Travel expert and "Parts Unknown" host Anthony Bourdain scowls at those who overpay for food or drinks while traveling. But he's in favor of putting a good amount of your budget into where you stay, he tells Money during a recent interview.
When he goes abroad, he looks for neighborhoods that are "in the center of things" so that he can explore his surroundings without planning ahead.
"I want to find a hotel in a neighborhood that has charm and character — the sort of place where I can walk to a café, sit down and feel the place," he says. "One with a unique look — old colonial hotels are a favorite."
Bourdain says that his hotel is always the first thing he books. Choosing a place in the middle of the hustle and bustle of a city gives him a front-row seat to everything happening there and allows him to stumble upon local favorites.
"If I have a good base of operations, it will be someplace I can wander from, someplace I can walk around in a neighborhood that I like," he says.
His one rule: "I don't want to be in a resort. This is something that I avoid absolutely."
Bourdain's focus on location ties into another one of his top travel tips: Don't schedule out every minute of a vacation. "Nothing unexpected or magic is going to happen if you have an itinerary in Paris," he tells Money. "Anywhere you go, having that kind of a schedule, it's punishing."
To keep housing from busting your budget, focus on bringing down other costs. The ideal time to book domestic flights is 70 days in advance, according to travel site CheapAir.com. The site's 2018 Airfare Study found that the prime window for scoring the cheapest flights is 21 to 121 days before your trip, although it can vary by season.
You can find good deals on lodging by booking through services such as Airbnb or VRBO, but it might be worthwhile to spend a little more for a prime location.
Be flexible with your plans as well. If you're willing to travel during off-peak seasons, you'll usually score cheaper rates. And chances are, your destination will be much less crowded.
Or you could consider a little-known spot that's less expensive because it still gets fewer tourists. Take it from Bourdain: "There are places around the world that are still relatively under-visited, where you can have an amazing experience for relatively little money."
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