The age-old question: how can I make my vacation as affordable as possible? Before you write-off a trip abroad as too expensive, make sure you’re considering all the ways you can keep things within a tight budget. To help you out, we spent some time compiling the best ways to piece together a getaway with expenses in mind. Incognito flight searching, finding the best accommodation, tips on things to do — it’s all here. Scroll down to check out the nine travel tips for keeping to your vacation budget.
Travel During Shoulder Seasons
One of the largest factors determining the costs of your trip is the month you decide to go. Generally speaking, you will end up saving money by traveling during the shoulder months of spring and fall. This is largely dependent upon the specific destination, but the northern hemisphere and the tropics usually have a peak season where prices rise between the months of June and September. If your schedule allows for it, try to travel during April, May, October, or November.
Book Flights Wisely
Have you ever noticed that after searching for airline tickets, the price jumps up by $50 or $100? Many travel sites track your activity and raise prices according to “increased demand.” In order to avoid this, clear your cookies and search history, or use an incognito window (available in your browser’s preferences). Many people are strong advocates that there’s no “right” time to buy a flight. Not six months out, not four months out, not even on a Tuesday. If that’s the case, the best move is to set up price alerts and let the deals come to you. Sites like Airfarewatchdog and Scott’s Cheap Flights specialize in capitalizing on airline mistakes. Apps like Hopper also offer a platform to share alerts when the best deals are available.
Be Smart With Your Money
Before you roll your eyes like your Dad just started a lecture on diversifying your investment portfolio, hear us out. There are a few sly tricks banks use to subtly sneak money while you’re traveling. If you’re ever asked whether you want to pay in the local currency or your home currency, for example, opt for local. Many cards charge anywhere from 2-7% for the alternative service. Additionally, airport currency exchanges usually have the worst rates. If possible, head into town and opt for an exchange service off the beaten path. These days many banks offer no ATM fees to withdraw money, so aim to get an international-friendly bank account before you jet off.
To keep to a budget while you’re on the road, and to track your spending, check out the handy Wander Wallet app.
Use Public Transportation
Uber is an undeniable modern day convenience, but sometimes the costs don’t really line up with a shoestring travel budget. Especially in countries that don’t have Uber, options for private transportation can add significant costs to your trip. This is why using public transport is an absolute must if you’re serious about being frugal on vacation. It often offers a more authentic view of the city, and some cities have incredibly efficient metro, train, and bus systems.
Book the Most Bargain Accommodations
Booking your place to stay while on vacation can sometimes cause a headache. There are lots of things to consider — you want it to be budget-friendly, but you want it to be cool and in the right neighborhood. Instead of having ten different tabs open to manage all of these variables, use AllTheRooms. We’re the largest accommodations search engine on the planet, and our site saves you tons of time and money. Looking for a couch in someone’s living room? A funky party hostel? A cheap place through Airbnb? It’s all here. As a super budget tip, keep your eye out for places that have meals included.
Make Use of Free Activities
Often, some of the best ways to get to know a new place are either completely free or impressively cheap. Free walking tours, free entrance to museums, free bike rentals, free entrances to national parks — you get the idea. A quick Google search for “best free and cheap things to do in…” will yield tons of fun options.
Play Your Cards Right
Even though many budget travelers shudder at the thought of borrowing money and potentially going into debt, if you use rewards programs wisely, you can end up getting huge discounts on your overall cost. Consider enrolling with a bank that has airline miles. They also usually have pretty lucrative incentive programs for switching over after you spend a certain amount in a certain period of time. For example, the Chase Sapphire card gives you 50,000 points — the equivalent of around $650 — if you spend $4,000 in three months.
Eat Like a Local
One of the best ways to cut the costs of your vacation is to focus on your food expenses. The trick is to eat locally or prepare your own meals. Mom-and-pop shops or food cart vendors are way cheaper than chain restaurants, and also offer a more authentic taste of local culture. If your accommodation has a kitchen setup, foraging for your food in local markets is a great way to eat healthy while sticking to your budget and getting an insight into local life.
Work While You Travel
The growing availability of work exchange programs is helping travelers really stretch their time abroad. If your schedule allows, consider snagging a gig WWOOFing or with Work Away. Hosts usually provide a place to stay and sometimes meals in exchange for a few hours of work per day.