All cheap travel advice - I don't care where you read it - has one underlying principle. Be prepared to think outside the box.
Let's look first of all at what's inside the box.
- Limited time. You have two weeks' annual leave, you can't change the dates much, or you have to travel during school holidays.
- Limited accommodation. For various reasons (I can't actually think of any right now), you can only stay in hotels or similar.
- Limited destinations. You want to travel to a particular place for a particular reason.
If you want to stay inside this box, then not much of what I have to say is going to apply to you. I can't afford to travel like this, and even if I could, it's not my style.
All means of travel are a compromise between speed and comfort, epitomised by economy air travel. Being squashed into an airborne metal tube with a few hundred other people is not my idea of fun, but I accept it as a torture I must endure in order to reach places I want to visit. My flight from Kuwait to London earlier this year summed it up. I was in the window seat of a set of three seats. The other two seats were occupied ( I used the word very loosely as one of the occupants had no idea of other people's personal space) by two small boys whose parents were seated several rows behind us. By the time I caught this flight I'd been over 24 hours without sleep. Not pleasant.
Of course, the cheapest flights are going to be with airlines you've never heard of departing extremely late on a Tuesday evening. I can recommend two excellent websites - Momondo and Skyscanner. I use both when searching as they have different ways of finding the best fares.
When in a country I like to travel as far as possible as the locals do. Sometimes this is a disaster. My train journey from Singapore to KL ranks as one of the worst experiences I've had, anywhere. In England I've found the trains to be excellent. On Sunday I caught trains from Doncaster to Bournemouth, and couldn't fault the journey. I'd booked using The Train Line, which had automatically allowed an hour in London for me to get from Kings Cross to Waterloo. The train was late arriving at Kings Cross, but luckily the young man I asked for directions happened to be going to Waterloo as well, and he led me through the intricacies of the Underground. I arrived at Waterloo with fifteen minutes to spare.
I couldn't help but feel this was yet another example of my being looked after. Without this person's assistance I would have been lost and would have undoubtedly missed my second train.
The journey to Bournemouth, late on a Sunday afternoon, was incredibly beautiful. At the edge of the New Forest fawns grazed on summer grass beside the track. At Southampton I caught a glimpse of open water, for the first time in weeks.
My aim in travelling has always been to see as much as possible of how the local people live. It's difficult to do this staying in hotels and eating Western style food. For much of the last ten months I've been house sitting. People who go on holidays like to have someone live in their house and look after their pets for them. Apart from being far cheaper than hotels, it offers an invaluable opportunity to genuinely live as the locals do - shop in the same shops, use the same public transport systems - with the added bonus in my case of being to read someone else's books. I mainly use Trusted House Sitters which is an international site, but there are many others, often country based. This system is currently mainly used by people in Europe, USA and Canada, Australia and NZ, but it seems to be expanding into places like Central America and SE Asia which have small expat communities.
If house sitting isn't an option, there's usually AirBnB - private accommodation in private homes. Similar sites are springing up on the net, but be careful. The scammers have discovered AirBnB, so keep your transactions on the site, and some of the other sites charge considerable amounts to join, either as hosts, or guests, or both.
Between house sitting and AirBnB I've made some life-long friends, and I can't think of a better way to see a place. I spent last week in a 300 year old cottage in Everton, south of Doncaster, on the border between South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, looking after two delightful Persian cats.
Now my life is about to change again. Today I started a job in Southbourne, near Bournemouth. I'll save the details for another post.
And if you need to travel for a particular reason to a particular place, then it's difficult to do so cheaply. For example, the fare back to Australia at Christmas is six times the cost of a cheap, off peak fare.
I'll just have to stick to my cheap travel methods.