Traveling was once a time to splurge and have a great time. As people have tightened their money belts over the past few years, budget traveling has become popular again. You don’t need to go into debt to have a great vacation. There are plenty of ways you can have a fabulous travel experience without spending all your cash.
Start with a Budget
The way to not break the bank is to know how much you have to spend on an entire vacation. If you plan on traveling in Europe for a week and have saved up $5,000, there is a lot you can do with that. You need to keep in mind that money will be spent on transportation, lodging, food, activities, and entertainment. Transportation can be broken into getting there and getting around once you are there. Once you know what you are working with, you can start searching for deals on travel, lodging, even meals.
If your plan is to go somewhere that requires a flight, there are several websites you can search for deals. Once you have done some online research, it never hurts to call an airline and ask if they can meet a price or offer something better. Planning in advance and getting your tickets as early as possible is a great way to guarantee you have the flight. If you are more daring, you can wait till the last minute and try to get a cheap seat as an airline is trying to fill up a plane. There are websites that will let you bid on a flight as well. Keep in mind, if your bid is accepted, your credit card will be charged.
You also need to think about getting around once you reach your destination. Major cities, such as New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo, have public transportation systems. The metro and bus systems tend to be an inexpensive way to get around. Some locations allow you to purchase a ticket that is good for a week. If you have planned out every aspect of your vacation, you may find that you can walk to a lot of places and save on transportation costs.
Depending on your needs, there are plenty of hotels, hostels, and bed and breakfasts that could meet your needs. If you just need a bed to sleep in at night, you may consider a hostel or very budget hotel. The Lonely Planet offers a great website where you can search for hotels, hostels, and bed & breakfasts. There are reviews of the hotels and it’s a great place to start your search for budget accommodations.
Another option, if you are planning an extended stay of at least a week, is to rent an apartment or do a home exchange. If you consider the home swap option, you must be willing to allow someone to stay in your home for a week or the length of your visit as well. It’s a great way to save on living accommodations while you are traveling. When you decide to rent an apartment, you need to do plenty of research as well. However, the bonus of the apartment rental or home exchange is the kitchen, so you can cook instead of eating out all the time.
If you plan on renting a home or using a home exchange program, you will have access to a kitchen. There are even some hostels that offer a communal kitchen. When you have access to a kitchen, you can save a lot when it comes to eating. Plan on eating most of your meals where you are staying and head to the grocery store.
Even if you have access to a kitchen, you may want to experience the local cuisine. In Paris, for example, there are plenty of little bistros and cafes that offer a spice of local flavor for those on a budget. Some restaurants offer a special that will include your entree, beverage, and dessert.
Entertainment and Activities
If you are planning to visit museums, many offer free entry on certain days or at certain times of the month. Do your research and know when entry will be free. If you can plan your activities around those days, you will save yourself a few entry fees, which can definitely add up. Some museums and sites have student discounts, so if you are 26 years old or younger, consider looking for those discounts as well.
Never hesitate to look for coupons. Some locations will have coupon books to allow you to save on items, such as eating out or car rentals. If you can’t find anything like that, ask. Some hotels and hostels keep those promotions at the front desk.
There are many ways to stretch your budget when traveling. The key is to plan ahead and do your research. When you know the locations of items and any specials they offer, it makes planning much easier. Start your planning and have a great trip!