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10 Ways To Travel Smart

Early September, just a few days after I booked my round trip tickets to Manali, the news announced that there'd be airfare hikes. Yet again. Not cool. 

Travel is one thing the yuppies seem to be enamoured by and I'm no different. It's something I crave for and look forward to doing. In the larger picture, it features on the top three reasons why I work so very hard at my job. And it's great to see so many of my peers boarding flights and exploring destinations off the beaten track. It's inspiring. And it makes me want to book my next flight all the more. 

Exploring new places requires a lot of money (no shit!) which requires one to be smart in managing their savings. I wouldn't think twice to pay for a trip though. And the fact that shopping for shoes, clothes and bags doesn't qualify as 'therapy' for me, works in my favour.

The key however is to travel smart. And below are just some ways I do it and you can too...

1. You don't need to visit a place during season time. Go off season when prices are low (restaurants and hotel rooms) and you get the place to yourself and won't have to split it with a gazillion other tourists.

2. Be wise and plan your leaves. Use each day of your bank of leaves wisely. Work out your leave schedule to include a few days prior to and after a weekend, so you get more time off, and make the most of your time off. Also, timing your leave around public holidays is a big big win!

3. Save, save, save. I couldn't emphasize this more! If you sense a trip coming up, avoid that extra third beer (that'll also be good for your belly!), postpone purchasing the expensive Zara shoes whose heels alone could poke a hole in your wallet (literally!) and meet your friends at a budget-friendly place instead of hanging out at a plush restaurant you've already visited a countless times before! Avoid spending a bomb for a front row seat at a movie theatre for what's probably going to be a bad movie.

4. Follow the Twitter handles/Facebook pages of airlines and tourism boards and keep a watch out for contests. The contests usually don't require NASA-level IQ and through just a simple modest participation, you could win yourself some cash-back money and discount vouchers (if not free tickets)! No kidding, a one-liner on a Twitter contest was all it took for a friend of mine who went jet-setting on a fully sponsored round trip to the UK.

5. Walk. A lot. Explore your destination city on foot. You'd rather spend that auto/taxi money on indulging in some local food right! So walk. You get to see more that way.

6. Book your hotel rooms online through the hotel website. Credit card payments on hotel websites usually fetch you a 10-20% discount. However, if you have a long lost friend who works in a hotel/airline, do touch base with him/her ('s no secret they're entitled to a special friends & family discount!).

7. Take an overnight bus or train if you have the luxury of time (or even if you don't). If you can avoid taking a flight, you've just garnered yourself more spending money for your trip. I travelled to Ahmedabad from Mumbai by a non air-conditioned bus (it was a breezy night fyi); it was a 17 hour overnight journey which barely cost me Rs. 500 one way. I left on a Friday night, slept most of the journey through and arrived in time for a hot Gujarati lunch the next Saturday afternoon. It was win-win for me! I'm a big supporter of overnight sleeper buses to Goa and Bangalore as well. Hell, these buses even show you the latest movie you didn't catch at the theatre. 

8. Read a lot of travel blogs. They're magnanimous with learnings and tips from their many sojourns. I highly recommend following Nomadic Matt who regularly posts on how to travel economically. He's done posts on 'How to eat cheap around the world' and 'How to travel in $50', among countless others. Matt's even written 'How to make money off your travel blog'!

9. Go visit your friends. Especially if they're living/studying/working in exotic countries. There are two benefits to this - one, there's a high chance your accomodation would be taken care of, and two, you get your own personal local guide! I cut my costs majorly on my trip to Nepal when I was hosted by my friend (thank you again Sabal!)

10. When you arrive at an airport, don't dash off to the baggage claim or exit gates. Look around. You'll find an information desk or a kiosk where local guide booklets with maps are displayed. Sometimes these guides have discount coupons that you could find a lot of use for!

So, that's it from me. I shall conveniently stop racking my brains after point number 10 (it's a safe well-rounded catchy number). Have to get back to work now, just because...

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