25 In-Depth Useful Budget Travel Tips
Have you ever found yourself scrolling through Instagram, Facebook or my blog (haha) looking at travel photos and wishing you were there? Thinking you may never be able to share that experience. I'm here to let you know that it is possible if you simply budget yourself. Traveling is only expensive if you choose to make it expensive. Life is full of choices that you are in control of. It may sound bazaar but the most I have spent on a single airline ticket is $600 and this was literally hours before the flight to Singapore. Because I missed my initial non-refundable flight. The least I have ever paid for a single flight was $17 (I've seen flights for as low as $15) from Cappadocia to Istanbul, Turkey. These prices are not as unrealistic as they may seem because I find them! Is it difficult? Not at all.
As I get into highly useful tips for saving money, I will remind you that traveling on a budget does not equate 100% to searching for the lowest price, but searching for the BEST price for YOU. I do not like to put a price on travel. I like to travel within my comfort level and don't have a desire to travel uncomfortably just to experience "authenticity". Some things you just have to pay for, and I refuse to miss out on major opportunities being cheap. We are living in great times where you can now visit Europe for under $250 oppose to the average price of $1200 a few years ago. Below are a few of my top recommendations for budget traveling overall. The budget always starts with finding a good deal on the flight, keep in mind that the cost of living does play a part.
1. Be Patient & Flexible
With all things good, comes patience. When you decide to start planning and researching for your adventure, reflects a huge impact on the prices you will see. Do not book the very first price that you may deem as appealing (unless it's dirt cheap). Take your time and ensure that the deal you are getting is ideal and best for you. Be flexible with dates and times, leading us to our next tip.
2. Know When To Buy
There really is no set day or time that tickets are cheaper. It all goes up and down based on demand. I can say this because I have personally experienced this many times while searching for my own deals.In the new ages of today, looking at a month view with prices will help you identify cheaper days for a particular route, depending on the season and demand. Fewer seats available do result in higher prices- but there are always special cases where I've seen great deal at the last minute, one week or less prior to flight, because airlines rather sell the seat low than leave it empty.
I will say that flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday are always significantly less than any other days when I search. So in a sense Tuesday's and Wednesday's do play an essential part in traveling. If you can travel during these days it will definitely help save some money.
3. Book In Advance/ Build Itinerary/ Research/Document/organize
Organization and a sense of direction is vital for me when traveling and even in everyday life. I can not wing it even if I tried. When so much money, time and effort was put into getting to my destination it’s good to have some type of direction. To not waste time trying to figure out things while I am there, I always research and build an itinerary before I arrive. Creating an itinerary saves a heap of time and money. Booking things like excursions and accommodations in advance will warrant savings.
4. Pay With Points
A huge way I save on traveling is having a travel friendly credit card. I have the Platinum American Express card. In 2018 alone, I have gotten eight flights using this credit card, including my flights to and from Manila and from Turkey back home to NY. Yes I rack of miles because I use my credit card for literally every purchase. I can not remember the last time I have swiped my debit card. Signing up alone gives you a 50,000 bonus and purchasing flights directly on their Amex Travel site gives you 5X the points. Though this specific card comes with a hefty tag of $550 annually, it is worth it and you quickly get that money back. You receive $200 airline credit every year. $200 Uber credit annually. Priority Pass lounge membership whose lounges are at least $27 to get in to. I’ve used lounge access 13 times in 2018. That's already over $550 and there are many more perks!
Investing in a travel credit card can help you save money on travel as these cards are designed for traveling. There are many to choose from so explore your options to see which one works for you. Of course to pay with point you have to earn them. When going international I would pay for most expensive flight which is the one from the home with my points and purchase my other flights on budget airlines with my credit card.
Apply for American Express with by personal link by clicking here. You’ll earn a whopping 75,000 which is almost equivalent to $750 for a flight or hotel.
5. Try Different airlines
Let's face it, some American's are spoiled. They (not we) only like what they know. This is a curse especially when flying. U.S. based airlines charge a fortune to go internationally because they re U.S. based, meanwhile the airlines that are unfamiliar to you charge less. Don't be afraid to try an airline you've never heard of. Flying is still the safest way to travel and a plane can not fly without proper licenses. I never discriminate with airlines and I am always willing to give new airlines a try. Further more, on the list of top 10 airlines in the world none of them are U.S. based. That U.S. airline that you try to rave about is pretty much basic.
