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Budget Travel: How Do You Decide What Attractions Are Worth It?

By Eemusings @eemusings

Unless you’re a megazillionaire, it’s probably safe to assume that both time and money are, to some degree, factors in your travel plans. As much as you’d love to explore every nook and cranny of this grand ole planet, some tough choices are going to have to be made.

One of the last couples we hosted through Couchsurfing spent just a day in Auckland before moving on south. As they bluntly put it, you don’t come here for the cities – you come for the outdoors. I accompanied them up to Matakana and Tawharanui, took them out for Thai food in Kingsland, and walked them around our newly invigorated waterfront. And while they originally wanted to drive west to Piha as well, they made the call to skip it after discussing it with us. Any local knows the two beaches are worlds apart … Tawharanui’s untouched, shining shores and Piha’s rugged coast … but in all honesty, the subtleties are probably wasted on time-pressed tourists.

I had every intention of visiting both the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre while in Italy. We have the time, and location wise, they both slotted easily into our itinerary. But here’s the thing. We have short attention spans.

Having recently experienced the tightly packed townships perched along the Amalfi Coast, I am just not sure we would really, truly appreciate the villages of the Cinque Terre. It’s an area that seems to cater more for hikers (and there’s a fee to walk through the national parks) which isn’t really our thing.

Equally important: T is feeling travel weary, and I’m loath to subject him to any more lengthy train rides than absolutely necessary.

No doubt Cinque Terre has countless charms of its own, and its brightly coloured tipsy topsy houses were right up there on my bucket list (Amalfi’s were very similar, though in pastel tones) but in this case, it might just be our Piha. Close, but no cigar.

amalfi township amalfi coast from the sea

Figuring out where to direct your days and dollars is an ongoing challenge as a traveler. How do you decide what attractions to shell out for? What sights are worth going out of your way to visit?

The one thing we almost unhesitatingly paid for was a ride on the London Eye – and it turned out to be a bit of a bust. We spent basically an entire day’s budget on tickets, something I definitely wouldn’t do again. Sure, the views were good, but not exactly life changing, and the queue to get on is one I’d rather not repeat.

view from london eye

Since then, I’ve become a bit of an obsessive Googler about any paid attractions that we’re considering. It’s a hard call, though. One person’s Louvre might be another’s Geordie Shore. You’ve just got to know your own inclinations and look at any reviews through that lens.

For example, people tend to be pretty divided over whether the Colosseum is worth entering or not. We decided not to, based on the general consensus that there isn’t enough inside to occupy you for more than half an hour or so. And given that a lot of the Roman Forum is visible from outside as you walk around the city centre, we felt validated by our choice pretty quickly. Of course, YMMV…

On the other hand, the Acropolis was worth every euro to us. The views alone from the top of the rock were astounding. Plus I’m more familiar with Greek classics than I am with Roman history; that sort of thing makes a difference. Hiring a BMW (or similar) in Germany is almost a requirement if you’re visiting…

hire bmw in munich form bmw welt
IMG_1041

 

…as is a gondola ride in Venice.

gondola ride in venice

Splurging on a canyoning trip for T in Switzerland was also money well spent, as he came back absolutely thrumming with spirit and declaring it the single best experience of his life. That, my friends, is what money is for.

Sadly, there are many things we didn’t quite get to this time around. Places we’ve skipped include:

Scottish Highlands
Unfortunately, the tour company I wanted to book with was sold out, and we were only in Edinburgh for a couple of days. For about a minute, I thought we might be able to hook up with fellow Couchsurfers and share a car, but that didn’t pan out. Renting a car on our own would have been eye-wateringly expensive.

Neuschwanstein Castle
I know, guys. I KNOW. The ‘Disney’ castle! But our host didn’t have the time to drive us there, and we knew the bus tours would be absolutely chocka in July. We aren’t big on organised tours anyway, and for the price, it sounded like it just might end up being more of an ordeal than a highlight. Win some, lose some.

St Petersburg
Everything about getting to Russia sounded like a horrendous hassle. The visas. The flights (or a cruise). The money that would have been involved just didn’t add up, even excluding the logistical headache.

Spain
There were a couple of spaces in our itinerary that could have accommodated a whirlwind visit to Spain, but alas, these didn’t align with cheap flights.

How do you decide when to save and when to splurge on sightseeing?


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