Published Article Details

10 golden rules of travelling to make the most of your holiday at reasonable cost

Posted by: Uma Shashikant on Aug 14, 2017, 12.51 PM IST

By Uma Shashikant

The screen at the top of the concourse was filled with too many details in too small a print. It took some effort and patience to wait for the display details of our train to come up.

Our train had been cancelled. The next train was another four hours away and it did not seem like a good idea to wait. It was at the car rental that we met John and Claire. We chose to drive together. They were experienced travellers in their mid-seventies. What follows is the summary of lessons imbibed on that long drive.

I. First, if travel is your primary agenda after retirement, take the time to learn the essential skills. To be able to drive, cook, swim and sail; to know how to light and put out a fire; to know essential first aid; and to be a confident quack. Medication and first aid are useful skills that enhance the quality of your holidays. What is the point of the calm blue sea if you cannot plunge in and swim?

II. Second, enjoy the journey and make unplanned stops and detours. In travel, every new experience is welcome. If you always try to optimise time and focus on the specific sights you want to tick off your list, you might need another holiday to recover after your vacation is over. Begin each day with the determination to enjoy all the experiences it offers. If the train had not been cancelled, we would not have driven the scenic roads or enjoyed the lovely food enroute.

III. Third, invest in physical fitness. There are bags to haul, steps to climb and sprints to complete so as to not miss the infrequent transport. Meals may be skipped, sleep might be disturbed and inadequate, and you might forget to carry the water bottle on the trek. If you are the kind who cannot get out of your comfort zone without feeling ill, you make it that much harder to plan your holidays.

IV. Fourth, do not fuss about food. If you make eating familiar food the primary source of psychological satisfaction during your travel, you will miss out on local eating and drinking experiences. Chefs across the world are proud of their art, and spend immense time, energy and expertise to turn out food that pleases their patrons. Do not turn your back on this creative industry because you are unable to try a new flavour, texture or taste.

V. Fifth, align your budgets to what matters the most to you. The main elements of expense in a vacation are travel, stay and food. Make your choices based on what is the kind of experience you prefer. If you fly to your location, stay at a hotel and depend on being catered to, each vacation will need a bigger budget. Spend on what matters the most to you, rather than trying to optimize everything.

VI. Sixth, take advantage of the growing home rental market. You may not have customer service staff welcoming you at the door, or the porter hauling your bags. But you will have the quiet of the living room to relax with a glass of wine, and the fridge to eat ice-cream in the middle of the late night movie. You can also fix easy breakfasts and salads at low cost in the kitchenette, using local ingredients.

VII. Seventh, resolve to not shop during a vacation. You will end up spending a lot of time, energy and money indoors and miss out on the experiences outdoors. It is not easy to make quick buying decisions in a new marketplace, and you may end up with things you do not need. If you are a compulsive acquirer of stuff, buy a personal item of clothing, jewellery or accessory instead of heavy articles for the house. Do not get into the trap of buying gifts for people back home, as that list can grow long and not always result in satisfaction. The bulging suitcase that won't close is a peril you can do without. If you must, take back a tiny memento.

VIII. Eighth, travel light always. You will discover that you needed just half the clothes you packed on a holiday. Be practical; be willing to repeat your clothes; and do not overdo make up and accessorising. Pack to the season and weather, and pack with clarity on the activities you will pursue. Remember that your bag is yours to haul around, and if you cannot lift it up the luggage rack, the world is not waiting to offer a helping hand.

IX. Ninth, give yourself the time to plan. It is tempting to be spontaneous. But there is an entire industry waiting to exploit travellers who have not done their homework. Ensure that you have a mix of activities and experiences, some of which are indulgent while others are effortlessly free. Have a budget for each day of travel, so you know how much the buck will stretch.

X. Tenth, ensure that your holiday is not an exercise in denial about your finances. Have a specific allocation for travel, and be sure it is an affordable number. There is no fun is paying EMIs after taking a vacation, or sighing at credit card dues that are horrible reminders of exotic shopping trips. Your holiday spend should not eat into your other priorities.

There is a choice we can make about being tourists or travellers. If all we want to do is visit a new place, click some pictures, and travel with the sole intention of acquiring bragging rights, we will be anxious travellers always looking for the next best deal. If we set out with the objective of getting out of our comfort zones and be willing to expose ourselves to the new and unknown, we may be able to view every experience as we travel as precious. We can discover places and we can discover ourselves as we respond to unknown situations.

Including beauty in our lives is essential for joyful living. To travel is to marvel at the beauty of the natural world, and the efforts of so many thousands of artists, architects, landscapers, chefs, and others who have devoted themselves to making this world a beautiful place. Make sure that your personal wealth allows for this indulgence, and you are able to allocate your resources to explore the world and to explore yourself, and find the outer and inner beauty in it all.

(The author is Chairperson, Centre for Investment Education and Learning.) This article appeared in Economic Times dated Aug 14, 2017, 12.51 PM IST

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