Backpackers' Secrets: Top Tips for Cheap Travel.

Adopt the mindset of a backpacker and improve your travel savvy. In an uncertain economic environment, the lessons backpackers can teach us about traveling on the cheap are positively priceless. From packing an ultra-light bag (you can rub your six-pound pack in the noses of nickel-and-diming airlines) to finding affordable food and accommodations, backpackers truly know how to travel.

Lesson 1: Consider a Hostel
As a well-ripened adult, you may fear that your presence in a hostel would be like that of a wrinkly prune in a basket of fresh apples. But hostels are not just for the young. Older travelers are increasingly booking stays at hostels as international hotel rates rise, and they're finding private rooms and bathrooms, clean beds, and no-reservations-needed accommodations in hostels around the world.

By definition, a hostel offers rugged dormitory-style digs. But as hostels have gained popularity over the years, trendy hostel operators have stretched the definition of hostel to include private suites, fancy food, fashionable decor, swimming pools and even maid service.
The trick to snagging a swanky hostel is to know before you go. Check out,, or another reputable hotel review site to get a feel for your prospective hostel. While some hostels resemble trendy boutique hotels with plenty of privacy, others are like the traditional youth hostels of yore, with 10 bodies to a dorm and crowded communal bathrooms.

Lesson 2: Use Your Feet
Backpacking typically requires a great deal of strength and endurance. But if you're not the type to scale mountains or swim across the English Channel, planning a series of walking trips is an accessible way to challenge yourself. As with any physical endeavor, after you've pushed your limits and come out on top, you'll experience a major confidence boost.

But before you go walking around the world, make sure you're in shape. Start walking a few months before your trip to get used to the longer distances, and if you have any health conditions, check with your doctor before you embark on a trip that may be physically strenuous. Get good shoes -- and don't overlook our next lesson. ...

Lesson 3: Pack Light

To travel like a backpacker, you'll have to pack like a backpacker. Walking long distances is nearly impossible with a rolling suitcase and a bulky carry-on bag. By lightening your load, you'll also avoid those pesky extra baggage fees most airlines are charging for checked luggage.
So how do backpackers spend months traveling the world with only a few pounds of gear on their backs? They pack multi-function items (like pants that turn into shorts and shampoo/conditioner combo bottles), carry a light backpack specifically built to hold more and weigh less, and pack breathable, airy clothes that add little heft to their bags.

Lesson 4: Go to the Grocery Store
Packing light is important not only to escape from staggering checked-bag fees, but also so that you will have room in your bag for food. Backpackers tend to seek out eclectic food carts, fresh produce markets and local bakeries.

Lesson 5: Shake Up Your Itinerary
Change your itinerary a little. Or a lot. The affordability and spontaneity of backpacking allow for lengthy and flexible getaways. Imagine booking a roundtrip flight with no set return date -- you can explore your destination at your leisure and return when it feels right. While most of us don't have that sort of unlimited travel time, we can still embrace some spontaneity. Backpackers don't typically chart a detailed itinerary that includes a minute-by-minute overview of their daily activities, and they love changing plans at the last minute. But that doesn't mean that they're against careful planning.

Before your trip, plan for flexibility. Keep your ears open for first-hand recommendations from locals and other travelers -- and be ready to mix up your travel schedule if need be. Book a room at a hostel, but bring contact information for other area hostels or B&B's as well. If you're going to a particular city, research nearby destinations that interest you, and make a note of lodging, food and transportation options in the area. When you carry everything you need on your back and are prepared to go where the wind takes you, why not leave room for some spontaneous sightseeing?

Lesson 6: Go It Alone
Are you worried that you can't share your experiences with anyone else on a solo trip? Think again -- backpackers know that they can connect with fellow travelers and locals along the way. Travel solo like a backpacker and you may just make a few friends you wouldn't have met if you weren't going it alone.

You'll easily meet other travelers at hostels and at bed and breakfasts, both of which often encourage activities and interaction among their guests
Even if you happen to be the oldest one in the room, don't look at your fellow guests as immature travelers with whom you have nothing in common. You have plenty in common -- including your desire to save money, your keen sense of adventure, your capable storytelling abilities and, of course, your love of travel.

                                                                    Have a good trip.

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