Travel isn’t a luxury, it’s a hobby. For some, it’s a lifestyle. If you travel often, the costs can quickly add up. While you can usually find budget accommodation and free entertainment, visas, passports and flight tickets make up the bulk of it. So in today’s blog, we thought why not list some tips for traveling on a budget? These will help you save a little bit here and there without compromising on quality. After all, you can stay at a dormitory, but do you really want to?
1. Book in advance
Perhaps one of the best budget travel tips out there – always book well in advance. Three months is the golden time period, because it’s long enough to make sure you can get tickets at a good price, and short enough that you don’t feel you’re taking a risk booking the flight. You usually don’t want to book tickets any more than 6 months in advance, because that’s a lot of time, and many things can change in that time. Three months is a reasonably short period.
It’s no longer like the olden days when you had to rely completely on your agent and their ability to get you a cheap flight. Now you can enter the relevant details into Google Flights, and you’ll see a calendar with daily prices, and the lowest rates highlighted.
When booking a hotel carefully go through photos from tourists, and watch out for reviews that feel fake. You’re booking in advance, which means you’re probably paying some money upfront. You don’t want to get misguided and lose money, which will ruin your vacation. Pictures from low-budget hotels are especially misleading. The golden rule is that if it’s too good to be true, it generally is.
2. Travel mid-week
Most people travel on the weekends when they’re off work and the kids have a holiday, so the prices for that time are naturally high. Beat the system by booking your tickets for mid-week instead. Hotels will give you enormously discounted rates during the work week (even in high season). It’s a surefire way to save money.
If you plan on revisiting a particular hotel, talk to the owner and mention this in conversation. Chances are, you’ll get a discount immediately. I’ve done this in the past after discovering a wonderful little hideaway in the hills, and I got a 33% discount straightaway!
Quick note – Sundays aren’t considered a holiday everywhere in the world. So if you’re going abroad, make sure the country you’re visiting considers the day you’ll be arriving a “work day”. You don’t want to arrive during their equivalent of a Sunday.
3. Travel during the off-season
When it’s high season, not only will tourist places be packed, but the rates will also be high – for everything from flight tickets, hotel fees and admission. Save yourself as much as 50% the cost by going during the off-season.
This presents the problem that the off-season is usually thus for a reason – the weather usually isn’t as nice, or the attraction isn’t at its best. You don’t want to go surfing in freezing cold water, for instance. You’ll have to make fine adjustments and find a point between high-season and off-season in this case. A lot of the time, high season is simply when America has a major holiday, like Christmas. Go at a different time and carefully research different dates and combinations to make sure you get a better deal.
I’ve been able to stay at a luxury beach resort for roughly half the usual rate (which made it about as expensive as a 3-star hotel) by traveling during the off season.
4. Resist the temptation to go shopping
If you’re looking for tips for traveling on a budget, you’re probably aware of this one already. The only problem is; most people can’t actually do it. They decide not to spend a dime more than they have to, but when they see a nice pair of shoes or a stylish watch they just have to buy it.
Here’s how to resist the temptation on your next trip:
– Take limited money with you. As much as you estimate you’ll need, and a little extra for emergencies and unforeseen expenses. Take a credit card, of course, but don’t use it to make payments, because e-payments are easy to lose track of.
– Take just a small bag. Instead of lots of luggage with invitingly empty spaces which you want to fill with stuff, take a smallish bag or suitcase, so if you want to buy something you have to think twice.
– Avoid going to fancy malls and restaurants. Touristy restaurants and shopping malls are a black hole – once you’re close, there’s no getting out. Everything is shined and presented to perfection, so you just can’t resist. Steer clear of these and head downtown instead. Get a real feel of the local ambiance, and eat where the locals eat. If you do need to buy something (or want a souvenir), a small shop or flea market downtown is a better idea.
5. Consider working during the vacation
If you’re going on a nature travel trip or a longish trip in general, you could consider working while at your destination. Of course, this isn’t for those who’re traveling to escape stress – this is more for people who treat travel as a lifestyle, and have to travel often.
One of my favorite tips is using your time on airplanes to organize. Every week I sit down with a pen and notebook to write things down and organize them – my workload, the monthly budget, chores, etc. Time on the plane is perfect for this activity, since there’s nothing much to do, and planes don’t shake much (unlike trains and cars).
By the time you reach the hotel or resort, you have the week ahead all planned, so you’ll feel better, and be able to start working right away. Working while out on vacation is a great way to recoup some of the cost. Contrary to what people think, a vacation doesn’t exclude work by definition – not if you enjoy what you do!
6. Use public transport, or get a bike
If you’re going to be somewhere for a long time for work or an extended vacation, one of our favorite budget travel tips is getting your own bike. You can usually rent one from locals, and it’ll get you wherever you want easily. Traveling around a new place on a bike is a wonderful experience (unless there are safety concerns), and it’ll help you see and discover new things. Zooming past in a car wouldn’t give you the same opportunity.
If you need to travel long distances or if a bike isn’t a feasible option, consider public transport. This way you’ll save money, and get to talk to the locals. They can help you with any queries you have, and it’ll help you kill time during transit.
7. Loyalty points in airfare
If you travel regularly, another great way to save some money is by going with an airline that offers a loyalty program. This way you can collect points as you travel, and redeem them in the future. Most airlines in America offer these, so go with the one that seems the best generally – with good rates, service, and general dependability.
When signing up for an account, however, take the time to carefully go through the company’s terms and conditions. There may be something important in there – like an arbitrary rule you need to follow. The T&Cs are usually in plain language and not super long, so it should take you an hour, tops. Well worth it if you want to make the most of their loyalty program. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars because of this tip (although not always on flights).
We hope you liked this list of travel hacks to save money! There are so many more – like bargaining if your flight is overbooked – but unfortunately we can’t fit them all in this blog. If you know any other tips, share them with us!