Categories
Traveling

The Family Travels Through Thailand

In our last article, we left off right after our month-stay in Chaing Mai. Since then, we have spent a month in the south of Thailand, stopping in Koh Lanta, Ao Nang, Krabi, and Phuket before flying back to Bangkok to catch our flight to Japan.

 

Traveling to Koh Lanta

Our first stop in southern Thailand was Koh Lanta, a family-friendly, peaceful, island located less than 2 hours away from the nearest airport in Krabi. We flew from Chiang Mai to Krabi airport on Air Asia, a budget airline. Both the service and experience was excellent. Everything you could expect from an international airline, but for a tenth of the price.

To book the flights, we used a few travel-dollars we have received to apply to credit cards and flew for free. Once we landed, we charted a private transport to Koh Lanta. We had booked a car but they sent us a minivan with plenty of legroom so that was a plus!

.

Find your card today and start earning those SWEET miles!

 

where to go in thailand with a familyOnce we got to the island, we stayed for a week at the Tamarind Twin Resort. The hotel was pretty good for what they charge. We paid only $30 per night, again, booked through credit card travel credits.

It was a very large room, modern, clean, and the walk to the beach only took a minute or two. The pool was great and the beach (Long Beach) was very clean. Our baby had a ton of fun in the sand and playing in the ocean.

The highlight of Koh Lanta was definitively the beach. The water was clear and the sand was smooth. The sunsets were breathtaking and seemed to last forever.

On our second week on the island, we stayed at the Riviera Boutique House. Overall, that was the best budget hotel we stayed at. The service was excellent, our host was very helpful. We rented a scooter one day and drove around the island to the old town, we chilled on the beach, enjoyed the pool.

Our last stay in Koh Lanta was at The Thai House Resort. We had reserved a bungalow without AC but once we got there, we quickly realized how hot it got. Not only was it hot but too stuffy. The bamboo bungalow was very basic, had a tiny window, and a general feeling of ugliness.

Only a few hours after checking in, we asked the owner for another option. She asked double the rate for a modern concrete bungalow with AC ($60). That is pretty much the going rate for beach-front bungalows in the region but it meant we had to spend way more for our stay (and could not pay that extra charge with credit card points). After a little negotiation, we were able to get upgraded to a beautiful bungalow for only $4 more per day.  That made all the difference!

 

How is it to live in a small hotel roomwhere to stay in thailand with a family

 

We enjoyed our three weeks in Koh Lanta but there were a few things that slightly annoyed us.

  • The food options were very limited. There were a ton of restaurants but all serving the same tourist menu. Whenever we see restaurants with a hundred-item menu, (pizza, pasta, Thai food, hamburgers, seafood, fish…) we avoid them. Finding some good, local, restaurants was a challenge and we had to walk around a bit before finding something.
  • Access was not the easiest. Even if this island has a ferry, the drive from the closest airport took us about an hour and a half and cost $100 for a private transfer. This might not sound like much but it is huge for Thailand.
  • The Infrcture was laking. Internet was slow and, water being sparse, the showers had very low pressure.

 

On the plus side, however,

  • At the three spots we stayed, the beach was amazing. The sand was nice, the waves were not too big, and the water was sparkling blue. We did not see any trash in the ocean, nor on the beach.
  • Boat activity was minimal. The island is fairly quiet and peaceful for that reason.
  • Hotels are reasonably priced and, for the most part, well maintained. Everywhere we stayed was around the $30 per night mark. We always booked walking distance from the beach since a minute walk really does not bother us but basic beachfront bungalows go for about $60-$100 per night.
  • The island is very colorful and offers tons of natural beauty to admire. We highly suggest renting a scooter and exploring a bit in-land. We only paid $8 per day for ours.

 

Our stay in Ao Nang

After three weeks in Koh Lanta, we booked a private transfer to Ao Nang. Once again, we booked a sedan car but got a nice, big, minivan. This time, we got luxury leather seats with plenty of legroom. As for hotels, we booked 8 nights at the Ibis with points from our RBC credit cards and got the whole $65-per-night stay for free. The hotel was super nice, clean, offered a nice pool area, and a great breakfast selection.

