• No More SIM swaps. Cellphones aren’t exactly old-school, but here’s what is: attempting the complicated dance of swapping out SIM cards as you cross borders or choosing among the confusing options for international SIM cards. In 2012, though, most big American cellular providers came out with reasonably priced international overseas data and texting plans. I once used SIM cards from around the world; my collection is now gathering (tiny amounts of) dust atop my bureau now that I’m a happy customer of AT&T’s international package.
Actual phone calls are still expensive, though, so be sure you’ve got money in your Skype or Google Voice accounts to call for that restaurant reservation.
• Adjust your mental budget. Appalled that a romantic weekend getaway for two will cost you $1,000? Don’t worry; it won’t.
For some reason, people always assume that the alternative to travel is to stay home and spend nothing. Instead, you should be subtracting what they save by not being home. Surely you would have gone out for dinner and a movie one night, at least, so knock off $100. Add in gas, groceries, electricity, etc., and you’ve got at least another $50. Your weekend now cost $850.
• Use a guidebook — your own. I still carry a Moon or Lonely Planet or Frommer’s travel guide around when I travel — as backup, if nothing else. But those books are pricey, and there’s so much free information online that, with a little copying and pasting (and printing out), you can come pretty close to matching them with your own bespoke travel guide. So, in a retro twist, no Wi-Fi needed.
Even better, turn it into a PDF file (easily done through programs like Microsoft Word) and send it to your tablet device. I’ll admit that some additional technology can make things even easier: Stay.com helps you create a guide with maps that can be printed or retrieved on your mobile device, and TripAdvisor’s new City Guides allows you to download 60 cities’ worth of maps, information and user reviews to be used offline, free.
• Buy direct. There was a time not so long ago when we bought airline tickets by calling airlines instead of logging onto sites like Travelocity and Expedia.
Southwest long ago opted out of those online travel agencies, but other airlines are edging away from them as well. In other words, buying direct is coming back, only nowadays in online form. George Hobica, founder of Airfare Watchdog, has been seeing more and more airlines offer special fares that show up only on their own websites, or restrict certain features (like seat selection or discounts on checked luggage) to those who book directly through them.
“It’s more important than ever for consumers to sign up for the airlines’ email feeds to get promo codes and sale fares,” Hobica said.
• Stay put. No, this is not another call for the by-now cliched “staycation,” in which you explore your wonderful home city as a tourist. (This is why we have weekends.) It’s simply a call for less frantic trips.
Sure, you could use discount airlines to dash between London, Paris, Barcelona, Rome and Florence during your two-week break. Instead, try staying a week in just two of the places you most want to go. You’ll reduce transportation costs, get discounts on metro passes and longer-term lodging and, best of all, find local spots you’d never come across on a rushed attempt to tick off top tourist attractions.
Frequent the same restaurant and you might even get a dessert on the house once the staff starts to recognize you.