Laura Zito gives us the lowdown on how to travel in style while staying on budget. Welcome to the world of flashpacking…
Backpacking is undoubtedly a lot of fun and travelling with the bare essentials leaves you feeling free and flexible to discover a new destination. But just because you want to go travelling doesn’t mean you want to spend your nights in a cockroach-infested beach hut with no hot water, sleeping on a mattress you’re pretty sure a family of cats once lived on. Sure, some might want that gritty, live-like-a-local experience but most travellers want to be able spend their three week holiday in more comfortable surroundings.
Good news! There are ways to travel around your chosen destination in relative luxury but without being a traditional all-inclusive tourist. It’s called flashpacking, and loads of people are doing it. Flashpackers still want the laid-back lifestyle backpackers enjoy, but will splash out on little luxuries that matter.
So if you love the thought of travelling across a country soaking up the culture, but shudder at the prospect of having to sleep in dorms, then flashpacking is for you. But just how and where should you start? Here are my handy hints.
Half the fun of flashpacking is setting your budget – where you’ll splurge and where you’ll save. So, if you’re a foodie, it might mean sleeping in budget digs but visiting Michelin starred restaurants. If you’re all about interiors you’ll probably want to stay in five star hotels, but will be happy eating street food. Figure out what matters to you and what you absolutely can’t compromise on, then plan a daily budget around that.
Remember, this isn’t about total luxury a la Paris Hilton. This is about soaking up the culture, but doing it in comfort.
What to pack
You don’t need a backpack if you’re planning on using taxis, hiring cars or flying directly from country to country – a suitcase with wheels is perfectly adequate. If you’re saving on travel by taking public transport, a backpack makes the experience far, far easier. There’s nothing worse than walking on a plank over five boats and having to balance a suitcase on your head. Seriously.
Don’t over pack. Take a few favourite clothes and buy the rest when you get to your destination. Do take your smartphone and a laptop or tablet. In the weeks leading up to your trip, buy as many travel apps as you can. Save pages that are vital (like hotels you absolutely must stay in) as images in case you don’t have internet or Wifi. Remember to download your favourite books for long train journeys and flight connections, as well as music to help you sleep when the noise is a bit too much.
Where to stay
Now, some flashpackers like to pre-book one night in a hotel so it’s ready when they arrive. This is a great idea, especially if you’re arriving late at night or you’re unfamiliar with the area so you have somewhere to relax as soon as you arrive. Some people leave it to chance, knowing there could be a bargain to pick up in a fancy hotel. Do some research to check your preferred hotels and check with your travel consultant if you’re worried about availability.
What to do
Whether you’re flashpacking for a few weeks or a few months, you’ll still have the flexibility of changing your travel plans at the last minute. Unlike the package holiday crowd, you won’t be stuck in the same hotel eating the same food. You’ll enjoy the experience, and get a whole lot more out of it.
Laura’s a creative copywriter and journalist living just outside London, although she’s very often found daydreaming about her travels in South East Asia. She’s also the editor of six out of ten, an online women’s lifestyle magazine, and can be found tweeting at @sixoutoftenmag.