hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

August 22, 2013

Can't afford to travel abroad? Think again

Teacher shares tips to make trips happen

By Mike LaBella
Staff Writer

---- — If you’re putting off an overseas trip because it seems too expensive, there’s no need to wait any longer.

So says Marcy Yeager, an expert who has tips to make travelling affordable.

Yeager has traveled the world and has learned ways to cut costs. They include signing up for a language course that includes tours of the area you’re visiting, or having big, less expensive lunches and smaller, more affordable dinners.

Would it surprise you to know she cut the cost of a trip to Asia in half by breaking down the air flights into segments? It’s just one of many techniques she uses to save money.

“I was planning a trip to Asia a few years ago and was quoted round-trip air fare of about $4,000,” she said.

Yeager priced each leg of the trip, including from Boston to London, then London to Malaysia, then Malaysia to Borneo — her ultimate destination.

“By breaking it down, I was able to get my total round-trip airfare for $1,800,” she said. “I wasn’t buying it as a package, but in sections. I did have to sit in a London airport for four extra hours, but I saved more than $2,000. In total, I was in Asia five weeks and spent a total of $3,000.’’

Yeager, who heads up Northern Essex Community College’s International Studies Program, does speaking programs where she tells people how to see the world on a budget.

Her presentation is part of the college’s speakers bureau, which provides speakers free to area nonprofit groups.

A professor of natural sciences at Northern Essex since 2003, Yeager celebrates her interest in the South American Rain Forest by teaching a course there every other year. She has also volunteered on a small farm/ecotourism center in Ecuador during the summer. This summer, she led a group of NECC students on a study abroad trip to Belize.

During her talks, Yeager describes ways to make a trip to another country more affordable than you thought it would be.

If you want to use a travel agency, look for one that offers various levels of services, ranging from the more affordable basic comfort trips to more costly luxury trips, she said.

She said you might end up in a two-star hotel instead of a four-star hotel, and you might end up using public transportation instead of a rented car that will take you around the country, but you’ll end up saving money — often lots of it.

“When I was in Borneo, I wasn’t sure if I could navigate on my own, so I found a tour company there and they took me around at a lower price than if I’d arranged it through a tour company in America,” she said.

Little things such as meals can add up fast, so consider stopping at local street vendors for inexpensive bites, such as a bowl of noodles, or buying fruits and other nutritious snacks from a local grocery store.

“By having a big lunch you can save, as lunch is usually one-third the price of the same dinner, although maybe a little less in size,” Yeager said. “A lot of cultures have big lunches, which is something we’re not used to.”

Another way to save and sample the area cuisine is to go from one restaurant to another ordering appetizers and sharing with whomever you are with, she said.

“We’ll split a small plate at each restaurant and get to taste different foods while spending a small amount,” she said.

And don’t get hung up on ordering the same things you have at home, as it could be more costly than you might realize.

“Local food is always cheaper than Americanized food,” Yeager said.

Yeager also saves money by bringing along a portable water purification system, which is built into a water bottle she carries wherever she goes.

“I can use tap water instead of having to buy bottled water,” she said. “This applies to when I travel in Central and South America and Asia, and it saves me a ton of money. If you’re spending $6 a day on bottled water, it can add up. And if I’m carrying water, I’m not buying soda or other drinks. To me it’s thinking about all the little expenses that can add up.’’

Longer stays can be more of a value than shorter stays and don’t be afraid to learn the native language since it could actually save you money, Yeager said.

“If you go to South America for 10 days, you can enroll in a language class for two hours a day, and it usually includes a stay in a family’s home for about $15 a day, including breakfast and dinner, laundry service and a place to sleep,’’ she said. “And the classes include tours of the local area.

“You’re learning the language and you’re meeting new people,” she said. “It’s the best deal out there.”

If you’re willing to get up early, local museums and cultural sites often have free morning hours allowing you to pocket the normal price of admission.

“This is a vacation for most people, so you want to have the maximum amount of fun without being miserly,” she said. “You can, in Europe, buy half-price theater tickets on the day of the shows. So if you’re willing to run the risk, you can get a lot of last-minute deals.

“I like to get a free city map and just walk around, which is a great way to save money and is a lot of fun,” she added.

Yeager said the college is considering offering short non-credit courses of 10 to 14 days which focus on traveling to a particular region along with an expert.

“Because we have the educational content, we go to a lot more places than a typical tour and it would be affordable,” she said.

Not everyone can go on vacation whenever they want, so Yeager suggests balancing your needs the best you can.

“London is expensive, so I focus on getting the best deal on air fare and local travel,” she said. “If I travel to Asia, I know the food and local travel will be less expensive, but my air fare will be more. Air fare to Australia is expensive, but when you’re there, the food and local travel are fairly inexpensive.”

On Aug. 22, Yeager will lead a presentation titled “International Travel: Jet Setting 101: You can see the world on a budget!” at the Haverhill Public Library. The presentation is free and open to the public. She will also be speaking on the same topic at the Wilmington Library this month.

For more information about Yeager’s talk at the Haverhill library, call 978-373-1586 or email smoser@mvlc.org.

How to see the world on a budget:

Pay for air flights in segments, when possible

Eat local food, which is cheaper than “Americanized” food

Consider staying at less expensive hotels

Arrange for your own local tours instead of using a travel agency

Pick up a map and take long walks around the area you visit

Carry a water purification bottle and refill it with tap water

Have bigger, less costly lunches and smaller, cheaper dinners