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07 July 2014

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

This is the second part of a series about our cheap and cheerful travel style and some of the places we've been lucky enough to explore during our 20+ years of marriage. If you want to start at the beginning, you can find part one here where we talk about the start of our cheap and cheerful travels (eloping to Copenhagen and honeymooning in Paris) and some of our travels in Europe.

Picking up where we left off...

7. We Finally Make It to Greece!*


Poppies trying to overtake the ruins in Greece
After our failed attempt to get to Greece on 9/11, we were thrilled when we booked a classical Greek cruise. And not any ordinary cruise, but the ultimate in "cheap and cheerful" - an EasyCruise cruise. If you're familiar with EasyJet (one of the European budget airlines), then you may recall that for a couple of years they also ran budget cruises. The idea was to offer no frills cruises with basic amenities which targeted people who wanted to spend time onshore, rather than on the ship. Our stateroom was basically a mattress on a platform, but it was en-suite. The facilities were limited to a small dining room/bar and the outside deck.

Surprisingly, they didn't allow you to bring your own food onboard (something budget travelers love to do) and wanted you to buy a meal plan and eat in their restaurant. The food wasn't anything spectacular and, as the boat sailed overnight, we took our lunch and dinner onshore. So much tastier and cheaper. And we hid croissants and muffins in our jackets and snuck them onboard for our breakfast. Breaking the rules is sometimes part and parcel of "cheap and cheerful" travel.

With EasyCruise, you got what you paid for. For us, it was a cheap way to travel on a floating hotel and visit places like Athens, Delphi, Ithaca, Corinth, Mycenae and Nemea. 

*Note: Scott has reminded me that we actually went to Rhodes before we went on this trip. This is one of the reasons why he is handy to have around - he remembers all that detail stuff. Anyway, this was the first time we went to mainland Greece.

8. Hanging Out with the Old Timers


Peterhof Palace (also known as the "Russian Versailles") in St Petersburg, Russia
We ended up doing another cruise, this time on a proper cruise ship, in the Baltic. It was another one of those last minute deals and ended up being around £500 each. The cruise was everything I had always imagined cruises to be - cheesy entertainment, endless buffets heaped with food and lots and lots of retired folk having the time of their life. I think we were among the youngest people on this particular cruise, and we weren't all that young. 

Like our EasyCruise, it was a convenient way to see a lot of places we had never been to before like St Petersburg, Tallinn, Warnemunde and Helsinki, as well as revisit some old favorites like Oslo and Stockholm. One of the drawbacks, though, of going on a larger cruise ship was the amount of time it took to disembark the ship and the relatively short amount of time you had in each port. But we did get to see St Petersburg without all the usual visa hassles that you might normally get traveling to Russia. And we got to hang out with the old timers. They were awfully adorable - especially the ones celebrating their 50th anniversaries.

9. Exploring New Zealand by Car


Pins from places we visited on the South Island of New Zealand
After seven years in the UK, I got a job in New Zealand and moved to Auckland in 2008. Because we don't keep a car in Auckland, whenever we decided to go on holiday in New Zealand, we ended up having to hire a car. The neat thing about New Zealand is that there are a lot of car rental places catering to a range of budgets and you can hire an older car (which is conveniently pre-dented) for a pretty reasonable rate and with unlimited kilometers. So although we would end up spending a bit of money on petrol, the car itself wasn't too bad.

We did a few trips in New Zealand over the Christmas holidays. Pretty much everything shuts down in New Zealand for three, sometimes four weeks, and Kiwis head off on holiday. We were no exception. We did three car trips around the North Island and one trip around the South Island (flying in and out of Christchurch). On one of our trips we even got ourselves a sort of "camper car" so that we could try to blend in with the young, backpacking crowd. It was kind of a downmarket version of those bigger camper vans that the New Zealand roads are jam packed with. Even the young, backpacking crowd seemed to look down on our "camper car." In the end, it pretty much rained that entire trip which made the "camping" part of our trip not so much fun and we quickly decided to embrace our middle age and stay in motels.

New Zealand isn't exactly the cheapest place in the world to travel around in, but if you use those tried and true budget traveler tricks (like buying groceries and making a lot of your meals), then you can manage your costs to some degree. New Zealand is one of the most amazing places in the world to travel around in (there is a reason why it is on everyone's bucket lists) and is well worth saving your travel dollars up for.

10. We Up Our Game in Tahiti


Ukelele players in Papeete, Tahiti
If you grow in someplace like Cleveland (me) or North Dakota (Scott), Tahiti sounds like one of the most exotic places you could ever hope to get to one day. Fortunately, that one day happened for us. For folks living in New Zealand, going on holiday to the Pacific Islands is pretty run of the mill. {Here is a bit of trivia - did you know that Auckland has the largest Pasifika population in the world? Samoans, Cook Islanders, Tongans, Niueans and Fijians make up a good chunk of this city's diverse population.} 

We got a good deal on a flight/hotel combination (yes, "deals" are an important part of our travel philosophy) to Tahiti and off we went. We ended up staying in a really nice ocean front resort in Tahiti which felt absolutely luxurious to us after our years of "cheap and cheerful" accommodations. But not to worry, we still managed to do things frugally. We didn't eat at the resort, we bought groceries at the market to make our breakfast and lunch, we ate at these amazing "roulottes" (or food trucks) and we brought some duty free gin with us. 

While we were there, we did go to the neighboring island of Moorea for a night. It was a bit strange to have a hotel we were paying for sit empty in Tahiti, but we really did want to explore a bit more. We compensated by staying in an absolute dive in Moorea - a recommendation from one of the hotel staff. But the snorkeling and scenery on the island more than made up for it. 

11. Celebrating 20 Years in Southeast Asia


Some cute kids we ran into on our way up to the Golden Triangle in Thailand.

