See the World…on a Budget!

I’m a frugal spender in general, so I’m always looking out for deals and ways to make my dollar go that much further. When it comes to travel, I love finding those logistics combinations that end up saving me a good amount of money. Since I travel as much as I can, it’s important to be smart about how I spend my money, otherwise I’ll run out of money for future trips.

I love keeping a budget, but am completely open to splurging when I know it’s worth it – like for a unique meal or experience.

Of course, I can always say “go to cheap destinations” (which I do support), but sometimes you just itch to see the Eiffel Tower or Icelandic landscapes or the Italian coast. These tips become especially helpful when you find yourself in expensive places. Consider what your priorities are and what you’re willing to cut back on. This will help in your decision making. I follow all of these tips while traveling and feel good about the money I save for my next trip!

These tips all fall within at least 1 of these practices.

  • Research
  • Be independent
  • Be flexible

I’m sure there are other ways to travel economically smart, so let me know what you do in the comments!

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The Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy – a free attraction

Find flight deals

The first money sucker before your trip even really begins is the flight.

  • Get a good travel credit card. It’s amazing the deals you can get with some of these cards. Almost all of them come with a sign up bonus, i.e. spend $3,000 in 3 months to get 50,000 miles. To give you a realistic idea of what it takes to travel, going to Asia from the East Coast of the US is about 90,000 miles round trip, going to the West Coast from the East Coast is about 25,000.
  • Follow flight deal businesses like @The Flight Deal on Facebook or subscribe to Scott’s Cheap Flights. They post cheap flights daily.
  • Check early and check often. I really like Google Flights and their user friendly experience. You can see the best value for flights for your chosen timeline, as well as the best value for flights on surrounding days (in their calendar drop down).

This requires some research and patience, but is worth saving a a good chunk of money.

 

Take advantage of being on the other side of the world

This tip comes down to preference. What I mean by ‘take advantage’ is fit in different surrounding cities while you’re already on that side of the globe. Once you’re already in Europe or Asia, it becomes really cheap to go to surrounding places because of their train systems and local airlines. This obviously only works if you have the time/energy to hop around a little. I prefer this style of travel, but it caters more to people who don’t mind moving around a lot. I always try to fit in at least 2-3 cities in a 2 week span.

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Amalfi, Italy in May. Part of a 3 city trip around Spain and Italy.

Go offseason

This is a wonderful money saver and experience enhancer in general. Every location has a different high/low season. A quick Google search will give you an idea of what those seasons are for your destination.

Going offseason means they’ll be fewer people (aka more space :D) and lower prices.

Examples:

Went to Costa Rica in July. Summer months are offseason because it’s the “rainy season”, but we didn’t experience any rain during our time there and we saved $$

Went to Amalfi Coast in May. This was right before high season and we got a great deal on a bed & breakfast overlooking the sea that would usually be 2x the price.

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Right across from our Airbnb in San Juan, Puerto Rico! 

Stay in hostels or Airbnbs – depending on the city, sometimes hotels are cheap

You’ve probably heard this one before. Hostels should not intimidate you. I know they intimidated me at first, but after my first experience, I realized I was being silly. Some hostels even offer private rooms, so you don’t have to worry about bunking with strangers. I always read reviews on hostelworld.com before booking and bring a lock to keep my stuff safe.

Airbnbs are usually my go-to. It’s great to support local owners and get that local feel.

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Travel with people

Although traveling solo is a great experience and I think everyone should do it, you can save money when you travel with other people. If you’re hesitant to bunk in a hostel, things like splitting lodging can save a lot of money.

 

Avoid tourist traps as much as possible/Opt out of tours when you can

By tourist trap, I mean things that aren’t authentic to the culture of your destination and just created to suck money out of visitors. If you prefer one-on-one attention to details for sightseeing, then this tip may not be applicable to you. A lot of activities and sightseeing doesn’t require a guide.

 

Examples:

We wanted to go snorkeling with turtles in Culebra, Puerto Rico. Being average to good swimmers, we opted out of a tour (that cost $50/person!) and swam with turtles for free and for however long we wanted. Caveat: this activity didn’t require any special equipment because it was 50 ft off the shore and we brought our own snorkel gear ($30 on Amazon).

In Barcelona, Spain we visited the Sagrada Familia. We opted for the audio tour rather than the personal tour. It was really information and less than half the price!

 

Pack light

You won’t have to pay extra for a checked bag and having fewer things to carry makes choosing transportation easier.

 

Use local currency when using credit cards

This is easy and a must! Whenever using a credit card with foreign currency, choose the local currency. The conversion rate will be more in your favor.

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The metro in Bangkok, Thailand. So clean and easy to use!

Look into public transportation

Most cities have solid public transportation, whether it be a metro, bus system, or bike share. You can find this information online pretty easily. Travel forums, like tripadvisor, are helpful in determining how to maneuver public transport.

Pros: save a good amount of $$ compared to taxis or private transfers

Cons: may take longer to get places (but not always!)

This is also when packing light comes in handy.

 

Eat in supermarkets

If food is expensive, grabbing something quick or cooking in your Airbnb/hostel can make a big dent in your expenses.

I consider myself an amateur foodie because I love food and trying new things, so I’ll do this only when I don’t feel like I’m missing out on local cuisine.

 

Example:

Iceland has expensive food and honestly, there’s nothing too special about it, so most of my meals came out of the supermarket across the street from my hostel. Saved money there and didn’t feel like I missed out on anything.

Barcelona has an open air market called La Boqueria with amazing fruit, meat, and seafood vendors. They offer at least 50% off things like smoothies when they’re about to close. We went back every day around that time to get our daily fruit servings ;).

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The Sun Voyager in Reykjavik, Iceland – seen on a free walking tour, which was followed by drinks with the tour guide

Free Walking Tours

A lot of cities, specifically in Europe, offer free walking tours. These are really informative and the guides are usually a lot of fun. They do ask for tips at the end of the tour, but whatever you give them will still be cheaper than something you pay upfront for.

On the tours, they’ll also offer up the best places to eat and ways to save money too!

 

VAT refund

In EU countries, you can apply for a VAT (Value added Tax) refund if you spend a certain amount on goods in one day. Look up the specific requirements for the country online.

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Wandering the streets of the famous Shilin night market in Taipei, Taiwan

(In certain countries) haggle

Mainly in the Asia/Middle East region, you can haggle prices for things like goods and tours. In markets, if goods don’t have a price labeled, it usually means that price is negotiable. Familiarize yourself with what the norms are in the country you’re headed and if you’re not sure, it’s always a good idea to ask.

 

Do research

There’s a pattern with all of these tips and that’s DO YOUR RESEARCH. If you’re not the planning type, I’d love to help you out. Send me a message and let me know what you’re thinking!

 

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Hotel views. Credit: Tonia Wang Photography

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