How To Travel On A Budget
I am a huge traveler. I have been all over the world (6 continents, 25ish countries, most of the states), and I am always looking for my next getaway. One thing that makes this possible, is I'm flexible. I have a long-list of places I want to go, and when I am planning a getaway/vacation, I'm open to go anywhere. I continually search for deals. I check around on various websites and I am on several different email lists. I patrol the sites looking for the best option. It's possible to travel cheap, you just have to know how to do it. Here is some ideas to save money on your next vacation:
1. Shop around. There are countless travel websites out there. Check them out and see if any are offering great deals. I constantly check Priceline, Expedia, Groupon, and Apple Vacations. Deals pop up randomly and so even if I am not looking to book, I'm scouting for prospects. What sites do you like?
2. Be open to travel when the crowds aren't: This includes red-eye flights, non-weekends, off-seasons. For the Caribbean, this would be after spring break and before Thanksgiving (US). For Europe, it's usually September through March (may vary depending on country). For Africa and Asia, there are lots of variances, so do some research.
Always be aware of international travel requirements. Will you need a passport? If so, some countries have a requirement of how much longer the passport must be valid upon entry. Keep this in mind. Also be aware that you may need a visa. Different countries have different visa requirements. Some countries you can purchase the visa as you are going through customs/immigration. However, other countries require that you send in for the visa before travel. Be fully aware of the requirements. I once had a trip booked for Brazil, only to be turned away at the airplane door because I did not pre-purchase a visa. Also, it may be cheaper to purchase the visa before hand.
4. Be flexible with your destination. Make a list of several places you would like to go. Which one is cheapest? Why is it the cheapest? Would you be willing to go there this time and some other place on your list in the future?
5. Track fares on a variety of airlines. Discount airlines are here to stay, and the big ones (American, Delta, United) are constantly competing with the discount airlines (Spirit, Jetblue, Ryanair etc). I bought a round trip ticket from Dublin to London for $50 USD and that was because I was open to travel on a discount carrier.
6. Cell Phone Data
If you do not have an international data package, traveling internationally can wreak havoc on your cell phone plan. Some people may choose to change their data package to accompany their travel; however, if you are only going to be gone short-term there are other options. Whatsapp is a great texting/calling alternative. It is a free app that works over wifi. You can send texts and pictures to other Whatsapp users. More importantly, you can make, and receive, phone calls. Given the call is done through wifi, there is no background noise. Other than that, it works like a normal phone call.
Another tip to save your cell’s data plan is to use the hotel’s wifi to obtain a Google Map before you go out exploring. Zoom in and out of the area you’ll be in several times. When you leave the wifi connection, your phone will still recognize the map, and you will be able to re-zoom in and out of it to find your way around.
7. Track currencies. Currencies are continually fluctuating. How does your domestic currency stand up to various foreign currencies? Is it cheaper to travel domestically or internationally?
Airline luggage fees can add up quick, especially if you have multiple bags or if a bag goes over the weight limit. Before traveling, understand the limits and pack accordingly. Occasionally it may make sense to unpack, and re-pack differently so the weight is redistributed among different backs. Another option is that you could look into getting an airline credit card. Most offer users the reward of having free checked bags with travel. However, if you do not use the same airline consistently, this does not make sense, especially since airline cards can have an annual fee. You could also pay for your luggage when booking your flight. Some airlines offer discounted charges if the luggage is paid for upfront. However, note that if you are traveling internationally, many carriers do not charge to check bags. You should always check the specific airline’s policy so you can avoid potentially extra charges.
9. Consider traveling to/from alternative airports. Many cities have multiple airports, with one airport continually being more expensive than the other. Price the options out. For example, my first trip to London, it was drastically cheaper to fly into Gatwick vs Heathrow.
10. Car Rental
Car rentals are something that is tricky. The base price always looks so cheap, but when the car is returned there are so many charges that pop up. One of the biggest charges is when a car is rented at one airport and returned to another airport. Many car companies will charge a convenience fee along with the various airports charging their corresponding fees. If you shop around before travel, you may be able to negotiate this fee before booking. Learn from my bad experience. I rented a car in Dallas, drove to Houston, and was charged over $300. I had the car for 36 hours.
I’m a sucker for duty-free. I love going in and seeing all the different types of wine, chocolate and perfume. The displays are so pretty and inviting, especially given it’s in an airport terminal. However, people think they are saving money with duty free purchases and this rarely is the case. The better bet would be to shop for the perishables in a local, authentic, store and pack those purchases in your checked bag. As for perfume, chances are you can find the same brands at a department store. Stay strong and do not give into the temptation of duty free, unless you have unused currency that you do not want to re-exchange. At that point, I would either save it for your next adventure or go crazy and stock up on those Toblerones.
12. Not Using Public Transportation for Airport Transfers
Taxis and limousine services are an expensive way to go back and forth to the airport. Before you leave, look into public transportation options. Many airports are connected to trains or subways that can take you directly into the city, and suburbs. If you would rather not take a train, you can usually find a carpooling service that makes several different passenger drop-offs. This option will be more expensive than train fare, but you will be dropped off at your desired location and it will be quicker. Additionally, you could look into services such as Uber. Many airports still let Uber drivers pick up passengers, but this may be limited in the future.
13.Start using a rewards credit card-Miles/rewards are great-only if you aren't paying the high interest rates on a credit card balance. Also, some of them have hefty annual fees.