Northbound: Destination Portugal, Part II

In my last column, I shared some money-saving tips I’ve picked up from planning a solo trip to Portugal in 2017. I have plenty more on my mind, including a great tip for North County readers.

As I previously mentioned, packing light and only using a carryon will save you from bag fees and lost luggage syndrome at the airport.

I’ve been eager to replace my carryon bag, an old black Samsonite spinner that is pretty beaten up. It’s missing zipper keys and two back wheels; I carry it by hand when I use it, which is something of a work-out session. The tightwad side of me told me I could reuse the bag if I could simply replace the wheels somehow…but that turned out to be tougher than it looked.

Skimming Amazon and eBay, I couldn’t find an exact match for replacement wheels, which were hovering around $30 to $40, far more expensive than I had hoped.

Which had me thinking, is there some sort of warranty that I could get the bag fixed up under? Samsonite has a limited warranty, but I found on Yelp that if you turn your bag into a Samsonite store, most repairs are free of charge.

I was ecstatic to find, as a Carlsbad resident, that Samsonite has a store at the Carlsbad Premium Outlets.

Staff was friendly, and helped me with my repair request. My bag was mailed back to me a week later, with new spinner wheels and zipper keys. No charge. Portugal, here I come!

Cheap accommodations when traveling abroad? I recommend searching online for boutique hotels, and youth hostels. If you’re older, you may have aged out of the youth hostel demographic, but many of the establishments listed on youth hostel sites offer private bedrooms at a slightly higher cost than group quarters, but substantially cheaper than traditional hotels. It’s worth a look.

For those looking to travel even cheaper, I’d recommend the CouchSurfing website — it’s a global community of budget travelers, seeking short-term free accommodations. CouchSurfing hosts act as local guides, sharing the less-known places to go that locals love. Maybe if you’re interested in a particular country or continent, you could open your doors to Couchsurfers from those places and host them, and then they could potentially be hosts for you when you visit. Pay it forward, and make international friends! It’s a simple, safe and free way to travel and host travelers.

I’m also a big believer in free walking tours — most major cities have them. There’s no catch — simply RSVP online and show up for two to three hours of a guided tour from a knowledgeable expert who can answer questions about history, current events and even the best places to eat and see. I’ve taken free tours in Buenos Aires and New York City. SANDEMANs is a highly recommended free walking tour service in Europe, I’d recommend them.

Well, I hope I’ve inspired you to consider international travel in 2017! If you do use my tips and end up abroad next year, be sure to take a photo and tweet it to me — my Twitter username is @VinceVasquezSD.

Vince Vasquez is an economist based in Torrey Pines. He is a Carlsbad resident.

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