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Let’s Talk About Tourist Crowds (Are They Everywhere?)

Tourist Crowds - Barcelona

Tourist crowds.

I’m not a huge fan. I just don’t feel comfortable when the streets are jam-packed, when I need to constantly dodge other people, when I’m faced with lines and groups and little space to call my own.

As travel becomes more and more popular and commonplace though, such tourist crowds seem to be the norm all over the world. Walking down the street in many destinations requires a lot of focus in order to avoid bumping into strollers, lost tourists and group leaders that don’t seem to mind taking over the sidewalks.

Of course, I know I’m part of the problem too. I am indeed a tourist visiting these very same destinations.

Forget about low seasons and high seasons, forget about visiting cold destinations in the heart of winter or tropical destinations in the middle of monsoon season. It almost doesn’t seem to matter any more. Travelers are everywhere, all the time.

We were just in Granada, Spain during what was supposedly the low season. It was 10C / 48F and rainy but the streets were packed and the tapas bars full, every day and every night.

Before that we were in Porto, Portugal, walking around in the cold, right alongside thousands of others willing to line up for an hour at the Livraria Lello or ready to walk along the Douro River.

In Lisbon earlier this month we were quite thankful to be staying at an Airbnb away from the city center, and away from the crowds that turned the streets of the Chiado and Alfama neighborhoods into one big bus tour.

Tourist Crowds Shouldn’t Ruin A Trip

Of course, we still loved these destinations. I’ve always been a strong believer that travel is about the mindset anyway, not the actual places we visit. It really is possible to enjoy any country, city or village if we’re open to getting the most out of our experiences and we focus on the important stuff.

For me, that focus has always been local interaction and local activity.

And no matter how crowded or touristy a place might be, those two things are still ALWAYS possible. (I follow a simple 5-minute rule to help ensure I have local experiences.)

Tourist Crowds Are NOT Everywhere

At the same time, there are definitely moments when I just want to push through a crowd and keep running until I’m somewhere quiet, somewhere without other tourists around, somewhere without lines, where we can just enjoy our surroundings on our own.

That takes me to last week…

As my girlfriend and I walked around the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, a breathtaking palace and fortress so very worthy of at least one visit in a lifetime, I made two observations:

  1. The Alhambra is one of the most impressive buildings in Europe.
  2. I love Romania.

Yes, you read that correctly.

While the Alhambra completely blew me away and quickly became a travel highlight of this year, my mind couldn’t help but drift to Romania at times.

The Alhambra. AWESOME. And crowded.
Corvin’s Castle in Hunedoara, Romania. Not as awesome, but definitely remarkable. And no tourist crowds at all.

Tourist Crowds - Corvin Castle - Hunedoara

The same goes for Sighisoara, Corund and Sibiu.

That short list includes one of the best preserved medieval villages in Europe, a stunning region in the countryside where traditional life is still the norm and a historic and gorgeous city. If all of those places were located in a more popular country, they, too, would be full of crowds.

But for now, they offer all the good stuff, without the over-tourism.

Sure, there are tourists in Romania but compared to the sights of Western Europe, there’s VERY, VERY, VERY few. (In Corund, one of my favorite areas, there’s almost none!)

Getting Away From the Crowds

Naturally, it’s not just Romania. There are many countries where even the greatest of what they offer can be enjoyed without the tourist crowds and lines and buses.

Such locations are becoming slightly harder to find these days, but they do still exist.

Actually, maybe they aren’t much harder to find. It’s just that everyone wants to visit the same places that they see on social media or that have the marketing budget to promote themselves as the destinations we ‘must see’ now. Or simply a destination where airlines are suddenly offering crazy cheap flights that we simply can’t turn down.

Whatever the root, though, it’s worth getting away from the crowds from time to time.

There really is something special about having a castle mostly to yourself, even if it’s not rated the most unbelievable castle on the planet.

There really is something rewarding about walking into a restaurant and being the only foreigner.

Or visiting a small workshop where the family is actually creating something useful for the community, not just to sell to tourists.

When you end up in the middle of a local religious ceremony or being invited off the street and into a birthday celebration, chances are high it didn’t happen in the middle of an extremely touristy city. It usually happens in places without crowds, where genuine interaction is still appreciated by all sides.

That’s why my mind drifts to Romania every now and then. It’s one of those countries that offers authentic interaction and rewarding travel experiences almost everywhere you go.