It can get weird to raise our kid without support or activities. Being so far from family can get hard but nice resort-style hotels like this one are great to get distracted a bit. We hung out by the pool, let her play, and enjoyed the sun.

By then, after months of traveling, we definitively started to miss family. Especially with a newborn, having that support would be nice. We are always by ourselves, only us three, and it even if we are never bored, we do feel a small void.

Another thing we really start to feel is the closeness. We have been living in small hotel rooms for months and it does have it’s downsides. When our baby is taking a nap, for example, it is really hard to stay silent without a living room or office space. Even typing on the computer can wake her up sometimes.

 

perfect family trip in ao nangao nang family travel thailand family islandsraley beach trip with an infant

 

From Ao Nang, we visited Phra Nang Cave Beach by longtail boat. It was a fun adventure. The boat ride only takes about 15 minutes and cost $8 round-trip. From there, we visited a small cave and admired rock climbers conquering the flank. It was an easy day-trip, even with a baby.

 

raley beach trip with a baby

 

where to stay in thailand with a family

Another fun activity accessible from the beach in Ao Nang is the Monkey Trail. This free trail crosses to the national park around the mountain. It was pretty well maintained and easily accessible; simply walk until the end of the beach and start climbing up the stairs.

Unfortunately, we did not see any monkeys. It was still nice to see the jungle and the quiet beach on the other side of the mountain.

 

where to go in thailand with a family

 

A quick stop in Krabi

how to travel thailand on a budget

After months of slow travel through Thailand, we finally did a quick, 3-day, stop in the town of Krabi. This was a nice stop after the month of beach life. We took another private transfer to get there, another $100, but this time actually got the car we booked.

Traveling by land was a big plus with an infant. Even for the island, we were in a van and took a ferry. It was so much easier than taking boats all the time.

Originally, we had planned to visit 2 or 3 islands by boat but after consideration, we rebooked our hotels to stay car-accessible the whole way.

 

fun markets in thailandhow is it to take planes with an infant

 

how to manage your life abroad

We visited a nice weekend market, explored the town, and walked through the mangroves.

It was nice to come back to a city after spending so much time at the beach. The restaurant scene was much better and the liveliness of it all was refreshing. With now much better options to choose from, we finally ate amazing food again.what route to travel thailandhow to travel thailand cheap

 

Traveling in luxury in Phuket

The next stop on our Thailand trip was the island of Phuket. Again, we used a private car transfer to get to our next hotel and got to the Marriott Resort and Spa, Nai Yang Beach bright and early.

We paid for the room with rewards points so it did not cost us anything. In addition, we got upgraded to an ocean-front Villa since we are platinum members with Marriott. Throughout all of our travels, this has to be the most luxurious hotel we stayed at. Our villa had amazing decor, a private pool, and a crazy ocean-view.

The resort was beautiful. They offered watersports, amazing restaurants, and a very relaxing atmosphere to end our stay in Thailand.

 

family trip to thailand marriott in thailand on rewards

 

The service was simply breathtaking. One new thing we never experienced before was turndown service. Every evening. the maids would come to prepare the bed for use, change our towels, set our slippers on the side of the bed, and leave us a little thought on the pillow with fresh flowers.

It was completely over-the-top and no one actually needs this service but it was a nice touch.

 

marriott in phuket on pointsfree hotel in thailand hotel credit card canada

 

Last stop in Thailand: Bangkok

Finally, our last stop before flying out was Bangkok. We stayed 3 nights at the very nice Marriott Marquis, again, paid with points. Once more, they upgraded us. This time to a suite on the 32nd floor.

The view was amazing. the hotel was wonderfully done and the service was outstanding.

 

bangkok hotel marriott marquis

 

The highlight of this property was definitively its breakfast buffet. The ginormous selection was breathtaking and the quality exceptional. They have an Asian section, juice bar, Western section, salad bar, cereal bar, and a never-ending selection of food.

