Updated: Nov 1, 2022
I personally came across many new destinations because of Instagram or Tik Tok.
When I first saw pictures of Bora Bora years ago, I never thought it would be a place I'd ever get to explore. In fact, I found myself adding new destinations and experiences to my bucket list.
The problem with the mass influence of social media is that a lot of times people are promoting things that may be unrealistic or impossible for the average person.
But what if there was a way to get around it and still be able to have a memorable time, despite not being able to get the same experience?
Yes! It's possible to visit some of the most expensive destinations portrayed on social media networks. That is if you plan it well and travel smart.
Here are some tips that have been helpful:
If you want a taste of luxury for less, do not expect the experiences to be the same. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that it still won't be great. It can if you prioritize well.
Once you go through the different experiences available for the destination you want to visit, narrow it down to what you want most and budget accordingly.
By balancing where you allocate the funds for luxury, you can save in other aspects. You can also alternate between hotels/airbnbs so that you get a taste of both. For French Polynesia, I found some people chose 1-3 nights in an Over the Water Bungalow and then moved to another hotel or an Airbnb after that. Some people chose OWB in Moorea instead of Bora Bora as it's much cheaper.
As for tours, it may always be cheaper to look at alternate options for seeing the destination instead of taking a tour group. Tour groups are great if you're a solo traveler and may even be cheaper in some cases, but renting a bike, scooter or car are other good options to have too. It allows you the freedom to spend as much time in different spots or stop wherever you want. In Jordan, we got the Jordan Pass before coming, as it waived our visa fee to enter Jordan. We also rented a car and got to see the sights based on our schedule, which turned out to be cheaper.
Booking a package deal may be cheaper than getting everything separate. Some websites, like Travelzoo, often have unbeatable deals. Additionally, if you book at specific times of the year, you may get additional discounts or find exclusive holiday specials.
In the past few years, I found that Black Friday had a lot better deals than Boxing Day. Booking early can also save you lots of money, but there are times when you can avail of last-minute deals too.
By choosing to book on platforms that offer a guaranteed price match, you can get a partial refund if there are any changes. Free cancellations are always helpful too in case you need to adjust your travel plans.
For flights, I like to monitor them on AirFare WatchDog, as I get notified right away if prices change.
Depending on the place you are visiting, you can make even any destination, walking-friendly. The first step is to download offline maps so you do not get lost. If there are no sidewalks, make sure you can see upcoming traffic on the side of the street you are walking on, and take your time.
Some of the islands I visited were quite hard to do by foot because everything was so far from each other, but if you have the time, it's a great way to get a workout in.
Lisbon, on the other hand, was a very walkable city and I loved getting lost there. It is the best way to explore a new place (but be careful in case you end up in areas that are not very safe - always be on your guard)
4. SUPPORT LOCAL.
There are many ways you can support locals - from buying crafts to shopping at the farmers market for fresh produce to choosing a family-owned business (hotel/restaurant).
If you go on a cruise, you can save money by booking directly with a local company for shore excursions. That is one of the things we did and the next day, we found that they were using the same company on board, except the prices were almost double what we had paid.
By doing research early on, you can find these companies and book early. If you find other people interested to book with you, doing a group booking can save you some bucks as well!
5. TAKE THE LEAP.
While visiting a place off-season may save you up to 40% of what you would spend in peak time, this also means that you may lose out on some exclusive events or things that only happen during the peak season.
In shoulder season, you may also expect rain or bad weather, but you can find alternate ways to make the most of it. If you find that you are still able to do most of the things you wanted and you don't mind missing out on certain things (besides, we can't always win all), then just go for it. Just because it may be the rainy season, doesn't mean that you'll have rain every day.
You will find fewer tourists and cheaper accommodations. This can also mean that some tours may not operate or some attractions may be closed. Plan in advance to make other arrangements so you are not disappointed.
BONUS TIP: one of the things that helped me plan one of my most stressful trips is joining a community of travelers. By joining Facebook groups for the destination I intended on visiting, I got to chat with others who are also in the planning process and those whose been there shared their tips. The great thing about the groups is that you can find very specific groups focusing on the place (in my case, I joined both the island-specific group and general as I was planning a trip to different islands) or topics of interest, or find the general ones as well.
Make the most of what you can afford and have a great time!