Who doesn’t like saving money on travel?
If you’re broke, it helps you afford a vacation you couldn’t have otherwise. If you’re a travel junkie, it helps you travel more. Or maybe you just like watching those sweet, sweet savings pile up in your savings account.
Either way, it’s actually pretty easy to do. Here are some of our top tips for traveling on a budget in 2021.
Choose an Affordable Destination
Your money-saving efforts start before you even choose a destination.
In fact, where you’re going may be the single most decisive factor on your budget. Because there’s such a huge difference in price between different places, even within the same region.
For instance, in Latin America, Mexico is a lot cheaper than Costa Rica. In Europe, Serbia is a fraction of the cost of France. And if you’re looking for an island getaway, your money will go much further in the Caribbean than the Maldives.
Have Flexible Dates
If you have set vacation dates dictated by your work, school, or what have you, that’s okay. You can still make it work.
But a little flexibility, if possible, can go a long way towards saving money. Even flying on a different day in the same week can be enough to save you a hundred dollars or more.
Book in the Off-Season
That hotel you had to book months in advance for the summer is practically empty a few months later, when the tourist rush dies down.
And you know what that means, don’t you? It’s a lot cheaper. In fact, you can get some crazy deals, even in the most popular destinations, by booking in the off-season.
Of course, most countries have gone through extended “low seasons” over the past year due to Covid, so be on the lookout for deals as tourism slowly ramps back up.
Look for Flight Deals
Flying at the right time of year, month, or day is enough to save you money. But there are still many other tactics you can use to get good deals on airfare.
Checking flight aggregator sites or apps, like Skyscanner, Google Flights, or Hopper can help you find the best prices for your dates and destination. Booking separate connecting flights or buying tickets for your group individually are other easy ways to shave hundreds off your expenses.
Know Your Accommodation Options
On one hand, you have the backpacker staying in a hostel bunk for a few bucks a night. On the other, there’s the vacationer who’s overpaying for a room in a big resort or chain hotel.
But for savvy, budget-conscious travelers, there are a lot of options in between, where you can get great value without sacrificing privacy or comfort. That could be a boutique hotel, a short-term condo rental through Airbnb, or a homestay.
Take Public Transportation – or Walk
Depending on where you’re going, a taxi across town may cost a few bucks – or fifty.
But either way, public transportation is always a lot cheaper, whether it’s the subway, the bus, or a tuk-tuk. Not only will they save you money, they’ll help you experience a place from a whole new perspective.
There’s nothing quite like exploring the Philippines in the back of a jeepney, for example.
Of course, for the truly budget-conscious, your two best friends are your left foot and your right. They’ll take you anywhere you need to go – within a few mile radius at least – for free. But consider buying them (and yourself) a beer with the cash you saved.
Get Off the Beaten Path
The more tourists (or expats/digital nomads) are around, the more expensive things are.
So, if you’re looking for the best prices, try wandering outside the tourist zone a bit. You might be shocked by the deals you can find just a few minutes – or even blocks – away, whether it’s food, products, or accommodation.
Eat Like a Local
Look, we all enjoy a good hamburger or pizza. But when you’re in a foreign country, lay off the McDonald’s.
By seeking out local fare – and avoiding the tourist trap restaurants that cater to Westerners – you’ll not only save a lot of money, you’ll get even better food. And it’s easy to find: just look for the place that’s crowded with hungry, smiling locals.
That goes for coffee too. The Starbucks logo might be familiar, but you’ll get a much cheaper – and arguably better – cup of coffee at the local cafe down the street.
Do a Little Cooking
Now, if you’re just on vacation for a couple days, and you really need some R&R, sure, eat out for every meal.
But if you’re in town for longer – or you just want to stretch your money further – cooking some of your meals can be a good idea, even if it’s just some scrambled eggs. Buy your ingredients at the local grocery store or fresh market, then whip them together in the kitchen at your Airbnb.
Avoid ATM Fees
Paying a few dollars every time you withdraw cash abroad – or from an ATM that’s not in your network – can really add up.
That’s where a debit card with no foreign transaction fees comes in. For example, with a Charles Schwab checking account, you can get cash at any ATM in the world. The bank won’t charge you a fee themselves, and they’ll reimburse you any fees charged by the ATMs at the end of each month.
Ask the Locals
Befriending a local or three is never a bad idea.
And one of the benefits of doing so is their ability to save you money, even if it’s indirectly. They’ll know the best deals, the real price of goods and services, plus they’ll make things like navigating public transportation a lot easier – and less awkward.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories