Most people don’t get a lot of time off and when they do, they tend not to go away. I always ask my friends and former co-workers why they this is and, almost uniformly, they always say it’s because they simply can’t afford to do so. Like most people, they see images of vacations on TV and internalize the commercials to believe that travel must be like it is on TV and therefore must be expensive. The only alternative is backpacking around in twenty bed hostels with shared showers and eating pasta.
But that is not really true. Travel can be very cheap. You can easily travel far and wide without breaking the bank.
Here are some times on how to get travel cheaply:
Since flying constitutes one of the largest portions of someone’s budget, it’s important to find ways to fly cheap. Most cities have a smaller airport with lower landing fees. This savings is usually passed onto you and why budget airlines don’t fly into major airports. Moreover, book your flight 6-8 weeks in advance or look for last minute special deals. Buying your flight 6-8 weeks ensures that airlines don’t have you over a barrel. If you book your flight too soon, then airlines know you need it. If you book to early, airlines hedge their bet against rising costs and keep prices high.
I never stay in hotels unless Priceline can get me a rock bottom price. Why? They are never the cheapest (and sometimes the cleanest) option. Hostels cater to all ranges of travelers and are not simply for backpackers in 20 bed dorm rooms. Don’t over look them if you can’t find a hotel deal. You can find hostels with private rooms, free Wi-Fi, free breakfast, showers, and TV for cheaper. In NYC, a private room in Times Square is $90 per night. The cheapest one star hotel without Wi-Fi or breakfast? $110 per night. And who really wants to stay at a place like that!
It’s important to do lots of research and visit the local tourist office. Don’t use a guidebook. Guidebook information is outdated and doesn’t give you any tips on current deals. I go to travel blogs, city tourism websites, Yelp, and Tripadvisor. These sites have the current information on what is good, bad, and on sale. Additionally, tourist offices also know the latest special events and usually have a few discounts available for visitors.
Eating out every meal is expensive. One way to save money is to eat out at big restaurants during lunch time as lunch specials offer a much better value than dinner. It’s nice to have a fancy dinner but a fancy lunch is just as good and much cheaper. Moreover, you can head to the supermarket and pick up some sandwiches. Supermarkets are a great way to find out what the local diet is about. What kind of meats do they like? Fish? Junk food? It’s amazing the variety of foods you can see on shelves that you don’t have back at home.
Saving money while you travel just requires you break out of the “travel is expensive” mindset. Locals don’t live for hundreds of dollars per day and you don’t have to either. Simply live like a local and you’ll be able to save yourself a lot of money when you travel.
Matthew Kepnes has been traveling around the world on a budget for over three years. He’s been to Europe, Asia, Australia, and Central America. You can find out more at his website, Nomadic Matt. If you want more travel tips, photos, and stories from his upcoming 3 month trip to Europe, you can also subscribe to his RSS feed.