One of the biggest, if not the biggest, hindrance to most travelers is money. Yes, traveling is enriching, but it sure does make our wallet poor. Most of us need to save every penny in order to fund our travels. So, to help my fellow travelers out there, I’ve compiled money saving tips to tuck away every penny and still make your travel extraordinary.
CURRENCY TIPS FOR DESTINATION PLANNING
Check currency rates when researching where to go. If you have a travel budget of $5,000, depending where you decide to go, you may only end-up paying $4,000. When the US dollar is strong compared to the local currency, then your dollar gives you more buying power while spending in that country on things like your hotel, meals, excursions and souvenirs.
I’ve traveled to South Africa at $15:1, Botswana at $10:1, and Brazil at $3.5:1.
MONEY-SAVING AIRFARE TIPS
Airfare expenses usually eat the most of our travel budget, especially when traveling with the family. Thankfully, there are a couple of hacks that can help us allot that hard-earned money where it matters the most.
1. Get alerted on cheap airfare
Ever heard of airfarewatchdog.com? It’s a site that watches out for cheap airfare and, if you sign up, alerts you when it finds one. In short, it does the job for you.
2. Limit baggage
We all know that baggage fees are extravagant to the point that they’re sometimes more expensive than what’s in the baggage itself. If you can, travel light. Don’t bring your hair dryer. Don’t bring large bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Better yet, ditch them and just buy what you need when you land. Remember: keep it small and light.
3. Credit Card
If you are loyal to an airline, get the airline credit card – they usually offer the first bag free, plus other money saving perks, like money-saving companion tickets. Plus, many airlines offer lucrative sign-up frequent flier mile bonuses, which could mean a free ticket altogether!
4. Travel on low season
Airfares at low season may be cheaper than when it’s expecting a huge influx of passengers. However, a low season is low for a reason. It might not be the best time to travel. If you’re looking at going to a popular destination for New Year’s, then expect the airlines to charge the maximum they can legally. I love to travel in September, when the kids are back in school. Prices drop considerably as do the crowds. Another great week is in mid-April (after Spring Break and before School summer recess).
5. Be flexible
You can also choose to fly on weekdays, if your schedule permits. Think about flying on a Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
MONEY-SAVING ACCOMMODATION TIPS
Hotels have this thing of sucking your wallet dry. The resort fees and local taxes can be a shock and leave you feeling scammed upon check out. Before booking any accommodation, ask questions. Make sure you know all the fees so can you can have an informed decision.
6. Again, travel on low season
When everyone is not out wandering about, that’s when prices tend to be the lowest – you know, to lure you in. You can use that to your advantage and book when the hotel’s (or any accommodation) desperate for visitors.
7. Avoiding hidden costs
If you’re opting for a hotel, there are still a few ways you can save on money. Before deciding, check:
a. If they have an airport shuttle?
So you don’t have to waste money on cab fare. You can also avoid getting lost in your first hour in a new place.
b. How much are the parking fees?
If you’re thinking of renting a car, then this is important. You may opt not to rent a car anymore if parking is too expensive.
c. If there are resort fees?
The hotel’s resort sure is nice, but can you use it? If it’s too expensive, you may choose a different hotel that doesn’t charge or with lower fees.
d. If breakfast is included?
Breakfast is often included in the hotel’s nightly rate, which is a good deal. Sometimes, you can even wake up to a breakfast buffet! Find out if they offer free breakfast and take advantage of it.
e. If the hotel has a kitchenette?
You want to save money? A kitchenette is the solution. You can avoid buying that overpriced coffee across the street by brewing one in the comfort of your hotel.
Hotels not your thing (because they’re expensive)? You can try sleeping on hostels, which are definitely cheaper. Make sure that you can sleep in it peacefully and safely. Do your research and look for one that’s secure.
I stayed in many hostels, and while they are cheap and give you a flare of adventure, in my experience they were not that safe. One night a man came into our room, and another time we locked our valuable in a locker of which any combination code could open it. And with hostels, you usually use a shared bathroom, so pack a pair of Havaiana’s to use in the shower to keep germs off your clean feet.
MONEY-SAVING DESTINATION TIPS
9. Eat local food
Do you trust your stomach? Then head on over to the nearest street vendor to get a taste of some local cuisine. Authentic doesn’t always mean classy. Take ramen, for example. Some of the best ramen can be found in hole-in-the-walls – and these are the authentic (and cheap!)
Upon arrival, we also stop by Walmart (or whatever grocery store) to purchase bottled water, soda, and snacks.
We also pack a couple bottles of wine, which really helps save money at restaurants since corkage fees can be waived (it’s my birthday!) or are low (under $20). We’ve learned the trials of traveling with wine, including busted bottles ruining our belongings. We now travel with a 7-Bottle Wheeled Wine Transport Case
Combine an excursion and meal together! You can learn the local art of local cooking by taking a class (the concierge can usually arrange), then cook a meal instead of eating out. This gives you the tourist experience of visiting local markets and learning the local ways.
Renting a car is expensive. If you haven’t got a budget for that, commute instead. Don’t worry, you’re safe as long as you know the rules. You can learn that by doing research before your trip. Not only commuting is infinitely cheaper, it can also help you immerse more in the country’s culture.
I commute from Hong Kong into mainland China to Shenzen. A private car service was $300. I took a mini-van service, filled only with locals for $16, and it was an experience I’ll never forget!!
Consider downloading a local app that can help you get from point A to point B. Uber is everywhere nowadays, which is a good thing since they charge the same (and often less) as taxis.
Taxi – taxis are okay, but in some countries, the drivers are notorious for milking the tourists for their dollars. However, since it’s abundant in any city, it may be easier to find a taxi ride.
Uber – Uber is pretty safe considering that every driver needs to be registered, the process of which is not that easy. Every trip is tracked, which allows you to share your trip with family so they can check if you’re safe and track your steps to your destination.
13. Free museum days
Museum lover? Take advantage of free museum days. To promote their museum, or art in general, there will often be promos that offer free admission to museums. You can even schedule your trip around it. Do your research ahead of time – as the free times are often not when you would expect them to be.
14. Use apps
Technology yet again saves us. There are loads of free apps out there no matter what system you’re using.
International texts are crazy expensive, so the most logical thing to do is to message friends and family, with you or at home, via messaging apps that make use of the internet. There’s Facebook messenger and WhatsApp. And the best thing is, they’re free!
I’ve tried all the major carriers and found T-Mobile has the best internet package for international travelers.
Use wi-fi when and where you can, but just beware of your communication. Stay away from sharing sensitive information on public wi-fi as there are hackers who linger around tourist congregations.
15. Exchanging Doughs
I’ve opted to use credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees for purchases when traveling overseas. I found using my credit card to give me the best value. However, you are going to need some local currency for tips, cab rides and small purchases. Simply use an in-network ATM. Avoid exchanging money at the airport, you will get the worst rates.
16. Here is the wild bonus tip – Use Crowdsourcing
If your reason for travel is a life-goal or a big achievement, then consider crowdsourcing for some extra spending money. Your friends and family would love to help raise money if there is an emotional reason that would give them joy.
Traveling doesn’t always have to drain our savings. If we travel wisely, then we pave the way to other travels in the future. For a traveler, every penny counts so make sure you’re spending it wisely!
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