I’ve already talked a lot about how much I love to travel. What you gain from visiting a new city, state, or nation always far exceeds what you spend on transportation. However, you might be in the same boat as me where you’re young, fresh-out-of-college, and need to be conscious of your budget when you book a trip. Not to worry, though. Traveling on a budget is pretty simple as long as you think ahead a little bit.
Travel in the Off Season
This is a classic trick for saving money. During the off season, hotel prices will drop considerably as well as flights and other tourist attractions. You also won’t be competing as much with other tourists just like you trying all the going to all the prime spots, and you will be able to immerse yourself in the “real” culture of the place you are traveling to by being surrounded by locals.
Be Savvy with your Air Travel
If you don’t plan it carefully, airfare can end up being the bulk of your vacation costs. Firstly, pack light so you can carry on. Most airlines have a checked luggage fee so by packing minimally you can save money and carry your bag on. Also, as much as you can, book your flights as ahead of time as you can. If I am doing an international trip I try to book my ticket at least four months in advance, and am constantly monitoring flight sites for special deals. By the same token, though, leave some flexibility in your travel schedule. I try to plan the length of my trip around the cost of the flight. The majority of the time it is cheaper to fly in and out of a city at times and days of the week that are not prime travel days, so by being a little flexible on your schedule you are able to save yourself a good bit of money.
Take Advantage of Layovers
If you are traveling abroad, picking a flight that has a day long layover in a foreign city can cut the price of your flight by almost a fourth. This may seem exhausting at first, but why not take the chance to explore a new place that you might not have gone to otherwise while also saving money on getting to your final destination. Layovers made Iceland the tourist destination it is today, so you never know what you’ll discover when you take a pitstop on your way to your destination.
This might seem a little silly, but especially in popular tourist destinations, local vendors will upcharge for water, snacks, and other small necessities you need but might not think to pack. In addition to your clothes and toiletries, throw some granola bars, fruits, nuts, and gum in your travel bag to save money. It may not seem like you’re saving much, but over the course of a few days, not having to purchase these items could save you a lot.
Eat where locals eat
Especially if you’re traveling outside the US, restaurants that serve American food and hotel restaurants are wildly overpriced. Eating at local establishments that are locally owned and have a predominantly local patronage will not only give you a totally immersive experience but also help you save money. Local eateries generally aren’t trying to stiff their neighbors, so their prices should be a little more reasonable compared to what some places will charge tourists. You might even try some foods you never would have imagined before.
Take public transportation
Taking Ubers and taxis can get really expensive really fast, so you should look for less expensive or even free ways to travel. If you plan on being in your destination for a little while, you could learn the public transportation systems including buses, trains, and subways. You could also consider walking to as many destinations as you can or renting a bicycle to move around locally. You’ll get a better sense of your scenery and the local culture if you don’t isolate yourself to small private cars, and you can save considerable money.
Do free things
Obviously there will be a lot of activities that you want to spend money on while you are traveling, but to keep from maxing out your cards, mix in a couple free things here and there. There are always ways to enjoy yourself in a city that cost little to no dollars so do a little research before you go to see what cost friendly activities your travel destination has to offer. I always start by asking locals what they suggest seeing in their city. Locals usually have the best suggestions as well as know about deals that aren’t freely advertised to tourists. If you enjoy going to museums, check to see if a student ID can get you a discount or if there is free admission at certain times or days of the week. Jog or walk around the town to explore and see outdoor landmarks without paying a penny. Seek out local parades or outdoor festivals that are unique to the city to get more involved in the city’s culture. With a little creativity, you can enjoy your destination without breaking the bank.