That’s been a lot written on how to save money for travel, and certainly the fact that traveling can be quite pricey is a legitimate concern. However, I am of the belief that some quality experiences cost money, and it’s okay to pay for them. I understand that lots of people take pride in traveling on a budget, but I also know that some of these people miss out on a lot because they don’t want to spend money. They don’t take tours, don’t visit significant sites, always take public transportation and cook in the hostel kitchen when they could be eating stellar local meals … all because these things cost more than they want to spend.
I’m sure that some people will disagree with what I have to say on this subject, and they’ll say that they have fantastic travel experiences without spending a lot of money. I am not denying what they have to say, but I would argue that it’s also perfectly okay to splurge when you travel. I do it, and I don’t regret it. Here’s why:
Freedom costs money. As much as I enjoy riding trains, I thoroughly enjoy having my own set of wheels. Renting a car in other countries has given me the ability to go places that public transportation doesn’t go. It’s allowed me to visit places at times when tour buses aren’t there and given me the freedom to leave when tour buses arrive.
Learning about a place increases appreciation. I know that museums and exhibits aren’t for everybody, but finding the best one in your destination provides a comprehensive overview of the history and culture that have shaped the place you’re visiting. Likewise, skipping major sites that have historical or cultural significance such as Machu Picchu or The Louvre just because of the cost may result in regret later. Spend the money now so you can appreciate what a place has to offer.
Tour guides offer value. A lot of people write off tour guides because they like to explore places on their own. I’m all about aimlessly wandering around new destinations, but good tour guides are worth the money. They are able to answer questions you might have about a place, can recommend other experiences you might enjoy and point out things you would never have noticed if you’d chosen to pocket your money instead. Of course, any guided experience rests in the hand of the guide. I’ve had great tour guides that provided value-added experiences that couldn’t have been replicated without their help (see Monteverde, Costa Rica) and I have also had terrible tour guides that have absolutely ruined experiences for me (see Taliesin West, Arizona), so splurging on tours is risky, but when you get a winner, the money is well spent.
Time is of the essence. The average person doesn’t have months or even weeks to visit a destination. Time is a valuable commodity when it comes to traveling, so you might as well do something while you have the time to do it. Don’t fly to a place you want to visit just to avoid doing anything there because you don’t want to spend the money. You may save cash, but your time is not well spent if you simply mope around a place instead of doing what you want to do.
Food helps define local cultures. There are certainly some places where you can eat the local food cheaply, but this isn’t always the case. When the local specialty costs a bit more, pay the price. You can heat up ramen noodles when you get home, but don’t spend your mealtimes holed up in a shared hostel kitchen when you could be dining on the local fare.
Sleep is important. Don’t feel the need to drag your feet through a day because you’re kept up all night. I think hostels are great places meet people when you travel, but some of them tend to be loud and crowded, and it can be hard to get a good night’s sleep. Some hotels can be just as bad. Before you travel, make sure your chosen accommodations allow for a good rest, and if you have to pay a bit more for a private room or higher-class lodging, do it.