It’s also why my mind drifts to East Timor, Western Sahara and a local island in the Maldives. It’s why I’m just as happy in the streets of Timisoara or Moshi or on a random dirt road outside of Wanaka, New Zealand talking to a farmer about her horses as I am at the dreamy Gardens By The Bay in Singapore or wandering around Rome.

While those popular locations are popular for a reason, sometimes the lack of tourist crowds makes up for the lack of ‘top 10’ sights or ‘must do’ activities. Sometimes all we need is a destination all to ourselves.

Of course, ‘all to ourselves’ is impossible…but luckily, there are still destinations out there that offer something pretty darn close.

Thoughts? How do you feel about visiting incredible, but crowded, places vs less discovered destinations?

The post Let’s Talk About Tourist Crowds (Are They Everywhere?) appeared first on Wandering Earl.

How I Booked 13 Flights Around the World for $2200

Flights Around the World

 

That was crazy. My girlfriend and I recently booked a ton of flights around the world. We needed to get from Europe to South America, then travel all around South America before heading to the USA and back to Europe before I fly off to India in mid-February.

It’s not usually how we travel – to have 3 months planned out and booked before we arrive – but this time, it was the option that worked best given our tight schedule.

Our Flights Around the World

When we finished all the bookings, I didn’t know what to do. Celebrate? Sleep? Shower?

Here’s what we booked:

– Barcelona to Miami
– Fort Lauderdale to Quito
– Quito to Rio de Janeiro
– Rio de Janeiro to Ushuaia
– Ushuaia to Buenos Aires
– Buenos Aires to Santiago
– Uyuni, Bolivia to La Paz
– Cusco, Peru to Bogota, Colombia
– Bogota to Medellin, Colombia
– Medellin to Fort Lauderdale
– Fort Lauderdale to London
– London to Budapest
– Budapest to Delhi

In 18 years of travel I’ve never booked so many flights in one go!

The Cost of All These Flights

At first glance, it would certainly be understandable to think that the above 13 flights around the world cost us an absolute fortune in total. I still have a difficult time looking at all those flights and not thinking that myself.

However, while that colorful array of air journeys certainly didn’t cost $200, the grand total of those trips…

$2200 USD

That’s an average of about $169 per flight. Some of those trips are 1 hour long, others are 14 hours and the rest are in between. And in the end, those flights will take us to 4 different continents over a period of almost 3 months. That’s remarkably inexpensive if you think of what we’re getting for that amount of money.

Flights Around the World - South America

My Process of Booking Flights Around the World

My usual flight booking process is this:

#1. Check the following websites:

Kayak.com
Kiwi.com
Google.com/flights
Orbitz.com

(I know a lot of people use Skyscanner and Momondo but I’ve personally never found a cheaper fare on either of those websites.)

#2. Play around with dates and destinations.

Since my plans are rarely 100% set in stone, I always play around with various dates. I also play around with different orders of the destinations. For example, with our flight from Medellin to Fort Lauderdale, changing the date by one day reduced the price by $90. Going from Rio de Janeiro to Ushuaia and then to Buenos Aires was $150 cheaper than going from Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. Flexibility is key!

#3. Grouping flights / Multi-city flights

I always try to group flights together. On this South America trip, booking separate flights was more expensive than grouping together Rio to Ushuaia, Ushuaia to Buenos Aires and Buenos Aires to Santiago. Grouping those three together in a multi-city search saved us $200. (But booking Uyuni to La Paz, Bolivia was much cheaper on its own. That flight cost $85. When grouped with other flights, it increased the overall price by $130.)

From Cusco, Peru to Medellin, Colombia, it was also much cheaper to group two separate one-way tickets together than to book one complete ticket all the way through. By booking Cusco to Bogota and then Bogota to Medellin, we saved $110.

Here’s another great example: I once needed to fly from Budapest to NYC. The cost of the one-way flight was $650 at the time. I then decided to try and group it together with another flight I knew I needed to take 4 months later – Miami to Delhi. The airfare went down to $625, total! I ended up with two long-distance flights for the price of one.

Grouping random flights is one of the best methods for reducing airfares in my experience.

#4. Check the airline’s website

Once I find the lowest fare from the websites listed above, I’ll generally visit the specific airline’s website to see what they offer directly. Sometimes, the fare is the same or even lower. When that’s the case, I book it on the airline’s website as this takes away the middleman and is much easier to deal with, especially if there’s an issue at some point.

