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30 June 2014

Our Cheap & Cheerful Travel Style Over Time (Pt 1/2)

The theme this month for Travel Tuesday is "travel style" which got me thinking about all of the travels that Scott and I have done over the 20+ years that we've been married. I think that it is fair to say that our travel style is "cheap and cheerful." We aren't the type of people to stay in fancy hotels, eat out at expensive restaurants or shop up a storm. Instead, we would rather be mindful about how we spend our travel dollars and go on a lot of cheap and cheerful trips, rather than blow all of our money on one fabulous (but expensive) trip of a lifetime. And we're continuing to apply this same philosophy now that we're traveling around by sailboat. 

I thought it would be interesting to take look back through time at the places we've traveled to and how we've tried to do things frugally. We've been very fortunate and had the opportunity to do a lot of traveling so I've split things out into two posts. Today's post starts out with the time we went to Europe and ended up getting married...


1. Eloping to Copenhagen, Honeymooning in Paris


The town hall in Copenhagen where we got married.
Our first time traveling together overseas was when we went backpacking around Europe for a month way back in December 1991. Along the way, we got married in Copenhagen and spent our honeymoon in Paris. As one does. At the time, I was in graduate school and Scott was working as an archaeologist, so we didn't have a lot of money to spend. This trip was definitely of the cheap and cheerful variety, which pretty much set the stage for how we would travel together over the next 20+ years. 

We stayed in one or two star hotels, some of which seemed like their one star rating was a bit of an exaggeration. We traveled on night trains so that we didn't have to spend money on hotels. We bought groceries so that we could make our own lunches rather than eating out. And we got married in jeans and sweaters. No flowers, no dress and no reception. Eloping is a very cheap and cheerful way to get married!

We had a fabulous time seeing places like Rome, Berlin, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Brussels, and of course Copenhagen and Paris. After that trip, we knew that traveling would have to be a big part of our life together. But unfortunately, work and life got in the way. When you live in the States, you don't get that many vacation days (compared to other countries) and much of our travel revolved around visiting family and exploring the Pacific Northwest where we ended up living. Eventually, we became "grown-ups" and bought a fixer-up house which ate up most of our time and money for many years.

2. Going to Greece and 9/11


I love these amazing purple trees growing amongst the ruins at Olympia in Greece.
Everyone knows where they were and what they were doing on 9/11. When the first plane hit the Twin Towers, we were at the airport in Portland waiting to board our flight to JFK with an onward connection to Athens. We had been so excited about this trip, which would have been the first time we were overseas since we got married. Although we were older, had proper jobs and a bit more disposable income to spend, we still had planned on doing this trip on the cheap and cheerful. We had our trusty guidebook with all of the inexpensive hotels and restaurants bookmarked, planned on taking public transportation and doing everything we could to stretch our travel dollars.

Needless, to say we didn't make it to Greece that day. When it became apparent that there was no way we would be getting there at all and our vacation days were slipping away, we took a short road trip to Vancouver, BC. We so desperately wanted to go somewhere and were so disappointed that our big trip wasn't going to happen so off we went. In hindsight, it wasn't the best idea. Security at the border going into Canada only took three minutes but getting back into the US was a nightmare. 

After arriving in Vancouver we took a room at a Holiday Inn and spent the night. The next morning we took a short hike and then had breakfast. Scott, though he likes Vancouver, really wanted to go to Greece so he called up the airline and was told we were already booked for the next day since it was reported the airports were going to be re-open. So we headed back down to Portland while listening to the radio for news. After taking eight hours to get across the border, the news was that the re-opening of the airports was going to be delayed. Then just as we were getting back to Portland it was reported the airports were to remain closed indefinitely. Oh well, things could have been much, much worse and our situation was extraordinarily trivial in the scheme of things.

3. Moving to Glasgow, Scotland


Some sort of deer with wings in Linlithgow, Scotland
Moving to Scotland was one of the best things that ever happened to us, especially when it came to opportunities to explore the UK and rest of Europe. My company transferred me to Glasgow for a two year international assignment in December 2001. The two years ended up being seven. And they were seven fabulous years! We traveled absolutely everywhere, whenever we could. Some of the best adventures we had were on weekend outings in Scotland seeing the historical sites. You can't walk two feet in the UK without tripping over some sort of historical site and artifacts. And if you are an archaeologist like Scott, it is fascinating. One of the ways we kept thing cheap and cheerful in Scotland was to stay in bed and breakfasts (rather than fancy hotels) and to become members of Historic Scotland which gave us free entry to sites throughout the UK. 

4. EasyJet and Ryanair, We Love You!


I love this carved shutter we ran across at the Folk Museum outside of Oslo. It just screams Scandinavian to me.
Imagine jetting off to London, Paris, Florence or Oslo for a long weekend. If you live in the States, it is pretty much unimaginable and would cost a fortune. Living in Glasgow meant we could get on a plane and within a couple of hours be in another European city for dinner. And it was affordable thanks to budget airlines like EasyJet and Ryanair. By keeping an eye on their websites, we could snag flights for ridiculous prices like £20 return plus taxes. How could you say no?


