Amy Foster
April 08, 2013 6:00 am

One of the great ironies in my life is that now, when I have the money to do all the traveling I could ever wish for, I do not have the freedom to go anywhere since I have three kids.

Of course we travel. We have a trailer. We go glamping. We just got back from Disney World last week. We go places as a family and it’s great. I could, in theory, take the whole tribe globetrotting. At the end of the day, though, the effort I would expend to maneuver a 2-year-old around the world would more than likely offset most of the joy of being where ever I was. Two-year-olds have a lot of requirements. In point of fact, traveling with a toddler is a bit like traveling with a rock star, given their demands.

When I was 22, I traveled all over Italy and France on my own for two months. I didn’t have much money. I didn’t quite stay in hostels, but I never got a phone or even a bathroom of my own in any of the rooms I slept in. I ate cheaply, traveled frugally and had a great time. It’s a rite of passage, I suppose, to travel like that. But I do wish I could have splurged and experienced Rome or Paris “Beyoncé” style.. You know she does it large.

Truthfully, there was no internet when I did my youthful adventuring. Yes, my dad is now a very wealthy and successful record producer, but he’s not a spoiler. My four sisters and I were never Daddy’s Little Princesses. He also wasn’t quite as wealthy and successful way back then, either. I should say, in fairness to him, that he did fund most of my traveling (I paid my fair share, too) but he deliberately kept the means very modest. Thank God. There are very few things more dangerous to a young person than a sense of entitlement and a credit card with no limits.

Now that I am older and have money of my own and have done a bit of traveling with that cash, I can see how I might have translated my small budget into a few big time experiences. Here’s how:

  • First of all, before you go anywhere, you have to figure out what your priorities are. What is it that you most want to experience as you travel? Is it culture? Food? Shopping? Making new friends? Staying in a swanky place? There is no right answer. People might expect you to say museums or churches or whatever, but if that’s not your thing then you shouldn’t feel the pressure to do those things just because they are there. You have your whole life to do what’s deemed “appropriate.” 
  • Once you’ve established what it is that you want to focus on, then you kind of have to accept that it will take up the majority of your Rock Star equity. Traveling on an Indie budget means that you can’t have it all.
  • I’m always saying this, but doing your research is they key to getting a Rock Star advantage. You need to know where all the hot restaurants, bars, boutiques and hotels are.
  • Let’s say now that your priority (as mine would be) is shopping (NO JUDGEMENT!) and let’s say for a moment you are planning on going to France. Suss out the super hot boutiques (in Paris, I would say it’s Colette, Isabel Marrant and of course, Hermes). Just being in these stores will make you feel like a Rock Star. Don’t forget your sunglasses and walk in like you own the joint. Can’t afford a Birkin? Who can? But maybe you can splurge on a scarf or a funky shirt. They key is confidence and setting aside some funds in your budget to buy something luxurious. Whatever you buy, however small, is not the point. It’s a souvenir you can wear and will most likely last you years.
  • Is food your weakness? Again- do your research and find out the hottest and yummiest places to eat. Rock Stars might be able to walk in without a reservation and get seated. You probably won’t be able to do that, but don’t be discouraged! Make a reservation. If they can only take you at 10 p.m., so what? Hang out in the bar and people watch. If you are on a budget, chances are you will only be able to do this once during your trip, so make the most of it. Again, wear your sunglasses, walk in with confidence and be super nice to the host or hostess. A little kindness goes a long way. It’s a misnomer that stars treat people like crap. Generally, the big stars have a kind of benevolent magnanimity, so use that approach.
  • Do you long to stay in a five star hotel? Seem like an impossibility? Well, here’s a little trick I am going to share with you. Fancy Schmancy hotels always have a corporate rate for entertainment people. Call ahead and try to reserve a room under a Time Warner, Universal, Sony etc. rate. It might not work, but give it a try. With a bit of imagination and a chipper tone, you’d be amazed at what you can pull off with a reservation desk. If you aren’t brave enough to do this, then budget one night to experience this hotel during your travels. Yes, it will take a chunk out of your budget, but if it’s on your bucket list then go for it!
  • Make friends. Make as many friends as possible. Don’t be afraid to talk to the person at the table next to you or the lady working at the little boutique. The locals know all the hidden gems of their city and will be happy to share as long as you make the effort to be friendly. Years ago a friend and I were eating dinner in Paris. We got to talking to our neighbours who invited us for a picnic the next day at the home of one of their friends who happened to be a Count. It was a fabulous experience but one that wouldn’t have happened if I had been too shy to speak up.
  • Here’s the key – at all times. It’s attitude. It’s confidence. It’s not that Rock Stars, Movie Stars or CEOs are better than anyone else, it’s that they aren’t intimidated by their surroundings. Chi Chi Fou Fou places can sometimes hire people who make YOU feel like THEY are doing you a favour by allowing you to spend your money at their establishment. Flip the script. Be kind. Be pleasant but always know that you are the one doing THEM the favour by giving up your hard earned cash.
  • Okay, so you are backpacking. You are staying in a hostel. But allow yourself one day, one afternoon or evening of glamour. You might never get back to Paris or Prague or Marrakesh. So indulge, at least once, Beyoncé style.

Happy Trails!

Featured image via shutterstock

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