Subject: Bargain Strategies For Travel
Dear Ziners

To my way of thinking, saving big on air, car rental or hotel (hoping to use Priceline or other bargain finder for hotels this year) frees up a little cash for purchases and food. Since I am dreaming of Dartmoor for my next proposed trip, I'm even considering self-catering, which we have never done in Europe. It is not like Dartmoor is the dining capital of England, so I plan that this year, we concentrate less on restaurants and shops, and more on walking, views, etc.

I believe that one good strategy is to reconsider destinations. We plan to limit our time in London, since we had a nice stay there last year, and it would be much less expensive to spend more time out in the Devon countryside than in London.

As the dollar is down against the Euro, I can't really imagine a way to visit my favorite shops, restaurants, and hotels in Paris without spending a little more than before. The way I look at it is: it is what it is. But there are hotels and restaurants that are less expensive than my favorites. Shoot, my choice would be the Georges V, but that isn't likely to happen soon! In reality, I often use Frommer's Budget Travel magazine and website for fantastic little places to eat and stay in various popular European cities. I find them to be more to my tastes than Rick Steves' budget recommendations, although others disagree. I also highly recommend Jack's Paris website for incredible dining on a fairly low budget. Ditto for hotels. We ate lovely prix fixe dinners last spring, and only once veered from Jack's recommendations.

For shopping, I just spent tons in Firenze this year, which I usually don't do. As our air and accommodations were cost free, I bought things I normally wouldn't even consider. I usually buy things at flea markets and in stores like pharmacies or groceries. There are always nice items that make great souvenirs or gifts. For instance, soaps in Paris pharmacies or little items at Sephora, and we always bring something back from Paris that we purchased at the Marche aux Puces, Clingnacourt. My favorite Firenze purchase this year: a Che Guevara refrigator magnet. I lovethat thing, and smile every time I look at it.

Also, we now use public transport for airport to city runs, rather than taxies, car services or shuttles. I used to justify these things with a variety of good sounding reasons, but I now am quite willing to get on the train or bus and just be glad I'm there. A good lesson was sharing breakfast with a couple in Rome that were heading for our flight. They took the train to the airport and we took the hotel's car service (it was very comfy and fun, I admit). They arrived at the check-in counter at the same time that we did, and didn't look the worse for wear. My delusion of needing the car service was shattered. Rats!

Picnics, less shopping, cheaper hotels, more street food, etc. all work well for us. As we travel on a very low budget all the time, I will have to think hard this fall to make Europe affordable, but I don't at all mind sacrificing some of the things I love to indulge in, in order to have another trip. I would like to ride in taxis all the time, but public transportation is what I can afford. If my being in Paris or London requires my use of buses and subways, you can find me underground! That's my Low Budget Philosophy of Travel, FWIW.

And back to where I started: I always judge each trip's affordability by the total cost, so saving a ton on air, car or hotel lets me feel that I am doing OK.

Feeling blessed to be traveling at all, Debbie in Pittsburgh