I thought that I’d write this post to follow the one I wrote recently about my favorite travel essentials for long flights. This one is all about how to travel ON A BUDGET! Yes, it can be done! And guess what? My husband and I don’t have millions of sky miles or points or anything like that and we still make it work. I created a little list below with some helpful tips.
1. The most important thing about traveling around the world when you aren’t a millionaire is to SAVE MONEY. Duh. David and I don’t just book trips randomly and whenever we feel like it. We always make sure our finances are in line and that we don’t have any upcoming large expenses like a home project or car repair. If that is the case, we ensure that is taken care of first before setting aside money for travel. We simply save up for a few months or so (depending on what kind of trip it is) and then book it when we’re ready.
2. Book trips during the off-season. This makes a big difference. Figure out when the off-season is for the country or state you plan to travel to and save hundreds or even a few thousand dollars by booking during this time. When we were planning our trip to Ireland, we originally wanted to go in the late summer or fall. We quickly changed our minds when we saw that the airline tickets and hotel/B&B prices were OVER 50% CHEAPER if we were to go in March, so we decided to go then. Yes, it was cold and a little drizzly, but well worth the savings! We stayed in some NICE places that were around $80 a night, and they included breakfast. This brings me to my next point.
3. Stay in hotels/hostels/B&Bs etc. that include breakfast. That is one less meal to worry about. Some places even offer free afternoon tea/coffee and snacks for guests. We definitely took advantage of this at one of the B&Bs we stayed at in Ireland. It was a great opportunity to sit and chat with the owners of the place who were awesome people. Even better if you have friends or family who you can stay with for free! Just be sure to cook and clean for them. :-D
4. Don’t eat at restaurants for every meal. I am a huge believer in experiencing a country and all it has to offer by exploring the cuisine and eating at the restaurants. However, this can be very pricey, especially if you’re in a country with currency stronger than the U.S. Dollar. Make a pact to eat out every other day on your trip and buy the rest of your food from grocery stores and markets. Doing that is part of the experience too! In Ireland (I know I keep referencing to this trip, but it was so fun), David and I would buy a loaf of bread, a pound or two of shaved turkey or ham, a few apples, drinkable yogurts, etc. and eat those for lunches, dinners and snacks instead of eating out for every meal. It saved so much money, and we were still able to eat at restaurants a few times.
5. Check on specials and promotions for museum/monument entry fees. Sometimes certain places (for example, Reginald’s Tower in Waterford, Ireland) will run a deal where the first Wednesday of every month is free to enter. It may not be the first Wednesday of every month for every single museum and monument in the world, but it can’t hurt to check to see when places may do something like this when you are in the process of planning your trip. It’ll save you a few dollars (or euros, or pesos, or pounds) so you can use that money for an extra souvenir or an exotic dessert at a bakery or coffee shop.
6. Sign up to “watch a flight”. If you are dying to travel to, let’s say, Greece (ME), but you’re shocked by how expensive the flight is (ME), sign up to keep an eye on it. Airlines will do the work for you and send you emails when prices drop. There should be an easy accessible “watch a flight” option to click on when you’re on the websites that showcase the different flights and airlines.
7. Try to convert cash while you are still in the states or home country. I’m not sure about other banks, but Wells Fargo (certain branches) will convert cash for you with no massive fees. I did this at the Wells Fargo off Hamilton Mill Road in Dacula. You can always withdraw money from ATMs in foreign countries (ALWAYS CALL YOUR BANK AND TELL THEM YOU WILL BE TRAVELING AND WHERE YOU WILL BE BEFORE YOU LEAVE IF YOU DECIDE TO USE YOUR DEBIT/CREDIT CARD), but then it will charge you somewhere around $5.00 each time you do it. I’m not sure if this happens with all banks, but it does with mine. That is a big fat waste of money, so just do it before you leave. I would rather spend that $5.00 on something useful!
8. Take the time to look for good souvenirs. Don’t buy the overpriced stuff in airports or hotel gift shops. There are always authentic souvenirs with vendors that set up along streets or at festivals/markets. David and I always buy a Christmas ornament wherever we go–in airports or hotel gift shops we’ve seen some equal to $20-$50 for ONE ORNAMENT. Most of the time you can find similar (if not the same) stuff with street vendors or at markets/festivals equal to a few dollars for one ornament. Do not get suckered into the overpriced tourist trap! Just make sure you purchase something that will be easy to transport back home.
9. Walk–if you are able to and if the walk isn’t TOO far while you’re in a city. Instead of paying for parking (if you have a rental car), taking shuttles, trolleys, metros, buses, etc. just walk from point A to point B while you’re exploring. It’s one of the best ways to see things plus it’s good exercise–just wear comfortable shoes and find a paper map. You’ll come across new shops, cafes, art galleries and more while learning your way around a new city. Save city transportation costs for something more fun!
10. Since I can’t think of any more….make sure you are connected to wifi before using data/making calls/sending texts etc. Be smart with your smart phone. Don’t subject yourself to unnecessary, large phone bills that will arrive a few weeks after you get home. This has never happened to me and I hope it never does! Did I forget any?! Please share money saving tactics while traveling!