Travel Secret Number One
My top travel secret recommendation? It isn't really a secret
at all, but it takes some time for some of us to learn and apply
it. It is to slow down and enjoy the trip more. Going slow and
spending more time in each location not only is a secret of cheap
travel, but in our experience, it means more fun as well.
Slow Down for Cheaper Travel
Having just returned yesterday (August 13, 2007) from a ten-day
road trip, I can report that going slower saves money. But it
isn't just about driving less or flying fewer places. Of course
when we started driving 200 miles in a day instead of 600 we
saved on gas. But we also found that with time on our hands,
we could do a better job shopping for a place to stay or eat.
On a road trip, the key is to make the big mile days through
the boring stretches, and then when you come to an interesting
place, find nice, affordable lodging and stick around a while.
For example, once, while driving around the country camping in
our van, we discovered hot springs in a wild part of Arizona,
with picnic tables and bathrooms and desert hills to explore.
At $3 per night, it was worth staying a while.
We stayed for eight days, enjoying the hot pools even during
an unusual snowy day. We also hunted for antiquities in the surrounding
desert, but more on that in a moment. We drove into the nearest
town once for groceries and water. The entire eight days might
have cost us $80.
Another time we stumbled into a great mountain town where
we wanted to stay a while. Because we were in town early, instead
of driving until evening and scrambling to find a hotel, we had
time to check things out. Someone told us about a little-known
hotel above a pub. The hotel rooms in town were generally $60
per night and up, but we got a room above the pub for $140 -
for an entire week. It even had a stove and refrigerator, meaning
we could cook our own meals if we wanted to save more.
Slow Down For Better Travel Experiences
Perhaps more important than the fact that slowing down means
cheap travel is the fact that when you go slower you discover
things you might have missed. At the hot springs mentioned above,
for example, we were there long enough to befriend a Mayan Indian
who brought us to an old Pony Express station in the desert.
He also showed us where we could find old arrowheads (and we
found a few). On a hill in the middle of the desert, he showed
us perfectly round holes that had been drilled into the rocks
hundreds of years earlier, used for water storage. We followed
him to an area where ancient pottery littered the desert, and
where gemstones could be found.
These are things we wouldn't have found on our own. These
experiences were also only possible because we weren't rushing
from one park to another, trying to fit as many "sights"
into a trip as possible. Travel is more fun and more relaxing
at a slower pace.
In that mountain town where we stayed a week for $140, we
discovered area waterfalls and secret mountain lakes that only
the locals knew about. We used the town as our base and made
trips into the surrounding area. Taking the time to talk to people
lead us to a well-preserved ghost town that wasn't on our map.
Streets full of buildings and foundations were still there, but
Travel secret number one: slow down and enjoy the trip.