I wish I could say I have unlimited travel funds but sadly until I discover a secret rich uncle, I’m on a budget. I still manage to travel frequently, what’s my secret? Here are the things I do to minimize my travel costs so that I’m actually using my money for things that are important to me:
1. I figure out my budget ahead of time. I don’t don’t go into a destination without knowing the cost of it. When you have a plan you are less likely to have unexpected expenses and it will reduce the chance of panic spending or spending money on things that really aren’t important to you.
2. I almost always book my plane tickets when there is a great deal. International plane tickets can consume the largest part of your travel budget but there are some great places and tactics for getting the best price possible, putting money back in your pocket for things you will actually enjoy. Check out this blog post for my favorite sites to find incredible deals on plane tickets.
3. If I know I’m going to be spending the majority of my time out sightseeing you can bet I’m not spending a ton of money on a fancy hotel when I’ll barely be there. Such a waste! Here are the things I look for when booking an accommodation: safe, clean, and a good location. And that’s it! I’m also wary of places that offer “free” breakfast. Nothing is ever free, it’s included in your room rate and more than likely you can find a less expensive hotel and get breakfast while you are out for cheaper and I’m not a big breakfast person anyway so usually a pre-paid hotel meal is a waste. I also never pay extra at booking to include a breakfast.
4. I love to travel mouth first and I have even been known to book a dinner reservation before nailing down my accommodations. Food, when I travel, is one of the most important parts of my experience so I make sure I have money dedicated to treating myself. On each trip I try to treat myself to one fancy restaurant – I’m talking about something with a Michelin star. But the rest of meals are usually more reasonable to balance my food budget. Here are my tips on how to save money on food when traveling:
I try to book a place that has a refrigerator, this will allow me to bring back leftovers or some groceries. Even if a fridge isn’t included in a room, sometimes you can ask a hotel to bring you one – just call and ask if they have this available.
I buy food from grocery stores or convenience stores, it’s going to be much cheaper than going out to a restaurant and for real, there are some good convenience store food options – looking at you Japan!
Bring some bars/snacks from home. I usually pack a few bars in my carry-on just in case I get hangry while I’m traveling and if I don’t eat them on my travel day I’ll use them as a grab and go breakfast.
I’ll opt for a heavier lunch instead of a heavier dinner. Quite a few lunch menus are actually going to be cheaper than dinner – this is a great option if your splurge restaurant is a bit too pricey for a dinner, check the lunch menu instead!
5. Check out Groupon, LivingSocial, Yelp, TravelZoo, etc. Some of these sites are world-wide so you can score a certificate at a deal for a restaurant, hotel, or attraction. Another great site for finding travel deals is AARP.org, I know what you are thinking… Isn’t that for old people? Nope, membership is actually open to all ages. And while, yes, there are some benefits that are reserved for the over-50 crowd, there are many travel, restaurant, and other discounts you can take advantage of as a member. Membership costs $16 a year and you can even try it out for three months for $1.
6. Another great place to score deals on local attractions? Check out the tourism website of your destination. Because they partner with local businesses, many of them offer discounted museum passes, free walking tours, and more! It’s also worth it to sign up for their mailing list to receive their guide books via regular mail and email. Many businesses will advertise in them and include coupons. And finally, if you can, stop in person to the tourism office to see what deals they have on the brochure racks.
7. Use public transportation. Once I finally got over my fear of public transportation it made such a difference in my budget and when you get comfortable using it you will come to realize that most services around the world are organized in a similar fashion. Using the public transportation feature of Google Maps helped me immensely in trying to figure out how to get around. More public transportation tips? Look for special passes for foreigners. These can come at a discounted rate or be all inclusive, meaning you pay a flat fee and can rise as much as you like during a certain amount of time. Keep in mind that some of these foreign traveler specific passes may need to be ordered prior to your arrival and shipped to your home country’s address, so plan ahead!
8. I will frequently use points/miles that I have accrued from my travel credit cards to pay for things like plane tickets or hotels. Want to learn more about how to responsibly use travel credit cards? Check out this blog post.
9. Look for resale gift cards. This is an odd one, but there is an entire secondary market place for people who want to sell gift cards that they won’t be using. These gift cards include travel sites like, Airbnb, airlines, cruises companies, hotels and more. My favorite place to find them is on Raise.com. Use this link to get $5 off your first purchase.
10. One of my favorite places to find a deal is Costco. I know most people think giant jars of mayo and huge packages of toilet paper but Costco has a robust travel site that covers everything from vacation packages, to rental cars, to city entertainment passes. It’s always worth a look if you are a Costco member. I personally use Costco to book my car rentals because they make it easy to cancel if needed and you can even re-book if you notice a price drop and the rental includes a second driver and unlimited mileage.
Following these tips will help you make the most of your travel budget while still having a fantastic trip!
Want to learn more about how you can save money on your next trip? Take my course, Travel Hacks for Beginners.
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