Create a Budget
Before you even set foot on a plane, dip a toe in the ocean or take a sip of a pina colada, the most important part of traveling on a budget is understanding exactly how much you can afford to spend. Establish a reasonable budget before you spend a dime. Flight and hotel are usually the first two things to come out of this budget, so once those are booked, allocate the remaining to food, entertainment and shopping. With a budget in mind, you can make smarter decisions every step of the way.
As you start to look for airfare, it can be a great money saver if you’re willing to be flexible in the dates you travel. Tuesday and Thursday departures and arrivals are considered the cheapest travel days. You might also consider traveling during the offseason. Although the Caribbean makes a great winter escape, it will always be cheaper to visit during the spring and summer. And while popular destinations like Paris, London and Rome are packed during spring and summer months, consider visiting in the fall or winter.
Limit the Length
When you’re spending good money on a plane ticket, it’s common to want to get your money’s worth and stay at your destination for as long as possible. However, cutting your week long vacation to 5 days, or your 10 day vacation to a week can have significant savings. Not only will it save on hotel, it eliminates the cost of eating out and entertainment for those extra days. If your budget included $200 a night for hotel, $100 a day for food and $75 for entertainment, that’s a savings of $750 if you reduce your trip by two days.
Most airlines charge for checked bags, so an easy way to save money is by packing light and avoiding or limiting your checked luggage. Packing light is all about preparation. Make a list so you know exactly what you need and stick to the list. Take the time before you depart for your getaway, to learn about the local climate. Follow the weather forecast for the week leading up to your trip so you can get a better idea of the recent weather patterns and therefore a better idea of what type of clothing to pack. Favor pieces that can be worn with multiple outfits or multiple ways. When it comes to accessories, stick to black OR brown, gold OR silver. Lastly, shoes are often a huge space hog, so try to limit the number of shoes whenever possible. Wear your larger shoes like sneakers or boots on the plane to save room and pack smaller shoes like flats and flip flops in your carry on.
Self Guided Tours
If your budget doesn't allow for pricey guided tours, then consider grabbing a guide book or downloading an audio tour instead. The best way to experience a city is by visiting the local landmarks, parks, museums, and beaches and they all have a story. Spend your plane or car ride to your destination reading up on the history and fun facts before arriving. Not only will you know the hot spots to visit prior to your arrival, you will be able to appreciate it more, knowing the back story. Rick Steves is always my go-to for guidebooks and he also offers free audio tours on his app.
Bonus Tip: If the places you want to visit are a bit too far on foot, renting a bike is often an affordable and fun way to get around. You can also try public transportation in lieu of renting a car or taking a taxi.
If you want to travel on a budget, you need to eat smart. Food represents a large portion of your travel budget, so without proper planning, your food budget can quickly get away from you. The easiest way to take control of your food budget is by visiting the local market for snacks and meal items. Not only is this budget friendly, it’s also a great way to immerse yourself in the culture and see how the locals live. Stock snacks in your hotel room as well as your purse or bag for when you’re on-the-go. For a meal, bring your food to a local park or city center and enjoy a nice picnic, along with some people watching. Try alternating meals between the market and dining out and you’re sure to save significantly. When dining out, remember that lunchtime meals are going to be more affordable. For dinner, you might consider splitting an entree to keep costs down.
Bonus Tip: Guided food tours double as a meal and entertainment. Often 3+ hours long, food tours are my favorite way to learn about the city I’m visiting, while also trying the local cuisine. Tour guides will often take you off the beaten path which allows you to see a part of the city, you might not have otherwise. Since tour guides are all locals and have a passion for good food, be sure to ask your tour guide for affordable restaurant recommendations before you leave. They’ll often point you in the direction of hidden neighborhood gems v.s. tourist traps.
It is possible to travel the world without breaking the bank or accruing unnecessary debt. Whether you’re traveling on a budget or not, following these tips will ensure your hard earned dollar does not go to waste. What tips do you have to save money while traveling?