I don’t consider myself a luxury traveler or a budget traveler. I’m an “I want to travel and these are my options” traveler. Sometimes, I want to camp; sometimes, I stay at 7-star hotels. Other times you may find me on a friend’s couch.
At a certain point (where you travel with children or are overworked and need a private vacation), a cheap, rowdy hostel where you can teach fellow nomads how to play King’s Cup is just not appealing. However, when you’re wandering on your own, you have the leeway to save money by making a few sacrifices.
This weekend, I joined about 30 #IgersWithoutBorders from the Los Angeles and Orange County area for a caravan road trip to Utah and Arizona. The all took Fridays off work, and we saw Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend, Utah’s sand dunes, Bryce Canyon National Park, and the Devil’s Garden in two days.
We spent about $60 each for gas and lodging. I don’t want to hear about how you can’t afford to travel, or that you don’t have time to travel. You can, and you do :)
What are you willing to give up to achieve what you want? If you want to save money while traveling, here’s how:
1. Choose a more affordable destination.
We spent $15 per person three ways for a two bedroom apartment in the heart of Budapest. Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia? I was 22 years old and could afford 4-5 star hotels.
Obviously, exploring closer to home with a road trip like ours is oftentimes the most budget friendly option.
2. Stay with friends or try CouchSurfing.
AirBnB, hostels, and CouchSurfing are an alternative to chic hotels. Consider renting out your place on AirBnB to monetize or break even on rent while you’re away.
3. Download Roamer.
Use the app to keep your phone number without getting roaming fees, or purchase a foreign country’s SIM card for $20-$40 (have your domestic service provider “unlock” your phone to do this). You can also use the Skype app with WiFi to chat for free or at a low rate. WhatsApp and Viber let you text with WiFi or a data plan.
4. Download the mobile app WiFi Finder or J Wire…
To locate free WiFi hotspots.
5. Strategize your route.
For example, flying into Vienna could cost $400 less per person than flying into Rome or Munich. Google Flight Search is perfect for this!
I wanted to go to Istanbul, but I could fly to Denmark for $250 from LAX. Therefore, I flew to Copenhagen, saw friends, went to Cyprus for about $150, then from Cyprus to Turkey for about $30. Seeing multiple countries and returning home cost me less than a one way flight from LAX to Istanbul.
Strategy, success. Skyscanner has a fantastic flexible destination search option to find the cheapest flights!
6. Plan your trip around any major events/ festivals…
Having a fixed destination helps you save money and time by not going back and forth.
7. Create a budget including a daily allowance – and stick to it.
Easiest done when you use cash. Your bank will charge foreign transaction fees, so ask questions. Use the app Concur to track business expenses. Use the TravelWallet App to track personal travel expenses.
8. Save money by cooking and splitting costs with a group instead of dining out, or stick to street food.
Bringing a packed lunch to a park, beach, or legendary historic site makes for a scenic picnic. Splitting costs for dinner is always a great conversation starter to meet other travelers!
9. Explore local ride sharing and take a charter bus/ ferry instead of a flight or train.
Seriously, just take a charter bus or ferry anytime you don’t have a car. Look into local ride-shares too.
For this weekend’s road trip, I was with two girlfriends from high school and two people I met as we loaded up for the ride! They were a friend’s friend’s friends…yep.
10. Road trip it.
There are really affordable second-tier rentals (not the type you get at the airport). Examples are “Wicked” in Australia. Check out my “Road Trip Abroad Travel Checklist!”
11. Drink cheaper alcohol.
This one time I had “goon.” That’s bagged wine. Or an excuse for it.
I actually met nineteen year old girls who camped on beaches while road tripping Australia to save on hostels and hotels.
13. Take free walking tours and visit national parks.
Better yet, ask a local to show you around.
14. Travel credit cards – points add up for free flights and accommodation.
You can use Points.com or AwardWallet.com to manage and exchange points from different providers.
15. Watch the exchange rate.
Try the mobile app XE Currency Exchange. The Euro just dropped to it’s lowest point, making it a good time for Americans to travel to Europe.
16. Best of all, try working abroad.
– Read: the Gap Year: 14 Ways to Work and Travel