The 7 deadly sins that stop you being a frugal first class traveller and how to avoid them!

Hi Frugalistas!  Do you want to be a frugal, but first class traveller?  Do you always have good intentions to make the most of your travel dollar, but never seem to get there?  Do you always blow the budget?  Well, help is at hand!  I absolutely believe everyone can have the trip of a life time, every time.  Here are the Seven Deadly Sins of travel that are stopping you from being a frugal, but first class traveller (and what to do instead!):

1.  Failure to plan

Queuing at Sagrada Familia - queues add no value to your trip and waste your time and money

Queuing at Sagrada Familia – queues add no value to your trip and waste your time and money

When I am talking to travel bloggers, it’s clear we fall into two distinct categories – those who never plan anything, and the planning nerds (guilty as charged!)  The “never plan” brigade tend to be much younger bloggers who basically live on the road, for whom time is not a pressure.  The “planning nerds” are people just like you – with limited travel time and a limited travel budget.  They plan to make most of every day and every dollar.

Planning doesn’t mean being boring and not having time for spontaneity – that’s no fun for anyone.  Planning is about being really clear about your priorities and identifying the cheapest and best way to achieve them.

For me in Barcelona, it meant working out that I wanted to visit Sagrada Familia, the beautiful Gaudi basilica that I have written about before.  Then it meant going online and pre-booking my timed entry ticket.  I walked straight in at the appointed time, and spent a wonderful two hours enjoying its delights – while those who hadn’t planned faced an hour and a half queue.

Planning allows you to fit more into your day, without spending any extra, or losing out on any comfort.  I don’t know about you, but to me not having to queue is always first class!

2.  Lack of research

sunset view of the Blue Mosque with minarets and lights

I invested a lot of time in researching a hotel for my first trip to Istanbul and was well rewarded with this glorious view of the Blue Mosque

Do you know how much your plane ticket to any of your dream destinations costs?  Do you know when airlines offer special deals?  I do. An airfare is normally the most expensive part of any trip, regardless of your destination.  To me it just makes sense to follow prices and understand how much a ticket to any destination I’m thinking of costs.  I subscribe to a number of airline and travel booking websites, and keep track of ticket prices – so I know a good deal when I see one.  That’s when I buy.

Similarly I don’t just book the first hotel I come across.  I check a number of hotels, and find the one that offers the best combination of price, location, amenity and ambience.  I’ve found hotels with the best views in town for the price of a modest 3 star or a charmless chain hotel.

If I’m visiting somewhere new I always check out tourist passes and public transport tickets.  A museum pass in a big city can save you a lot if you heading into big cultural centres, but even a humble rail pass can save big bucks if you know what to look for (and you bother to look!)

3.  Not packing light

orange and black packing cubes in a suitcase

My packing strategy is not “magic” just smart

I know I say this all time, but packing light is key to frugal first class travel.  Lugging a heavy suitcase is never first class, and having to spend money on taxis and porterage is just money you don’t need to spend.  If you pack light and pack right you can still have plenty to wear.  I met a solo female traveller with whom I spent a couple of days (and dinners) in the Cinque Terre.  We had met on the train and she marvelled at my tiny suitcase.  Every morning and every evening she looked enviously at my outfit and commented on the never ending treasures that came out of my “magic suitcase”.  There was nothing magic about it – I’ve mastered the art of the capsule wardrobe that fits into one carry on bag!

4.  Having someone else’s holiday

While it’s always great to seek advice from people, at the end of the day make up your own mind about what you want to see and do.  Don’t fall into the trap of taking someone else’s holiday, if it’s not your thing.  If you have no interest in art galleries and museums don’t go to the Louvre just because you are in Paris.  If you have always wanted to see the Mona Lisa by all means go and see her – but if that is all that interests you, leave.  Don’t feel obliged to see everything just because you are there – spend your precious time doing what you really want to do.

Doing what someone else said you “must” do is a waste of time and money.

