The True Cost of Travel

When you break it down to the most basic level, you realize in order to travel you need money. There is simply no way around it. But the money you spend vs. what you get in return?

Now that’s something worth exploring…

Day 18: Budget

Every traveler has a budget; for some it just might be higher of lower than for others What’s your style? What do you spend very little on and what are you always willing to pay more for?

My parents, Dan and Sally, are probably the most frugal people you’ll meet. They know the value of a good deal and the feeling of satisfaction you have, being able to afford something after putting in a hard day’s work (that’s the only way I can explain the incredibly intense child labor my brother and I endured to procure a Cabbage Patch Kid).

So whether it was camping across the U.S. or taking my brother and I to Europe, my folks saved their money in order to give us the gift of travel. Their goal was to “go, see and do things” that would help enrich our lives. This is a trait my brother and I inherited. Sure I’ll weigh the pros and cons of buying a pair of designer jeans, but I’ll gladly hop a flight to Costa Rica for a surf vacation or go rock climbing, all in the name of the experience.

This approach permeated through to many a Graves family trip itself, when my parents would select a B&B, pensione or gasthaus for us to stay in, as opposed to the more costly, mainstream and very Western hotel chains. Of course the first B&B had me horrified — the informality of it, the lack of crisp white towels that have a distinctly faded bleach aroma — where was a Marriott when you wanted one? But then I quickly realized the charm of each place. Whether it was Gasthaus Urma in Bavaria with the parrot in the kitchen or the tiny B&B near Windsor where we stayed in a family room (two twins and one double bed) and a shower stall in the middle of the room, it is those quirky venues that are firmly lodged in my memory after all these years. Not terribly expensive, but with more color and character, and therefore priceless.

So whether it’s a good meal, a cocktail or two or tickets to a major sporting event (e.g., Wimbledon), I’m less concerned about the specifics when I get there. Sure there is a set budget I need to keep in mind — I don’t want to break the bank in the first day I’m in a new city — but when I’m sitting with my guidebook and thinking about what’s next, I’ll fall back to the Graves criteria of “where should I go, what should I see, what should I do” — those purchases then serve a dual purpose. You get the experience and the memory of it, which, let’s face it, is the best souvenir of all. And just think about how much space you’ll save in your luggage…


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