While everyone loves to travel and escape the everyday worries of life, no one loves to be in debt, and traveling can very easily become burdensome if it gets too costly. Being aware of your financial means is the first and most important step to making the most out of your vacation. Going about the travel system strategically is important because stretching your dollar means that you can afford to do more of the things you love. Tourism is a huge money-making industry, but don’t let it put you in debt.
Probably the most important tip of them all is to plan ahead as much as possible and as detailed and by-the-hour as possible, including any plan B’s that might need to take place. Last-minute bookings are usually the costliest whether it’s for travel, hotels, car rentals, or attractions. If you can plan ahead, you can also browse all of the available discounts and be cautious of your expenses so that you’ll know what to avoid in the case of a plan B. Using Uber and Lyft might be convenient, but can easily cost more than a bus or other form of public transportation. Instead, being aware of your financial means and other money-saving options will help you make the most out of your vacation.
15. Pack Light
Checking in a bag or two can cost you a lot of money. You might think that a twenty-five dollars per bag fee doesn’t sound terrible, but you also have to calculate the flight back, meaning that the fees will double. You’ll actually end up having to dish out at least fifty dollars that can go towards food or cabs instead. Also, bringing more suitcases with you will only encourage you to spend more money because you’ll think you have more room to fill. Instead, bring just a couple of outfits, toiletries, and minimize your necessities as much as possible in order to fit just an overhead-sized suitcase.
14. Avoid Airplane Food
Airport food is expensive but buying food on the plane is even more costly. A sandwich can cost well over ten dollars and snacks are over four dollars each. This is a business for the airline at the expense of the passenger. They know you’re stuck with nowhere else to turn for food. The best thing you can do for yourself is to pack food from home. Instead of letting what’s in your fridge and pantry go to waste, bring them with you. As long as you’re not packing drinks, dry foods and snacks will pass the TSA check just fine. The next best option would be to stop by your local supermarket before heading to the airport. And the last resort would be to buy food at the airport, but buying food on the plane itself should never be considered when trying to save money.
13. Eat Cheap
Resist the temptation to splurge on every meal. Sure, you’re on a vacation, but limit the number of fine dining experiences as much as possible. For example, plan to have two cheap meals a day so that you can also afford to have the third meal be at your desired restaurant of choice. Your two cheap meals can be as simple as ordering from the McDonald’s dollar menu or even more inventive by visiting a local farmer’s market, a street vendor, or food truck. You can still achieve the vacation experience you want. Just be sure to keep at least two meals under ten dollars.
12. Pack Snacks
Upon arriving at your destination, visit a local supermarket and stock up on snacks and drinks so that you don’t end up filling yourself up with costly meals throughout the day. Water bottles are a necessity because it costs more to purchase them from gas stations or vending machines. Energy and meal bars are another must-have and can take the place of one of your allotted two cheap meals per day, saving you even more money. Also, don’t buy too much stuff or else some of it may go to waste. Just get enough snacks to fit in your backpack without taking up too much space.
11. Skip the Drinks
When at a restaurant, you’ll feel the urge to pair your fancy meal with a drink. However, this is exactly how restaurants make money… by charging more for drinks. Instead, just ask for a glass of water or drink the water bottle you purchased from the local supermarket. If you want to make it fancy, ask for a slice of lemon (no one charges for lemon). This tip will save you a good four to seven dollars per meal. And if you consider these savings over three meals per day, that’s a total daily saving of twelve to twenty-one dollars overall.
10. Where to Buy Souvenirs
It’s especially important NOT to buy souvenirs from the obvious locations – gift shops, souvenir carts, or airports. These are the most expensive places to find them. Instead, find a local ninety-nine cents shop or supermarket. They charge significantly less for the same quality of products. Also, people really don’t care for the souvenir itself, but they just appreciate the thought. Therefore, don’t feel the need to buy everyone you know a fancy hooded sweater that they might never wear. A metal keychain, pen, or magnet would be much more practical and wouldn’t take up too much space in your luggage.