Similarly if you are tired (and travelling can be tiring) don’t feel guilty about having a “rest day”.  Spend the day quietly, recharge the batteries, then get back into it.  You will end up doing more and enjoying more.

5. Eating and drinking like you do at home

Punnet of french strawberries

These strawberries are my spring in Paris favorites – I always buy a barquette (punnet)

To me eating and drinking local foods in a typical setting is one of my favourite things to do.  It also saves me money.  Local wines and beers are always much cheaper than the imported brands, as are local foods.  You will find the foods “like they have at home” will be an expensive disappointment, and you will miss out on the opportunity to find a new favourite.

backboard with wooden border and French chalk writing

Eat local – it’s cheaper, and you won’t be disappointed

6.  Trying to see too much in too little time

Snow, traintracks, pine trees from a train window

Yes, there are some beautiful views on the train, but you don’t want to spend your whole trip getting from one place to another

Trying to see everything is very tempting.  Every time I book a flight to Europe I start thinking of everywhere I want to go and everything I want to see.  It takes a lot of discipline to not go crazy and restrict my itinerary.  Racing around from one destination to another is expensive – all those long distance train trips or flights between big cities add up.  Instead, come up with an itinerary that you can manage and where you can spend time really getting to know a destination. Focus on regions and develop an itinerary that fits neatly together.  I’ll be sharing some of my favourite regional itineraries in upcoming posts.

  Sometimes time is greatest first class luxury of all.

If time is limited don’t try and see and do everything.  Research and prioritise.  Spend your time and your money on your key priorities.  You will spend less, see more and have a much better experience.

7.  Thinking you need to book guided tours of everything

red ticket machine with screens in Spanish

I don’t speak Spanish, but still found the Barcelona underground easy

You can do so much under your own steam.  Think of the advantages….you can spend as long or short a time as you like at a particular site.  You maximise your flexibility and can eat what and when you like.  Freedom is priceless, and is easy to achieve.  Learn how to use local public transport.  Use a good guide book for sightseeing.  Check out podcasts you can download onto your phone if you like to listen to a guided tour.

But don’t get me wrong.  There are times when I love to do a guided tour.  But I save it for something special.  Like my walking food tour of Istanbul – I could never have found all those fabulous foods and restaurants on my own.  Or my day trip to the Route des Vins in Alsace – I never drive in Europe, and public transport is almost non-existent.  A small group guided tour was the perfect way to enjoy the region (and not have to worry about how much wine I drank!)

Unlike the traditional Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Deadly Sins that stop you being a frugal first class traveller are easily conquered. How many are you guilty of?


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30 Comments on “The 7 deadly sins that stop you being a frugal first class traveller and how to avoid them!”

  1. Els 20/07/2014 at 7:26 pm #

    Interesting article, Jo! And all very true! 🙂

  2. Lynne in NC 20/07/2014 at 8:43 pm #

    Jo, these are all great tips. Thanks for posting. I especially like the one about taking a guided tour when necessary. You always have helpful info no matter where one might be travelling. Happy Trails.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 21/07/2014 at 6:20 am #

      Thanks Lynne, you’re always so kind in your comments. While Europe is definitely my thing, when I do a planning or tips post I do try and focus on the universality of what I’m trying to get across.

  3. lukepetermarlin 20/07/2014 at 9:12 pm #

    I particularly agree about your Louvre example. I spent about a half hour in there. To see the Mona Lisa just to see it, then to see the Venus de Milo because it was immortalised in an excellent episode of the Simpsons. Unfortunately it was not a gummy Venus de Milo so I left disappointed.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 21/07/2014 at 6:21 am #

      And half an hour is all you need if you are only interested in two things. Much better to leave and get on with other things that excite you

  4. CadyLuck Leedy 20/07/2014 at 10:55 pm #

    These tips are excellent and soooooo true!