We also tried 3 of their ten restaurants and were very impressed. The service was outstanding and everything we had was delicious.

 

free breakfast at marriott marriott marquis bangkok reviewmarriott marquis bangkok on points

 

Their business lounge was also very nice. It offered great views of the city from the 27th floor and the outdoor terrasse was also a nice touch.

The food was good, however, alcohol was only served from 5:30 P.M. to 8:30 P.M. On the plus side, they did offer a full-service bar so we ordered a few cocktails. Most lounges usually only offer self-serve.

 

bangkok hotel lounge for free

 

The suite was very nice and elegantly decorated. We had a huge bathroom with a rain shower, full bath, and marble finishes. We finally got the luxury of hanging out in the living room when Baby was sleeping since the bedroom door could be shut close.

 

bangkok hotel for freemarriott marquis bangkok with rewards points free hotel stay

 

All-in-all, we had a great time in Thailand and after 69 days, we finally flew out to Japan.  Thailand was so welcoming. Especially with a baby, they were all so smiley and happy. They LOVE babies. Some restaurants, we had 5 or 6 waitresses hovering around her and entertaining her! They just go crazy for them.

In contrast, Tokyoites were pretty straight-faced. But that is another story for another post.

Cheers, Mr. Mrs, and Baby Xyz.

 

 

Categories
Traveling

Who knew a Trip to Mexico Cost so Little?

For Christmas, I called my friend and offered him a gift he simply could not refuse: a free trip to Mexico!

We spent 5 days on the beaches of this little paradise called Playa Del Carmen, in the Yucatán Peninsula’s Riviera Maya strip of the Caribbean shoreline. It is located in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico and known for its sandy beaches and good times. We really had a blast and in the end, it barely cost anything.

If you are wondering how to save on travel, check out how we got a 5-day vacation for two for only $230.

For the flights, we found cheap ones on American Airlines for only $320 and used reward travel-dollars to pay the whole amount. Cards like the TD Visa Infinite First Class, for example, give travel-dollars which can be spent on travel expenses. For this trip, the sign-up bonus alone was enough to pay for a ticket.

 

Find your card today and start earning those SWEET miles!

 

On top of that, we used the sign-up bonus from the BMO World Elite card to book 5 nights at a nice little hotel right off the beach. It was not anything fancy but was clean, close to everything, and safe. Unlike most people traveling to Mexico, we did not opt for the all-inclusive packages. They are over-priced and it can quickly get boring if you are always eating at the same buffet.

We prefer booking our flight and hotel, then exploring for the rest. We discover new restaurants, new flavors, new activities, and explore the city like locals rather than simply following the crowd.

 

I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money. -Pablo Picasso

 

In a country like Mexico, we can afford a lot of things we do not do back home such as eating out every day and going out to clubs. Fortunately for us, Mexico is relatively cheap compared to our standard cost of living. For simplicity and ease of reading, all amounts have been converted to U.S. Dollars at a rate of 19 Mexican Pesos per USD.

 

UNO

On day one, we took an early flight and had a stop in Charlotte, North Carolina. This small airport was rather boring considering that the only lounge available was an Admiral Club and we could not access it with our Priority Pass. We waited at our gate until boarding and watched Netflix. Since our stop-over was early in the morning, we did not need to buy any food, the airplane snacks were enough.

When we landed in Cancun, we then haggled with a driver from $50 U.S. Dollars down to $30. Not that bad for the hour drive to Playa Del Carmen. Once at our hotel, we settled down and set off on a taco quest.

From the last time I was in Playa, I could not forget this amazing local taco spot serving the best taco el pastor in town. They are amazingly delicious and only 14 Pesos (73¢) for two. Unfortunately, I could not remember where this marvel was and we simply started walking around town with only a vague idea of where we were going.

