So lately I've been asked a lot to share some of my travel tips on a budget. I have multiple trips planned for this year and was fortunate enough to have explored a good bit last year as well so I'd love to share some insight into my travels and a sort of how to on a budget.
I also would like to encourage everyone to try to travel as much as possible. Travel outside of your comfort zone and invest in other cultures. In a time where love is scarce and bigotry is rampant I think it's important to take the time to learn and take in as many differing and beautiful cultures to better understand the world around us.
Flights and Groupon Deals:
When traveling, one of the most expensive pieces of the budget are the flights. One way to find your trip and flight in a bundle is through Groupon. Groupon travel is a one stop shop and there are many options, if you book out far enough, that have airfare included. If you're willing to work around their selected dates it's easy to book all inclusive resorts as well as two week trips around the world with flights! Groupon offers many dates and options as far as resorts and excursions while traveling. I absolutely recommend booking a getaway through Groupon as they're very budget friendly with upfront and transparent pricing.
If groupon isn't your way, and you're planning the trip yourself, I suggest using the Hopper app. It has a very easy to use interface and simply typing in your destination will give you a break down by month of the best time to travel. It is always cheaper to travel during the off seasons so keep that in mind when booking. Once a time is set, Hopper will direct you to the flight options and airlines offering specific deals. It's extremely user friendly so finding the right time and flight will not be difficult. One thing I will warn about when choosing flights is that the cheapest option is not always the best option. When David and I traveled to India we booked the absolute cheapest flights possible...resulting in 35 hours of travel with layovers, one of which was in Russia during a blizzard with outdoor off-boarding (we did not pack any winter clothes). It was excruciating and we vowed to never take the cheapest option again. If you're one that is up for the adventure of long flights and layovers to get the best deal then bring some good books and hunker down for long, tiring flights. However, my number one preference on Hopper is now direct flights (within reason) and the price difference of 50 to 100 dollars for a direct flight is well worth it.
All this to say, know your limits and choose flights accordingly.
When looking to travel within the country I recommend checking out local transportation. Many countries have cheap trains that are clean, run regularly, and offer safe transport to your destination. There are also flights to be found with local domestic airlines that offer very cheap fairs especially when packing light. (We'll get to that shortly)
Do Your Research for Accomodations:
Do your research. Know the area as well as you can to find your best options while staying abroad. In most of Europe, it is easy to find budget friendly Airbnb's. Airbnb is a great option to save some money but also relax in a clean, safe environment. Find a user with good ratings, that has had many guests before who leave glowing reviews. Ask any and all questions before you book ie private bathrooms verses shared in a home, assume nothing!
David and I will be traveling a good bit through Europe this summer and almost all of our accommodations are booked through Airbnb. I highly, highly recommend it, but make sure you really look through the properties. Find one that meets all needs and expectations, book, and enjoy!
If you're traveling to an area where you're not as comfortable staying in someone else's home, cheaper, safe hotels can be found. We live in an amazing time with the internet that finding a safe, clean place to stay is not as difficult. If you're trying to choose a cheaper hotel I recommend searching Trip Advisor. It is easy to use and filled with other people's experiences traveling all over the world. Find a hotel that has lots of reviews and good ratings. Look carefully over the reviews, specifically taking note if most of the reviewers are locals. Sometimes the local standards are not as westernized as expected and that can cause a bit of trouble if not properly accounted for. This was something I took particular note of when we were booking for India, per a friends recommendation - and she was absolutely right.
Pack light, Pack light, Pack light! Packing light is absolutely, always the way to go. There are ways to pack in a carry on for a two week vacation and still be able to have everything necessary for the trip. Packing light can save up to $100 per flight just by not having to check a bag.
When I'm packing, I usually lay out everything I want to bring and cut that in half. More often than not I wear my clothes multiple times before washing so I bring versatile outfits that can be swapped around to create different, yet similar looks. This also helps with keeping my content similar for photos and aesthetic purposes. I recommend traveling without too many valuables so if you wind up losing anything, it wont be too disappointing. If you're traveling to a cold weather area I suggest investing in some Uniqlo wear. Their products are designed for cold weather climate but are easily stowed and surprisingly light weight. Check out the link below.
Once packed, weigh the suitcase. Airlines in the US don't usually weigh carry on bags but many other countries are more concerned with the weight of the luggage so double check those limits before traveling.
Additionally, packing light also goes for preparing for your daily adventures. Limit cash to only what you'll need. Leave any cards you won't use that day locked in your suitcase-this includes passports. This will help save money in the long run by not losing it in the first place. Make sure to invest in a good travel bag for everyday use on your trip. It's important to have the necessities with you as needed but also keep them safe. I usually stick with a cross body and keep it zipped well. I would recommend staying away from back packs and shoulder bags as these are easily snatched.
When packing, I also recommend researching more of the country's culture to get a sense of appropriate attire. A lot of places still have unspoken rules that a tourist should respect. This will also help you feel less "touristy" and more comfortable in a new city.
FOOD AND EXPLORING
When eating in new countries, ask the locals. Try new things and different restaurants off the beaten path. For instance, New York City has some of the best food in the world, but none of it is located around the major tourist attractions. If there's a particular high end restaurant you just can't miss, try going at lunch time. Lunch is going to be the same quality of food but at a little cheaper in price. This will help save a few bucks that will add up over the trip.
Cook in, if possible. If staying in a hostel or Airbnb there's usually the option to cook in the kitchen. Go to the local market and cook up some tasty, locally grown food. This will also help the budget and give a taste of the culture and what life is like living in the country.
Don't take the taxis. Don't do it. I live in one of the craziest, taxi ridden cities in the world and I am here to tell you it's a waste of money! Save those dollars and walk or rent a bicycle. Biking around is a great option and gives you a little more flexibility to travel further. Also, check out the metros. Bigger cities usually have train options to get around that are quick and reliable.
Always research if there are ways to get cheaper tickets into museums and site seeing spots. Many of the museums in New York offer a "pay as you can" if you're a student or a NY resident (type into uber a "home address" in NYC and that will suffice- the ID is not necessary).
Look for the areas that are free i.e. parks, rivers, nature trails etc. This will cut some costs and help you find new areas to explore that may even be less touristy.
Be aware of surroundings in the places you're traveling. Pick pockets are a problem in a lot of larger, touristy cities so planning appropriately for how best to carry items while exploring is important.
Lastly, I'd like to leave you with a quote that is a good reminder of why it is so important to travel and understand other cultures during a time when the world needs it most.