Wednesday, April 26, 2006

traveling cheaply

That's an oxymoron statement. With oil prices the way it is, there are no cheap flights anymore or even off season prices. But there are still ways to lower the cost of a trip. If we have a more flexible mindset we can even have fun. In Europe a lot of families rent out rooms in their homes especially when they live in a historic town. All over the Cinque Terre we saw signs of rooms to rent. There are not many hotels in the Cinque Terre. So when one comes to town especially during the busy summer months one can inquire at tourism offices. When I was there in March this year, I rented someone's apartment. I found it on Rick Steves' guide book and I emailed the owners. They wanted to know when I'll be arriving. I logged on Trenitalia and found their schedule and I was able to give them an eta. Someone was waiting for me when I arrived to give me the key and for me to hand over the money, 46 euros per night which was a good deal for a room with an attached bathroom. I paid 80 euros for a room at a hostel in Rome with no toilet or bathroom. In Carcassonne, France I paid 64 euros for a loft in the medieval city for 4 people. We lived in a top floor room with a kitchenette and bathroom and we look out over towers and turrets. The kids loved it, it was like living in a castle. I prefer these down home places to stay. It makes for a more memorable stay. In Naples I paid 25 euros for a dumpy hostel. They provided breakfast which was a coffee and a packaged roll. It sustained us the whole morning till lunch. I didn't mind, I saved a lot of money. The owner was nice in a european way. When I started going to Europe six years ago, the exchange rate was better, I stayed in more expensive hotels. I remember this pretty chateau I stayed in, in Avignon. It was the most charming and french place. Today I stay in more down home (dumpy) places. When I pick a place from a guide book I pick friendly. It it says, nice and friendly staff, then that's where I'll stay. Not just friendly, I have to add, safe. Safe and friendly, in european terms are different from american. Be flexible and keep an open mind, as Rick Steves said, be militantly positive. And you will have a lot of fun and come home with a lot of happy memories. And you can't wait to go back again for more.

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