At one point, we simply asked a hostel host where to find the best tacos in town. We had given up on this magical place but at least, we would get a good recommendation for some tacos. In his almost perfect English instructed us:

 

Walk down 30th and told us we would see a restaurant with a bull logo, skip it! We would see one with a yellow interior, go there!”

 

Well guess what, this yellow restaurant was exactly the one I had enjoyed years ago! Taqueria El Fogon del May on the corner of 30th and 32nd is simply the best tacos in town and we found it on day uno.

On our way out, we noticed a local soccer game held in the city’s stadium so we stopped and watched for a bit before heading on the 5th avenue, which is the main tourist street in Playa Del Carmen and enjoyed walking around in the cacophony before hitting the beds in the wee hours.

 

Spending for day one:
Transport

$30

Food

$20

Drinks

$10

Total

$60

 

DOS

On day two, we were well rested and ready for the adventure so we hit the waves and stayed at the beach for most of the day. We body surfed, swam, jogged in the sand, and got a little sunburned but it was worth it.

We ate a whole meal, with drinks, for only $14 each and went out to a nightclub on Centro that night which was quite amusing. At the dance club, drinks were highly over-priced but still much cheaper than back home. The beers were $5 each, almost the cost of a meal at most restaurants in Playa.

 

Spending for day two:
Food

$28

Drinks

$10

Total

$38

.

TRES

On our third day, we took a collectivo to Akumal. Collectivos are shuttle buses which can take you pretty much anywhere for less than $3. The half-hour ride to Akumal only costs 35 Pesos each way ($1.84).

 

Budget transportation in Mexico

 

They are comfortable, quiet, and safe. You simply need to walk to the terminal on Calle 2 and hop on the one which is leaving in your desired direction.

The public beach in Akumal has white sands, a large coral reef, and giant turtles. There is a lot of fake “agents” or “official guides” who will try to charge you to get in or offer you life jacket rentals at exorbitant prices but if you simply walk straight to the beach, you can see the marine life for free.

 

Cheap Akumal Trip

.

We brought our own snorkels but if you do not have enough space in your luggage, you can always buy one at Walmart or Mega in Playa Del Carmen for about $12. Buying one will still be cheaper than renting one from those “guides”. The price for a snorkeling set (mask + snorkel) ranges from $40 U.S. to over $100 on the beach itself.

Once we dived in, we saw turtles, plenty of colorful fishes, and stingrays. The coral reef isn’t super colorful but still attracts plenty of marine life.

 

Cheap travel to Mexico

 

For lunch, we ate at Imelda’s Ecocina slightly off the beach. We had an amazing, authentic, lunch home cooked in there small kitchen. The food was truly amazing and only cost us $10 each for our whole meal.

That night, we hung around Playa, ate tacos, bought a bottle of tequila at the convenience store for only $8 and enjoyed the night.

 

Spending for day three:
Transport

$7

Food

$35

Drinks

$8

Total

$50

 

QUATRO

For our fourth day, we took a collectivo again but this time, dropped off at the Cenotes Azul. In Spanish, Cenote is a sinkhole that contains groundwater. These freshwaters are often clear as crystal and come out of caves. We got dropped off on the side of the highway, beside the big sign for the place, and it was hard to see just how amazing this place would be. Once we walked a bit through the forest, we discovered this beautiful and magical place.

 

Amazing cenote in Mexico

 

Once in the water, there is even fish that will nibble at your toes like at the fish spas! There are many little parts, caves, and corals all over the place. Some people even jump off a cliff into the water but we did not dare. All-in-all, a great activity, and the entrance fee was only $6 per person.

After this fun little adventure, we came back to Playa Del Carmen and found a nice little Thai place called Wok Playa on our way to the beach. We ate like kings, ordered multiple appetizers, beers, huge mains, and the bill was still only $23 for both of us. This was one of the best restaurants we ate at and it was still super cheap.

After that, we stayed on the beach until dusk then ate nachos and guacamole we bought at the grocery store.

