From Tuscany to Taipei, there’s a world full of wonder waiting for you. And the smarter you are about traveling on a budget, the more you can see. Find out how to maximize your lodging, dining, transport and shopping budgets to get more out of your trip without sacrificing any of the cultural experiences.
Accommodations are often the biggest line item in a travel budget, especially for longer adventures. There are a number of ways to cut costs across the board:
1. Do your own research. Tourist offices and travel agents typically charge a fee and offer only the highest-priced rooms available. Instead research online ahead of time, use a guidebook or stop in to a couple establishments in town before making a decision.
2. Always ask for a deal. Don’t be afraid to ask hotel staff if there are any promotions or specials, either via email or phone in advance or when comparison shopping at your destination. If you’re traveling in a shoulder or off-season you may be able to score a 3-star room for a 1-star price.
3. Consider a Bed & Breakfast. They’re especially popular in Europe and are often half the price of a hotel. Sites like AirBnB make it even easier to find rooms for rent in a private home across the U.S. and the world. As an added bonus, they often have more charm and cultural connection than a corporate-feeling hotel room.
Exploring other cuisines is one of the most exciting and satisfying parts of a trip. But eating out three meals a day can wreak havoc on your travel budget, especially in major metropolitan cities. Follow these tips to enjoy the local flavors without breaking the bank:
1. Aim for one sit-down meal a day. Take advantage of your included continental breakfast in the morning, grab provisions for a picnic lunch from a market at noon and enjoy a full dinner to cap off the day. With stops for little snacks along the way, this is a highly satisfying way to eat locally while on vacation.
2. Avoid restaurants with English-language menus in tourist areas. They are typically much more expensive and less authentic than the mom and pop shop around the corner. When in doubt with a foreign language menu, ask for the daily special.
3. When in Rome, eat as the Romans do. By sticking with local specialties and in-season items you’ll not only save money but also experience the best quality foods for the best price.
4. Don’t over tip. Very few places outside the U.S. have an assumed 15-20% gratuity. Research the tipping customs before arrival to tip appropriately.
Traveling on a budget doesn’t have to mean limiting yourself to one or two destinations. There are plenty of ways to city-hop and stick to your budget at the same time
1. Renting a car? Insurance through the rental company can add hefty increases to your daily rate. Look into what your own car insurance covers and research what your credit card offers for additional coverage. Also use a rewards card for fuel. If you put every fill up on your card, you could have enough points or cash back to splurge on one last night at a great hotel by the end of the trip.
2. Trains are cheaper than planes, buses are cheaper than trains. If you have time to spare, consider a train or bus instead of in-country flight. If you’ll be doing many point-to-point train trips a railpass can save a lot of money
3. Make it a sleepover. Overnight trains and buses can get you where you need to go while saving the cost of a night in a hotel. Bring plenty of snacks, water and reading material, get cozy in your bunk and before you know it you’ll be waking up to new scenery.
Bring home treasures from your exotic adventures without overpaying at tourist traps or being charged foreign transaction fees:
1.Do your homework. Understand the exchange rate and foreign transaction fees. Make yourself a little cheat sheet with common denominations and the dollar equivalent for each country with different currency. Also check with your credit card to see what (if any) foreign transaction fees apply when you use it abroad. You can save a lot of money by bringing a card with zero foreign transaction fees over one that has a 3% fee on every purchase.
2. Check out the local market. Open-air and flea markets are a great choice for finding unique gifts at flexible prices. But come prepared to negotiate. Popular markets may list prices at three times their actual rate to try to fleece tourists. And be sure to keep a close eye on your wallet as they can be popular areas for pickpockets as well.
3. Shop selectively. If you’re visiting multiple countries or regions, save your shopping for the most affordable destination. The same shell necklace can cost $100 in St. Johns and $10 in Jamaica.
One final note: before you go, be sure to inform your banks and credit card companies that you will be accessing accounts from unusual locations. Otherwise a charge from a Turkish bazaar may set off fraud alerts. Happy trails!