We all wish we could travel more but sometimes certain bucket list destinations can be out of reach financially. Sometimes all it takes it cutting down on a few simple costs to make a dream trip a reality.
- Look for travel packages
It is possible to save a substantial amount of money by choosing a package that combines airfare with a hotel or rental car. We usually fly out of Fargo, so airfare can get expensive. However, by bundling airfare and hotel accommodations, we’ve saved a ton. For example, we flew from Fargo to Oahu and stayed 6 nights in a hotel off the beach for less than $1,000 per person. That’s a steal considering that the average flight from Fargo to Oahu is usually around $1,000 alone.
- Stay off the beaten path
When you’re looking to really get to a know a place and experience the culture, there’s nothing better than staying where the locals do. While you might miss out on some of the amenities of a hotel, you’ll gain a more cultural experience and save money while you’re at it. Check out sites like Airbnb or Homeaway. When we were in Belize, we found an apartment (with AC!) for right around $30 a night. You can’t beat that.
Feel more comfortable in a hotel? Save money by booking your room at a lower priced hotel. Then take advantage of the amenities of nearby higher-end hotels that have bars with live music, shows, spas, or other offerings. Unless they state those services are only for hotel guests, you can usually take advantage of them at a low (or free) price.
3. Pack light
A checked bag on must airlines will cost you $25 each way. Yikes. Avoid those additional charges, and the time you spend waiting for your bag, by packing light and only taking a carry on. Between your carry on and personal item, which can be any bag you can fit under the seat in front of you, you should be able to fit everything you need for a trip.
4. Consider what you should bring from home
In tourist areas items like bug spray, suntan lotion, and towels can be significantly marked compared to what you would pay at home. Swap out items in your suitcase that you could purchase inexpensively (like shampoo or soap) for those items that have a heftier price tag at your destination.
5. Eat like a local
You just don’t get the full experience of your location when you’re eating turkey sandwiches from the gas station to save a buck. Instead, go where the locals do – check out their markets and try the fresh fruit and produce. In some countries, the vendors will even negotiate price with you.
When you go out to eat, ask the locals where they go. Most of the time it isn’t the restaurant on the beach or in the heart of the action. It isn’t uncommon to find the best food you’ve ever had at a small restaurant hidden away from the tourist scene. Plus the prices are always better.
6. Look for volunteer opportunities
Many hotels or travel companies will offer discounts if you spend a few hours volunteering for them or at a local organization. Don’t be afraid to ask.
7. Ask for a group discount
Are you traveling with a large group of people? Ask for a group discount. You’re guaranteeing they fill their excursion so there’s no reason you can’t see if they will show a little appreciation back to you.
8. Shop around for excursions
Tour providers may be willing to give you a last-minute discount to fill their boat, car, tour, etc. They also may be willing to give you a better price so you choose them over their competition. Depending on the supply and demand where you are, you may be able to find a good deal.
9. Find out what the locals do
Where do the locals go during their free time? Ask around and many times you’ll find a hidden gem that you can check out for free. For example, we talked to some local kids in Costa Rica and they showed us a hidden waterfall not too far from the house we rented. We never would have known it was there if we didn’t ask. We got to spend the afternoon swimming, swinging on their rope swing, and getting to know them.
10. Don’t be tempted to buy anything from a gift shop.
Before you buy anything, ask yourself: will it bring value to my home, will I use it or admire it again, is it really symbolic of the destination? If you answer no, you don’t need it.
Instead of gift shops, find local vendors selling their items. You’ll walk away with something far more personal to the location (instead of something made in China) and it will generally be higher quality and less expensive.
You CAN travel on a budget without missing out on anything. The key is to figure out what is important to you and what you can do without. Save yourself some money, but don’t miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity to save a buck. Find the balancing point and you’ll have a great time at a price you can afford.