Travel is broadening, exciting and often expensive. If you’re on a budget but want to see the world, there are plenty of ways to keep costs down and still have a great trip.
Unless you have your heart set on visiting a particular country, choose your destination based on airline ticket prices and the current exchange rate. It’s likely there are quite a few bargains available for places you’d like to go. Have an adventure while saving money from the start.
Use no-frills, international budget airlines to get to Asia or Europe and for traveling between countries. Even with the extra fees you might pay, the fare difference between these and standard airlines are incredible.
Youth or elder hostels
Whether you’re 18 or 80, you can stay at a youth or elder hostel and save on lodging. Youth hostels are generally open to those 18 and over, but the upper-age limit depends on the individual facility or local laws; 30 is usually the upper age limit, but that’s not set in stone. Elder hostels welcome travelers age 55 and up.
The sharing economy has given rise to plenty of opportunities to stay for free. There are house-sitting sites and apps like Couchsurfing.com, which pairs travelers and locals willing to put them up. Besides free lodging, you’ll meet new people and discover the best local places to eat and shop. If you live in a desirable area in the US, home swapping is another option.
Most cities offer special tourism cards that save you money on many places of interest. They are a good way to visit more attractions for less money, and some of them come with perks like free public transportation.
Use your miles and points
If you travel frequently, you’ve probably earned enough miles or points to qualify for significant savings. Sign up for travel-oriented credit cards and get bonuses, or use shopping or loyalty programs to earn more travel points.
Volunteer on vacation
Do good while traveling and have many of your needs met at the same time. You’ll probably have to pony up your own airfare, although some supporting organizations hold fundraisers to get volunteers where they are needed.
Take advantage of currency fluctuations and go where the dollar gets you the most for your money. If there’s enough of a disparity, you could end up staying in hotels or eating in restaurants far beyond what you thought you could afford.
Use search apps to find the best deals on transportation, dining, lodging and entertainment. Of course, this means your smartphone must work in a particular country. Certain major US carriers use cellular technology available throughout much of the world, but other major US carriers use technology that won’t work in many countries. Before planning your trip, contact your cell carrier and find out if you can use your smartphone abroad and if additional fees apply.
Bargains abound when you travel off-season. Once the summer is over and kids are in school again, you’ll not only save money, but museums, historic sites and other points of interest are less crowded. Off-season differs according to location, and there are some places you’ll want to avoid in the off-season if the weather during that time is truly terrible.
Negotiate goods and services
In the United States, you’ll rarely — if ever — negotiate the price of an item or service. That’s not the way it’s done in many other countries. Bone up on the local shopping customs beforehand, and if haggling is customary, learn to haggle. In many places, negotiating the price of a hotel or taxi is part of business culture.
If you’re flexible, last-minute bookings can save you a ton of money. That cruise ship is going to sail whether or not it’s completely full, and that group tour will also take place. You might save as much as half the regular rate by booking within a week or so of departure.
Jane Meggitt graduated from New York University and worked as a staff writer for a major New Jersey newspaper chain. Her work on pets, equines and health have appeared in dozens of publications, including The Daily Puppy, The Nest Pets, Horse News, Hoof Beats and Horseback magazines.