6. Off Peak
Along with certain days, planning an AbVenture during a specific season will definitely help you save. I have noticed that flying during summers months (end of June to early August) are generally more expensive than other months. Everywhere have their 'peak" season, a season where they get a lot of tourists. This causes price hikes in flights, accommodation, food, excursions, you name it. The joy of traveling during off peak season is dodging those price hikes and not having to deal with large crowds.
7. be aware of Extra Fees
Before clicking "purchase", be sure to include all fees and make sure that deal is really a "deal". Popular with low-cost airlines, they charge low fares then charge for everythingggg, including air. Haha, just kidding, but they do charge for selecting your seat early, luggage, snacks/meals and even blankets *cough* Air Asia. I explained this scenario in previous blog posts, where Airline A started out less than Airline B, then after including a bunch of extra fees such as processing fee and luggage, Airline B turned out to be the best for me to travel with because all of that was already included in the price.
Along with flights, hotels also have extra fees such as resort fees for wi-fi, lounge towels etc. Remember to always view the price at the very end of the checkout page when weighing your options.Being meticulous may sound like a hassle but it really isn't and is worth it. You can used the money saved to spend on something else appealing to you.
8. Search Engines & google flights
There are various search engines that are wonderful for comparing prices between airlines. Most of the time there are fees associated when you book through that particular website, sometimes a discount A tip is to just go directly on that airline website and make your purchase there AFTER finding the deal through the search engine. If you prefer to book through the third party site, stick to sites that charge little to no fees. I particularly use Google flights when I am just researching ticket prices because it gives you a month view for up to 6 months in advance. You can select the dates in green which are the least priced, that is- if you are flexible. You can also select and deselect certain airlines that show up to better suit you. I prefer Expedia when looking for package deals. I have found the best deals there but definitely explore your options.
9. incognito browsing
Ever been looking at hotel options, then start seeing hotel advertisements? That's because of website cache cookies. Website cookies can also make certain sites raise their prices when you repeatedly keep checking for the same flight. Websites get the idea that you are serious about the flight and will purchase at any price. Private browsing disable browsing history and data so that you will always see the lowest price available.
10. deals, deals, Deals
My favorite place to find deals is SecretFlying.com (not sponsored). They also have an Instagram page that is updated frequently to help us stay up to date with deals and promotions. They promote deals around the world and with various airlines. Signing up for various airfare alerts and following airline social media pages (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) to learn of deals and discounts will also help stretch your budget. Sometimes randomly browsing sites like Expedia and Orbitz you can come across random good deals. Generally booking flight and hotel together in a package deal can save money than booking them separately. This past summer I spent 4 days in Las Vegas for $350 flight and hotel included. This was excellent since just a flight is generally around $320 from New York. Deals do not last for a long time, I would say make a decision before the next day. This may seem unrealistic but that is when your credit and travel savings come into play. Having spare money just for travel should be conducive when you decide that this is something you want to do. Other sites include TheFlightDeal.com, Momondo.com, Airfarespot.com and even airlines actual site.
11. Layover = Free Trip
Our natural instinct when booking a flight somewhere is to research a direct flight from your city to your destination. This can cause you to miss out on savings. Expanding your travel time with different airports, alternative routes, and even layovers will often help you save money. For example, if you are going to South Beach, flying into Fort Lauderdale airport instead of Miami International airport can be greatly cheaper and it is only about a 10 minutes more in the car. Would you trade 10 minutes for $100?
Popular airports come with popular price tags.
In some cases, booking one way flights from two different airports can end up being cheaper than a round trip journey. Speaking of Miami, one time I purchased my ticket flying into Fort Lauderdale airport and my return ticket flying from Miami International airport. This worked out to be less for me at the time.
I also never dismiss layover, I actually love them-sometimes! All layovers are not good ones. I despise the 3 hour layover in the middle of the night that doesn't leave any room for exploring. I strategically search for long layover that are during the the afternoon. I was able to explore Taipei on an 8 hour layover and Beijing during a 24-hour layover. Use layovers as opportunities and not setbacks.
