Traveling is expensive. At least, that’s what everyone says, right?
Well, it doesn’t always have to be. In fact, I believe that travel should be accessible to everyone. Even if you’re on a tight budget, there are ways to finagle travel, as long as you’re willing to make it a priority. There are a million blogs and articles on the web that will tell you different ways to game the system. But today, I’d like to just share a few basic tips for cutting costs when you travel; practical and actionable things that should put travel in reach for you, no matter what your current situation is. This also includes the Essential tips for protecting your money and valuables while traveling.
Watch for Fare Drops
An average ticket from the States to Europe will be upwards of a thousand dollars. However, if you catch one at the right time, you can absolutely find fares for a third of the cost. There are a few ways to get low airfares through travel hacks and tips:
- Subscribe to some email newsletters. This might be from your favorite travel blogger who sends out alerts about fare drops, or you might want to go a more direct route and subscribe to several flight providers and have them let you know about their deals. There are even sites that will alert you to fluctuations in airfare rates for a specific route (i.e. Detroit to Madrid).
- If you choose to use credit card benefits in order to get airfare credits, make sure that you’re smart about handling your credit. Many travelers use bonuses that credit cards offer for new customers. However, keeping track of the system that you’re using can be more trouble than it’s worth, sometimes.
- Practice some basic flight smarts: fly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays instead of the weekend, and buy ahead of time, but not too far ahead (the sweet spot is often about a month ahead of time for domestic flights, two months abroad.)
Travel During the Off Season
This can be especially effective if you travel right after a peak season. All the accommodations for an extra influx of tourists are already in place, but there aren’t as many people to fill the vacancies. For this reason, traveling in early January after the holiday season, going to beach getaways in the fall, and going to Japan right after cherry blossom season are all great ways to get rates half of those that are in place at the height of tourist season.
That being said, remember that if there are certain things that you actually want to see or experience during a certain season, go ahead and pay for it. After all, if you want to go to Iceland for the sake of seeing the northern lights, and then you go in the middle of summer when they have only a few hours of the night, it’s just not going to be worthwhile for you.
Cut Back on Eating Expenses
Part of the joy of traveling is trying new foods and having great dinner experiences. However, if your constant question while traveling is “where are we going to eat next?” the expenses can pile up quickly. On the other hand, if you’re living off of day-old bread from the local grocery store, the trip just won’t be as fun as it ought to be. Keeping your food budget under control is one of the essential parts of budgeting your money as you travel. Here are some smart ideas for saving on dining out:
- Eat as the locals do: This will look different everywhere you travel, but each place you go, look around at what the budget options are for locals. For example, in America, fast food joints are where we go for quick and cheap eats. However, a McDonald’s or Pizza Hut in a foreign country is usually a rather expensive option. On the other hand, cafes and ramen bars are pretty expensive in America. Meanwhile, in most of Europe, cafes are the perfect place to go for a cheap meal, and ramen bars are super cheap in Japan.
- Stay somewhere with a kitchen: Eating out for every meal is expensive no matter where you are. However, if you’re able to fix some meals yourself, you can save a lot of money. You can get hotel rooms with an en-suite kitchen in some places. However, most of the time, your best options for making your own meals will be staying at an Airbnb or a hostel.
- Go stingy on two meals, then splurge on the third: This is usually my favorite option. If we can go to the grocery store and buy some fruit for breakfast, and some sandwich fixings for lunch, there’s no need to feel guilty for splurging on a good dinner. Even better, you can stay stingy for dinner and treat yourself to lunch, when the rates are usually lower for the same food.
Most tourist-aimed industries are built on the assumption that you can easily charge tourists much more than what it actually costs. This is especially true in foreign countries, where well-to-do westerners make easy marks. Don’t bother bartering at more fixed-cost locations, like an established restaurant or a hotel. However, street vendors and companies that want to sell you excursions and experiences can almost always be bartered down, even in the States.
There’s another way that you can barter, depending on your interests. Many travel bloggers save on travel costs simply because they are travel bloggers. They have a circle of influence that they can advertise to, which means that they provide a service that many companies in the travel industry are willing to pay for, especially if all it costs them is a free service. So, if you’re a blogger with a good following, or even if you have a photography Instagram account with a lot of followers, you can use that as leverage to get a better rate at certain places. How exactly to do that is a whole new blog post, but it’s something to consider if you’ve been throwing around the idea of starting up your own blog.
Christine is a professional writer and an avid reader who’s passionate about storytelling in all its forms. At any given moment, she’s in the middle of at least three books on anything from human psychology to ninjas. Although she’s a marathon swimmer and enjoys camping in the mountains, she believes there’s nothing better than a carton of ice cream and a Dawson’s Creek marathon.