The Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland, via
Travel doesn't come cheap. But it doesn't have to burn through your bank account, either. One thing that I have become really adamant about is that it is possible to squeeze a little more travel out of your budget if you are willing to be a bit flexible.
I'm leaving for Ireland on Saturday, almost a full week ahead of my friends who will be joining me in renting a castle in County Clare the following week. Knowing that I had the luxury of time on my side (and let's face it, time is often the other huge constraint when it comes to the ability to travel), I decided to look into the possibility of extending my trip on the front end. Flying Aer Lingus, I was able to choose from a matrix of dates and varying prices. I could have left with my friends on Friday the 17th and flown into Shannon, or I could have chosen on Saturday the 11th and flown into Dublin for about $150 less. Guess which one looked more appealing to my opportunistic eye? Granted, it will cost me a little more than that to spend an extra six nights in Ireland, but not too much more if I play my cards right.
As I am staying in hostels, my accommodations will average about $25 per night, allowing me to break even with the money I saved by going early. And some of these are places with real character, like, say a converted old wine cellar in Dublin or a cottage on the Antrim Coast steps away from the Giants Causeway with a full breakfast included. Sure you give up a bit of privacy staying in a hostel (though most hostels do offer private rooms, which are very affordable if you are not traveling alone- an option I have exercised in the past), but when you are traveling alone and looking for a bit of conversation, hostels are a great place to meet fellow travelers and perhaps even chat with friendly owners.
I'm flying out of JFK, which is definitely not close to me by any stretch of the imagination. However, to fly out of Washington (which is not even super convenient) required an indirect flight, less flexible flight options, and was more expensive. I decided to stick with JFK and my Megabus tickets to New York from Baltimore over two months in advance set me back a grand total of $10.50 round trip. Add in LIRR tickets to meet the friend that will drop me at the airport (who I will later meet at the Shannon airport!) and to get back into the city on the way back, and I'm still paying less than $25 to take a much less expensive direct flight from JFK-DUB. Not bad. And not super inconvenient, either.
Throw in a few bus tickets (at around 10 Euro a pop), lunches, dinners, and few attractions (a black taxi tour of Belfast, Bloomsday festivities), and I'm still looking at less than $200 to spend an extra week in the Emerald Isle and further justify my plane fare.
As a single traveler with some extra time on my hands, I have the luxury to choose less expensive options that stretch my wallet and my travel itinerary. This time around it means that I will get to explore a bit of Northern Ireland and experience Bloomsday in Dublin in addition to a week of exploring the West from a castle. Not a bad trade-off for making a few frugal moves, right?