Not sure if you when you want to return to reality? Especially with international flights, a one way ticket can cost more than than a round trip, consider purchasing an extended round trip and just paying the the fee to change the ticket date, which is usually around $200. This can work out cheaper in the long run.
12. Book the cheapest rental
For some reason, when I book the cheapest car, it is rare that I get it. I always usually get something bigger or luxurious on the house! Keep in mind if the car you pre-booked is not in stock then that rental agency has to give what is available and sometimes that can be an Audi (which happened to me in Palm Springs). Also picking up your car early can help make your chances higher of getting a free upgrade, chances are, the customers with low-priced cars haven't returned them yet. Giving you the opportunity to choose between an a beautiful convertible or a SUV. Take public transportation, bus or train instead of flying
13. Share Your Accolades
I am always social and engage in conversation when traveling, I must say having personality goes a long way. During my birthday trip I made a stop in Honolulu Hawaii. I went on a underwater scuba scooter. While the boat was en-route to the sea I mentioned it was my birthday. I already planned on paying for my underwater video and pictures, but the nice staff gave it to me for free!
Birthday? Graduation? First baecation? Anniversary? Engaged? Mention it to everyone! Flight attendants, waiters, hotel staff, excursion staff, you name it. Mentioning the reason for your travel can come with perks like upgrades, complimentary drinks and desserts, and other surprises. This is not something that happens all the time but you never know when it will.
14. Expensive places during the week
When I plan my multi-city vacation I will plan my most expensive destination around week days. Week days permit lower prices on many things, from accommodations to food. This isn't something one would initially think about, but this is something to definitely keep in mind.
15. Pay for Pool Usage
If a pool is attracting you to a hotel then why pay a fortune to spend the night? Many hotels and resorts will allow you to use their pools and/or amenities for a fraction of the price. Paying for a relaxing day at their pool side isn't something out of the norm and is done by many!
16. It doesn't hurt to ASK
As a budget traveler I have learned the importance of asking and haggling. Honestly, it doesn't hurt and the worst that can happen is being told "no". I always ask if there is any room for an upgrade or if I can get something at a better price. A lot of things are negotiable, you'd be surprised so try it.
17. student discount/ISIC Card
MAJOR TIP! Some of us may have graduated and some may still be enrolled. As long as you have ANY student ID card you are eligible for student discounts and will save a ton! Most museums and monuments will offer these discounts from temples in Egypt to the Great Wall of China. A student ID is as important as a passport. Ask for discounts everywhere you go and read signs.
18. When the price is right
When I am choosing a destination I am always open to seeing anywhere in the world, that sometimes I let the destination pick me. What I mean by this is that if you are a budget traveler you many hop on deals for the price and not necessarily where you had in mind. My first time visiting Paris was not because I solely wanted to go (even though I did not mind going), but because I came across an unbeatable deal from AmEx, where I used points and only paid taxes. With this being said, you may want to visit Jamaica but at the moment it will cost you $1200, it is okay to opt for a more affordable option like The Bahamas, that will run you a fraction of that. I mainly go places because the price is low and not necessarily when I want to go.
19. Pack Light/ Carry-On Only
My frugal ways have taught me to make things work in order to save money. If you think about it ,carry-on luggage is not only cost efficient, it also packing efficient as well. A few pros for carry-on luggage:
It allows you to only pack items you need instead of over packing.
you don't have to tote around a big heavy suitcase and can be a little more free.
You don't have to worry about your luggage getting lost because it is right with you.
You don't have to waste time at the carousel (time is precious).
Ultimately you will save a lot of money. Those carry on fees can add up and the price can vary internationally, especially with budget airlines. Since I am usually going to more than one place when I plan an internal vacation, this helps me to be within my budget. Imagine I went to 4 places and had to spend at least $30 (I have seen prices up to 50 euros) to check my bag. That's $120 I could've used towards a nice excursion!
20. Bring Your Own snacks
Since budget airlines are designed to ONLY get where you need to go and that's it. They usually never offer complimentary snacks. That's fine because I always bring my own. First of all, 9 times out of 10 I will be sleeping when the cart is passing. Second, all I ever need is a snack unless I'm flying 13 hours to Asia, and even those discount tickets come with meals. Think about carrying your own favorite snacks and even some for the flight attendants, be nice to them and ya just might get a hook up.
