Travel tips for any budget

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Travel is possible no matter how much money you have, or don’t have.  Traveling isn’t defined by going to super fancy international destinations; it’s just making the effort to see a new place, try some new things, and meet some new people.

Here are some travel tips for how you can get up and go, no matter what your budget:

1) Determine your budget

This is probably the most important travel tip and also the first thing you should do as it can change where you’re able to go.  Once you calculate this you can decide where to go and for how long.  Then, once you’ve picked your destination (see #2), its important to figure out how much you will have to spend each day. The cost of hotels and airfare occurs upfront and is unchanged. However, daily spending can be very variable and if you aren’t aware of cost of goods in the country you’re visiting, you can end up spending way more than you anticipate.

BTip 1: Break down expenses by category, and your corresponding budget for each:

  • Transportation (if needed)
  • Food
  • Tours/activities (if not pre-purchased)
  • Shopping.

You can calculate your travel budget for each category by first, figuring out average cost of lunch and dinner for each day, multiplied by total days on your trip (assuming your breakfast is provided by hotel). Round the sum up to the nearest whole number to account for unanticipated alterations that may occur. The more prepared you are in regards to your expenses, the less likely you are to over spend. You can look up the cost of eating out at your destination online. I recommend researching some restaurants and checking out their menus to see what you’ll be dealing with.

2) Destination Destination Destination!

Where you go largely depends on your budget (see #1).  It seems like every few months or so a new “it spot” pops up and everyone wants to/has to go there.  However, don’t get sucked into this popularity contest, especially if its a destination that you cannot afford.  There are so many untapped destinations around the world to choose from.

Check out this most recent list of cheap travel destinations by Forbes. Hope this helps you get inspired!

3) Timing is everything

Travel during off-season; prices for everything will be cheaper. A quick Google search can help you answer this question for different areas.

4) Plan ahead

Give yourself time to save and to find the best deals. Shop around online, read blogs, ask friends for recommendations. Also, pre-plan a few activities. This way you avoid paying full price when you get there; in addition, paying ahead of time reduces the costs you accrue while you’re actually traveling.   Viator and Tripadvisor are my favorite resources for this.

BTip2: Check out this post on preparing for a solo trip.  Many of these recommendations apply to any trip to take with friends/family as well.

5) Promotions

Sign up for promotions e.g Scotts cheap travel or Next Vacay, you sign up and receive updates in your email regarding cheap flight deals. Your dates may be relegated to whatever the airlines dictate, but if you’re flexible, I think this is a great resource.  Also keep an eye out for deals on airline websites. Many often offer discount ticket prices for different dates.

Also check out Groupon and Living Social. They offer travel deals to destinations all over the world, often including airfare and hotel together.

6)  Maximize travel points

If you have a credit card that allows use of points for travel (I hope you do, if not GET ONE)—then be sure to check out flight deals through them (Chase and Amex are great for this, I have both).

In addition, once you book with a great card, the points you earn can be used towards future spending or trips! A win-win

7)  Skip the middleman

When booking flights and hotels, book directly through their individual websites. I find that I sometimes get better deals this way (on my last trip, I found a hotel promotion for a free bottle of champagne upon checkin!). Also, if you ever have to change or cancel you don’t have to deal with the hassle of an intermediary.

8)  Location, location, location

Nothing is worse than getting a really cheap hotel and then realizing that you’re in the middle of no where and now need to take a taxi or some other form of transport to get anywhere. It basically shoots your frugal planning in the foot. It’s better to spend a little bit more per night if your location is central and you’re able to avoid the extra cost of daily transportation.

BTip 3: Google map the location of hotels in your destination city and look to see where is it in relation to popular attractions.

Alternate Btip3:  Don’t forget about air bnb and VRBO options! Sometimes you’ll get a better deal in a better location.  This is also a great option if traveling in groups.

9) Meals

Look for hotels with complimentary breakfast (or snack)—free meal!

Also, some of my favorite restaurants have been the Mom & Pop hole-in-the-walls that I’ve randomly found while wandering around a city. You don’t need a fancy spot to get good food. Ask your hotel or tour guide for recommendations on popular local spots.

BTip 4: Always ask to read the menu before sitting down to dine; you’ll ensure the food choices look good and you’ll be able to scan the prices to ensure that its within budget.

10) Pack lightly

Taking a large suitcase abroad can be costly. Check in fees if you take local flights in your destination country, trunk fees (I’ve been charged for having a cabby put my large suitcase in his trunk before), and the general all around headache of toting everything with you.

BTip 5: Click the link to see how you can travel with only a carryon and backpack. Also take a collapsible bag as an extra. I have a small foldable backpack that I always take. In case I shop too much, I can open up this second bag and fill it up. On the way home, check in the carryon (international check in is free).

11) Avoid tourist traps

On my to Thailand, my friend and I were trying to hail a taxi and each driver we spoke to tried to get us to agree to a flat rate, i.e., not run the meter. In theory, this sounds great. However, my friend kept asking to use the meter; she wanted to see what the actual metered cost was. When we finally found a driver who agreed to it, we saw that the meter was actually cheaper by about 50 percent.

While the American dollar is pretty strong around the world, and paying an extra dollar or two doesn’t seem like a big deal in a third world country, those extra dollars add up really fast.

BTip 6: Do your research before you go and ask your hotel concierge on what to expect. Many times they can advise which taxi companies to avoid or which shopping areas are the most honest, etc, etc.

What are some of your travel tips?

Please leave any feedback  below.  Would love to hear what you think and if you have anything to add to this list!

Happy Travels!

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