When my Perceptive Travel blog editor Tim Leffel sent me a review copy of his guidebook The World’s Cheapest Destinations: 21 Countries Where Your Money Is Worth A Fortune, I was a bit skeptical.
It’s not geared specifically to family travel, and even though Tim’s an experienced Dad as well as a terrific travel writer, I worried that this particular book would get too “backpacker-y” for my blog’s readers.
Not to worry – although there are several countries listed where only the most intrepid parents would take the kids, I found a lot of good ideas here for my own travel planning. There are super-helpful price ranges for each country, to help you plan typical expenditures for lodging, meals, transportation and seeing attractions.
At the end of each section, Tim describes what you can get in each country for the equivalent of one US dollar or less; “3 rats on a stick in Laos” – yay! Humorous local color notwithstanding, he gives plenty of examples of less, um, exotic purchases.
His quick evaluations of each country’s best beer or local liquor are an “adults only” bonus.
Consider this book as a value-focused destination Idea Finder; it gives you a broad overview of what to expect at various budget levels, then you can plunge in and buy a country-specific guidebook (if you’re thinking south of the US, Tim has also written the excellent Traveler’s Tool Kit for Mexico and Central America.)
Some of the book’s best tips for parenting travelers:
*** Go long. Better to make a journey and stay in one place or region for two or three weeks than rage all over trying to pack in too many sights. With young kids, this goes double. Get off the plane or out of the car, slow down and stay awhile; you’ll learn and enjoy a place a lot more.
*** Take advantage of budget airlines within regions. If you are going to country-hop, they’ve shrunk distances across Europe and Asia. For more airline ticket info, there’s BootsnAll’s own Cheap Air Tickets site.
*** Money quote from Tim: “If you demand pampering at every stage, you will pay pampering prices.” Cheapest Destinations does NOT think that staying in Ye Olde Fleabag Hotel is such a fun idea; Tim insists that countries he lists as desirable have basic tourism infrastructure and support, and he’s also quite blunt about where you’ll find a “soak the tourists” mentality.
*** The book is very sensitive to the dietary needs of vegetarians; I like that and don’t see it too often. Tip if you’re vegetarian: go to India.
*** Places that I personally want to take my family after reading this book? Jordan, Turkey and Guatemala. Tim is a fan of Spanish immersion classes in Guatemala, which he’s done with his wife and kids. It sounds terrific.
*** More places that intrigue me: Honduras and Peru. Of course, the recent Shashi Bellamkonda guest post about Machu Picchu here on Family Travel already had me fired up.
*** Bargain skiing – Transylvanian Alps in Romania, in the Czech Republic and in Turkey.
This is an excellent reference book if you have a globe in one hand, a budget in the other and kids in front of you saying, “When can we go someplace really cool?”
Normally after a book review I do a giveaway, but sorry, I’m keeping this one because Tim autographed it just for me. He wrote, “To Sheila – step away from the laptop!”
Think the guy knows me pretty well?
You can buy World’s Cheapest Destinations here (where the purchase price goes to Tim and the publisher, without middlemen) and there’s an ebook version there as well. See this page for more purchase options.