There is nothing quite like travel. Leaving your home and comfort zone for an exciting new adventure is not only culturally enriching and eye opening, it’s also very fun.
The problem is, travel costs money. More often then not, a rather daunting amount of money.
This should not deter you from planning your next journey, however. Cheap travel options do exist, meaning you can see the world without the promise of massive debt. Let’s unpack some of the best options and practices to save on your future adventures.
One of the most expensive parts of travel is transit itself. Plane tickets are expensive, to say nothing of surprise insurance and baggage costs. The best way to save on flights is using airlines miles. If you don’t have a travel rewards credit card of some kind, getting one is your first step in being a financially crafty traveler.
Another way to save on transit is to choose off season times to get away. Travel in March or November, for instance, as opposed to the dead of summer or near Christmas and New Years. Tickets will be cheaper, and there will be fewer mobs of tourists at your destination.
Once you’ve landed, public transit and walking are your best friends. Depending on your location, cycling will also save you tons of cash on taxis and Ubers. Speaking of cabs, never ever take a cab deal from an unsanctioned driver. Their flat rate will invariably be more expensive than metered fare.
The same points you are using to get air miles should be used on hotels. Be sure to check on what hotels you qualify for with your rewards cards. You may be pleasantly surprised how much quality you can get for points.
Without points though, hotels are often not worth the money. Booking an AirBnB is the best way to make your expensive vacation a little cheaper. Apartment exchanges are also an option, especially when you have connections in your destination.
If you are a younger traveler, fresh from university life, find cheap hostel options. As long as no one in your shared dorm snores, you’ll be happy you spent so little on your room (also, the lack of comfort forces you to explore your destination more).
Another nifty use of rewards cards points is the ability to exchange them for entrance into well known tourist destinations. Go through your itinerary and highlight the most expensive attractions, and ask them whether they accept points. You may even be able to get deals through your hotel, paid for by points.
If you want to be a really frugal tourist, research free options in your destination, no rewards cards or points needed. National parks tend to be cheap, and city parks are totally free. Museums, cathedrals, and other historic sites will sometimes have discount days, or free entrance for students and folks 65+ years old.
Also, always book in advance if you want to save time waiting in lines, as time can be almost as valuable as cash when traveling.
Eating and Drinking
While on vacation, it’s easy to spend all your money on quality food and beverages. If you don’t do your research, you may find yourself eating and drinking at tourist traps.
Food and drink spots frequented by locals will nearly always be cheaper for what you get than restaurants and bars designed to lure in tourists. Unless catering to a fancier crowd, locally run establishments will have better prices, and much better products.
Try researching local establishments via food and travel blogs, or blogs written in the target language. Searching “best” or “affordable” of any of your favorite foods, or local cuisines, will lead you to these resources. Even if you have to Google Translate the content, you will get a much more authentic gastronomic experience.
In the end, travel is really not about saving money. You can accomplish more than you think without breaking the bank, though a few expensive experiences will definitely be worth it.
If you end up saving a good amount of money on your day to day, maybe use that extra cash to have your dream meal, purchase amazing gifts for family and friends, or add a surprise destination to your itinerary. Day trips to lesser known locations are totally worth the expense.
This is definitely not to say you should return home with a mountain of debt. While the experiences will be worth it, having to pay off that debt will mar the memory of your adventure. Just know that the journey will be at least 10% more expensive than you thought, and choose the smart, cheap options when you can. You’ll still have an amazing time, and if you use your cards right, rack up points for your next vacation.