It is no secret that I love to travel. It is also no secret that I love saving money, am extremely cheap and live for amazing deals. When I was back in university I made a dumb (and likely drunk) new year’s resolution that I was going to travel more, and to my surprise, I did it; I went to Europe for the first time in my life. Since then I have made it a point to travel somewhere new (even just for a short period of time) every year. Now I know that this will not always be a luxury in my life (so I am going to enjoy it while it lasts), but over the years I have picked up and learned a few tips and tricks that have made budget traveling more attainable.
- Cut Out Un-Needed Expenses. This one is not so much budget traveling but it will help you save for an upcoming trip. When I am saving up for a trip, I stop eating out, buying coffee and cut back on any entertainment costs that are not absolutely necessary. Every time I want a new “thing” (that is not actually needed) I remind myself that the money for a trip will be much more rewarding than something I will forget about a month from now.
- Go All In. I know this one does not always make for the most exciting trip, but all-inclusive vacations really can be a great way to save money. The money you pay for the trip up front then includes everything: stay, drinks, food, etc. That way when you are on vacation, you can just relax and do not have to worry about the accumulating costs you will end up facing at the end. I like all-inclusive’s for when I just need to escape winter stress and relax for 7 days doing nothing. I also count cruises as an all-inclusive, if you do it right (more on this another time), and you get to visit multiple locations on one trip.
- Travel Locally. Being Canadian, it is not always cheap to travel to other countries, especially when you take into account exchange rates. However, luckily enough for me, the Rocky Mountains are right in my backyard and British Columbia is right next door. Often times when I am craving a trip, but just can’t afford the big worldwide tour, I look locally for cool new spots I haven’t fully explored yet. It always saves money and adds a new love for my home Country.
- Travel Sites Are Your Friend. I am a huge fan of browsing travel sites, both for ideas and looking up deals. Here are a few that I use constantly:
- Travel Agencies Are Not (sorry to my cousin who does this for a living). While it does make it easier to have someone do all the booking for you, they are getting paid to do it. This means in order for the agency to make money they are charging you a premium. If you trust your ability to do it yourself, then skip these people, often times the “better-rates” they get are offset and surpassed by the premium “service-charge” they are making.
- Hotels Sometimes Have Special Deals. Before I book staying anywhere I make sure to call the Hotel and find out what special offers they have. I would say that 9 times out of 10 they are willing to work with you to get the best price either through a membership discount (AMA etc.) or a special rate. I also feel that it helps when booking through the hotel itself to ensure smooth arrival/check-in.
- Opt for Airbnb. This may be one of my favorite developments in travel in a long time. Instead of staying in a hotel, you can save money by staying at a place someone is renting out. Often times you can get a whole apartment/house/flat for less than a hotel and that means a KITCHEN (so no money lost on buying every single meal at a restaurant). Before booking, I always contact the renter with any questions I have (even just about the city we are staying in) and make sure to read all the reviews. Usually, I try to stay with what Airbnb rates as a Superhost and someone that has rented the space out to many people before me.
- Travel Reward Programs Can Be Worth It. This has been one of my greatest assets when traveling on a budget. Being a member of a good rewards program has gotten me free flights, upgrades and reduced prices on hotels. A lot of travel programs also reward you for traveling with them or even just everyday use, plus so many are FREE to sign up.
- Pay As You Go. There is nothing worse than charging everything to a room and upon leaving realizing that you have racked up way more then you thought. If you pay as you go, instead of charging the room (or whatever else), you are keeping track of what has been spent as the charges are incurred.
- Use Cash and keep track of how much of it you are spending. Further, the point above, when you bring cash and use it to pay for everything, it ensures that the budget you set for the trip is the one you stick to. It is also important to track daily how much you are buying so you can adjust your future spending accordingly as the trip progresses.
- Explore Like A Local. There is no denying that tourist places will hike up prices and often times the locals haven’t even been to these spots (or rarely go). The best way to authentically experience a place is to think and explore like a local. Instead of looking for traveler reviews, look for local reviews on spots and hit those up (this is especially true when it comes to food, eating out and exploring unique spots). This will give you a better experience of the country than sticking to the chain restaurant.
- Shop The Sales. And Be Flexible With Your Dates. This one can be hard, but if it is possible to book at any time without having a specific date or time period in mind then this can save you tons. High travel times (holidays, spring break, etc.) will always have bigger price tags, but if you go in the offseason or low travel times you are likely to get better deals, as places just want to fill vacancies. Last minute all-inclusive’s often follow this pattern as well. Also keeping an eye out for sales on travel sites, hotels and flights is a must and can be the best time to score a good deal before a flight.
- Don’t Haul Your Life With You and try not to bring the whole country back. Whenever I can, I only bring a carry-on with me. Checked baggage, while nice to have the extra space to bring more or buy more, can be costly to travel with and take up lots of time getting in and out of airports. Instead, I bring items that can make multiple outfits and become very minimal with my packing (this took me years to master). Also, I rarely buy things when I am away to bring back (the odd one or two for my parents and brother); souvenirs can be very pricey, especially for what you get, and end up just taking up space I don’t have in my apartment. If I do not absolutely love it and need it in my life, then I leave it (I also don’t have the space to bring a ton back with me). Instead I “eat” my money, not actually, but I spend my money on amazing food, sweets, snacks and experiences that will create memories (or cravings) to last forever (and even sometimes added pounds, but it is all worth it in the end).
I hope some of these tips help in the planning of your next vacation or trip. I have found there are always sales and opportunities that make traveling less expensive so I am not breaking the bank.
I know for everyone the views around travel is different, but for me, it is a value added to my life and something that greatly enhances it, more than items and wants. It is something that motivates me to cut costs, save and be frugal for the ability to experience the world. Traveling is attainable even if it is locally exploring the amazing places in your own country which have often been some of my favorite places visited.