10 under-the-radar ways to cut costs on your next trip
Thursday, 7 April 2016
Travel—even international travel—is not just for the wealthy.
Almost anyone can go on the trip of a lifetime with a little bit of planning and saving. Cutting out small expenses (like your daily latte, for example) can add up quickly and over time, and make room for the vacation of your dreams.
Once you're on the road, there are many ways to save money and still have a memorable, rich experience. Here are 10 ideas that can help you along the way:
1. Get creative on lodging
It isn't where you stay that matters, it's what you do when you're there. With that in mind, search for cheap—or better yet, free—accommodations. Look up friends, or friends of friends (thank you, Facebook), who live in your destination city and ask if you can stay for a night or two.
You can do this in a more formal way through Couchsurfing, a website that pairs you with locals looking to host travelers for free. HomeExchange is another option that allows you to switch homes with other individuals while you're away. This is all done for free on the platform.
Airbnb and HomeAway are two sites that let users rent other people's homes, often at prices below local hotel rates. Hostels are also excellent choices while you're on the road. Check out Hostelling International for a listing in your target destination.
2. Eat out once per day
Restaurant visits can quickly bite (pun intended) into your budget. Visit neighborhood markets instead, and have picnics in parks or dine in your room. If you really want to go out, keep it to once per day to save money. Share appetizers with your travel partner instead of ordering two entrees, and have drinks in your room in advance—so you can avoid major markups.
If you're in a country where food vendors are part of the culture, go to the ones surrounded by locals. These are the safest places to eat. This also goes for restaurants. Stick with the locals—your stomach will thank you later.
3. Find free stuff to do
Every city offers free things to do. There are museums and festivals you can visit, and activities in parks available at no cost. Check the tourism website for your destination, or just Google "tourism bureau, X city," or "convention and visitors bureau, X city," or "free activities, X city." These resources should help you find plenty of things to do.
4. Bring laundry detergent
It may seem like a small thing, but laundry can be a huge time suck while you're on vacation. It can also cost you a lot of money. Even if you'll only be gone for a week or two, bring a small amount of dry detergent with you and wash clothes in your sink. Don't use hotel laundry services—the prices will be astronomically expensive. If you must use a local laundromat, look online for the cheapest ones.
5. Travel during shoulder seasons
"Shoulder seasons" are the seasons that don't attract as many tourists, largely because of the weather. Europe's shoulder season is the winter, since many will agree it's much nicer in the summer. South America and Australia's shoulder season is the United States summer, when it's much colder in the Southern Hemisphere. Tourists love to go when the weather is warm, and businesses will take advantage of that. Traveling during shoulder seasons can dramatically cut your costs.
6. Watch your spending
It can be temping to spend more than you normally would on gifts and specialty items when you're traveling. Be careful with impulse purchases, since they can add up quickly. Do you really need a $500 watch from Singapore just to say you bought it in Singapore? Can you get something much cheaper instead? Think twice before spending.
7. Take advantage of public transit
Public transit can definitely take more time than hiring a driver or flying from one place to the next, but it can also save you lots of money. Try to learn the local bus or train system in your destination, and travel like the locals do. Better yet, walk. You'll see—and experience—even more.
Voluntourism, the act of combining volunteering with tourism, is a trend that's gaining a lot of steam these days, and it's helping many cash-strapped travelers see the world on very little money. Volunteering your time in exchange for support from the local communities can be a great—and cheap—way to explore new countries. There are many organizations that offer volunteer experiences at home and abroad.
9. Spend on experiences
Worried that you don't have the money to go skydiving in New Zealand or whitewater rafting in Switzerland? Nonsense. If those things are that important to you, there are ways to make them happen with careful spending. Eat at home a few days in a row to save on restaurant costs, then go out and have the experience that you'll always remember.
There are tons of opportunities for travelers to work while on the road, even on short trips. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (or WWOOFing) is a popular option for travelers to eat and stay for free in exchange for a few hours of work per day. Look into the work opportunities in your destination city and find out how you can not only save money while you're traveling—but make money, too.
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