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How to Balance Luxury and Frugality in Travel

Some people say that luxury does not mix with frugality. They say that when you go on a holiday, you ought to go all the way so you gotta prepare yourself for it. Of course, that’s easy to say for people who have the means to “prepare” for it. The question is, can a holiday be enjoyed on a tight budget? Of course, it can. The secret is all in the preparation.

PLANE TICKETS

Plane ticket prices vary year round. During peak seasons, tickets can double in price. During winter or a very hot summer, however, tickets go on discount.  Hotels too.  So when you go on tour consider peak and bargain seasons, avoiding Christmas as well as other holidays.  Peak times also include weekends because most people travel during weekends. So if you can time your flight on a weekday, you get better deals. Consider night flights too or dawn flights that are usually cheaper. The trick is to be as flexible as you can with your schedule.

  • When choosing a plane, use a search engine. We recommend
  • Momondo (first choice)
  • Google Flights
  • ITA Matrix
  • Skyscanner, and
  • Kayak

Consider also an airline’s financial standing.  Expensive tickets usually come from an airline company that is not doing well financially or is on the verge of bankruptcy. Another thing is when an airplane does several stops to pick up passengers; they are trying to maximize a trip. If you don’t mind not flying direct, that could save you a lot of money. Remember to enroll in a frequent flyer program that can save you thousands and might even get you a free ticket now and then.

You might also want to consider budget flights that are similar to budget hotels because of the absence of extras.

HOTELS

When choosing a hotel, it would be wise to use the services of an online search site like:

  • Hotels.com
  • Trivago
  • Expedia
  • Booking.com
  • Hotwire
  • Priceline
  • Travelpony

Search engines list thousands of hotel choices online and you can compare by price, quality, location etc.  Of course you love a bit of luxury because the hotel itself can make or break your enjoyment.  You want clean first of all, you want comfort, strong hot and cold showers or tubs, great soap, other amenities like slippers, toothbrush, towel, and courtesy bottled water.  But if you’re not too much into luxury, then you can get a basic hotel like Red Planet which is clean and comfy enough and with a basic bathroom with strong water, but lacking some other extras. You might even want to consider a hostel – and there are plenty listed in Airbnb.

Athens

Now Athens is brimming with history and historical artifacts.  A true traveler will not miss it.  But Athens is in Europe and you know how it is in Europe. High prices! The good news is Greece isn’t as expensive as most European cities and in Athens, you can go places without worrying about where to eat or sleep on a tight budget. Now here is how a local would tour this city:

From the city center, one can reach many major destinations by just walking. For instance, from Syntagma Square, a little walk will bring you to the entrance to the Acropolis.  A further walk and you will find the National Garden dedicated to Amalia, a national hero right in the very heart of the city. If you can, walk or ride a bike by renting one from shops in the city’s main street.  This will allow you to take selfies at the Calimar Stadium where the first modern Olympics were held, visit the Greek Catholic Church of Dionysus of Aeropaggio.  A few steps away, the Academy of the great Greek philosophers right beside the University of Athens, and the National Library.  From the vicinity of the Old Parliament, you can visit the Agora and the Belfry Church/Byzantine where the statue of Hermes is located.

The Acropolis is a must see Athens destination. You will find great structures there including the world famous Parthenon where it’s ok to kiss the 3000 year old rocks that litter around, the Propylaea or gateway, the Erechtehion (or Porch of Maidens), and the Temple of Athena Nike also known as the Victory Sanctuary.  And on going down, you should visit the Acropolis Museum for souvenirs.  You can buy souvenirs from the numerous shops located near the exit after you leave the museum. Prices are 50% less and you get more exciting finds than buying from the Museum.

Travel to nearby islands, especially to the North to give you a better feel of how it is to be a local. You can mingle with fishermen, workers, and children playing, even learn to dance the sirtaki, or just watch the sunset. Hotels are everywhere around Syntagma and in some islands.  If you happen to choose the Royal Olympic, you get a spectacular view of the Temple of Zeus.  But you can choose cheaper hotels left and right and still immerse yourself in the beauty of Athens.

Food is not that expensive compared to Paris or Rome. Food is priced almost like New York, cheaper than the rest of Europe. Greeks love fish and that is why there are plenty of cats in and out of the City. They love wine, and their salads are some of the best. But a serious traveler will want to taste the original Souvlaki, Mousakka and the many grills in restaurants all over.  Enjoy your Greek holiday! Opa!

5 Tips for Surviving a Long Flight

If short flights can be annoying and boring, long flights can be uncomfortable and absolutely mind-numbing. Travel doesn’t have to be torturous; here are our top 5 hacks to make your next long flight bearable.

1. Pack a Snack
Yep; it sounds very grade school. However, when you’re facing down an hours-long flight with nothing except a tiny, tasteless grilled chicken sandwich—or even worse—a minuscule bag of pretzels, you’ll sorely wish you’d planned ahead. Pack items that travel well and don’t need to be refrigerated: an apple, nuts, or protein bars are perfect. Carry an empty water bottle through security and fill it at a water fountain and you’ll always have a drink handy.

2. Keep the Necessities Close
Whether you check your rolling bag or stash it in the overhead compartment, always carry a backpack or tote bag to keep under your seat on the plane. Keep your in-flight essentials in this bag: your snack, phone, tablet, headphones, wallet, and a book or magazine.

3. Bring a Jacket or a Travel Blanket
Even if it’s going to be boiling hot where you’re going, bring a jacket or lightweight blanket on the plane. You never know how cold it’s going to be once they turn the air-conditioning on and there’s nothing more miserable than spending several teeth-chattering hours trying to stay warm. Plus, even if you don’t need it to stay warm, you can roll it up and use it as a pillow to catch some Z’s.

4. Splurge on Noise-Cancelling Headphones
I used to think it was absurd to spend extra money on noise-cancelling functionality for headphones. I mean, turn your cheap headphones up loud enough and you’ll drown out any outside noise with your music, right? This was before I flew internationally. On my first flight from Houston to Paris, I was seated behind a man who was a snorer. A Very Loud One. So loud that I didn’t understand how he could sleep through his own snoring. So loud that I wanted to open the emergency exit and fling myself out. Between his snoring and 9 hours of the plane roaring, I arrived irritated and absolutely exhausted, having gotten no rest. Noise-cancelling headphones not only help you hear your music/movie/show better; they can also provide you with blessed silence in the midst of annoying sounds (that kid just behind you who has been whining for the past hour) or ongoing sounds like airplane noise. Trust me; if you’re planning to travel often, they’re worth the investment.

5. Jet Lag Will Happen
You can help mitigate jet lag a bit by trying to adjust your sleep schedule during the week before you leave so that you’ll be more used to the schedule you’ll be on at your destination. If this isn’t possible, once you get to where you’re going, do your best to function according to that time zone right away. If it’s noon when your plane touches down, don’t go to the hotel and take a nap. Check in and then go out and see the sights. Try to go to bed at a normal bedtime; this will get you into a normal routine much faster.

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