Saving on accommodations
Gone are the days where you had to stay in an overpriced hotel room to only sleep a few hours and change your clothes. With technology comes options and a network of resources at your fingertips. While staying in a hotel may be more your speed (and honestly, sometimes you can’t beat the comfort), other options could be available for much cheaper:
- AirBNB.com & Couchsurfing.com. With the internet, everyone is now an inn keeper. A lot of people who live within city limits and cool neighborhoods located by destinations people visit rent rooms for those looking to travel for cheap. Sometimes rooms or apartments come with private entrances, your own bathroom and maps of the city in which you are staying. Couchsurfing may be another viable option if it is just you and you aren’t too picky about sleeping on a, you guessed it, couch. For both of these options, you can read reviews of the strangers you are about to settle down for the night with and see if they are a good fit.
- Hostels. Besides being the subject of a series of B horror films directed by Eli Roth, hostels are still very much alive and well. Hostels have more of a college dormitory feel than hotel, with various people sharing one room, sleeping on bunk beds and a community bathroom. Some hostels allow you to rent your own room which is a bit more priced but can provide you the privacy you need with a fraction of the cost. These are located in pretty much every city and can usually accommodate you without a reservation. It would not hurt to check though prior to your stay, since they are rising in popularity.
- Credit card points. A lot of credit card companies allow customers to collect cash back and points that can be used for things such as hotel rooms and free flights. While it may take time to collect them, and should only be done with responsible credit card use, many hotels will let you reserve and pay for rooms with this way. A lot of chain hotels such as the Marriott are examples who accepts points. For a list of point programs, you should always check with your financial institution when applying.
Saving on flights
Flying first class may definitely have perks such as free champagne, more seat room and a bathroom without a waiting line, but those don’t come cheap. Since most of us can handle sitting in coach for a few hours, you have some options with your flights.
- Frequent flyer programs. As I mentioned earlier, credit card point programs are a great way for you to get free flights and hotel rooms. If you haven’t mastered the credit card point game quite yet, another option may be a frequent flyer reward program. Southwest is an airline that will let you sign up and earn points in their Rapid Rewards program, no credit card necessary. Points are collected when you purchase flights, car rentals and hotel rooms through their website and then can be cashed in when you have enough to buy a ticket with. I am able to get a free flight per year just by using them to book other flights I was going on anyways.
- Search engines. You do not have to use only one airline to book your travels. That is what search engines like Kayak are for. It may be cheaper to buy two one way flights on two different airlines then it is to buy a round trip. By using a search engine, you are also allowed to see if flights are cheaper the more flexible you are with dates and times. And if that doesn’t sound too good to be true, you are also allowed to compare their results to other companies with just a click of a button. Make sure you shop around and don’t always assume one airlines sale is cheaper than others regular price.
Saving on food
- Bring your own snacks. Airports and hotels tend to have overpriced snacks. With the exception of drinks, there is nothing you can’t bring in your suitcase or carryon bag food wise. Before traveling, hit up your local grocery store for shelf stable items like granola bars, candy, dried fruit, beef jerky and pretzels.
- Consider eating breakfast (or another meal) at your hotel. If you aren’t a big eater in the morning or at night, why don’t you consider picking up some groceries and eating a meal in your hotel room? When I visited Boston, I bought bagels and cream cheese and made sure to have one before I left for the morning. I’ve also done this with oatmeal and dried fruit since I just needed water and a coffee mug the hotel provided. Coffee, although not always the best, is usually free in your room or downstairs so make sure you stock up there too.
- Eat like a local. DO NOT EAT NEXT TO A TOURIST DESTINATION! Since people who sightsee are usually out of town and do not live locally, they are more likely to spend money on souvenirs and food at tourist hot spots. Don’t do it. Ask the locals where to grab food instead. Locals tend to know where things are affordable, close by, and with great service. Oh and I forgot to mention, food that actually taste good. My favorite restaurant in New York City is just outside of SoHo in Chinatown where I can grab a plate of eggs, hash browns, bacon and toast for $5.99. They also had the best coffee to go for $1.00 and I would have never known if I hadn’t asked the front desk.
Just about everything else
- Plan a loose itinerary. Just like research helps you save in other areas, it can also help you when traveling. Look up points of interest and see if they offer any deals for admission. Some days, places may be free due to a cultural event or a holiday. Others may have twilight hours that offer lower priced admission because they aren’t as busy. Museums, especially in New York City, are donation only. You can save money by doing research and planning your trip accordingly.
- Buy tickets online. Along with letting you know when hours and deals are, websites may also allow you to buy online for a lower cost than buying at the door. I saved $10 when my boyfriend and I went whale watching in San Diego by purchasing our tickets online. That $10 was used for something else obviously, iced coffee and snacks!
- Public transportation. If a city you are visiting is public transportation friendly, utilize it! A lot more cities have public transit now and can be used to visit a lot of places on your list. Do what the locals do and use the bus, metro, subway, light rail, ride an elephant, etc. and save yourself money from having to pay for a cab everywhere. If you do need a cab, try to use Uber or Lyft instead. These car rides can be 25-50% cheaper than a taxi. One thing I’ve also done is used a trolley tour to get around town for the day. Trolley tours are anywhere between $15-30 and you can use the pass all day and sometimes for the week and hop on and off as many times as you want. They also run on a timely schedule! And have coupons!
These are just some tips to help you travel more frequently on a budget. For a lot of people, travel may seem out of reach but hopefully it now seems a little bit more attainable.
What is your favorite tip for traveling on a budget?