In most cases, money is a major factor for those reluctant or unable to travel. Travelling is expensive; the flights, accomodation, food and entertainment can all add up very quickly. Many of the costs incurred whilst travelling are unavoidable, but there are many ways that you can reduce your costs both before and whilst travelling! These articles will provide a few of my best money saving tips that I’ve picked up during my travels and some that I’ve heard of but am yet to try.
Generally, flights are one of the biggest costs involved with travelling. Being from Australia, I know firsthand how expensive it can be to get to the other side of the world. Whilst many countries enjoy cheap domestic and international travel, there are just as many countries that don’t. Regardless of your location, there are a few ways that you can look to save money when booking and purchasing overseas or even domestic flights.
Timing is everything! Booking a cost effective holiday is a fine art, yet there is a bit of mathematics involved. The most important thing is to never wait until the last minute. I tend to begin looking at international flights anywhere from 8-11 months out from my departure date. This gives you a chance to observe the higher end of pricing so that you know when a good deal pops up. As soon as a decent price pops up, make your booking if financially possible. A credit card can be useful in these situations to ensure you don’t miss out on the best deal when the prices drop, although if that is in the 6-8 month range (it usually is) then you should already have enough savings aside to cover your flights.
If possible, try to travel in off peak seasons. Peak season is generally considered to be June-August in most locations, this is due to school holidays being around this time in most countries. During these months, prices on flights, accomodation and certain forms of entertainment will be at yearly highs. This is the worst possible time to try and organise a cost effective holiday. April-June and September-October are considered the “shoulder seasons” where prices are likely to be right around the middle, this can be a good time to travel weather wise for many locations, but still not the cheapest. Your cheapest months to travel are November-March, excluding peak holiday times such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. During these dates, which are considered the off-season, you will find many great deals on flights, hotels and even full vacation packages as companies try to continue to generate revenue throughout the quiet months.
Compare different options! When you first look into booking a flight, you will notice that there are multiple options for departure dates, departure times and airlines. Using search engine websites like Skyscanner, Kayak and even Google Flights can often yield different results. Compile these different results to find which website is offering the best deal, once you have found that make sure to check on the airline carrier’s website to see if booking direct can save you any money! It is also useful to drop in to a travel agent and discuss your trip with them. There are times when travel agencies have access to exclusive deals but at the very least you can get an idea of what would be considered a good price. Remember, there is never any obligation to book with a travel agent and a consultation is always free!
Be flexible! I know it isn’t always easy to be flexible with dates due to work and other commitments, but being able to adjust your holiday by even just a few days can save you hundreds of dollars! If you’re willing to take a longer flight, get to the airport super early/late or to push your trip back a week chances are you will save yourself a bit of cash that can be spent on something else abroad.
Check multiple destinations! I have seen many cases where it is cheaper to fly to a smaller airport or a nearby airport than it is to fly directly into your destination. For example, it may be cheaper from some locations to fly into San Francisco and get a bus to LA than it would be to fly directly into LA. This isn’t always the case and when you are flying into a major international hub the direct option is usually the cheapest. However, it is worth a few minutes of your time to check surrounding airports to see whether any money could be saved if you’re willing to take a little longer to get where you want to be.
Im a fast walker, I want to say I always have been but I’m not so sure how speedy I was when I was grossly overweight at the age of 12. Regardless, I love to walk and will do it to get to a location whenever it is within reason.
Walking is a great way to explore a city, but its also a guaranteed way to save money when travelling. There are many cities around the world that have efficient and affordable public transport – but there are also many cities that don’t.
Take New York for example; New York is a relatively well laid out city and they are known worldwide for their infamous subway system. The subway runs regularly, is relatively cheap and will get you to most places, but that doesn’t mean that it is always your best option.
Google or Apple maps are the most commonly used source of directions for travellers. There are some people who may not know that these apps give you a “walking” option that will tell you approximately how long it takes the average person to walk a given distance between two locations. For me, if this time is under 90 minutes I’m walking it, assuming there are no time constraints. This is not only a way to save money on transport, but it also helps reduce your carbon footprint and see some things you may not have otherwise seen.