However, sometimes, as was the case with LATAM Ecuador, the fares on their website were MUCH higher than what we could get on Kayak for the same flights. In these instances, I definitely go with Kayak or Orbitz or whichever site offers the lowest fare. While it’s convenient to book directly with the airline, it’s not usually worth a few hundred extra dollars to do so!

If it’s a multi-city/grouped flight, it depends on whether it involves one or multiple airlines. If it’s one airline, it can be booked on the airline’s website and if it’s multiple airlines, it usually needs to be booked through the site offering the deal.

#5. Different languages

Our flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to London Gatwick is with Norwegian Airlines. I saved $37 by going to Norwegian Airline’s Swedish website versus using their English-language website, where the same flight was more expensive.

It’s a little tricky since there are often dozens of different languages you could test for each airline. But I will generally try a couple of versions, usually the native language of the airline and another country nearby, just to see if there is any difference in airfare.

Flights Around the World - Norwegian Airlines

 

#6. Discount codes

I’ve started doing this with anything I purchase online. Before I confirm the purchase, I’ll do a Google search for the name of the website or company followed by the words ‘discount code’. Something like “TAP Portugal discount code”.

Every now and then I find something that works. Maybe it’s $10 savings, maybe it’s 10% or more. All it takes is a few seconds and you could end up saving some money so it doesn’t hurt to try!

 

It Takes Time to Find the Best Airfares

Finding good airfares is not really complicated. Sure, there are some tricks involved, but it really just requires time. Search, compare, tweak dates, tweak destinations, group flights together, search again…and again and again.

But if you simply don’t like searching for flights, you might not want to spend as much time as I do looking for deals. I usually spend what my girlfriend describes as ‘way too much time’ trying to find cheaper fares. In the case of our 13 flights around the world above, it really did take us a solid 3 days, searching about 3 hours per day, until we finalized everything.

But we did save over $1200 each based on the total price we started with from our initial searches. I’ll take a $1200 savings any day for a few hours of work over a 3 day period!

The extra research also led to more direct flights, shorter layovers and better departure and arrival times. For me, the extra research is worth it even if all I get is a later flight that doesn’t require me to wake up at 4:00am. Also, I landed three flights in premium economy class (it was cheaper than regular economy for some reason), a bonus I certainly won’t turn down!

What’s the best flight deals you’ve ever found? Any advice to add?

The post How I Booked 13 Flights Around the World for $2200 appeared first on Wandering Earl.

Young Black South African Agents Inspire Their Peers to Travel

Traveling Cheapskates

Philile Nzimande co-founded Traveling Cheapskates in 2011 with business partner Pearl Nkosi. Traveling Cheapskates

Skift Take: Personal experience counts when it comes to encouraging young black South Africans to pack their suitcases and discover their own country, say the co-founders of Johannesburg-based Traveling Cheapskates. The co-founders build trips that they’d like to take, too, and feel like they intimately understand their customers.

— Richard Holmes

Read the Complete Story On Skift

Travel Advisor Innovation Report: South African Agents Build Trips for the Untraveled

Traveling Cheapskates

Traveling Cheapskates co-founder Pearl Nkosi is shown at Table Mountain National Park in South Africa. Traveling Cheapskates

Skift Take: Whether it’s an appeal to young black South Africans or seniors who fear paying a single supplement, travel advisors who know the particular needs of their own peer groups can have a built-in advantage.

— Maria Lenhart

Read the Complete Story On Skift

Travel Advisor Innovation Report: Leading Life-Changing Tours for Women of Color

Rogue Experiences

Danielle Washington, owner of Rogue Experiences, remade her career and often the life-experiences of her customers. Rogue Experiences

Skift Take: The owner of Rogue Experiences is a good example of the way that travel advisors, for whom travel is often a second career, can draw on past experiences to reinvent themselves in a fulfilling way.

— Maria Lenhart

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Mexico’s New President Dodges on Status of Mexico City Airport Bonds

Brett Gundlock / Bloomberg

Workers are shown in the early phase of building the new Mexico City airport in April. The new president has said he will cancel the project. Brett Gundlock / Bloomberg

Skift Take: Politicians and voters are sometimes not rational. Mexico City badly needs a new airport, and construction had already begun. It makes no sense to cancel the project. None.

— Brian Sumers

Read the Complete Story On Skift