Recently, the New York Daily News ran an article about saving money on international travel. It suggested that travelers to Europe should cut down on expenses by packing their own meals, avoiding shopping, and buying package deals from tour operators. On one level, this is really good advice: by minimizing contact with Europe's economy, travelers could save a great deal of money. If one must visit the old world right now, then this is probably the way to go.
On the other hand, though, it seems like this sort of vacation misses the whole point of international travel. Maybe I'm alone here, but when I shell out huge amounts of money to go overseas, I do so with the intention of experiencing a totally different culture. This means that I want to buy all sorts of weird, exotic foods, talk to strangers, and pick up various bizarre gewgaws. I don't want to fly all the way to Paris just to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while gawking at the Eiffel tower with my tour group. Given a choice, I think I'll save my money for a time when I can afford to do Europe properly.
Over the past few months, my fellow Walletpop writers and I have offered a variety of suggestions for cheap traveling within the United States, and we will probably put up a few more posts in the lead up to the summer. I don't want to sound too cheesily nationalistic, but the U.S. offers thousands of unique places to visit, foods to try, and sights to experience. If you've never been to New Orleans, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Savannah, or one of America's other strange and exotic cities, this would be a good year to try them out. If on the other hand, you've been to all of these places, then a more mundane place might be an exotic change; why not try Des Moines, Independence, Roanoke, or Cleveland?
If cities aren't your speed, you could also visit the Everglades, Yellowstone Park, Chincoteague Island, the Great Dismal Swamp, the Painted Desert, the Badlands, the Grand Canyon, or one of the thousands of other natural attractions that Europeans are currently shelling out billions of dollars to see. You don't need a passport, immunizations, or currency exchanges, and chances are that you'll experience something that you never expected.
I'm not going to knock Europe; in fact, a lot of my ancestors ran screaming from its shores. I've traveled there a bit, and I plan to go back someday. For the time being, though, I think I'll save my money, wait for the Euro to come down, and spend my vacation in a place where I can afford to enjoy the culture and bring back some souvenirs.
Delaware, here I come!
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He's joking about Delaware.
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