For our 20th wedding anniversary (where did the time go?), we decided to travel around SE Asia for a month. We flew from Auckland into Bangkok just in time for Christmas (who knew it was such a big thing there?), then flew up to Chiang Mai where we hired a motorcycle and drove up to Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle, then back down to Chiang Mai (with the motorcycle breaking down along the way) where we caught another flight to Phuket. From Phuket we went by boat to Koh Phi Phi (party center for the university students), then off to Koh Lanta (which was much quieter and better suited to middle aged folks) before going to Koh Lipi and then to Langkawi (on a boat that broke down). From Langkawi we headed to Kuala Lampur, then over to Melaka (a fascinating World Heritage city) before making our way to Singapore where we finished up our trip.

It was fabulous. It was cheerful. It wasn't necessarily cheap. There were a number of flights and we stayed in pretty decent hotels in Koh Lanta, Bangkok, Kuala Lampur and Singapore. They weren't four or five star hotels by any stretch of the imagination, but they weren't the one and two star hotels we enjoyed when we first eloped to Europe. However, we balanced that all out by eating lots of street food (yummo!) and staying in some cheaper places along the way. We knew it would all be a bit of a splurge, but we had saved up for it and it was our 20th anniversary after all. 

{Mom - if you're reading this, wherever it says "motorcycle", just delete and insert "car" instead.}

12. Exploring the World by Sailboat


Our boat, Rainbow's End, anchored in Paradise Bay, Urupukapuka Island in the Bay of Islands
Now we're exploring the world by sailboat. It can be a truly "cheap and cheerful" way to travel as you're essentially taking your house with you wherever you go (like an RV on water). Of course, that is if nothing expensive breaks. Because that never happens on a boat. We bought our first boat in December 2012 and spent the 2012/13 season cruising around the Hauraki Gulf over the holidays and during other times that I managed to take off from work. After that, we decided this was the life for us and we moved aboard our boat full-time for the 2013/14 season and cruised all around the Hauraki Gulf, Bay of Islands and other parts of Northland. {If you want to read more about our time in New Zealand, check out this page which has links to all of our posts.}

Since we plan on making this our way of life for at least the next couple of years (if not longer), we're tracking every penny we spend so that we can try to manage to our budget. During this last season, we ended up spending close to NZ$7,000 over a period of 16 weeks (you can find more details of our budget here.) Some people spend a lot more living on a sailboat, some people spend a lot less. A lot of it does come down to where you're cruising - New Zealand probably isn't the cheapest place in the world.

We're now off to buy our next boat in the States and continue our cruising adventures from there, so stay posted as we continue to share what we get up to and how we continue to try to do things on a budget.

What's your travel style like? Are you a "cheap and cheerful" traveler or do you prefer to do things a little bit more upscale?

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20 comments:

  1. Greece, New Zealand, Tahiti, Russia.....these are exactly the places I'm dying to visit! But of course, nothing beats sailing the world!!

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    1. And there are so many other great places to visit - don't you just love traveling!

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  2. So many amazing places, and what an adventure you guys are on sailing around the world!

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    1. Not sure if we'll sail around the world, but we'll certainly sail around part of it :-)

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  3. First of all, congratulations on 20 years. Second of all, you truly have seen some incredible places!

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  4. It is fascinating what you do... I have to admit I'm more into 'luxury' travel myself, and the older I get the more I seem to value nice hotels and the fact that someone else does the cooking...

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    1. If only I could find where I left that winning lottery ticket. Then I would be probably staying someplace a lot nicer where they make you lovely meals :-)

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  5. I am so jealous of all of your travels! I mean New Zealand, Greece, Russia, Tahiti..crazy! That is so cool and all of that together! Sounds like the best memories :)

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    1. Its a good thing we both like to travel - probably one of the reasons we've been married so long :-)

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  6. Oh my god, you are living my dream of traveling by sailboat. How are you liking it? I just love the adventurous sound of it--and sailing is so fun! I've also really wanted to try a river cruise. It sounds like such an old folks type of thing to do, but I imagine you get to see so many beautiful, less-tourist-y places.
    -Rachel @ With Love, Rachel

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    1. Traveling by sailboat can be incredible, especially when you're anchored in a beautiful spot enjoying a sundowner in the cockpit and taking in the views. However, it can also come with some downsides - like when the wind is kicking up and you worry that you'll drag anchor and end up on the shore or when there is a big swell which causes the boat to rock back and forth making it difficult to sleep. But the good definitely outweighs the bad and it is a great way to see new places!

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  7. Wow, a big list. Tahiti sounds wonderful and how wonderful to use a cheap cruise as a floating hotel to visit some great places in Greece. Love that you are traveling by sailboat now!

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  8. Hip hip hooray for summer holidays in NZ (even if it rained!). I have very fond childhood memories of piling into my parents car and heading to the beach for a whole month of fun in January. Where in the Nth Island did you go?
    Claire xx

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    1. Where didn't we go would be the better question :-) We've gone all the way north and all the way south. The only place that we didn't get to together was Welly, although I've been there for work a number of times. Also loved the South Island - the Catlins in particular were fabulous! You were very lucky to grow up here!

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  9. Sailing around the world - sounds wonderful! Except I get seasick pretty quickly :( I don't think I could ever live on a boat, but it sounds like such a wonderful adventure!

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    1. Yikes - seasickness sounds awful. It has never happened to me - knock on wood it stays that way too :-)

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  10. I love that you've not only travelled to so many countries but travelled in such different ways too! Sailing around the world must be such an incredible experience. I'm happy you don't get seasickness though or it would be awful.

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    1. We've been very lucky in the places we've been able to travel to and how we've traveled around, that's for sure!

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