bargains does not always mean snagging the cheapest deals especially when you want to enjoy your travel in a short period of time. Unless you are on a backpacking tour or really on a very tight budget, spend a bit extra. It pays to pay a little more.