 

Spending for day four:
Transport

$7

Activity

$12

Food

$23

Drinks

$5

Total

$47

 

CINCO

On our last day, we woke up in the late AM and the sky started to turn grey so we decided to head to the airport for our afternoon flight. We haggled with the taxi driver from $50 down to $35 and got to Cancun airport in less than an hour.

We had bought some nice tequila to bring back home since the prices are about ten times cheaper and the quality twice as good. Unfortunately, we forgot that our efficient carry-on-only traveling style would not allow us to transport any liquids on board unless we bought them at the duty-free inside the terminal. We finally checked one bag on the plane and did not have to pay the $25 fee given the status I get as an American Express holder.

Once in the terminal, we headed to the Mera Business Lounge for some nice sushi, rest, and drinks. This was a super nice lounge, offering Wifi, open bar, coffees, tea, soft drinks and juices, canapes, massage chairs, and an overall quiet spot to wait for our flight. Of course, all of this was free with the American Express Platinum card.

 

Cancun business lounge

.

Since we booked our flights a bit last minute, we did not have direct flights and now had a short stop in Miami before heading home. In the terminal we were in, the only lounge available was the Corona Beach House. This is the first time I have experienced something like this, it is actually a restaurant which gives you a tab when you are a lounge member (Priority Pass). We ordered a beer, a sandwich, grilled salmon, and since we were in Florida; Key Lime pie. The best thing is; it was all free!

We then flew back home to our cold and icy climate.

 

Spending for day five:
Transport

$35

Total

$35

.

All in all, we spent only $230 for 5 days in Mexico, for two people. Pretty hard to beat! Happy travels, Xyz.

 

 

 

Categories
Saving

How to Increase your Savings Rate and Live a Happier Life?

When I was a child, my mom always used to tell me to go play outside. I went outside, picked up a stick in the woods, and could play for hours with my friends and our newly found treasure!

Now, as an adult, I notice that having fun has, somehow, become much more expensive. All my friends buy stuff to have fun. The toys have become bigger, shinier, and more expensive. Activities are now held in bars, restaurants, and resorts.

For our own sake and our budget’s sake, we aim for cheap or completely free activities such as hiking, skating, home BBQ or cycling but we do not deprive ourselves of fun. On the contrary, we try to live a plentiful life, even without breaking the bank.

We also have some expensive hobbies like skiing and traveling the world but there is often many ways to greatly reduce the cost of things once you research a bit. We usually travel for a fraction of what most people spend simply by using the opportunities offered to us such as credit card bonuses and we ski for a fraction of the cost by keeping an eye out for deals.

In our everyday life, there are few things that truly make us happy and those, for the most part, don’t cost any money.

 

Find what you love to do, and build your lifestyle around that.

 

Creating a lifestyle around your passions and doing what you love to do on a daily basis greatly increase your happiness and will make you richer.

 

Traveling across the country

Last week, we traveled to Victoria, British Columbia, to visit some family.  We did a few excursions and explored beautiful British Columbia one day at a time. All-in-all, we spent a fraction of what we could have spent simply because we are conscious of our money and enjoy the simpler things in life.

 

bc frugal trip

 

On our second day there, we drove out to the Goldstream Provincial Park for a short hike of the Mount Finlayson Trail and enjoyed the views of the city. Located only 20 kilometers west of downtown Victoria, it immerses you in nature and makes you forget the daily noise of the city.

Hiking in the old-growth forest and breathing the misty, cold, fresh air, and embracing nature was wonderful. The trail heads up to the summit of the mountain, up 419 meters.

 

The forest was very green and home to Red Cedar trees that are over 400 years old! Hiking up, we saw Douglas fir, Arbutus, Garry oak trees and plenty of small plants but after half an hour we were on the rocks. Climbing above the treeline was very steep and strenuous but well worth the effort once we reached the summit. We were doing some scrambling on loose rock and walking on the very edge of steep cliffs but we survived. 🙂 Once at the top, we enjoyed our packed homemade sandwiches while taking in the view.

