I was bitten by the infamous travel bug about a decade ago, and since then, I've been scratching at the relentless itch of wanderlust. Of course, with the deep-rooted desire to explore every inch of this world, I've had to become quite the mastermind of budgeting. Whether it's scoping out accommodations, activities, or places to eat, nine times out of 10, you can find me deep in the dark internet trenches seeking out the best deals. Because why spend more than you have to, right? Especially when you've got a whole globe to wander. Yet then there's that other 10 percent.
See, throughout my travels over the years, I've uncovered quite a few instances where splurging was worth the extra money. While it's so easy to get wrapped up in the tangle of how much something costs, sometimes the value of forking over a bit more cash is worth a more meaningful experience. What it all comes down to, though, is balance. Well, that and budgeting. Ahead are four times you should not save money while traveling.
When you're paying for an experience you can only have in that particular place. One of the items on my bucket list when visiting Venice was — as you can probably guess — taking a ride on a gondola. Yet my giddiness quickly fizzled when I realized how expensive these rides can be. You want me to pay how much . . . for how many minutes? Because I had an extremely tight budget during that trip, I immediately turned away.
But then I got to thinking and my mind started shouting, "YOU'RE IN VENICE . . . FORK OVER THAT CASH AND GET ON THE DAMN BOAT!" Of course, gliding through the narrow canals with an Italian gondolier softly singing in the background turned out to be even more dreamy than I could have imagined. For me, that experience was priceless.
So if it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I say suck up any guilt and pay. You'll not only be glad you did, but I promise those PB&Js you'll probably have to feast on for the next few days to save money will taste even more delicious knowing you have extraordinary memories to forever reminisce about.
When the extra price is supporting ethical tourism. One of the greatest benefits of traveling is how you are time and time again reminded to put others before yourself. You learn to put aside your own agenda for a while and focus on the bigger picture: how will my actions affect those around me? For instance, while I've always dreamed of riding an elephant — mostly due to watching Disney's The Jungle Book one too many times — I have since realized how harmful this is to these precious creatures. So for me, paying the extra hundred bucks to spend time with (and not ride!) rescued elephants is absolutely worth the steeper price tag.
While we all have different comfort levels when it comes ethical tourism, it is extremely important that we do our part in creating a better world for not only ourselves and others — including the elephants — but also for future generations. If purchasing handmade artwork created by local artisans costs more than what you would spend at a larger store with mass-manufactured replicas, I say bite the bullet and splurge! Knowing the thinness of your wallet went toward bettering a community is better than knowing you got the best deal.
When the higher cost will expand your mind. When you travel with an open mind, the world quickly becomes a classroom. New faces and places continuously bring forth new opportunities to grow and learn. And sometimes, splurging on a guided tour can be the gateway to a more meaningful experience. While these knowledgeable guides can provide you with a local's perspective, oftentimes they can also provide entry into places you wouldn't be able to visit otherwise. Plus, when you're a part of a tour group, chances are you'll be able to skip huge lines and save time.
Yet depending on where you're visiting, free walking tours might be available, too. So by all means, definitely do your research to see if you can save money by joining one of these cheaper opportunities. If so, you can tip your guide accordingly and then spend the rest of the money you saved by chowing down on a tasty traditional meal. Whether it's paying more for a crayfish party in Sweden or eating whitebait in New Zealand, you're not simply purchasing an expensive lunch or dinner — you're sampling local flavors and taking part in an authentic sensual experience.
When time is money. For the longest time, I battled with the same question: will the long, tiresome layover be worth the cheaper cost? Simply put, probably not. Although most people's first instinct — myself included — is to book the cheapest flight possible, over time I've finally learned the importance of weighing the opportunity cost. Nowadays, I focus on the duration of the flights first. If I can find a flight that will get me to my destination faster and only cost a couple hundred dollars more, I am happily willing to reallocate my budget accordingly to lock in that ticket.
Think about it this way: the fewer connections you have, the fewer delays you'll encounter, the less chance your bags have of getting lost, and the fewer hours you'll spend aimlessly roaming terminals trying to kill time.
When it comes to travel time, the goal shouldn't always be to save the most money. Instead, I recommend focusing on efficiency. If you can use your time as wisely as your vacation dollar, you'll have a much more enjoyable experience overall!