Do you long to travel, but can’t justify the expense? Maybe you just want to shave a little off the cost of your next vacation. There are plenty of tips on how to save a dollar here and there, but these ten awesome tips for your travel budget are the ones I found the easiest to use and the most effective.
Have a Travel Budget
One of the most easily overlooked aspects of budget travel is to actually come up with a travel budget that you can stick to. It’s not enough to simply look for the cheapest airfare or the best discounts on food. When you have a budget to work with, you eliminate unnecessary spending throughout your trip. If you go traveling without a budget you might save money initially on the big things like airfare and lodging, but you will spend more money on small things throughout your journey that adds up.
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When to Fly
The plane ticket is one of the largest factors in your travel spending. If you are determining your dates of travel, plan for the cheapest times to fly. This means picking dates that fall in the middle of the week when fewer people are traveling. Red Eye flights are the cheapest ones to book. Look at times in the middle of the night or early morning for the best possible rates. Traveling at night has the added bonus of eliminating the need for a hotel room. This is the first step to staying under your travel budget.
Shopping around is important, and comparison sites make that really easy to do. That doesn’t mean you should go with just one site to book your travel. Look at as many of these as you can and compare packages. You might be able to save even more money with the right bundle. Despite doing basically the same thing, all comparison sites are different. Even when they say they compare against other sites you can still find different options when you compare directly. It’s only a few extra tabs to open and it makes all the difference for your travel budget.
The easiest way to save on your travel budget is to just join rewards programs. Frequent flyer programs are the best for getting savings on future trips. When you don’t have to pay for airfare, or significantly reduce the cost of a ticket by redeeming points earned it starts your trip on the best terms. It creates a lot more breathing room for your budget. Credit cards with airline rewards are a great way to use your spending to get discounts or complimentary travel. Hotels have reward programs, too. Since your hotel stay is usually the largest chunk of your travel budget, it makes sense to save on where you stay.
Another great way to start your travel plans off on the right foot is to sign up for emails and newsletters. These will come in all the time and might wind up in your spam folder. This is actually a good thing! Rather than be bombarded with travel discounts you have no use for when you do have the travel bug, you can use a keyword search in your email account to bring up recent deals. You could even create an email account specifically for travel and sign up for all the travel related emails you can get. That way, there is no chance of getting bombarded with unwanted sales pitches on your regular account.
This is a really sneaky trick. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s pretty reliable. Plan to be very early in picking up your rental car. When you arrange for your rental car before the trip, pick the smallest/cheapest car you can. The trick here is arriving when people haven’t returned their rentals yet so you can get a free upgrade. Any time you gamble with the system you run a minor risk of being stuck with something you don’t want, but try this one sometime when the stakes are low and see how you like it.
When travelers on a budget search for a hotel, they sometimes look no further than the price tag. A little bit of extra work can save you money and eliminate unpleasant surprises. One of the most important aspects of lodging is the location. Location greatly affects the budget, because it determines so much of your local expenses. Your travel around town will be affected and local restaurants will also play a key role in how you spend your money while you are away. Sometimes you stay a little out of reach to save some money, and sometimes you cut down on car rental, gas, or Uber by just being close to what you need.
Another thing to look for in a hotel is whether they provide a free breakfast. This can be a major difference in your spending depending on the length of your trip. Cutting 1/3 of meals out of your budget is amazing, especially with the most important meal of the day.
For other meals, there are great ways to cut down on your spending. Sometimes a travel budget means actively spend less while you are out. Depending on what you look for while traveling you do anything from bringing coupons to scheduling your meal times. Dinner is always the most expensive meal at restaurants, so you can save money by making your dinner a late lunch. You can also get grab and go items at the local grocery store, or plan for a barbecue, or picnic in a public park.
Get out of Town…
…but not too far out of town. One way to travel to a new destination is to find a remote location within a few hundred miles of home. It’s just far enough from where you live to be more than a staycation, but it’s a lot more convenient. Try a small town you normally drive right by, or a city with a lot of museums. Museums often have scheduled days, or times where admission is free, so this can be a frugal way to spend your time away.
Save on Phone Calls
Another budget travel problem depending on how far from home you are can be the expense of phone calls. Depending on how often you travel internationally long distance call rates can come as a shock. Talk to your provider before you go on a trip and see if international calls will cost you more. If so, change your plan to include international roaming for the time you are away, to cut down on high long distance charges. You may need to develop a system with people at home to call you at certain times while you are away, to keep the charges lower.