Thursday, January 9, 2014

Traveling on a Budget: Why you should (occasionally) stay in a hotel

Tips for the hobo traveler
I just went on in this whole post about why you should never book a hotel early, infact I would argue strongly about why you should never book a hotel at all. But there are a few reasons why strategically booking a hotel may be to your benefit. I'll admit this next section is mainly for the extreme saver travelers who have listened to everything I've said, and forgotten what normal people do while on vacation. We all need to be reigned in occasionally.
First off hotels have amenities. Yes, thats kind of what they're selling you. Even you, the savy vagabond travler, may benefit from them.

-Hot Showers: Yes, I know, truck stops have showers as well, but you still have to pay for one, and showering in your own hotel room might just be a little more comfortable. An adventure can always be better the more comfortable you are, and a nice hot shower may just re-energize you for that next long stretch of extreme traveling.

(Elvert Barnes)
-Internet: Of course, you could just sit in Starbucks drinking 3.95 lattes all day while you finish blogging, telling your mother you're alive, and scouring the rare bird alert pages.

-Breakfast: Maybe you're tired of heating up oatmeal in your car every day, or were going to spend $5 buying Whataburger tacquitos and a large coffee anyway. Now you can save that money and eat normal food, like cereal!

-Water: It's not always easy to find a good place to replenish your water supply and the alternative is to buy another plastic recycling nightmare from one of those silly companies that believes it has the right to sell something that makes up 75% of you.

-Sleep: No matter how much you may love sleeping in your pimped out car or out in the stars, sometimes it does a body good to get one good nights sleep.

-Weather: It doesn't rain inside. Perhaps that rain storm just rolled in and you were planning on camping tonight. Or the low is down to 15 and you're sleeping bag is only good for 30. Not being miserable can be reason enough.

-Football: Or whatever sport you love. So, you were going to take the night off, spend it at a buffalo wild wings stuffing your face so you could watch the big game. Better yet, just watch it in the privacy of your own hotel room, that way you don't even have to wear pants!

-Safety: Maybe sleeping at the Park and Ride tonight isnt such a good idea... 

So lets do the numbers, how much is all this really worth?

Let's say you catch a sweet hotel deal and only spend $40 after all the crazy taxes.

Shower- Truck stop showers are usually around $10 for us non-truckers
Internet- Let's say you were going to buy a $4 latte at Starbucks for a couple hours on the internet.
Breakfast- Your breakfast can average anywhere from $1 to up to $8, lets average that and say $4
Water- Buying a couple liters of water could cost you around $2 a day

These base line costs are already worth $20
Lets dig deeper and say it kept you from eating out for the big game which you would have spent $10
Altogether that's already worth $30 of our $40

So what are comfort, sanity, and sleep worth? It all depends. Maybe you haven't found a good enough way to sleep in your car. Or you just had too many wet days in the field. Maybe you forsee that pitching a tent tonight in the rain is going to ruin your mood for the rest of the trip. In that case the intangible for sanity is almost priceless, and definitely worth the extra $10. I wouldn't use this post as a crutch for spending money, but as a check when you think you've gone too far.

My strategy is to spread out hotels sparingly every couple days or so just to get a shower and internet. I couple that decision with one where I was going to be in a difficult sleeping situation anyway (like in a city) or when I need to be close to my destination tomorrow. This way I stay true to my goal but allow myself some comforts. Always evaluating the cost of items and being forced to justify their purchase helps you realize the real cost of things, which is the first step in spending smartly.

So travel forth, and remember your sanity!


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