24 September 2009

Save or Splurge? HAHA

I am leaving for vacation in approximately 1 week and 1 day (and 16 hours, give or take...not that I'm counting). So I am slowly starting to check out of work I need to do here and drift into the la-la-land of what I get to do when not at home.

In doing my research, I thought I hit the jackpot with the NY Times..."Save or Splurge, Amsterdam." Score! Or so I thought...

It bears repeating that I am a budget traveler. While I don't scrimp by any means -- I don't really give a rats to dumpster dive, sleep on a park bench, beg just to stay somewhere an extra day -- I do like to cut costs where possible so I can splurge on other things, like museums, nerdy tours, food, alcohol, etc. Largely this means cutting costs in a place to stay, but since I am not there too much, I am ok with that.

Ok, with that said, I was pretty excited to delve into this article. Yes, please tell me how to enjoy my trip without spending an arm and a leg!

I should have known better. I mean, the NYT's "frugal traveler" is anything but (unless you're a DINK, or independently wealthy), so I should have figured that "save" by their definition wasn't going to be anything close to mine.

Yes, I was naive...and hopeful. Imagine my surprise when the "Save" was 250$, and the "Splurge" was 1000$/day. WTF?! (please introduce me to the person who has 1000$/day to spend on vacation, just so I can convince them to let me live their vacation life for one day)

Most of my trips in the past few years have averaged about 100-120$/day, if that. This is with private rooms (some with shared baths)...our trip to Italy may have been a bit more, but not much.

The article actually comes in at a little less than 200$, but that still seems like a lot to me. It misses the fun experience of trying to figure out foreign grocery stores (what, fruit all wrapped up? no liquor? milk not refrigerated?), and experiencing a bit of the local environment. It misses just wandering around with no real purpose, which to me is always a highlight of my trip.

Everyone has their own way of traveling, and to some, this may be the perfect way. I was just rather disappointed that "Save" could have gone so much further (and got me thinking...250$ is like 3-5 days in many awesome places in Asia).

Back to daydreaming...


Pernilla said...

Amazing! I'd like to be that traveller too... :) And soon I get to see you!!!!!!!!!!!

worldmatt said...

Hi Annie,

Your recent post came up in my daily Google News alert, and I felt I had to respond to your line that the NYT's "frugal traveler" — i.e., me — is "anything but."

In short, I'm confused — primarily because you (a self-proclaimed "budget traveler" as well) and I are traveling on about the same budget: $100 to $120 a day. I don't know what I've done to give you the impression I'm some kind of spendthrift, and indeed I've often spent way under $100 a day. (My recent trip to the Gulf Islands of British Columbia is a case in point.) In fact, your strategy — "cut costs where possible so I can splurge on other things" — is exactly what I do and what I regularly recommend to my readers.

Are you confusing the "Save or Splurge" rubric with the Frugal Traveler series? It's an understandable mix-up, but in fact I have nothing at all to do with the former.

To be clear: I'm not trying to be snarky or aggressive here. I do genuinely enjoy engaging in the debate over what counts as frugal and what doesn't, but sometimes — as in this case — I'm just perplexed over how readers perceive what I write. And I hope despite your misgivings over what you feel is my DINK-directed message, you'll keep reading the column regardless.


—Matt Gross, the Frugal Traveler

annie said...

Hi Matt.
Thanks for writing. The main thing I was taking issue with is 250$ is "saving." I just mentioned the frugal traveler column because I read it regularly and know it is not the same, and I guess, to me, it doesn't always seem all that frugal. I would love to see something about hostels for people over the age of 30, something like that would be really helpful for a solo traveller who can't afford the single supplement (the only reason I even spend that much on my travels is because I am terrified of being the old lady at the hostel, which I have been before). But that's neither here nor there.

Like I said, 250$/day isn't saving to me.

At any rate, my readership on this blog is pretty small, and I am rather snarky and off-the-cuff. No offense was meant.

worldmatt said...

Hi Annie,

Hm, hostels for the over-30 set? Frankly, I wish I could find some good ones! Too often I feel like the old, weird guy at the hostel who isn't interested in getting smashed on the cheapest beer in the neighborhood. And I'm only 35!

I think in the column I tend to shy away from hostels, partly cuz I've never had a great experience at one but also because I think travelers can aim slightly higher. I'm not talking about particularly fancy places—lord knows I've done the shared-bathroom thing enough times—but after a few years of doing this, I've found I appreciate B&Bs and proper hotels more than I used to. It's pretty nice to have a soft bed, a clean room and a proper desk if I can afford it.

But between you and me (and your site's small readership), if it were me just traveling for myself, and not for work, I'd just use CouchSurfing.org everywhere. Best people I've ever met were through that site...


annie said...

For me, it is less about where i can aim and more about interaction. I like hostels because they offer the solo traveler an opportunity to meet people, which can sometimes be hard in a single room. (and, of course, they are way more cost-efficient)

However, the last time I stayed at one, I was the oldest person there...and at the time I was about 28. I met some fantastic people with whom I still keep in touch (one who has been traveling pretty much since then - about 5 years - and started this awesome organization (their site seems down at the moment but here's the FB page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/World-Cup-Trek/130034100685?ref=ts) But I don't need to feel that old again, when I'm not! (hell, I live in San Francisco, which we think is technically never-never land...none of us grow up)

The place I am staying in Amsterdam was called out in Rough Guides as a good place for solo travelers, so I am hoping that is the case. The price was a little more than I wanted, but I am doing a little couch surfing for the bulk of this trip so I went a little higher. Still hard to stomach, though.

Couchsurfing overall makes me a bit nervous as a solo woman...but I do love the concept.

worldmatt said...

I know CouchSurfing makes people nervous sometimes, but there are really very, very few problems among its members. Many of the CouchSurfers I've met are themselves solo female travelers—who of course stay with other CouchSurfers!

I'd give it a shot, if I were you—and you don't even have to stay at someone's house. Many of the members are just up for meeting anyone who's new in town—for coffee, a drink, whatever—and in bigger cities there are regular (often weekly) meetups of all the CS folk. It's a great way of meeting locals who are truly proud of their city/country/village and want to show it to visitors.

Okay, enough propaganda! Have fun in Amsterdam, and eat some good raw herring sandwiches on the street for me.


annie said...

I have heard nothing but good things about couchsurfing...I have been a part of a travel community (www.bootsnall.com) for quite some time and know, for the most part, travelers on the interwebs are good people.

I'm lucky that I have friends in A'dam and on the rest of my travels this trip. So it'll be couchsurfing, in a sense...just to people I know:-)

Thanks for your comments!

Pernilla said...

I think the two of you should go traveling together. ;) You seem to think alike when it comes to traveling.

At least at my place you won't be couchsurfing, Annie. The guestroom awaits you. I do love that concept too though. But like you Annie, I'd be kind of scared. My husband and I have on several occasions switched houses with other people, that is awesome and also an inexpensive way of traveling.

Matt, if you ever decide to explore Stockholm, Sweden - do come stay at our couch. Or guest room if you prefer.... :)