The Coast News Group

Northbound: Lessons from Portugal, Part I

Ola, pessoas do norte! I’m back from a two-week trip to Portugal with lots of travel tips to save you money — so many, in fact, that I’ll have to make this a two-part column.

As I originally planned, I was able to pack everything I wanted into two carry-on bags — a small backpack and a small spinner luggage bag. I took over a month to methodically plan out what I needed to bring, choosing a week’s worth of clothes and deciding to wash everything halfway on my trip.

Here are some rapid-fire observations I had in preparing for my trip, and what I learned when I arrived:

  • hostels are a perfectly acceptable accommodation option! Many have dual-occupancy private rooms, which are a fraction of the cost of traditional hotels. I was surprised to see such a wide age range of travelers at my hostels — seeing folks well into their 40s and 50s was common.
  • pack a large mesh delicate laundry bag, which you can use to sort dirty clothes from clean ones on your trip, and for separating delicates when you wash clothes on your journey.
  • in order to pack more liquids and gels into a TSA required quart-sized bag, use Ziploc bags instead of small bottles.
  • make travel buddies and find traveler hangouts by using the Couchsurfing phone app.
  • for emergency purposes, pack two portable cell phone chargers.
  • simplify and pack only three pairs of shoes — broken in sneakers, dressy shoes for evenings and flip flops for showers, lounging and the beach.
  • most hostels have laundry machines — so pack laundry detergent pods and a clothing line to hang delicates.
  • rolling your clothes, instead of traditional folding, will save you luggage space.
  • to avoid boredom on planes, buses and trains, download Netflix content, podcasts and audiobooks onto your cell phone beforehand.
  • earbuds are a must — for listening to music, and also to drown noise when you’re trying to sleep.
  • lots of free city walking tours are available, which you can find with a keyword search on Facebook or Google.
  • stick to your daily food budget by shopping at local grocery stores and preparing some meals at your hostel. Have fun preparing a popular local recipe.
  • many hostels also offer free breakfast, which can save you having to pay for a meal. You can also use items from a continental breakfast to pack yourself a lunch for a day — make a sandwich and take a piece of fruit with you.
  • don’t go hungry on your trip! Pack a dozen of your favorite energy bars with you, and eat them when you need them.
  • while walking and using public transit may save you money, they may not save much time, so consider what’s the best use of time on your short trip. One fellow traveler I met in Lisbon waited for a bus for three hours. Consider using Uber and Lyft, particularly after a long day of walking and sightseeing.
  • keep your sightseeing cheap by scouting out the free landmarks like cathedrals, popular viewpoints, art galleries and museums.

Vince Vasquez is a born-again adventurer and Carlsbad resident.