The Unexpected Costs of Binge Travel

7 ways that binge travel or visiting multiple places in one trip can cost you.

The first time I went to Europe, I was so excited to finally be “across the pond” that I went full “binge travel” mode, hitting 5 countries in 3 weeks (Italy, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands) and spending just a few days in each place.

What I learned is that while it may be tempting to cram a bunch of stops in one trip to save time (and long-distance airfare!) the truth is that weeks of sleeping on overnight trains to get double-duty out of travel time, and feeling constantly rushed, eventually takes its toll.

By the time I got to Amsterdam (my last stop before flying home) on the day before Thanksgiving, I was tired, homesick for my family and boyfriend, and had an awful cold–in no shape to really enjoy everything the Dutch capital had to offer!

To convince you why binge travel isn’t worth it, here’s my list of:

The unexpected costs of Binge Travel

1. On Local Transportation
If you’re in a place you aren’t familiar with and don’t have much time, you may be tempted to take taxis rather than risk getting lost, or spending more time traveling with public transportation. Sticking around a city for a while allows you to explore and get to know a few neighborhoods intimately. You can also familiarize yourself with different methods of transportation and figure out the cheapest way to get around to everything you want to see.

2. On Long-Distance Travel
Europe especially is one of those places where you might be tempted to visit multiple countries in one trip because it’s so easy to get around between them. A £76.00 (~$110 USD as of May 2016) Eurostar train from London to Paris seems like a cheap way to also see Paris without having to buy another plane ticket to Europe, but one hop-over to a nearby towns can quickly snowball into more. After all, Seat 61 makes the 7 hours from Paris to Milan by train sound scenic and peaceful!

Budget airlines like EasyJet and RyanAir even offers fares that often rival or are even cheaper than ground travel. What isn’t factored into the cost however is the time and hassle spent getting to the airport or train station, not to mention time actually spent in transit.

And if the cost to sight-seeing time isn’t enough, consider that $120 can easy get 3-4 nights at a respectable hostel in London. Meanwhile, taking the 2.5 hour train to Paris means having to shell out even more money for a place to stay once you get there.

3. On Hotels
Staying in one place longer opens up the possibilities of 1.) being able to negotiate on price at hostels, hotels, or apartment rentals; and 2.) being able to rent directly from local sources (like owners or real estate agencies). When my boyfriend and I first came to Tamarindo, we stayed in hostels for 3 weeks, which gave us the option of weighing short-term vacation rentals against hostels or hotels. Later, we found an even cheaper 3-month apartment rental (the maximum time a passport holder is allowed to stay in Costa Rica on a free visa) that was much cheaper on an average nightly basis.

When you have very specific days that you’ll be in town, you’re also limited to whatever accommodations are available on those dates. With longer stays, even if some nights are expensive (say, because you’re visiting over a holiday weekend) your total average cost over multiple nights may be lower.

4. On Vacation Rentals
If you’re staying long enough to justify renting a house or apartment, you may discover that your nightly cost can be much cheaper than staying in even the most rundown hostels. For example, in Tamarindo where we live now, the cheapest hostels cost upwards of $15/night for a dorm bed and $40 for a private room at the dingiest places we could find.

Our apartment, (which has 2 floors, 2 bedrooms, and 3 bath) cost $791/month before utilities. Including utilities and rounding up, $1000 (rent + utilities)/30 (days) = ~$33/day for 2 people, or ~$17 per person. For 2 dollars more per person than a dorm, we can cook all our meals in bulk in our own kitchen (saving hundreds of dollars on eating out every month), sleep together in a king-sized bed, and have our own quiet place to do work in.

5. On Meals
Food is such a big part of experiencing the local culture that I always want to maximize how much I’m able to try in the short time I’m someplace new. When you’re hitting multiple cities in a week, all your meals might come from eating out, which can quickly add up if you’re looking to try everything as quickly as possible. When you stay in one place for longer, you can eat a mix of restaurant meals and home cooking without any “FOMO” (fear of missing out)!

6. On Experiencing the Local Culture
If you’re in town for just a few days, you might be tempted by shortcuts like paid tours (“with local guides!”) or feel pressured to cram in more sights than you can comfortably do. When you’re in a hurry, there’s less time to wander around and get lost in a city, which is often a great organic way to experience a new place. Trying to get around to many sights in a short period of time might also mean using taxis to get around faster, and not being able to enjoy yourself as much when you are there.

7. On Comfort
I’ve taken my share of night trains across Europe, which on paper sounds great because you can travel between towns or even countries as you sleep. The reality is that an overnight train can sometimes be just as expensive as a hotel, and you may feel much less rested to take on a new day after being squished into a train compartment  with 5 other people.

Binge Travel

The “couchette” offers a bed instead of just a seat, but this one to Budapest was designed to cram in 6 people!

What has been your experience with binge travel? Let me know in the comment section below!