Summer is coming up quick (thank goodness) and with the warm weather also comes traveling.
The question then becomes, “How do I visit the places I dream of if I don’t have much money? And then when I get there, how do I maximize my funds to stretch them the farthest?”
Alex Baackes is one of those people who has the goal of traveling the the world. She’s done a good amount of traveling and has learned some money saving tips along the way. Today, she’s sharing her top 8 tips on how to save money while traveling.
Alex also writes the blog Alex In Wanderland. This post is part of a 2 part series so be sure to stop back next Wednesday to read part 2!
How To Save Money On Travel
Travel has always been my passion in life. When I’m home, I’m saving up to go traveling. And when I’m traveling, I’m pinching pennies to make the trip last as long as possible. Travel doesn’t have to be an unattainable luxury! I’ve done the dirty backpacker thing, but I’ve also had a taste of the good life with a luxury cruise. Somewhere along the way I found a way to balance saving money on trips and not compromising the things I love about travel, and I’ve shared some of what I’ve found here.
Every trip starts with transportation, and often it takes a major chunk of the travel budget with it! For the most part, this is inevitable. But there are ways to ease the pain.
1. Consider Alternatives to Air Flying is the preferred method of long distance travel for obvious reasons, but when traveling domestically don’t forget to check into alternatives like train or bus travel. Some bus operators such as Greyhound and Megabus even offer perks like WiFi and power outlets on some routes! Or use this Fuel Cost Calculator to see how much it would be to use your own four wheels, which would cut down on taxis and other transport costs once you arrive at your destination. Major bonus? No crazy baggage fees!
2. Look Into Low Cost Carriers When traveling by plane, especially in foreign countries, look into Low Cost Carries, or LCC. LCC’s are discount airlines that have low fares and few frills. On the upside, they can offer shockingly cheap flights, often a fraction of what a major carrier would charge. On the downside, they often have tons of extra charges and fly into alternative airports. They often don’t make their fares searchable on major flight search engines- you are better off going to the LCC’s own website. You can find a list of LCCs by country here.
3. Getting to Point A One day I was patting myself on the back for scoring such a super affordable flight to the Bahamas- only to realize I spent almost the same amount on cabs to and from the airport! When catching your departing flight, look into public transportation or try to cash in a favor with a friend for a ride to the airport. When you arrive at your destination, again, look into public transit or discount airport shuttles. If none of those options are available, consider trying innovative cab sharing services like Cab Match, taxi², or Cab Corner.
Accommodations are often the traveler’s biggest expense. I like to find a good balance between comfort and affordability. I really appreciate style and like to stay in unique places, but realistically, I spend most of my time out exploring anyway! But, there is a way to find that perfect balance.
4. Consider Hostels Hostels are far from the icky, bed-bug ridden or serial-killer filled hell-holes the media would have us believe. They are often modern, stylish and comfortable. Most offer private rooms which allow you to take advantage of perks like communal kitchens all while maintaining your privacy. Places like LubD Bangkok and Oops! Paris are so chic they could almost be considered boutique hotels! A great thing about hostels is that they leave lots of cash for splurging on other things- this room in Phnom Penh had a private bathroom, free WiFi and air-conditioning, easy access to the open-air rooftop lounge. The best part, it cost my partner and I just $9 each.
5. Live Like A Local No matter how swank they may be becoming, hostels just aren’t for everyone. You can replicate some of the benefits of hostels and remove a lot of the downsides by renting an apartment or condo at your destination. You often get a great rate, you can cook a majority of your meals and often do your own laundry. Sites like AirBnB and Roomorama allow you to browse photos and descriptions of short term rentals available for as little as one night. Another thing to consider is: renting out your own place while you are away. The money the renters pay can be used to finance your trip!
Food & Drink
Food and drink make up a major portion of the average travel budget. But, they don’t have to! I don’t eat all my meals in restaurants at home so I try not to do so when I travel.
6. Make Breakfast Affordable Hotel and restaurant breakfasts can be pricey. There are alternatives to letting the first meal of the day drain your budget. If you are staying in a place with a kitchen (this is where a condo or a private room in a hostel would come in really handy!) breakfast is the perfect meal to cook. During a trip to Honduras with four friends, we each took a turn buying a carton of eggs, a loaf of bread, and a gallon of juice. It was a simple meal but a great way to start the day together- and it saved us a ton of cash! Even if your room has nothing but a mini-fridge, you can stock up on fruit, yogurt and power bars to start the morning with.
7. Use The Tap Save the Earth, your waistline, and your wallet- drink water from tap if possible! You might be surprised how many foreign countries have perfectly safe drinking water from the tap. Pack a reusable water bottle and fill up at your hotel in the morning and drinking fountains throughout the day, and order tap water in restaurants. If only bottled water is safe to drink, buy the largest bottle available and decant it into your portable sized reusable bottle. In Thailand I buy 1.5 gallon jugs at a time, saving me money and cutting down on the plastic I’m using.
8. Pick One Meal Per Day Rather than eating big restaurant lunches or dinners, pick one meal to splurge on. Keep in mind that the lunch menu is often a great way to try a restaurant that might be much more expensive come dinner time. For your other meal, cook (if possible), try street food, buy sandwiches or other grab-and-go meals from the grocery stores and markets. When I was in Ibiza I often bought a baguette and some cheese and made my own sandwich on the beach… leaving me more money to afford the ridiculous entry fees at the clubs! (But that’s another story entirely.)
Thanks Alex! And, we’ll see you next week for part 2!
How do you save money to travel? What are your tips to making the most of your money on your trip? Is it hard to stick to your financial goals when you’re on vacation?
Would you like to be a contributor on a topic related to personal finance or frugal living? Send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. (Please know that credit or lending companies will not be considered. Only real people with real stories and real experiences should email.)