5. The Package Holiday


The barren landscape of Mt Teide, Tenerife
It seems like people in the UK love their package holidays. And why wouldn't they - airfare, hotel and your meals all included in one price. Lots of folks decide where they want to go on holiday and then find a package deal to suit them. If you travel the cheap and cheerful way like us, you figure out when you can travel and then book a last minute package holiday. If you aren't fixed as to where you want to travel to and can be flexible, you can score some amazing deals. Like the time we went to Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife in the Canary Islands. We stayed at a hotel with half board included which helped us manage our food costs. Rather than book expensive excursions, we used public transport to get to places like Mt Teide and La Orotava. While lots of people go on package holidays to spend time at the beach and pool, or in the bars and nightclubs, we've found that booking last minute deals was an inexpensive way for us to enjoy the cultural attractions and outdoors in places such as Rhodes, Tunisia and Cyprus.


6. Traveling around on Bicycles


If you're going to travel around by bicycle, then you can only bring so much with you in terms of clothes. Kind of like living on a boat.
If you want to travel around Europe and want to save money on a rental car and petrol, then get on your bike and ride! Not only do you save money, but you also burn a lot of calories during the day which means you don't have to feel too guilty about having that second glass of wine or apple strudel. We did two big cycling trips - one in Denmark, Sweden and Norway and another in the Netherlands and Germany along the Rhine. We saved money by taking the ferry from the UK (rather than flying), camping along the way (sometimes) and staying in hostels, bed and breakfasts and cabins at campsites. 

Coming up next week in Part 2, more of our travels in Europe, moving to New Zealand, splashing out in Tahiti, exploring Southeast Asia and, of course, traveling around by sailboat.

We would love to hear about how you manage your costs traveling - what cheap and cheerful tips do you have?

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24 comments:

  1. What an amazing travel story you have! I would travel for a bit cheaper and be able to see more than spend all my money on one fancy hotel at one place, more fun that way!

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    1. It was fun to take a trip down memory lane and remember all the amazing places we've been. We've been very, very lucky people!

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  2. "cheap and cheerful"--I really like the phrase that you applied to your travels! My husband and I haven't taken too many trips together but we anticipate traveling much more soon, I imagine it'll look a lot like this.

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    1. I'm not sure where I picked up the phrase "cheap and cheerful" - I think it might be British? The approach has definitely worked for us as we've been able to see a lot more places then we might of if we had done more splurging over time.

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  3. You have some amazing travel memories there! I'm a bit jealous ;) But I like that even though you passed the stage of being young and poor, you still like to travel on a budget and don't need a luxurious hotel, going by cab and eating in that 5 star restaurant. And honestly, I think that you are able to experience the local culture a lot better that way....

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    1. As we got older, I noticed that a lot of work colleagues didn't always get our "cheap and cheerful" approach. They tended to spend a lot more money on their holidays. But they probably had fewer of them and some of them might have even maxed out their credit cards :-)

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  4. This is such a beautiful post - I LOVE hearing about all your trips. I love the motto "cheap and cheerful" so cute and I hope I embrace this too - it isn't about how much money you spend it's those memories you build up - and often they come from the no cost moments...

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    1. Thanks so much Madaline! Part 2 is coming next week :-) And you're right, it is the memories that count, not how much they cost.

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  5. Wow...so envious of your travel......can't wait wait for part 2

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  6. Cheap and cheerful - I love it! I remember I was SUPER organized about traveling - lists of the best travel sites, hostels, packages, etc. Just so that I was always on top of the best deal possible. Ryanair and Easyjet were definitely my best friends too!

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    1. It does pay to be organized when hunting for deals - there are a lot of them out there but you do have to check different sites etc. all the time to make sure you get them. I could never figure out how Ryanair and EasyJet made any profit with some of the deals they offered, but I guess lots of other people pay full price to make up for my bargains.

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  7. Wow all these stories and adventures are so fascinating! I have to say that in my few years of travelling, moving to Scotland was also one of the best things that happened to me :)
    I've definitely also a cheap and cheerful traveller :) What a great way to describe it!

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    1. Thanks Camila! Scotland was amazing - so lucky to have had a chance to live there!

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  8. I do realize this comment basically misses the point of your travel article, but I need to say it . . . I have never before heard/read Ryanair and "We love you" used in the same sentence. By the way, we eloped also.

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    1. Wow - you guys eloped too! Where did you get married? Was your family surprised?

      Probably a bit of exaggeration to say we "love" Ryanair. Probably should have said "we love your ridiculously low fares." I remember they flew into some really out of the way airports (part of how they kept it so cheap), so you did have to research how much it would actually cost in terms of time and money to get into the actual city you wanted to visit.

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  9. Wow - so lucky to get married in Copenhagen and honeymoon in Paris! That's the way to do it as far as I am concerned!

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    1. We have some great memories from that trip!

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  10. I love the cheap and cheerful approach. I think this is a great way to travel. Married in Copenhagen and honeymoon in Paris. WHAT A DREAM!

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  11. You've been to so many great places! My fiance went on a business trip to Denmark, Iceland and Sweden recently, I was so jealous I couldn't tag along! His photos were stunning! Thanks for stopping by my page the other day, can't wait to follow along :)

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    1. You definitely need to tag along next time he goes overseas! I'm jealous he has been to Iceland too - definitely on my wish list.

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  12. Traveling around by bicycle sounds like a blast! My husband and I enjoy mountain biking but I've never biked around a city... sounds fun though!

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    1. It is such a great way to travel and so biker friendly with separate bike lanes in many cities and cars look out for you. You guys should give it a go!

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