Traveling is one of life’s most rewarding pursuits. Opening yourself up to new experiences and different cultures makes you a citizen of the world. It helps you empathize with others and develops critical communication and problem-solving skills. Unfortunately, it’s also very expensive. The whole purpose of this blog isn't to show off all of the places I've been or all of the things I've done. It's to share practical and useful information, divulge the not-so glamorous side of travel, and inspire others to explore.
With that in mind, I want to share some the things I do to make my trips fall within a reasonable budget. The most important thing to keep in mind is that I choose to prioritize my money towards travel and experiences rather than things like luxury make-up or online shopping. There's nothing wrong with spending money on those things, but the more money spent on those items means less money available to spend on something like admission to attractions, AirBnB stays, or plane tickets. So without further ado, here are some of my top tips for saving on travel:
You'll want to listen to this while you read. It summarizes what I'm trying to say better than I do:
Spend Your $$$ - Walk The Moon
Flying directly to your location is the most convenient option for you, so of course airlines will make it the most expensive. That’s why you should always try to make a connection. It may add extra travel time to your schedule, but if it helps you afford staying at your final destination for an extra day, it’s worth the wait. Convenience doesn’t only come in the form of direct flights, however. It can also deal with the timing of the flights. Fly the red-eyes and the early-birds to help you save a little extra. What’s nice about these flights is that they aren’t very popular, so you usually have more space on the plane. The airports are also pretty empty at those times, so you don’t have to worry about delays!
Before you book your ticket, price shop between different airlines. Whether you go site-to-site yourself or you use aggregate sites like Kayak, check out all of your options before booking. Be mindful of your luggage situation as well. If you know you're going to need a checked bag, you might want to consider flying only airlines that allow you to check your bags for free. Those types of airlines are now few and far between, but they still exist.
When it's possible, drive. They say half of the adventure is just getting there and that couldn't be more true when it comes to travel. Depending on where you're going, the cost of gas (whether you pay it yourself or split it with others) is almost always cheaper than the cost of a plane ticket. Taking a car with you can be a double-edged sword, however, if you're planning on going somewhere that will require you to pay steep prices for parking.
No matter how you get to where you’re going, you’re going to need a place to stay once you’re there. The good news is that this is your greatest opportunity to save! The number one way to save money while traveling is by crashing with a friend or family member. Not only is it free, but it’s a great way to get advice from a local. If you’re traveling somewhere where you don’t have someone you can stay with, the next best option is to stay in a hostel. Hostels are inexpensive and usually located close to major attractions. They also offer a great way to meet other travelers and host fairly priced guided tours.
Whatever you do, do not stay in a hotel.
AirBnB's are one of the most cost-efficient ways to stay while traveling, and they offer several different atmospheres depending on what you're looking for. You can rent anything from a full-blown house to a private room in a legitimate Bed-n-Breakfast. Most have access to kitchens, so you can make your own meals on extended stays to help you save a few bucks (in my personal opinion there's nothing as immersive grocery shopping in another country). It's also a great way to stay close to public transportation access points or walking routes, bringing me to my next point: Getting Around.
Taxis are expensive and so are Ubers. Avoid using them when you can by walking to as many of your points of interest as possible. Like I mentioned earlier, AirBnB's are a great help with this and staying with friends and family usually means you can get a free ride around the town. Public transportation is the second-best option. It's affordable, usually well-timed, and convenient.
Walking is most useful when traveling to urban destinations where almost everything is in close proximity. This is also where you're most likely to find good public transportation systems. It's more likely that you'll be able to walk or use public transit when visiting European cities than U.S. cities because of lifestyle and governmental differences. If everything you want to do and see is spread out all over the city, try grouping activities by location to help cut down on wasted transit time and money.
Personally, I think walking is the best way to get to know the place you're in. It helps me get a feel for the city, and I've always found that I remember a place a lot better if I walk from point A to point B instead of driving. It's how I've discovered some of my favorite places, ended up getting lost in all of the right ways, and become somewhat of a local. Plus, it helps you burn off all the calories from all of the food you (should) eat while you're on vacation.
• Plan Ahead: If you know what you’re going to be doing, you won’t find yourself dealing with unexpected costs. While they might seem small at the time, they can really add up in hindsight. If you know where you want to go, look up deals or discount hours. Investigate when the best time of year to visit is to see if you can get low-season rates. Often times, you can cop a free upgrade.
• Black Friday: Don't forget about Black Friday! Tourism companies are consumer-driven too and many offer fantastic deals, especially cruises. That's actually how I was able to afford my Spring Break trip. The cruise line was doing a BOGO offer on passenger fees for Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend, and I ended up getting a 7-night $900 cruise for $600 after port fees and gratuities.
• Ask for Gifts: If traveling is what you know you want to do, and you know that's how you want to spend your money, ask your family and friends to get you gift cards to Uber, Delta, and Skyhour instead of asking for clothing or coffee gift cards. It may start small, but again, it can make the difference between an extra day or two on vacation!
These are just a few of my pointers, but I think they're the ones that matter the most. Remember, it's all about how you choose to spend your money and what you choose to prioritize. There is no right or wrong way, there's just the way that works best for you.