Traveling is exciting and fun – you get to discover a whole new world out there – but it’s also costly and can burn a hole in your pocket pretty fast. Plane tickets, accommodation, transport and food are just the tip of the iceberg – pile on exploratory activities and shopping sprees, and you’ll be watching your savings dwindle away in no time. So if you want to fulfil your globetrotting dreams without breaking the bank, read on for the top 20 tips on how to travel on a budget.
1. PLAN YOUR TRIPS IN ADVANCE
Plan your trips in advance (but not too far ahead – supposedly, the best window of time to book flights is about 45-60 days beforehand) and diligently scour the web for discounts and deals. The best days to book air tickets online are on Mondays or Tuesdays, and avoid weekends at all costs – that’s when prices skyrocket.
2. BE FLEXIBLE WITH DATES AND LOCATIONS
Be flexible with dates and locations, and try to travel off-season if you can. Tuesdays to Thursdays are usually the cheapest days to fly, and if you add more connecting stops to your itinerary, ticket prices will drop.
3. CHOOSE FEWER DESTINATIONS AND SPEND MORE TIME IN EACH.
This way, you’ll have time to appreciate each destination instead of going on a whirlwind trip where you barely scratch the surface anywhere. Besides, the more stops you have on your itinerary, the more time and money you’ll spend traveling and finding a place to stay.
4. DO YOUR RESEARCH
Heed the advice of travel tips and click on blogs and articles to read others’ past experiences, so you know what to expect and what to avoid – steer clear of the common mistakes made by those who have gone before you.
5. BUDGET YOUR MONEY
Be organised and disciplined – figure out how much you want to spend and allocate accordingly for your daily use. All this has to be done in advance, or you’ll be living large the first few days and surviving on nothing but cheap instant noodles towards the end.
6. TRAVEL LIGHT
Pack light, because you’ll probably have to pay extra for luggage – especially on domestic flights within countries that only allow you to check in one bag. Just bring basic necessities and simple outfits that you can mix and match to make it look like you’re wearing a different outfit each day.
7. RESEARCH ON AFFORDABLE RESTAURANTS
Map out your meals and look around to find affordable restaurants nearby, so as to avoid making a desperate, last minute decision to satisfy your hunger pangs. Avoid hotel breakfasts if you can, because cafes nearby are probably more value-for-money; when in doubt, remember that vegetarian dishes are always the cheapest. Alternatively, if you’re staying at a place that allows you use of the kitchen, grab a bunch of groceries and cook your own meals – especially for dinner, since it’s usually more expensive.
8. MULTI-TRIP PASSES OR TRAVEL AT NIGHT
If you’re traveling within a particular country, keep an eye out for multi-trip passes or travel at night so you can sleep while on the go and save on accommodation. Public transportation is your best friend, but if you need to rent a car, choose one that lasts longer on lesser petrol (you can also try hitchhiking if you’re brave enough). For nearby destinations, walking is a great way to take in the sights and avoid piling on the vacation weight.
9. CHOOSE A DESTINATION WHERE THE CURRENCY IS WEAKER AS COMPARED TO YOUR COUNTRY’S CURRENCY
If you’ve got no particular preference for your destination, pick one where the currency is weaker for better buying power and suss out where to find moneychangers that give you the best exchange rates.
10. STAY IN HOSTELS, HOME EXCHANGES, B&BS OR HOME STAYS
Instead of heading to your favourite hotel chain, why not try hostels, home exchanges, B&Bs or home stays? Start by searching for apartments on Airbnb.com. This enables you to meet the locals and pick their brains for insider tips on the area; you’ll also come across fellow backpackers whom you can join forces with to snap up group discounts.
11. GO LOCAL AND ENJOY AN AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCE FOR LESS
Head for street stalls, outdoor markets, family-run businesses or neighbourhood eateries filled with locals (and non-English menus) to enjoy an authentic experience for less.
12. SIGN UP FOR REWARD OR MEMBER PROGRAMS
Be ‘kiasu’ and sign up for reward or member programs. They’re usually free anyway, and you never know what you might get out of them.
13. STAY UPDATED ABOUT THE LATEST DEALS VIA SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
Follow major airlines and ticketing sites on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to mailing lists of travel deal sites – they regularly share discounts, sales and promo codes that you can take advantage of.
14. SUSS OUT GOOD DEALS ON THE PHONE
Negotiate on the phone – especially with hotels – to get the best deals and to find out about promos not posted online.
15. STAY AWAY FROM TOURIST TRAPS
Stay away from tourist traps (they’re such a rip-off) and go off the beaten track. Sure, you can take in recommendations from your guidebook, but some of the best finds are hole-in-the-wall places or ones in side streets that visitors don’t know about. Why not veer off course and see what you stumble upon?
16. BARGAIN, BARGAIN, AND BARGAIN
Learn the fine art of haggling. Bargain whenever you can, whether you’re at markets, shops or even in taxis. As long as you’re not rude or demanding, there’s no harm in doing it, since they probably hike up prices for tourists anyway.
17. TRY YOUR LUCK AND ASK FOR UPGRADES
Ask for upgrades. What’s the worst that could happen? A curt ‘no’? Big deal! Just toughen up and raise the question – you could receive extra goodies without paying a single cent.
18. ASK FOR TIPS FROM FRIENDS
Get a little help from your friends – they might know people living abroad whom they can connect you with, and that could save you from paying for accommodation and gain you a knowledgeable tour guide.
19. LOOK OUT FOR FREEBIES
Keep an eye out for freebies. Some places offer free museum tours, or even free entry on selected days and times; plus, festivals, events and nature activities like hikes or walks along scenic routes are usually without charge – because the best things in life are free.
20. MAKE FRIENDS WITH LOCALS
Just have fun and be open to making new friends. You never know when you could meet a friendly local keen to show you around the ins and outs of the country.
About the writer:
Alicia Lee is a dessert junkie with a serious (and probably incurable) case of wanderlust. Never one to pass up on retail therapy, she loves a great bargain and can usually be spotted on weekends browsing through quirky shops or chillaxing at a quiet cafe.