Cheap and easy: travelling in a recession

[originally printed in fab issue 371 – April 29, 2009]

“Recession? What recession?” jokes photographer Kevin Slack. Economic turmoil be damned, he and his partner are still taking their vacation. “I am steadfast in my irresponsible and impractical habits and I am keeping my travel plans this year,” he says. “We went to Havana in March and we’re going again in October.”

“I’m actually travelling more because you have to go where the money is and in the arts, it ain’t in Canada,” says filmmaker Bruce LaBruce. Whether for business or pleasure, planning a trip during all this financial uncertainty seems like a gamble. fab asked some globetrotting scenesters about their travel plans and tips to getting more bang for your gaycation buck.

City days, hot nights, beach sites
Everybody’s got a favourite international destination but some are better deals than others. Slack loves Cuba but the winds of change are blowing in the tiny island nation. Slack suggests “going soon while your dollar goes farther.” “I’m booking a trip to Cuba this year before it becomes McDonalds-ized,” says talent agent Jason McLeod.

Other steamy Latin-infused destinations also attract a hearty queer following. “Mexico!” hollers porn star Buck Angel. “I live in the Yucatán and there is so much to see.” Many cities in Mexico attract gay tourists with one city even considered the gay Toronto mecca of the south. “The gays love them some Puerto Vallarta,” laughs television producer Sergio Alvarado. Toronto promoter Steve Buczek even organizes a yearly Beef Dip trip (beefdip.com) to the steamy destination.

A surprisingly popular choice and curious counterpoint to sandy beach destinations is Iceland. “The collapse of their economy has made it a cheap traveller’s dream,” says businessman David Levy. Comedian Trevor Boris enthuses about the frosty destination, “Who doesn’t like bathing in outdoor hot springs with strangers?”

Hey, nice package!

Promoter and Triggerfish water polo player Charles Pavia, like many Toronto homos, worked out package deals for his trips with local gay and lesbian travel company Conxity (conxity.com). “I’ve always been happy with the gang there,” he gushes.

Conxity managing director, Greg Kozdrowski, is pleased to hear it. “It’s not so much that people are spending less,” he reports, “but they’re trying to squeeze as much value out of their travel dollar as they can.”

Documentary filmmaker Ed Sinclair flies often but package holidays rarely impress him. “You’ll save a bundle but you’ll also have to spend a few days on a bus with someone’s granny,” he says.

Kozdrowski says Expedia.ca and other discount websites are fine for basic domestic flights like ones from Toronto to Vancouver. “There are deals to be had,” he says. “As good as you can get, you’ll get it there.” But he also notes that there are charter flights among large Canadian cities that you simply can’t book on most websites.

But there are deals to be had online. “Kayak.com is great for cheap flights and I use Hotwire.com for a lot of my accommodations,” says Miss Conception who also suggests Travelocity.com and Selloffvacations.com.

Get your legs in the air

“There are some great deals for flights online but be careful,” warns B-Girl Mark Peacock, “I just recently discovered that Genitalia is not the national airline of Italy.”

Dear Toronto blogger Adam Schwabe believes that the way you travel is as important as the vacation itself adding that Porter Air “is always at the top of my list. You can snag a flight for less than $300 all-in and you’ll love every second of it with lattes in the lounge and drinks on the plane.”

Remember that flying out of the closest airport won’t necessarily cost the least. “If you are travelling into the US or Puerto Rico it is cheaper and faster to fly out of Buffalo,” says McLeod. “I fly round-trip to LAX from Buffalo for an average of $200 US all-in.”

“If you want to go to Havana, it’s almost always cheaper to get a flight to Varadero and take a $10-bus ride,” says Slack.

So many beds, so little time

“I have become a bit more picky about my travel,” confesses Angel. “Going through customs with all my dildos sucks.” Angel says he gets good rates in hotels by making “lots of great hotel manager friends.” This, says singer/dancer Jason Chow, is a vital but often-overlooked part of travel planning. “Flirt, flirt, flirt,” he laughs. “It always tends to get you farther with discounts.”

Of course, says drag vixen Sofonda Cox, “You can always just hook up with someone and stay with them. Being friendly always has its perks and you can return the favour when they visit your city.”

Websites like craigslist.org and vrbo.com feature ads for furnished apartments and — like a one-night stand — the results can be luxurious, frugal or delightfully unpredictable. “Sometimes renting an apartment is cheaper than a hotel for a week,” says Alvarado. He, Slack and Sinclair have all trimmed vacation budgets by renting fl ats, especially ones with a kitchen or laundry facilities.

Penny pinchers

“Instead of staying in a hotel, try staying at a bathhouse,” advises Boris. “At just $9 for eight hours, you can’t go wrong, not to mention all the free shows you’ll see.” Boris also recommends a daily vacation hour of panhandling for lunch money and Peacock suggests hitchhiking as a costeffective and eco-friendly travel solution provided you can still afford antibiotics.

“Boys, boys, it’s a downturn,” says Slack, “not the Great Depression. Go to Havana, take a new Cuban friend out for a beer and when you find out that he makes about $8 a month you might feel better about our little recession.”

Isn’t that what travel is for? Sexy strangers who make you forget what’s going on back home.

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About Scott Dagostino

An arts & culture journalist who's the bastard love child of Van Morrison and Jessica Mitford
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