By Allie Almario
A travel company like Myths and Mountains designs trips that include everything from accommodations and hotel transfers to private guides and many meals. The trip quote includes these costs.
Some choices save you money, but some arrangements may be for perks you don’t require, especially if you have a tight travel budget. For instance, the agent that gets your ticket through a reliable airline ticket consolidator is saving you money on the flights. But maybe you’d rather use your travel rewards. Or perhaps the fee the agent quotes includes a private car and driver to meet you at the airport, and you’d rather save a few dollars and take the hotel shuttle.
Travel budgeting is tricky. Travel companies don’t typically break down the minutia of trip costs but some, including Myths and Mountains, are willing to answer your inquiries and modify an itinerary to suit your requests. That’s why we take the time to talk with you about your travel preferences and your travel budget before planning the specifics of your trip. Our goal is to design a trip that accommodates your travel style and your pocketbook.
Travel Budget Tips
Here are five questions to help you identify your travel preferences and decide how to up or downgrade your travel plans to get exactly what you want for every dollar you spend.
1. How will I get there? Are you arranging your own flights with frequent flyer points or cash? Using airline travel rewards is the least expensive option. Booking directly with an airline is often the most expensive. Both have drawbacks. For example, if there are problems, the airline will not work with a third party, meaning you’re the travel agent. Whether you buy your airline ticket with points or cash means you are on your own in negotiating flight changes, cancellations, or any other disruption. Like many travel companies, Myths and Mountains works with a consolidator so travelers not only get a reasonable fare but also have the clout of a company that has a longstanding relationship with the airline should a problem arise.
2. How will I get to and from the airport? It’s such a welcome relief after a very long flight to see a local representative holding a sign with your name on it as you exit customs into the chaos of an international airport. Even if you arrive at 4:00 AM instead of the scheduled 4:00 PM, your guide will still be there to greet you, help with your luggage, and deliver you directly to your hotel. In contrast, hotel shuttles may take you to a dozen hotels before arriving at yours. And 4:00 AM arrivals? Don’t expect to be greeted if the shuttle is only available during the day, and do be prepared to find alternative transportation on your own. Also for any arriving or departing transfer, you’re on the shuttle schedule, not yours, so you may have to plan extra time to be sure you don’t miss your flight.
3. Where will I stay? Unless a traveler is on a backpacker’s budget, most people feel comfortable in a moderately priced, 3-star hotel. If you prefer hotel services that go beyond a comfortable room, upgrade to a 4-star hotel. And if you want luxury comforts, there are what we call “connoisseur” lodgings, which range from a 5-star hotel suite to a private villa, complete with wait staff and a personal spa. Bottom-line: Yes, consider your budget, but also think about what you need to feel comfortable or want to enjoy.
4. Where will I eat? Are you a foodie who likes to ferret out the most popular “local” restaurants? Is sampling “street food” essential to your travel experience? Or are you a risk-avoidant traveler who doesn’t enjoy taking chances with dining experiences? And which would you choose–spending time sightseeing or exploring a neighborhood to discover a restaurant with an appealing menu? And then there’s the option of mixing it up, dining high and low-end?
5. Where will I go? Some travelers delight in getting lost, a testament to the well-worn expression about travel: “Getting lost will help you find yourself.” Other visitors to a foreign country prefer to toss the map and rely on a knowledgeable guide to move them smoothly and efficiently from one significant or interesting site to another. Your guide cost may include museum interest fees, cool drinks along the way, and other amenities. A guide can be a time-saver, too, especially when you only have a day or two in an area. Remember, though, that guides–and guide services–are not alike.
An informed guide that is familiar with the local culture can introduce you to experiences that escape most tourists’ radars. Do you have a special interest, such as art, textiles, or sacred spaces? Then skip the hit-or-miss group tour and hire a private guide with expertise in what you want to see and learn about. For maximum efficiency, you could hire a car and driver and a guide. One delivers you safely and promptly at one place and another, while the other informs you with his knowledge and can help you in any kind of traveler emergency. There is a menu of guide choices, but to get a perfect match for you, let your travel agent or destination expert know your expectations and budget.