CJ and I both love to travel and explore the world. But, as I may have mentioned in the past, we really do not have a lot of extra income right now to support
our my expensive addiction. Therefore, I am always on the hunt for ways to reduce our travel expenses or get more out of our dollar. Do not misunderstand me, first and foremost, it is extremely important to enjoy our vacations. However, there are a ton of ways that we try to keep our costs at a minimum. I think that most of these can be applied to any traveling that you choose to do. Before you read my list of suggestions to make any vacation cheaper, know that you may not always be able to apply all of them to your travels. Also know that some of these really are lifestyle choices that we make and just because they work for us it does not mean that they will work for you.
1) Take advantage of friends or family that live far away.
My entire trip to Germany was based off the fact that my friend, Jen lives there. Germany was not even a location on my radar except that I could have free room and board while have the chance to spend time with my good friend. Since my trip was planned so spontaneously, I ended up spending almost a grand on the airfare. This bumped the cost of the vacation up even though my daily average spending was only about $30. With my typical hour and a half commute to my day job, $30 is roughly a day’s normal spending. This brings me to my next suggestion.
2) Book things in advance!
CJ and I often struggle with this one. We also look at prices and find good deals that are contingent upon booking immediately, but stall due to our lack of funds at that moment. Then later we go back to officially book it and discover that the price increased. Therefore, I highly encourage you to take full advantage of booking things early! I cannot remember a time where I booked something in advance and found a lower price for it later (mind you I do not usually keep looking after I book something).
There are a ton of great resources out on the internet to help you find great deals on airfare, hotels, rental cars and more. Google flights is a great resource where you can see the real flight costs broken down into the months. Kayak.com is another great option for flight information. There is a chart on the left side where they track the prices as they compare to previous years. This is wonderful because the website will make a prediction as to whether you will see price increases or decreases if you wait to buy your tickets. I usually use Trip Advisor and Google to find accommodations. We are not exclusive to any particular booking websites thus far. I have found that in the end the actual hotels frequently have the cheapest price. This is also why my next suggestion is probably one of the most important ones!
3) Research the cities before you go and read up if there are any tourist passes or discounts.
It is so important anytime you travel to research the locations. When you are traveling internationally is particularly important to know what is required before going. A quick visit to the Travel.State.Gov website is good place to start your research if you are not going through travel agencies. When you are prepared than you usually do not need to be, but if you are not then you always wish you had been. Type the country you anticipate visiting into the search bar and you can find out any travel warnings issued by the USA Government and the countries emergency contact phone numbers, etc.
I always spend a lot of time researching (googling) each individual city when I am planning my trips. There are a ton of tourist resources available for free. When CJ and I went on our recent trip to Spain I think we stopped in a tourist office in every city that we visited. The tourist information centers usually offer free city maps and invaluable advise about worthwhile destinations or restaurants. A lot of cities are inviting toward tourism because it brings money into the cities economy. Many cities offer discounted tour passes to encourage visitors. The passes will very greatly from city to city for what is included, but generally include things like public transportation, museums, and historical sites. If you plan smart, these kind of passes will not only save you money but they will maximize your experiences in the city!
4) Use the public transportation.
Going along with the tourist passes is learning how to use the cities public transportation. Subways, buses, and trains are sometimes the easiest and even the fastest ways to travel in some cities. I think that taxis and ride-share apps like Uber and Lyft are an easy way to rapidly increase your cost. I try not to use them whenever possible, but there are times when these apps are the best options. Subways are usually the easiest to navigate. The maps are all over the place and fairly easy to understand. When I worked in NYC I got a free subway map from a corner newsstand. It was pocket size so I carried that around with me everywhere I went! You can find subway maps everywhere, even in the hallway of the stations.
5) Rent a car, rather than use a tour bus!
When CJ and travel we are always trying to cram as much into our visit as humanly possible. I had a boss once refer to my weekend scheduling habits as a “marathon weekender”. It is true that I will do a lot in a day or week, especially when I am doing my favorite thing…adventuring! The only way we are able to see so many things on our trips is because we rent a car. In the future I want to write a post about preparing for road trips because this is essentially how we travel most of the time. We always do price comparisons with different car rental companies to find the cheapest one. We prefer to rent a car if we are going between cities. It is the cheapest option that allows us the most flexibility when it comes to planning. Tour buses are much more expensive, you are with a group of people you probably do not know, and on a strict schedule.
6) Pick your vacation destination based on price not on preference.
This is a huge tip! The way I see it, I want to visit the world. So I am going to do my best to devote as much time as possible to do it. Unfortunately, this means that sometimes I let my vacation destinations call to me instead of me picking them. CJ and I picked Spain mostly because of price. We compiled a short list of places that we were thinking about. We picked an approximate week and did a thorough cost analysis. At the end it was Spain verse the Grand Canyon with a little finagling on the travel dates and budgeting the hotel prices we concluded that Spain was the winner! We used this comparison to determine a reasonable budget and stayed mostly on track.
7) Look for free things!
This is probably my favorite suggestion on this list. It is one that I try to use throughout my life. My friends can testify that I love almost anything if it comes with the label “Free”! I coupon to get free items at my local grocery store weekly and I apply the same tactic to reduce the cost of my vacation. If my hotel comes with a free bottle of water, I will take it even if I have 3 in my bag. It seems like very simple math to me; the more free items the less items I buy and therefore the cheaper I can make my vacation! (Or you can have more to spend on souvenirs!)
- What locations do you visit that are more affordable?
- How do you save money while traveling?
- What kinds of souvenirs do you buy on you trips?