When you walk somewhere, you are forced to take in your surroundings. You will have the chance to smile at strangers, hear birds singing and smell freshly cooked foods wafting out into the street. You may stumble across a store that has some of your favourite brands, or a store full of brands you’ve never heard of. You might discover a dingy alley with the best noodles you’ve ever eaten, or a little coffee shop with a killer espresso. Whatever it may be, I can guarantee that when you walk a city you will see, hear and learn things that you would not have otherwise. You can truly explore the soul of a city when you use your own soles to do it.
The Best Things In Life Are Free (Or Very Cheap)
On previous holidays, I have found myself making sure I have some form of entertainment on each day of my trip. I have since learned that this isn’t a necessity, but I’ve also learnt that there are many free or cheap forms of entertainment to be found around the world.
Museums! Most major cities will have several museums dedicated to all different sorts of things from music to ramen to shoes. Many museums offer free entry but it is becoming commonplace for more popular museums or museums with more extensive exhibits to charge for entry. However, there are multiple opportunities for museums around the world to be attended for free or at a significantly reduced cost.
Most museums in the United States will have one night a week that is free or discounted after a certain time. These nights are great to go because usually it is pretty quiet despite the reduced costs and you can explore at your own pace without school groups or tourist busses. Make sure to check the website or facebook pages of different museums to see what free or discounted offers they have!
A little known fact about some popular museums is that you can actually “pay what you wish” at the ticket booth. The Museum of Natural History (yes, the Night At The Museum one) is probably the most famous museum that offers this. They have displayed prices on the ticket boards but these are merely a suggestion. You can pay whatever you have or whatever you think your visit is worth, seeing as all proceeds are considered donations. So, if you’re really stingy you could get into the museum for a penny, but please don’t do that. I personally would say that most museums are worth a minimum of $10 and they will take up a few hours of your time as you explore and learn about all different sorts of things. There are a few different lists online of museums with discounts or “pay what you wish” including this one here.
Parks! This one should be a no-brainer, parks are one of the best places to hang out in a city. There are people to watch, animals to spot, benches to sit on, places to sprawl out and often times even some stalls or markets to peruse. Most cities will have at least a few big parks that are well maintained and generally inviting. Parks can be a great place to read a book, catch up with friends, enjoy some physical activities or even do some work with many parks now having wifi facilities. A nice park is a great place to relax with a drink or a snack as you prepare for an afternoon activity or to stroll through at twilight after a long day of sightseeing.
Make Your Own Food
Food is a major cost for many travellers, myself included. As I consider myself a bit of a foodie, it is not uncommon for me to centre my plans around food at any given destination. I often arrive to a city with a list of places I must eat at! But between these must-have meals there are many different opportunities to save money when it comes to food.
Cook! If you’re staying in a hostel, you will have access to a kitchen and food storage areas. Always put these amenities to use! Whether it is just a couple packets of noodles to get you through on cheap days or full on meals when you’re spending a day in, it will always be cheaper than eating out for every meal. If you’re staying at a hotel, try to book one with a kitchenette or at least a kettle and/or microwave.
Make Food To Take With You! Regardless of your accomodation situation, you should always have at least a mini fridge to store food in. A quick trip to the grocery store for some bread, butter and deli meats or even spreads can provide sandwiches to take with you on your day of adventures so that you aren’t buying food while you’re out. For under $10 you can have your lunches sorted for a week! Bonus tip: Margarine doesn’t actually need to be stored in a refrigerator, and many spreads can be kept at room temperature if refrigeration isn’t available to you.
Take Advantage Of Free Food! If you’re staying at a hotel, chances are they will have some sort of complimentary breakfast option. Always take advantage of this, even if you only grab a bagel or a piece of fruit – it is extra calories and energy for your day. By partaking in the free food, you are less likely to overindulge at lunch and spend more money on food than you usually would. Alternatively, many Sikh or Hindu temples offer free food to people that attend them regardless of race, gender or religion. You are not obligated to attend a religious service they just simply want to provide for their community or anybody that attends. Please consider offering to help with washing up or something similar if you do attend.
I have decided to split this post into multiple parts as to not overload readers and so that I can be thorough in my explanation of the different money saving ideas. As always, feel free to contact me through any of my social media pages or my email address if you have any other questions regarding budget travel or travel in general. Hopefully you can take these tips into consideration when planning your holiday or even use them on your current one!