 

 

Skiing is our one big spend

We try to live our lives to maximize our experiences and optimize our happiness. Skiing happens to be one thing that brings us both a lot of joy, keeps us active, and gets through the winter. We love the amazing views, the challenging slopes, and thrilling descents we experience on a day on the mountain.

For this trip, we traveled with WestJet and were able to bring our skis on the flight for free but Air Canada also offers it throughout Canada. When traveling, you can always check online for the equipment check-in page of your airline to see what they allow. Traveling with our skis allowed us to get out of the city and enjoy the West Coast fully.

We used points to book the flights and ended up paying only $250 instead of $800 each to travel coast to coast.

 

skiing in BC

 

Going down the ungroomed terrain was thrilling and simply breathtaking! The views were exceptional, the air was chilled but not too cold, and the greenery was abundant. We stayed in a condo we found on Airbnb and had a great view of the mountain. The great thing about this place was the ability to ski in and out, and contrary to a hotel room, we were able to cook our own meals with the fully equipped kitchen.

 

 

Do what you love to increase your savings rate

We were in Mexico last month, now flew across Canada, and we ski every weekend but what about our savings rate? Truth be told, we are still right on target and saving over half our salaries! 🙂 We do spend and live a very plentiful life but we know exactly where we are spending and are aware of our actions.

The most important thing is to be conscious of the choices you make and prioritize the things that make you happy. Living an intentional life means that you will stop spending money on things that do not bring you happiness and optimize your money on the things you love.

Cars, for example, can have a huge impact on your savings rate. We choose to spend on other things so we bought both of our cars (gently) used and paid cash, staying away from monthly car payments.

 

2007 Honda Fit Sport.Our amazing ten-year-old Honda Fit

 

Saving can sometimes feel restrictive; cutting bills, depriving yourself of this or that or not going out of the house to save a bit more but you still need to be happy.

If there is something that truly makes you happy, buy it! If there are friends you really want to hang out with, go for it! The important part is to stay conscious of your choices and the money part will follow.

How about you, how has your savings rate been this year? What do you prioritize your spending on?

Mr. and Mrs. Xyz.

 

Categories
Traveling

Frugal Travels to Italy

In July 2015, we traveled to Italy for a conference held in Turin. Fortunately, Mrs. Xyz traveled for free since it was for her work so we only had to pay for my ticket. In turns of frugal travels, this one was hard to beat.

We usually use our business travels as an opportunity to extend our stay and cut vacation expenses. This time around, we extended a 5-day business trip to Turin into an 11-day trek around northern Italy! 🙂 We started in Turin, then stopped for beautiful hikes in the Cinque Terre National Park, and then traveled our way to Florance.

 

frugal travels

 

You can do the same if you, or your spouse, have to travel for business or you can get free flights from credit card rewards. Where ever you go, there is always a cheaper way to get airfare and there is always cheaper activities to do.

 

Find your card today and start earning those SWEET miles!

 

Cinque Terre hikes

Traveling through Italy, we hiked around the coast of breathtaking Cinque Terre. This is one of the best activities in Europe for any outdoor lover or anyone who wants to enjoy the scenery between decadent Italian dishes. These trails take you along the spectacular coastline and span across a bunch of little charming villages.

 

Travelling through the amazing coast of Italy on a Budget

 

The most popular trail is the Sentiero Azzurro or “Blue Trail”. It constitutes four individual paths along the coast and you can walk the entire route in about six hours. It is much more enjoyable, however, to split it up and take the time to explore the little towns along the coast and eat along the way. Admission to Trail #2 usually requires the purchase of the Cinque Terre card (5-7 euro/day for trail and museum access, or 10 euro/day for trail, museum and unlimited train access). Most people like starting from Riomaggiore where the paths are much easier and paved allows you to work your way up to the more challenging trails. After our research, we found that trail number 2 goes as follows;

 

From Riomaggiore to Manarola

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Terrain: Paved
  • Length: 1.2 miles (2km); 40 minutes to walk

 

