Travel need not always be a monumental round-the-world trip; sometimes a mini-escape – a week, a fortnight or a month – can bring renewed perspective to an otherwise orderly life. Would-be travellers: It’s high time to combat that one excuse that has kept you off the road more than any – a lack of time – by perfecting the art of short-term travel.
If you’ve made the decision to spend some of your well-earned vacation time exploring the world, you’re already striding in the right direction. But booking time off and haphazardly choosing your next adventure won’t cut it. To plan an epic short-term journey requires dedication – a perseverance and tenacity that can only be described as ninjaesque.
Do you think you have what it takes? Your training begins now.
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Monitor Flight Prices Vigilantly
To achieve short-term travel planning ninja status, begin by watching flight prices like a hawk. Rising airfares are the mortal enemy of travel budgets and to avoid overspending on flights, there’s no substitute for doing your homework. Try searching over variety of dates, at different times of the year and on different days of the week. When is high season? When can you fly cheapest? What is the best possible price to your destination?
Challenge #1: Sign up for fare alerts on sites like Kayak and for frequent flier programs of the top regional airlines for the low-down on time-sensitive deals. When an unmissable deal for your dream destination pops up, execute.
Sometimes less is more and with short-term travel nothing can be truer. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to hop from city to city, trying to take it all in at a gallop. You won’t. You’ll burn yourself out and never truly experience any one place well.
Challenge #2: Pump the brakes. Instead of cramming five countries or cities into a time-crunched itinerary, choose one or two and scratch deeper below the surface.
Travel in Stealth
The gravest mistake of many travellers is to underestimate the power of blending in. If you want to stretch your budget further, stay away from the chain restaurants, hotel lobbies and places that cater to tourists. Find out where locals eat, drink and be merry and venture there instead. Not only will you save a few bucks, you’ll begin to appreciate the destination on different terms.
Challenge #3: Arm yourself with a phrase book and strike up a conversation with a local. Learning even a few phrases in a foreign language can broaden your understanding of the culture while gaining you respect from the locals. Who knows: you may even leave with some new friends.
Seek Out Flexible Accommodation Options
With time you’ll find there’s nothing worse than committing yourself to a specific itinerary before departing. Sites like Booking.com offer accommodation bookings with free cancellation. If you find yourself really enjoying a place – or even really hating it – having the option to adjust your schedule with minimal notice is worth it’s weight in gold.
Challenge #4: For a true test of your short-term travel planning will, book accommodation for only your first and last destination before departing, seeking out all others on the fly. Not only will your travel plans remain ultra-flexible, but you may even save some money while finding some excellent local accommodation options you’d otherwise miss out on. I’ve personally found some of my most memorable travel digs in this way. (As a disclaimer, I would not recommend this practice in high season unless you are prepared to trot around for a long while or settle for a more expensive room.)
Be A Ruthlessly Independent Traveller
Wandering around strange metro, train and bus stations – with all their clamour, confusion and indecipherable departure boards – is a massive part of the independent travel experience. Why wipe out the opportunity to undertake one of the most important rites of passage in travel by always travelling via tourist bus or taxi? Tourist buses and taxis have their place but often act as an escape route from the anxiety of buying tickets for and travelling by public transportation.
Challenge #5: Forget asking your hotel concierge to hook you up with a taxi. March to the closest metro station or bus stop, purchase a ticket and hop on. See where you end up.
Once you’ve completed these challenges successfully, congratulations: you’ve attained short-term travel planning ninja status! But like any great warrior, your training is never complete. Get out there and refine your skills. Always be on the lookout for great travel deals, always seek to discover new travel destinations and be sure to apply your ninja travel planning techniques rigorously to make the most out of each and every short-term travel experience.