Do you have a long bucket list of places you want to visit yet you haven’t packed your bags in far too long because you’re strapped for cash? Well dust off your suitcase and start planning your next adventure... just because you’re on a budget, doesn’t mean you can’t travel!
The best way to save when traveling is to start planning your trip early. After you have decided your destination, research to see if there is an off season for tourism and decide if the trip is season or weather specific. If you travel in the off-season you can save on airfare, find more affordable and more available lodging, experience less crowds of tourists and spend more time with the locals. For example, most of Europe's off-season is October through April and cities like London, Rome and Paris are perfect to visit any time of year.
Start early and take the time to research all of your options for lodging to ensure available dates. Services like AirBnB and VRBO not only save you money by renting someone else’s place while traveling, you can also rent out your own place while you’re away and possibly break even when it comes to lodging costs. And with the sharing economy growing like crazy, you are sure to find a good place - airbnb has over 800,000 listings worldwide! If you really don’t mind sharing space, you can even use services like Couchsurfing. As their mission states, “with Couchsurfing, you can stay with locals in every country on earth. Travel like a local, stay in someone's home and experience the world in a way money can't buy.” Count us in!
If plans fall through or you need to book a last minute hotel, be sure to use Hotel Tonight to find the best very last minute deals on rooms near you. The app releases a list of unsold rooms starting at 9:00 AM local time each day in dozens of cities around the world. It includes a map view to help you find the hotel nearest you and provides useful details on each booking, including additional cost you may experience (such as parking or internet) to help you decide which place is best for you and your budget.
If the goal of your trip is to get back to nature, why not stay there, too? Research available cabins and yurts near your destinations to minimize your need for camping gear. Most include electricity, beds and even heat. All you will need to bring is your bedding. Although you may be using a shared bathroom, it’s a great way to save money on lodging, cut down the cost of transportation to and from your destination, and disconnect a little.
While starting to plan a trip early is huge when it comes to sticking to a budget, it may not be as true with actually purchasing airfare. If your trip includes taking a plane, research has shown that the best time to book flights is just 45-60 days before the trip. Self-proclaimed travel detective Peter Greenburg states that this is because airline computer software runs by the law of supply and demand and is set up to not give out offers until that time frame.
Researching your transportation options is key to saving money, especially if you are unfamiliar with public transit options in and around your destination. For example, while the train is the most popular option in Europe, a ticket from London to Edinburgh can cost around $145 but you can save nearly a hundred bucks by taking the bus.
And back to praising the sharing economy, look into your destination to see if it supports service like Uber and Lyft to save time and money exploring your destination city. Did you know Uber is available in 58 countries?
While You’re There
Want the tour experience without the high cost? Research the best tour options for your destination before you go and make a list of all the sites you would see. Then, take yourself on a self-guided tour. Not only will you save money but you can also skip out on the large crowds.
Eating out while traveling can really add up. Be sure to ask the locals where their favorite spots are and skip out on the overcrowded and overpriced touristy restaurants. And if you really want to eat like a local, go grocery shopping at a near by market and learn how to cook like one!
Have you checked out Groupon and LivingSocial deals in your destination yet? Find savings on activities, food and more. These services can also help you plan your trip by giving you a list of activities you may have not known even existed in the area.
Want to score cheap tickets to a water park, aquarium, museum, etc? If the above websites don’t offer any discounts, you can always look to Craigslist. Find tickets that locals may have purchased and are unable to use and thus willing to sell at a great discounted price.
Are you a student? Be sure to pack your student ID to receive possible discounts!
For trips abroad, exchange your currency before you leave for your trip and skip the high priced airport exchange kiosks. Research banks and currency exchange companies near you and call to see which one is offering the best rate. The same goes for when you return home, exchange the currency back at the best deal you can find.
Forget using expensive calling cards or purchasing an international cell phone plan to stay connected back home. With modern technology and apps, many are free and all you need is a Wi-Fi signal. Before you leave, download apps such as WhatsApp, Viber, and Skype for free messaging and calls. And to find those free Wi-Fi signals don’t forget to download Wi-Fi Finder, a free app that has a directory of over 500,000 different hotspot locations in 144 different countries. It also works offline!
Booking on a budget airline? Almost always these airlines have huge baggage fees, making the cost to travel as expensive as if you went with an airline you're more familiar with. Depending on how heavy you travel and how long you’ll be gone, consider mailing your bags to your destination to save on costs. Or you can be like this guy and wear all of your garments, just be careful to not overheat! ;)
When it comes to traveling on a budget, it really pays off to start planning early, be relentless on your research, and try to do things like a local as often as possible. Remember, where there's a will, there's a way... so as soon as you have the cash, book your trip. The act of traveling itself gives you things money can't buy, so can you really afford to not?