The Real Grand Budapest Hotel. Palace Bristol Hotel in Karlovy
By Brad Beckstrom
Knowing little about your destination is half the adventure.
Years ago, before online travel booking, I had a roommate that used to walk into a travel agent, or up to a ticket counter, and ask for the least expensive plane ticket available to anywhere. He would gather up the information and try to talk friends into joining him at this random, often obscure, location for a weekend. It was the late 80s and discount airlines were starting to crop up with all kinds of $39 specials to destinations that they wanted to build traffic to. There was one airline, People Express, that would even collect payment for the tickets once you got on the plane, sort of like a city bus.
His rule was it had to be the absolute cheapest ticket available, not something close to cheapest. The destination would be a secret to anyone who went along until they got to the airport.
Often the destination would end up being some Rust Belt or Midwestern city. He was a good salesman who actually got people to do this on multiple occasions. He would paint the picture. It would be a blast, we would meet interesting people in dive bars, see all kinds of stuff, have stories to tell. My friend felt the allure of the obscure.
He was ahead of his time. At least in the sense that it’s often best to travel in the opposite direction of the crowds. To be of the mindset that you can find something interesting to do in any city. Why go where everyone else was going?
I never liked Las Vegas, Orlando, Cancun, even Rome. These places are very different, but they all have a few things in common. Crowds of tourists, sweltering heat, lines, overpriced everything, some sort of transportation challenge.
If I look at this differently, I can’t say I don’t like Nevada, Florida, Mexico or Italy. All of these destinations have a lot more to offer than their major tourist attractions. You just need to dig a little bit deeper.
One interesting way to dig deeper without a lot of effort is to let the travel sites do the work for you. I enjoy using Kayak explore. Let’s say I’m interested in going somewhere in Latin America but I want to limit my airfare to $400 round-trip. Putting in my budget limit and the month I’d like to travel gives me some great options.
Guatemala City $399
San Jose, Costa Rica $390
Trinidad and Tobago $340
Once you have your destination down, don’t stop there. Jump on Airbnb and set a limit on your lodging of maybe $50 per night. You’ll see all kinds of options in neighborhoods you may have never heard of that are just as nice as hotels in the tourist district.
If the strong American dollar has you traveling to Europe, you’ll find that cities and airports off the beaten path will offer better value. Once in Europe, you can take advantage of affordable train travel to get to some of these cities from less expensive airports nearby. Again, you’ll see things you never expected. A better experience than flying into Rome and checking into a hotel during peak tourist season. (something I’ve done in the past)
Look for more affordable flights to Greece, Portugal, Turkey. Then jump on a train to a fantastic destination. You’ll be living like you’re in a Wes Anderson movie in no time.
Here are a few stunning destinations to wet your appetite. Add photos
Heading North ? I just saw a flight to Halifax, Nova Scotia for $386.