There is a common perception that travel is expensive. People who travel are assumed to have a lot of money and a surplus amount of disposable income. I agree that there is some truth in this; however, there is no limitation to travel even without a fat account balance. Nobody should shy away from a travel plan just because it’s deemed expensive. Everyone deserves to get out and experience life away from their residential places. Get to know the beauty of your country, experience cultural diversity, mingle and relate with other people. This will help you reflect, relax, re-energize and feel relieved. It is something everyone deserves, regardless of their financial status. You only need to change tact. Do not make travel decisions like someone with enough money to spend. I believe the following tips will be helpful:
Get a travel partner
This does not mean someone you will be travelling with. Identify a person or tour company that can update you on upcoming travels. The partner should be able to scout for a variety of options for you to choose from. Open up to your partner and allow them to understand your budget, travel pattern, availability, interests and preferences. You will require a partner you can trust. Travel is not a service, but an experience. Every bit of it matters. Their recommendations should not fall short of your expectation (and if they do, it should only be to a small extent). A good partner will help you get good prices and discounts from various travel offers. More importantly, a partner advises you on the best places to travel, the best time to travel to those places, what to look forward to, how to dress, and what to carry with you.
If you are a spontaneous person, budget travel is not for you. Travel is a lot cheaper when you prepare beforehand. Identify your destination in time. Think about what you require for the trip (especially, what to carry). You will have plenty of time to gather everything comfortably. (For instance, if I want to climb Mt. Kenya, I will set a date 4 months in advance. This is enough to acquire hiking gear, train, prepare psychologically and acclimatize). Compare quotes and options from several service providers in your destination of choice. Go for the one that is cheaper but offers quality service. Quality is relative. What you may consider quality may be someone else's bullshit. Think about your expectations. What do you want to experience from the destination? What is more important for you? Is it the room (how comfy the mattress is; how spacious the bathroom is, etc)? Is it the scenery? Is it the activities available? If the most important take-homes for you are covered in the cheapest quote, go for it! Take time to confirm with the provider that your preferences will be met.
Save, lipa pole pole
Come up with a savings plan that works for you. You can choose to save on your own by setting aside some amount every week/month. If you chose to save 500 bob every week, in a month you have 2000 and that translates to 12000 Shillings in 6 months. This is enough money for a weekend road trip to Arusha. Consider the cost of the trip to determine how much you need to save each month. You will be surprised how affordable these holidays are.
You can also choose to pay in agreeable installments. Instead of saving with your bank, shylock or M-shwari, you can give the money to your service provider. Acquire receipts and documentation for your records. At no point in the payment process should you feel drained. No planned project in your financial executions should be halted by your travels.
From the travel destinations available, try to spend as little as possible. Instead of going to a hotel that offers meals on full board, opt for self-catering. Get a cook if preparing your own meals is an issue. Whether you are alone or with your family/friends, you will spend almost half the money you would have spent in a hotel offering meals on full board. Here is an example: An average hotel will cost 10.000/- per double room per night on full board. If you are 4 people, a 2-bedroom villa that costs 5,000/- per night will be a better option. In most cases a cook is paid 1,000/- per day. You cannot spend more than 500/- per person per day on meals. This adds up to 2000/- per day. Now compare this to 5,000/- per day when staying in an average hotel. You only need to make sure the self-catering facility has/is near amenities such as swimming pool and beach if in the Coast.
If your destination is accessible by public means, stop hiring vehicles/flying for God's sake. You will do that when your finances get blessed. Get a train ticket or board a matatu to the nearest stage. If you want to get to the hotel like a "boss" and raise no suspicions, take a taxi for not more than 500 bob from the matatu/train stop. This will help massage your ego and maintain your image if being seen alighting from a matatu bothers you. For a fleeting moment you are equal to the rich kids and blessed holiday makers.
When you are not travelling to meditate, find your inner peace, or visit someone, this is the best time for this. Apart from saving a lot of money, group travel helps you meet new people and make friends. The cost of a trip (especially safaris) will reduce drastically when transport cost is shared. Organizers of group travel are also able to secure discounts from accommodation facilities as well as other service providers. For Instance, a private budget safari to Maasai Mara National Reserve for 2 people will cost +-27,000/- per person. The same Safari will cost 12,500/- per person when 8 people are sharing a vehicle. Be willing to share. Travel with an open mind. If you are travelling alone, be kind enough to share a room with someone (of the same gender). You won't be sharing for long. Avoid paying single room supplements. Group travel brings different people together. Opportunities pop up as you socialize. A tour leader gives directions on almost everything, and that means no stress. The Key advantage here is; you spend less than you would have spent on private travel.
It’s time to wake up and understand tourism seasonality. There are 4 seasons in a year (as categorized by hospitality providers); Low season, Mid-Range/Shoulder season, High season and Peak season. Focus on the low season. Travel when the prices are cheaper. Most hotels especially in the Kenyan Coast close for renovation. Many hotels stay open and endeavor to break even. In Kenya, this is between the months of April and June. Visit hotels during this time and see how you will enjoy the facilities with no rush. If this is not a good time for you to travel due to various reasons, try November and early December. You will save a lot of money if you take your family for an end of year holiday between 12th December and 20th December as opposed to 20th December on wards. Trust m, you can save up to 2/3 of your money. A hotel that costs 8,000/- per double per night in November and early December will cost 25,000/- per double per night from 22nd December to 2nd January. Do the math. It makes a lot of economical sense to take a family holiday mid-December, and then travel upcountry and save money for schools fees :)
The key takeaway here is, avoid the common travel patterns. Go against the current. Enjoy more for less.