21. Lunch & Happy Hour over Dinner
This tip works for when I am at home and when I am traveling. One of my guilty pleasures is eating lol. I am a huge foodie. Being that I am not a picky eater I am willing to try pretty much anything that looks appetizing. Sometimes I come across cool restaurants that are pricey, that usually doesn't stop me from inquiring if they have a lunch or happy hour menu. Sometimes they have one and sometimes they don't, but it's still worth trying and saving your coins.
22. Book In Different currencies
I have noticed that prices are lowest in their original currencies. For example, Asian airlines are lowest priced in Asian currencies, European carriers in European currencies. When doing this keep in mind if your card charges you foreign conversation fees then that can offset the price. I have saved over $100 total doing this. The savings add up when you book multiple flights.
23. Use Credit Cards and ATM/ No Currency Exchange
When you learn about the excessive fees currency exchange booths take from your hard earned money you quickly try to figure out new alternatives. Here are my 3 alternatives.
1. Take out money directly from the ATM in that country
There are two fees associated with ATM's. There is the ATM fee and the fee the bank charge you. The most I have ever paid to use an international ATM is 5 USD, and I might be exaggerating.I bank with a credit union and Wells Fargo. My credit Union pays back all fees for me taking out money so I pretty much take out money for free. Wells Fargo charges $5 for Non Wells Fargo ATM's. Lets say I took out 1000 euros using my Wells Fargo debit card at an ATM that charges 4 euros. That's $5 from WF for the non-ATM fee + $4.65 for the ATM fee (after conversion) + 3% for the foreign conversion fee. Today's exchange rate is 1 euro = 1.16 U.S. Dollars
$1162.39 + $5 + $4.65 + $34.87 approx $1207.
2. Order Foreign currency
I have never done this but my friends have. From what I researched you will still save more money that exchanging your money.
3. Use your international credit card
I use my credit card for every little thing, the only downside is that smaller businesses does not accept American Express. If you are going to a country that is not as developed with technology you may run into this as well if you have an American Express. Everywhere pretty much accept Visa and Mastercard so if you have an international credit card by one of them, then you don't have much to worry about. Use your credit card for everything and you don't have ti worry about additional fees.
Spending 300 euros = $1162.39 without extra added fees
The conversion rate is that of the day you made the purchase
For AmEx user like me, I usually take out 100 euros cash and that actually lasts me because I don't spend it if I don't need to. It is good to always have a little cash for small purchases and little stands, even though some stands do accept cards. I do not like carrying cash, especially too much of it and I do not recommend doing so. If I lose my credit card I can call and cancel it, in addition I won't be responsible for charges made if there are any. If I lose cash it is non traceable and a complete loss.
If you exchanged with popular carrier Travelex to get 300 euros this is what you would have spent
Every dollar is worth a saving for us, see the difference? However always have some type of your currency cash just in case,even if you don’t get to use it.
24. expensive cell phone plans/ T-Mobile or SIM Card
When traveling to a foreign location giving your loved ones peace of mind that you are safe is important. Being able to communicate without WiFi is needed. Instead of paying a bunch of money for your cellphone carrier's international plan and roaming charges, you can save by purchasing a SIM card when you are at your destination that will give you great service for a fraction.
The "best" cell phone carrier is arguable. I am a T-Mobile customer and I can say that I am always satisfied with my service. When travel I am given unlimited text and data (that I already pay for with my plan), but would have to pay $0.20 per minute to talk. I usually just FaceTime of use a Whatsapp to avoid that. If you aren't a T-Mobile customer I would look into becoming one (not sponsored lol).
25. Claim Tax Back When Shopping
Do not forget to claim for tax back! When shopping internationally inquire about getting your tax back. For example in Europe everything is already included in their prices, taxes, gratuities, etc. Unlike the U.S., you do not have to pay anything additional on top of that price. Being that we are not from there and we are tourists, we get the taxes back, the term "tax-free". I wrote about claiming your tax refund here. Make sure you read it to learn how to save while shopping especially for designer goods.
This is your money that you are entitled to, why would you leave without it?
I hope this information helps save you at least a dolla! I get a ton of these questions!
Read On: 10 Ways Travel Can Enhance Your Life