From Manarola to Corniglia

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Terrain: Amazing gardens and sea views
  • Length: 1.2 miles (2km); 1 hour 15 minutes to walk

 

From Corniglia to Vernazza

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Terrain: Quite steep, uneven, climbing and descending
  • Length: 2 miles (4km); 1 hour 45 minutes to walk

 

From Vernazza to Monterosso

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Terrain: Lots of stairs and very narrow passages but offers a stunning panorama
  • Length: 1.8 miles (3km); 2 hours to walk

 

This is the busiest hiking trail in the Cinque Terre so it might not be for the more adventurous. We like to step off the beaten path and avoid some of the crowds so we explored the lesser-known trails that are perfect for more serious hikers. We used Airbnb as accommodation in Deiva Marina and went on hikes around the neighboring cities.

 

Traveling to Italy on a budget

 

Another advantage of these lesser-known parts is the savings you can make. We did not need to purchase the pass and enjoyed amazing paths up the mountains for free. Traveling anywhere by train only costs a few Euros and is the quickest way to hop from town to town. Trains go every half hour or so, all day long, so you do not need to plan any precise itinerary. On top of this, you can book much cheaper hotels than along the main trail.

On our first day, we hiked from Vernazza to Corniglia. The breathtaking views of the ocean and the lovely charm of the city are worth every step. We walked in the morning since it is much cooler before the afternoon sun and we stopped for a freshly baked pizza once in Corginlia. After our hike and lunch, we then dipped in the ocean for a little swim. The shores are clean and the sandy beaches were swept by gentle, beautiful, waves. Italians really thought of everything, they even have beaches beside the train station so you can swim while you wait for your ride. 🙂

On our second day of hiking, we went from Deiva Marina, where we had our stay, and walked to Framura. For this one, we did not need to take the train, we simply walked out of the city and into the mountain trails. This was more of an adventure; we got lost, we found a little farm on the hillside, we got scared by a chicken… It was super fun! 😀 

We hiked on dirt trails and the terrain was pretty rough but we still managed to get there by noon. Once in Framura, we searched everywhere for a restaurant but the only place we saw was closed.

By the time we walked down to the town, we were both starving and grumpy but simply could not find a place to eat (which is super rare in Italy!) so we ended up eating little sandwiches in a coffee shop. Even after all of this, we had a good time and great exercise out of it. For more information about the trails and the various options, you can visit the Cinque Terre National Park website.

 ,

Italian food

The food in Italy was definitively the highlight of the trip. Almost every restaurant we tried was astonishing and really cheap.

We tried authentic pizzas, seafood dishes, desserts, and pasta that were simply out of this world! You can find authentic, family-owned, restaurants at every corner street serving anything from pasta carbonara to Margherita pizza for a few Euros.

.

Our frugal travel budget 

To give you an idea of the cost of traveling in Italy, we kept a few receipts. The amazing food, for example, is actually really cheap! There is always expensive options but if you go to local, authentic, restaurants, you can usually eat for less than 10 Euro each. We ate at multiple restaurants, whether in the downtown core, oceanfront, or mountaintop, we could always find something at reasonable prices.

In terms of accommodations, we spent $740 for 5 nights in Turin (we got that one reimbursed by Mrs. Xyz work), then spent $269 on Airbnb for 3 nights in Deiva Marina and $272 for a 2-night stay in Florence. Our total cost for 10 nights was $1281, or an average of $128 per night. Our actual total cost was only $541, or an average of $54 per night.

For transportation, we spent a total of 16 Euro each on trains from Turin to Deiva Marina and then another 15 each to Florence. In addition, we spent 5,40 Euro on local trains throughout our hikes. In terms of airfare, we spent $1 043.

.

The Italian mindset

One thing I have noticed, and really appreciated, was the relaxed mindset of the Italian people. Their core values resemble ones of Financial Independence in many ways.

