If you’re like me, you may find yourself dreaming about far-away destinations whether it’s the beaches of Hawaii or the mountains of Nepal. And if you’re not careful, those dreams could turn into costly ones. I know this from personal experience.
In 2010, my wife and I decided that we wanted to take our two children (ages 11 and 7) on an extended road trip in Europe. We planned on driving more than 2,000 miles per week through eight countries over three months, staying in hostels along the way. The only problem was that we didn’t have enough money. In fact, we had less than $1,000 between us at the time.
Luckily, we were able to save up enough cash to make one month’s worth of payments on our car. Afterward, we used the remaining funds to buy gas and food each week as we traveled across France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Greece and Turkey. By the end of the trip, we actually ended up with some extra money left over from which to pay taxes on our earnings!
The point is, there are ways to save money when you travel without having to sacrifice your vacation dream. Here are just a few of them.
Planning Ahead Can Save You Money
You might think that planning ahead would cost more money, but it doesn’t have to. A little bit of advanced research can go a long way toward keeping costs down. First, choose where you want to go based on what you want out of your trip activities, scenery, history, culture, etc. Then, look online to see how much everything will cost in the area you chose. Finally, plan your itinerary around these prices.
If something is significantly cheaper elsewhere, then consider exploring options outside of your destination. Also, try to stay away from touristy areas and stick to off-the-beaten paths. This is especially important in places such as Thailand, India, and Cambodia, where many people visit during peak season. When possible, avoid visiting during high seasons.
Know That Airfare Isn’t Always Cheapest
When booking flights, always check multiple airlines even companies such as JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, and AirTran. These airlines often offer discounted fares on their websites. Also, keep in mind that seats on any airline tend to sell quickly, so book sooner rather than later. Most importantly, compare flight prices before you book so you won’t get stuck paying full price for tickets after they’ve gone on sale.
Compare Prices Before Booking Trips Online
It might seem like a good idea to wait until you arrive at your destination to start comparing prices. However, by doing this, you’ll miss out on savings that come from being flexible and willing to shop around. Plus, most sites allow users to search for deals both within and outside of their own website. So, why not use this feature to your advantage?
Don’t Forget About Taxes
Many travelers underestimate the amount of tax they’ll owe upon returning home. Don’t assume that because you’re going abroad, you won’t have to worry about this. Many countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa require foreign visitors to carry international health insurance cards. Even if you aren’t sure if you’ll need one, it never hurts to have one available.
Get A Local SIM Card
Instead of using your cell phone company’s roaming charges, consider getting a local SIM card. Some countries, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand, charge lower rates for local calls when using a SIM card instead of a regular cellphone plan. Check with your provider to see if this option is available where you’re headed.
Look Into Group Tours
Group tours are great ways to meet fellow travelers and cut costs. They also give guests the opportunity to travel together to different locations in one country. Although group tours typically aren’t cheap, they can help you save money since you’ll likely split the cost among yourselves.
Take Public Transportation Whenever Possible
Public transportation is usually quite affordable. While taxis can sometimes be faster, taking buses and subways is a lot more fun. It also lets you interact with locals. Try to explore cities throughout the day so you can better navigate public transit systems.
Check Hotel Rates Early
Hotel rooms do change frequently depending on factors such as demand and room availability. Research hotel rates early so you know exactly what you’re getting.
Use Rewards Programs
Credit cards offer rewards programs designed to encourage customers to rack up points. Use yours whenever possible to earn free flights, gift certificates, and other perks.
Save On Accommodations With Couchsurfing
Couchsurfing.com allows its members to post free accommodations anywhere in the world. Guests who list their spare bedrooms on the site are offered a chance to meet new people in exchange for a place to sleep.
Split Expenses Between Couples
Although couples are typically expected to share lodging, meals and other expenses, sharing isn’t always necessary. Instead, look for activities that appeal to both partners and split the expense evenly.
Share A Tour Guide
Some tour operators offer guides who speak English and/or another language. If you’d prefer someone else to lead you around, ask friends and family who live near your destination.
Find Free Things To Do Around Town
There are plenty of things to do in towns all over the globe that are completely free. Look online to find out about community festivals, parades, concerts, and other events.
Eat Cheaply in Local Markets
Local markets are loaded with delicious and inexpensive foods. Simply browse around, pick up items on special offers, and bargain for a deal.
Book Tickets Through Fareshare
FareSharing.org helps connect passengers with others looking to fly for free. Members can fill out a profile and upload pictures of themselves to be matched with other passengers. Passengers can also contact other members directly. All transactions are handled via PayPal.
Even though credit cards are convenient, bringing cash is smart. Not only does it let you play with confidence, but it also gives you greater flexibility when trying to bargain for souvenirs or gifts.
Ask For Discounts At Restaurants
Restaurants often provide discounts to repeat customers. Ask for a table inside if weather permits, and inquire about any current promotions.
Keep Track Of What You Eat
Keeping track of calories consumed can be difficult, but writing down what you eat can help. There are several apps out there that are specifically designed to help dieters log their daily intake.
Know Where You Are Before Handing Over Your Wallet
Before leaving home, make sure you understand your destination’s currency. Know how much you should bring versus how much you can leave behind. Read reviews about your chosen location to learn about tipping customs.
Have Fun Without Spending A Fortune
No matter what budget you’re working with, traveling shouldn’t feel impossible. Keep these tips in mind next time you hit the road.