How To Save Money While Traveling
We all want to travel.
No one looks at pictures of digital nomads exploring the world and thinks, "Man, that looks boring."
The problem is, what we want and what we can afford are two distinctly different things.
More often than not, we make excuses for delaying travel. There's not enough time, there's no one to travel with or there's not enough money.
Turns out, you can go almost anywhere on an extended long weekend. And surprisingly, you can actually get there for cheap.
The question is, would you rather spend you money on new things or new experiences?
If you picked the latter, you'll be happy to know it's possible to stretch your vacation budget without foregoing your standard of living.
Here's how to make the most of those limited travel bucks:
1. Save on airfare.
The best way to minimize your overall costs is to find cheap airfare. There's a big difference between paying $1,000 for a round-trip flight and paying $300.
First, identify the exotic locations closest to you. For example, it's cheap to fly to South America from Florida, to Europe from New York and to Asia from LA.
Next, be flexible.
It may cost $900 to fly into Hong Kong versus $500 to fly into Beijing and connect from there. This applies to your dates as well as your locations.
Rigidity is the enemy of cheap travel.
Finally, get on an email subscription list. Scott Keyes and Condé Nast Traveler will always be among the first to let you know of a good flash sale.
2. Skip the hotel.
Hotels are becoming a thing of the past. Today, you can find much more affordable and equally luxurious destinations on Airbnb.
Make sure you pick a place with several reviews, rated 4.5 stars or higher, and aim to book with a Superhost whenever possible.
3. Don't skip breakfast.
Breakfast is the most important and most affordable meal of the day. Eat up to make sure you have a full stomach before a day of touring.
If you go the Airbnb route, you can easily make breakfast yourself and save money that way as well.
4. Find free entry days and times.
Most museums have at least one day a month when they offer free admission, like the first Sunday of every month.
A lot of attractions also offer a late admission discount, like free entry after 6 pm.
Take advantage of free admission times whenever possible. While crowded, these events usually run smoothly since the staff is prepared and expecting a crowd.
5. Use public transportation.
Taxis are a huge waste of money. They're the only form of travel in which your fare goes up, even when you're not even moving anywhere.
Most foreign cities have a well-developed public transportation system. If you're scared about navigating buses or the metro in a new place, do some research beforehand.
Every ticket kiosk has an English language option, and you can always double-check the map on site if you're unsure of your route.
Make sure you check if your city of choice has a transportation pass, allowing you unlimited travel for several days at a reduced fare.
6. Take advantage of discounts
Are you a student? Discount. Checked in on Yelp? Discount. Signed up for the email list? Discount.
A lot of people feel uncomfortable pulling out a coupon, but it makes no sense to pay extra just because, and there's no shame in being a financially savvy traveler.
7. Don't exchange money.
You may be tempted to exchange money for your trip at the airport or purchase other currency like traveler's checks before leaving. This is a waste of time and funds.
The best way to get money abroad is to withdraw cash directly from an ATM once there. That way, you cut out the middle man and skip the conversion charge.
Also, process the withdrawal in that country's currency, not in dollars, to get a more favorable exchange rate.
The same rule applies when using a credit card. When given the option between processing your payment in Euros or dollars, always pick Euros.
8. Pack your own snacks.
Airplanes are providing less and less nowadays. Norwegian offers great airfares, for instance, but then charges 45 Euro for a meal once onboard.
Pack your own food and snacks so you won't be tempted to spend extra on mediocre airplane meals while on the flight.
You can get anything solid through airport security, so eat a croissant on the way back from France instead of congealed airplane pasta.
9. Start tracking points.
If you're going to be a frequent traveler, you need to get serious about points.
Make sure you're signed up for each airlines complimentary rewards program. Try to identify a favorite so you can rack up miles more easily.
If your finances allow, take out an airline credit card.
You'll usually get at least one free round-trip flight with the bonus points, and it could actually help your credit to have the additional boost in your overall limit.
These are just some of the travel hacks available to those who want to see the world on a budget.
With a little bit of gumption and creativity, you too can afford to wander.