“A little thought and a little kindness are often worth more than a great deal of money.” –John Ruskin
Traveling can be ridiculously expensive and let’s be honest not that many of us have the luxury of being made of money. I’ve been to over 20 countries and trust me when I say I am nowhere near rolling in the dough. I’ve never traveled first class and I’m 100% okay with that. The experience is why I travel. It’s cheesy, but that’s worth more to me than staying in a luxury hotel I barely spend time in or flying first class (although one day I would love to sleep horizontally on an airplane without feeling like a sardine).
You don’t have to be well off to travel and hopefully, this inspires someone to take a chance and travel smarter so they can experience a new culture, an adventure, or just the next town over without constantly worrying if their bank account is suddenly facing a crisis of epic proportions.
Here are the tips I’ve tried and loved:
- Avoid tourist restaurants. They are catered to tourists who want to eat their own food. Go a few blocks away from the tourist spots and you will find some AMAZING local spots with food the people who live there actually eat and prices you won’t faint over.
- Travel offseason. Flights are expensive to certain places at the most popular times of year to go. 99.9% of the places you’re going will have the same museums, restaurants and tourist attractions at a non-peak time of year as they do when the hoards of people flock to their country. It’s worth it. I went to Peru during the offseason and would never go during a peak.
- Buy lunch supplies at a local grocery store. It’s WAY cheaper and saves you time and boatloads of money. Plus it can be a great way to speak another language if you travel somewhere outside your country.
- Plan your trip early. Flight prices rise as the departure date gets closer. Use sites like cheapoair.com to find discounted tickets.
- Fly at unpopular times of the day. You might have to wake up at 3am to board a 6am flight and look like you fell off the struggle bus to get there, but the prices will be worth it.
- Use public transportation or, even better, walk! Rent a bike! Most major cities have a bike share program that lets you rent a bike for a cheap price by the hour. You get to see more, get healthier, and save money. Heck yes.
- Bring your own reusable water bottle. You’ll save the environment and won’t have to keep buying bottles of water. It can add up.
- Airbnb. Obviously choose your host wisely and only stay with verified hosts. However, depending on the country some hotels will list their rooms at a massively discounted price on Airbnb. I stayed in Peru for $35 a night. If we had booked through the hotel’s website we would have paid $120 a night.
- Go where your currency is strong. You’ll be able to splurge a little without spending all of your money.
- Buy only the souvenirs that REALLY mean something to you. How many times have you come back with the coolest trinket you could find only to realize a year later it’s covered in dust or you have no idea what you did with it? My tip is to buy postcards or to make your own postcards from the pictures you take. It’s a more personal souvenir with ways to trigger more memories.
- Go where there’s no entrance fee! Tons of great museums and tourist attractions are free! British Museum in London, Smithsonian in Washington DC, etc.
- Pack lightly. Hotels will provide small amenities if you forget them. Overweight baggage fees can kill a trip’s mood before you’ve even gone through security.
- Take an overnight bus or train. You might feel a little less than beautiful the next day, but you’ll save on the cost of a hotel.
- Use a card that gives you travel perks such as no foreign transactions fees, points/miles for every dollar you spend, etc. I have the Barclay Arrival Card and I’ve saved over $500 by paying myself back in my saved points.
- BUDGET. Don’t go into a trip thinking I’ll just wing it. You will always spend more money that way. Plan what you’re doing and where you would rather spend your money. That can and will change, but you will be more prepared.
- Convert your money at a bank or travel agency. Airports have the worst conversion rates so you’ll end up spending more.
- Look for all-inclusive deals
- Use discount airlines like JetBlue, Spirit, RyanAir, and EasyJet
- Go to national parks. They’re free and incredible.
- Book hotels with breakfast included.
- Take it easy. The more you move around from city to city the more money you spend. Pick a place with tons to do and with easy day trips.
- Buy food at a local market instead of restaurants. You will help the locals, get to try new foods, and spend less money.
- If you’re in a country that uses Groupon try something new!
- Stay in hostels
- Work! Yes, you can work while you travel. Many hostels will hire extreme part-time employees and there are places that will allow you to stay with them in exchange for labor/work.
- Get to know the locals. They can steer you in some awesome directions and experiences most tourists won’t know about. Chances are it won’t be too expensive.
- Free walking tours!
- Street food is cheap food. And delicious!
- Check out the local music and street performer scene!
- Choose a destination that fits your budget. Consider the flight costs, hotels, currency to choose the best country/city/small town to visit.
Always remember that your travels are more about the experience. You won’t remember how much money you spent in 20 years. You’ll remember the stories and the experiences you had. Travel doesn’t have to be extremely expensive. It has to be memorable and something you’ll look back on and say, man, I am glad I did that.