flashpacking at boutique hotel
Connie Lee

Traditionally, true intrepid travel often took on the form of backpacking — traveling on a shoestring budget to go as far as possible, making only very loose plans so one could go where the wind blows, leaving behind friends and family to find new companions on the road. But sleeping in 16-person bunks and calling ham on stale bread a meal isn’t for all types of travelers (or all ages). And that’s where flashpacking comes in.

This buzzword generally embodies the most independent travelers with that same unbridled sense of adventure and spontaneity — but who also enjoy their creature comforts. Flashpackers move around with the ethos of traditional backpackers, embarking on extended trips with an open mind and an eye on budget, all the while making room for small luxuries and technology. So why try it? We offer four reasons.


1. You’ll go to bed happy.
Flashpackers are over the shared dorm rooms but venture beyond the typical hotel experience. The new breed of boutique hostels that have cropped up in the past few years are perfect for flashpacking — often offering private rooms and onsite facilities like cafes and even breweries, combining that traditional social atmosphere of hostelling with nicer design and more privacy. Of course, the sharing economy has brought endless rental options through the likes of Airbnb and HomeAway, so you can upgrade with your own kitchen and more. Either option provides the additional benefits of better last-minute availability, less rate fluctuation, and all-around more affordable pricing compared to the traditional hotel options.

2. You’ll see the world from a different dimension.
There are some travel experiences that simply are not accessible if you’re on a very small budget. Think about these once-in-a-lifetime experiences: taking a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia; going on a wildlife safari cruise in the Galapagos; freely driving the perimeter of Iceland in a rented car; and flying in a helicopter over Iguazu Falls. These all make bucket lists for a reason, and flashpacking — trimming expenses by opting for chic hostels and perhaps skipping that premium economy airfare upgrade — means allowing yourself to create a fund for the occasional splurge. Tip: If you can handle planning on the fly with the best of flashpackers, these types of activities are often available at local rates (better than prices in packages pre-purchased at home), with last-minute discounts to boot.

3. Your taste buds will thank you.
Likewise, foodies will agree that unforgettable meals are worth spending a little extra on while vacationing. Menus around the world are getting increasingly innovative, and it’s easy to work one into the itinerary when you’re willing to try street foods and other local eateries for the most part. In Lima, arguable the culinary mecca of the Americas, a number of world-class, white tablecloth restaurants serve dishes at $15 to $25 an order, while family-owned operations have two-course meals for $2. Plus, experiencing a country’s top choices as well as the everyday options will give you a better glimpse into the local lifestyle — so don’t be afraid to channel the backpackers one day and stretch your food budget the next.

4. You can use technology to save and travel better and longer.
The hardiest of backpackers can often be heard boasting that they’ve left their cell phones and computers back home — along with their lives. But flashpackers realize that technology is worth the weight and luggage space. A smartphone or tablet can give you a place to store reading material or movies for the road, share your photos with friends, find the latest events in your next destination, look up travel tips, purchase bus ticket for spontaneous trips, and secure special deals for hotels and restaurants. Plus, there are now few places without workable WiFi signal, so there’s no reason not to take advantage.

Connie Lee


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