9. Look For Bundles
Ironically, a trip can cost less when you bundle a hotel, rental car, and flight rather than booking these items separately. Before you book a hotel, be sure to check the cost of a bundle and compare. Popular sites like Priceline and Travelocity offer incredible deals on bundles that can make it worth getting the car rental and hotel stay. Also, travel agencies are becoming less popular these days due to the availability of internet deals. However, some agencies offer exclusive deals that you can’t find on the internet. It’s worth checking out your local travel agency to get a better idea before planning.
Instead of booking a hotel, consider finding a local Airbnb. They’re much better than going to a motel and much less expensive than a hotel. Also, depending on the reviews, some Airbnb’s are actually quite comparable to staying at a nice hotel. There are a lot of pros and cons to using Airbnb so be sure to read the reviews ahead of time. Consider contacting the renter and previous guests to get a good idea of whether or not it will be a good experience. Also, if you decide to book an Airbnb, familiarize yourself with the process so that you know what to do in the event of a problem.
7. Drive Yourself
Renting a car can be a lot cheaper than paying for a cab to take you everywhere. The cost of rides can really add up. Also, many rental companies offer long-term rental specials where it can cost as low as twelve dollars per day to rent an economy car. Taking a cab everywhere can cost five times as much (and this is before considering tips). Also, if you plan to visit an in-between destination that is less than ten hours away, consider driving there instead of flying. Make the road trip a fun and affordable part of your vacation and save a few extra dollars in the process.
6. Skip the Insurance
Check with your personal car insurance carrier before opting to purchase additional rental car insurance. Typically, when you’re already covered with full insurance for at least one of your own vehicles, your insurance policy will give you liability for driving another vehicle that isn’t covered by your policy. Check with your carrier to clarify applicable rules including the length of use. If you’re set, this will save you a ton of money since rental car companies earn a bulk of their revenue from selling insurance. Therefore, the price you’re paying on a rental car can nearly double after attaching rental fees.
5. Earn Rewards
For the expenses that you’re going to make, be sure that you’ll gain something in return. Do some research and find the best credit card that has low-interest rates and rewards you for every dollar you spend. The point is that you’re going to pay it all back at the end of your trip, but also that you would’ve earned flyer miles or other perks that you can use on your next trip. You might know of someone who is constantly traveling and often wonder what is their secret. They are probably earning plenty of rewards from each trip that they can continue the cycle of traveling and earning.
4. Use Coupons & Apps
Don’t be afraid to use coupons whenever you want to eat out. An even better suggestion is to let the best coupon deals determine where you’re going to eat! Sites like Groupon and Local Flavor offer amazing deals on meals like buy one, get one free. So before you get ready to pay for anything, be sure to pull out your smartphone and browse for coupons. This is also a reason why it’s super important to always have your phone charged. And if you’re traveling for business, be sure to keep all of your receipts on hand so that you can claim your meals as business-related expenses.
3. Avoid Tourist Spots
Tourists spots aren’t always the best places to visit. More often than not, there are great local venues and attractions that aren’t as popular but will give you a better and more authentic experience. Also, keep in mind that tourist spots are expensive and designed to get you to spend the most money possible all in one place. The restaurants and shops in a high-traffic area are likely to be more expensive. Instead, do a Google search of alternative options for local favorites or ask the locals themselves. Find a local passerby and ask for their opinion on must-see venues and sites.
2. Pick a Low Season
During high peak seasons, the cost of everything is likely to go up from flights to hotels and car rentals. You might be able to cut your costs in half just by traveling during low-traffic seasons. Spring is the ideal time to travel because you can avoid booking on any major holidays and it’s also the most idyllic in terms of weather and scenery. If you have paid time off, save those vacation days for your spring trip. Be sure to look at the weather ahead of time, and keep an eye out for flash specials and deals on flights and hotels.
1. Open a Travel Account
Opening an account just for travel is smart because you’ll only use what’s available in that account and you’ll also be warier of over-spending. Also, be sure to check that account on a consistent basis while you’re traveling so that you can have a real-time, authentic view of how you’re doing financially. While you’re on a vacation and feeling more carefree than ever, it can be extremely tempting to spend without thinking. Having a designated travel account gives you more financial accountability and makes you more realistic about living within your means (a classic money-saving strategy). Also, it gives you a better idea of what you can actually afford to do on your trip, which helps with planning as well.
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