Save or splurge? We're doing both

$100 will last half a day in Reykjavik but buy you 10 days in Goa: which destination would you choose, and why?

Which would you rather have, a luxury short break or a month of backpacking? A meal in a top restaurant in Paris or a three-day adventure in Asia?

Planning travel is all about making choices and deciding what we value, and tourism operators say we're mixing it up more than ever.

Many travellers cannot be easily defined as "budget", "luxury" or any other category; they scrimp and splurge according to their individual priorities and what they most want out of their holiday.

One person might be willing to stay in cheap accommodation so as to dine out in a city that's really known for its food, while another might be willing to forgo a couple of expensive attractions to stay in a nice hotel.

I am certainly among those who like to mix and match, with my holidays an eclectic mix of backpacking, five-star resorts, travelling on the cheap and splashing out on great experiences.

The popular trip-planning website, Tripomatic, has done some sums and the results provide an excellent demonstration of the choices tourists face.

The company calculated how long one can survive on $US100 ($97) in 42 cities around the world and the results ranged from just over half a day in Reykjavik, Iceland, to nearly 10 days in Goa, India.

Several major cities, including London and New York, came in around the one-day mark, assuming backpacker-style accommodation, cheap meals and the use of public transport, but there were some surprises among the cheapest and most expensive cities.

The most interesting comparisons are those regarding spending on individual items, such as eating out.

According to Tripomatic's numbers, a soft drink in Rome would cost you the same as a whole meal in Bangkok, while you could eat for three days in India for the price of one meal in Oslo, Norway.

Accommodation comparisons are also stark, with a week in Kuala Lumpur costing the same as one night in New York.

On the transport front, you can get 20 days of public transport in Kiev in the Ukraine for the cost of a single day pass in Venice, Italy.

Tripomatic also compared the top attractions in each city according to the most popular items on its site, and came up with entry to the Bali Botanic Garden for less than $1 compared with about $55 to visit the Blue Lagoon in Iceland.

It's all about deciding what has the most value to you and whether you put the destination or the value first.

The head of marketing for Harvey World Travel, James Brodie, says a good example of travellers mixing and matching is the growing popularity of mixed-class airfares, such as flying one leg in economy and one in premium economy or business class. Another example is people who book luxury, all-inclusive tours or cruises and then opt for three-star hotels for their pre- and post-touring accommodation.

Brodie says it is also common for travellers in destinations such as Bali to have a few days in budget accommodation followed by a few days in a luxury spa resort.

"Quite commonly, people will change hotels during their stay," he says.

"If they really want to go to a particular spa, they might have to compromise in other areas."

Brodie says many travellers plan a trip around one key experience or tour they want to do and then make the rest fit.

"People choose their experience and then they trade off with the rest of their itinerary," he says. "The other parts of the holiday might be incidental to that experience."

Brodie says special occasions often play a role in the splurge components of holidays.

He gives the example of some Australian travellers who have booked a campervan trip in Canada but will include a night in one of Banff's best hotels to celebrate a special occasion.

Many people also like to spend the final night of their holiday somewhere special, even if they have managed the rest of the trip on a tight budget.

Brodie believes people's attitude towards holiday spending and their willingness to splurge while travelling has a lot to do with their frequency of travel.

"It does depend on how often you go away and how important that trip is to you," he says.

Costings

To stretch your travel fund a long way head to India, where Tripomatic calculations show you can survive on less than $10 a day in Goa.

Other cheap options include Vietnam's Hanoi, where $100 will last you nearly a week, and Morocco's Marrakesh, where $100 will give you almost five days.

Making up the top 10 for value are Manila, Cairo, Beijing, Kiev, Mexico City, Bangkok and Denpasar in Bali.

It probably comes as no surprise to find places such as Reykjavik, Oslo and Venice in the most expensive places to visit, but it might surprise you to find Sydney at No. 4, ahead of London, New York, Boston, Rome and Dubai.

jane@janeefraser.com.au

The story Save or splurge? We're doing both first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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