Ask A Connecticut Expert: Tips For Traveling Internationally On A Budget

June 14, 2014 8:00 AM

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The travel game has changed, thanks to the economy and the internet. While many travel agencies have gone out of business as vacation and business travelers now routinely design and book their own itineraries, the best agencies have adapted and survived. French’s Worldwide Travel in Newington is one such survivor in Connecticut. It has survived because of the personal relationships it has built up with the general managers and other key personnel at major resorts, hotels and cruise lines. French’s uses its knowledge and experience in traveling to provide that unique personal touch that transforms a trip into an experience. Here are few tips from the owner and top agent herself, Valeri French, for anyone who is planning to travel abroad.

Valeri French
French’s Worldwide Travel
50 Market Square
Newington, CT 06111
(860) 666-4625

“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one small corner of the Earth by one’s lonesome,” wrote Mark Twain in urging his fellow citizens to travel abroad. Valeri and the other agents at French’s Worldwide Travel know how to get around the world like Mark Twain did, and they have done it both ways, elegantly as well as on a budget. Ms. French is particularly well-traveled, as travel has been in the family business since her mother, Barbara, started the firm in 1985. There is hardly a major cruise line, key resort or popular destination that either she or one of her staff hasn’t experienced. Here are some tips from Valeri French on how to stop “vegetating in one small corner of the Earth” and to travel abroad comfortably, happily and on a budget.

Think Spain Instead of France

France is always pricey, notes Valeri, but everything France has, Spain has also – and for a lot less. The Spanish Costa del Sol has the same weather, sun, beaches and charm as the French Riviera, and for a lot less. Madird, Valencia, Seville and Barcelona have as much history as Paris, Rheims, Marseilles or any other great French city, and have music, food and shopping opportunities that are exciting and fun, and at a much lower cost. In Spain, says Valeri, “you can do all of the same things you do everywhere in Europe,” but for less.

The “Other” Europe– Go East Dear Traveler, Go East

The big cities of Western Europe are great draws for travelers, but there are very few good deals to be had there, says Ms. French. Eastern Europe, on the other hand, is all about the deals. Think Prague and Budapest instead of Paris and Berlin. Go to Dubrovnik instead of Monaco. “Everything is less expensive” in Eastern Europe than in Western Europe, and while there are “not too many bargains” left in London, for example, notes Valeri, in Eastern Europe bargains go begging.

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Go on An Adventure – Live Local!

There are a number of organizations that offer group trips for travelers rather than tourists. G Adventures and Intrepid Travel, just to name two, offer plans for small groups who want to “live local” and get to know an area and its people. Instead of a big, fancy motor coach, they use small local transport. Accommodations are booked in little hotels, bed and breakfasts and even private homes. Groups can be formed by age, theme or destination – and there are “hundreds” of unique destinations, says Valeri, that these and other organizations offer for those seeking something different, and on a budget. Any good travel agent can help book the right adventure, says Valeri, and these trips keep “costs down” while also providing a unique and memorable travel experience.

Southeast Asia – Hotels on the Beach for $25 a Night

The airfare to Southeast Asia is pricey, but once there, says Valeri, the dollar goes a long, long way. Very nice, clean, fun and safe hotel rooms or beach huts can be enjoyed for $25 a night in many areas. Southeast Asia is “a very good value,” especially for those who want to stay away from the crowded big cities and want to get away to a beach or an area with ancient temples and other wonders – natural and man-made.

St. Lucia – Like Hawaii But For a Lot Less

Hawaii is a great place to visit, but it is expensive – especially for those coming from the East Coast. The airfare is expensive and the trip is time consuming and exhausting. St. Lucia, however, in the Caribbean, has everything Hawaii has and for a lot less – and it is close by and cheap to fly to. There are waterfalls and volcanoes, great beaches and mountains, and lots of things to do for both nature lovers and those who want some nightlife. The Caribbean side of Mexico offers the same treats – especially in Tulum and Playa del Carmen, each of which are about an hour or so south of the far more expensive and touristy Cancun. For those who long for Hawaii or a similar island paradise, but do not have the time or the money, the Caribbean is the place to go.

Related: Top Tourist Attractions In Connecticut Worth The Hype

Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at

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