  5. kemkem 21/07/2014 at 4:06 am #

    Love this post! I am the planner like you. My husband just turns up 🙂 . There is nothing like skipping the line and going right in when you book online. Next time we’re in Istanbul, l think we need to do that walking food tour.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 21/07/2014 at 6:18 am #

      I love planning almost as much as the trip. And I always feel so rewarded for my efforts when I get to somewhere I want to go and just walk straight in…..

  6. mermaidcamp 21/07/2014 at 11:31 pm #

    I was a travel agent for many years..You nailed this, sistah!!!

  7. Jean | Holy Smithereens 22/07/2014 at 12:16 am #

    This is a wonderful list! I’m guilty guilty GUILTY of # 3- not packing light. If I’m off to a tropical destination, then its achievable for me. How do you pack light when its winter?

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 22/07/2014 at 6:14 am #

      You need to check out my winter packing list! The key is to pack layers not bulk, and carry your coat

  8. Dale 22/07/2014 at 6:16 am #

    Interesting thoughts, not all I agree with (I’m quite happy to ‘unplan’ my travels, and they cost me next to nothing); but I’m certainly with you on your point on eating the same things you did at home.

    When I first went on holiday with Franca to Berlin back in 2010 the first meal I ordered was some awful Mexican food that I could have made back in my old place and probably better too. On the final night we ate at a local German place and tried some old classics, and of course it was the best meal I had all week.

    I quickly learned the lesson and when it came to start our travels in 2012 I ordered nothing but local food, and have carried on ever since.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 22/07/2014 at 6:28 am #

      Everyone’s travel style is different, and maybe not being true to yourself is the eighth sin….

      Love your example about the local food – my exact point!

  9. mermaidcamp 22/07/2014 at 12:17 pm #

    It is not hard to get right, but try to imagine how many dollars run down the drain by making these mistakes…few people will admit they had a bad/overpriced vacation, but many do.

  10. Globe Guide 23/07/2014 at 11:45 am #

    Some great tips! I agree, shopping for food at the grocery store is a great way to get a better idea of how ‘locals’ live, and saves a bundle on eating out all the time. Plus it’s way healthier!

  11. Lyn - aholeinmyshoe 24/07/2014 at 1:29 pm #

    Thanks for your tips Jo. Number 6 is mine, I always try and fit to much into the time. I love researching what to do and usually try and cram more in than time allows.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 24/07/2014 at 7:29 pm #

      It’s hard not to Lyn. I know once I start planning it takes a lot of self discipline to keep it down to a manageable amount

  12. Malina 02/08/2014 at 11:51 pm #

    For a beginner traveler like me, these tips are spot on. Thank you very much! Good luck on your future travels!

  13. Bronzielife 05/08/2014 at 10:54 am #

    You and I apparently have very similar travel styles. I like to maximize the time, but still enjoy the location. I’m with you on the small suitcase and the plan your own trip. I like to see what I want and keep it moving. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  14. Heather 06/08/2014 at 10:49 am #

    Definitely agree with many of these! I think it can also be a struggle to weigh when you NEED to book a tour–when it would save you time (instead of figuring how to do it all on your own, and time on the ground staring blankly in the wrong direction), and be more efficient, particularly when you don’t have that many days. We’ve started to opt for privately hired local guides, where they are available and inexpensive (Asia, mostly). That way we don’t need to spend 40 minutes figuring out which way to go on the train, and we don’t feel obligated to stay in a place we don’t like.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 06/08/2014 at 6:34 pm #

      I agree Heather – sometimes it is hard to know when to book a tour, but if you get it right, it can be a very good choice

  15. Ed 07/08/2014 at 12:14 am #

    In addition to packing light; make sure your clothes, shoes etc. are well broken in before your trip. Breaking in new shoes in the middle of London or trying to pack that new bag the night before you depart for the first time; probably is going to leave you highly frustrated and possibly blistered. For both my wife and I, our travel clothes are a part of our regular wardrobe.

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