Firstly, they value time off and every worker has the right to paid vacations of at least four weeks per year. They also have laws that limit work hours to 8 per day, 40 hours per week. With overtime premiums to work over 40 hours per week and pay premiums to work on holidays, nights, or weekends.

A whole month of vacation is huge compared to the U.S. where most companies have an “employment-at-will” policy where you can get fired simply for asking for a vacation. By law, there is no statutory minimum paid vacation or any paid public holidays in the United States.

 

We have almost no job security in the U.S., no legal requirement for severance pay and, with very few exceptions, can be laid off without notice – John Schmitt

 

Even out of those who have the chance of having vacation days, over half (55%) of Americans did not take all their vacation days in 2015, according to the U.S. Travel Association’s Project Time Off.

 

Country Minimum annual leave Paid Vacation Days (5-day workweek) Paid Public Holidays Total Paid Days Off
 Canada Two weeks of paid vacation in all provinces except Saskatchewan where employees are entitled to three weeks of paid annual leave. 10 6 16
 Ethiopia 14 working days of paid vacation for the first one year of service, and 14 working days plus one working day for every additional year of service. 12 13 25
 European Union Minimum of 4 weeks of paid vacation. 20 0 20
 Italy 4 weeks paid vacation plus up to 104 hours of reduction of working time (in Italian Riduzione Orario di Lavoro), used in blocks of a few hours each time for family/personal needs. 20 12 32
 United Kingdom 28 total working days (5.6 weeks) of paid vacation. 28 0 28
 United States There is no statutory minimum paid vacation or paid public holidays. It is left to the employers to offer paid vacation. Full-time employees earn on average 10 vacation days after one year of service. Some employers offer no vacation at all. 0 0 0

Source: Canada, Ethiopia, E.U., ItalyU.K., U.S.

.

In the chart above, we can see that even one of the poorest country in the world; Ethiopia, has better vacation laws than the U.S.

Italy offers paid vacation and paid personal time for family and personal needs. This general acceptance and prevalence of time off is an amazing step towards the FI mindset. As a Canadian with an employer that pays for multiple weeks of vacation per year, I cannot imagine having zero days off!

 

There is a vast difference between American and European culture. Learn more and discover!

 

Secondly, Italy is also very strong on community and shared spaces. From efficient public transit to grand public spaces, Italians have built communities even in the smallest cities. This is yet another way they follow the FI mindset of efficiency and shareability. Why own everything when we can share our wealth and all benefit from it.

The American views towards ownership are slowly changing with the sharing economy (Uber, Airbnb, Lyft…) but the main values of the American Dream are deeply entangled with the consumerism lifestyle most live by. Big cars, big houses, and gated yards are all inefficient and self-centered ways of life that will keep you in the rat race.

Not only do the Italians live in smaller apartments, share public spaces, and take public transit, but the ones who do own a car really do not see it as Americans do. Cars are a sense of pride, image, and entitlement in the U.S., but over there, cars are simply to get from point A to point B.

They have small, fuel-efficient vehicles, and almost all drive the same few models. With the exception of Ferraris or Lamborghinis, I do not think that Italians see their cars as their prized possession. To prove my point, they even built the ugliest car in the world; the Fiat Multipla. 🙂

.

Travelling through Italy on a tight BudgetIf that’s not a solid proof of not caring, I don’t know what is?

.

The majority of the population takes public transport, bikes around, or owns a scooter. This amazing lifestyle follows the virtues of many early retirees like MMM who preaches car-less lifestyles. Traveling through Europe, you can quickly see how America is lacking the basic infrastructure to live car-free but hopefully, this is slowly changing for the best.

.

How to travel in Italy on a frugal budget

.

Since this trip, we flew back to Europe and discovered even more of this wonderful part of the world. That will be for another post.

You sometimes need to improvise your own trails and play a bit with reward programs. There is always a frugal way to explore the world. You can get flights for free through rewards programs, find a bunch of free activities with a little online research, and book hotel stays for free through rewards.

Please don’t be shy to comment your own European adventures and remember to always stay happy, Xyz.

 .

Save