If you’re still with us — and not on the next flight out — congrats on staying strong! You can certainly get out and explore the world, but by planning ahead you can escape more than the daily grind…you can escape the pitfalls of a busted budget when you get home.
Planes, trains & automobiles
One of the biggest expenses in travel is transportation. If you’re heading overseas, you have little choice but to cough up for airfare. Start checking fares regularly, and use comparison travel sites to see who has the best offers. You can even get alerts if your selected fare changes.
While you may have an allegiance to a domestic airline, don’t dismiss international carriers. More airlines are establishing connections to U.S. cities, including some budget-friendly, no-frills options. Cut costs even more by planning travel outside peak seasons, such as summertime or winter holidays, particularly if you’re not a student or have students of your own.
If ocean crossings aren’t in the mix, driving or riding the rails could be more cost-effective. Both modes provide an opportunity to slow down and enjoy some scenery. By driving, you also avoid the expense of renting a car to get around your final destination. Just don’t neglect to factor in the cost for gas and overnight stays along the way.
Sleeping on it
Another big-ticket item when traveling: accommodation. If you’re the type of traveler that uses a hotel room to store belongings, sleep and shower, you probably don’t need to book a luxury suite.
If you’re planning to spend most of your time immersed in your surroundings, consider a small hotel, B&B or even a hostel — location, cleanliness and security are the biggest selling points here. Or, take advantage of the burgeoning sharing economy, and rent a room or even just a sofa. You can also look into house-sitting sites to find opportunities in your destination.
Securing inexpensive lodging for one or two can be easy, but if you’re traveling as a pack — such as with your family or your college pals — it might be more challenging to score great rates at establishments with rooms equipped to house just two or four, max. In that case, look into renting a condo, apartment or house. It may come cheaper than booking multiple hotel rooms, and you’ll have a kitchen on site, which can help keep your dining budget in check.
If your heart is set on Paris or London, but you can’t find any available rooms in your price range, consider broadening your perimeter. Look for lodgings further out or in neighboring towns, and use public transportation to shuttle in for sightseeing.
Food for thought
Whether you’re experiencing the culture in another part of the U.S. or on the other side of the world, food will be a major component. You can experience a region’s specialties without overdoing it — your wallet and your waistline will thank you.
If your accommodations offer breakfast, take them up on it to get fueled for the day. Then, get familiar with your destination’s dining habits, and make a point to join locals for a favorite meal, whether that’s tapas in Barcelona, a full English fry-up in London or ramen in Tokyo.
In between, pick up some groceries to assemble simple sandwiches and salads, or follow your nose to neighborhood markets and food stalls. Try to spend less on two meals of the day so you can splurge a little for one nice one. And pace yourself on drinks — beer, wine and spirits add up quickly, so set a daily limit.
Finally, don’t be afraid to stray from the beaten path. Prices are likely to be higher in touristy areas, so explore lesser known neighborhoods. You might find a respite from the crowds along with more affordable and authentic menus.
With a little time and research, you can plan an amazing adventure without getting your financial goals off track. You can return refreshed and ready to pick up where you left off on becoming financially awesome.