“How do you travel for so long?” Such has been the general line of questioning we’ve gotten here on the outskirts of Cusco, Peru where we’ve been helping out at a fledgling BnB as part of a Workaway work exchange stint. A bit of an eye opening stint that, while allowing us to integrate with an enterprising local family, has seen us trying to fit the square peg into the round hole concerning our differing definitions of customer service.
As always, adaptability is the key. All while just doing our best to see to it the basic needs of our international guests are met.
Guests whose round trip excursions to Machu Picchu have shed plenty of light onto the pros and cons of the seemingly limitless ways to tackle getting to and from South America’s premier tourist destination. And, even more importantly, how to do so in the sort of economical manner that still leaves enough in the travel funds for the months still ahead.
It’s also been two weeks that have seen us reciprocating in the information department as well. Answering questions for guests who, in apparently spending a substantial sum to make their three and four week, action packed Peruvian holiday a reality, simply can’t fathom how a family of three from Australia can afford an entire year on the road.
Of course there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle. Far too involved, that is, for fully delving into while sharing communal stove top space at meal time. But, even so, after seven and a half months under our belts now, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard such question concerning how to best stretch travel funds.
As such, we’ve more or less narrowed things down to a Cliff Note Version of what we’ve come to refer to as the Big Five. These being the most significant five means of maximizing your family’s travel funds.
- At the top of the list has to be the aforementioned world of work exchange opportunities. These being organizations with names such as Workaway.info, HelpX.net, and, of course, the old man of the group, WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms dating back to 1971). Organizations that offer room and board in exchange for a set number of hours of work each week. No two work exchange opportunities are exactly the same. Work can range from primarily farm work (WWOOFing) to helping in hostels or, as was the case for us once, helping a man construct his family’s eco-friendly home. Small registration fees apply and, regardless of the route you my go, make sure you ask lots of questions to minimize the surprise factor after arriving. As always, flexibility and a ‘glass-is-half-full’ mentality go a long way to assuring a positive and rewarding experience.
- House sitting is next on our list. Companies such Trustedhousesitters.com, Mindmyhouse.com and Caretaker Gazette are but three out of countless companies that, for a nominal registration fee, connect homeowners with reputable individuals and couples to take care of their homes and/or pets while they’re away. It’s a win/win situation for everyone, especially the house sitters themselves. And, as we’d find while getting all settled in to our three month Paraguayan house sitting stint, house sitting has perks that go far beyond the bottom line. Perks that grants access to what is essentially a personalized welcoming party. Someone to greet you, someone to walk you through not only your new home, but, also, someone to give you a thorough introduction to your local neighbourhood. All this while pointing out any unique idiosyncrasies of the immediate area that, otherwise, could easily leave you figuring things out the hard way. All in all, if you can get your foot in the door of what is a relatively competitive industry, house sitting opens a world of opportunities.
- Booking accommodation that have kitchen facilities is the next step we’ve taken that is massive in stretching our travel funds. Regardless of the small size of towns we’ve visited over the past many months, access to local markets and fresh produce is virtually guaranteed. Guaranteed and, simultaneously, offering the bonus of friendly, cultural interaction with market vendors. All of which makes saving money through the use of kitchen facilities even more of a pragmatic and attractive option.
- Eating Local. OK, I admit it. Having a McGuiver-like chef for a wife makes me a lucky man and Kaia one very lucky little girl. But the fact is, part of the attraction of going on a holiday of any length is eating out. That said, for us, except in extremely special circumstances, that rarely involves hitting up the higher end, tourists geared restaurants. No, we prefer to eat local, willing to walk the necessary distance to put space between us and the tourist hotspots since, the fact of the matter is, we haven’t travelled half way around the world to eat food we could’ve easily stayed home for. Even when, as is often the case, we often hear reviews and claims of prices that are ‘ONLY HALF of what you’d have to pay back home’. It’s then we have to bite our tongues since, 9 times out of 10, that price is still nearly double what the three of us COMBINED would pay for a local meal. And it’s that sort of savings that really adds up. Big time.
- Finally, the last means we use to stretch our budget is by utilizing cheap public transport. This despite the fact, for reasons I’ve yet to put my finger on, taxis in many of the countries we’ve already visited, are ridiculously cheap. That said, smaller minibus like ‘collectivos’ are even cheaper. Cheaper, numerous and with routes that are blanketing in their coverage (which, come to think of it, just might explain why taxis are relatively so inexpensive). Unfortunately they can sometimes get ridiculously crowded. As in Haitian refugee boat packed; the sort of crammed elbow to elbow, belly to belly, funfest that is a pickpocket’s playground. But, in the end, like they say, that which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. And in this case, not only stronger, but substantially better off in the finances department.
Finances that go a long way toward making an extended family holiday a much more easily attainable reality.
Prolonged family travel can get expensive. But these painless, five means of maximizing your family’s travel funds, will show you it doesn’t have to be.