Are you staring at an office cubicle while dreaming of jungles, glaciers, or a hidden beach you’ll visit in the all-too-distant someday? Remember that backpacking trip you always wanted to go on? Despite what luxury magazines and travel agents tell you, it is completely possible – and easy – to go on the vacation of your dreams without spending a small fortune. Traveling cheaply might require dedication, research, and passion, but it sure beats daydreaming about the trip you may never take.
Here are some of our best tips to save money and still get to experience an adventure of a lifetime:
Choose a destination that fits your budget.
- Say yes to unexpected opportunities. This might mean being flexible about when and where you go.
- If you are really looking to travel on a dime, check out locations where the American dollar can stretch farther, such as Thailand, Nepal, India and Latin America.
- Look at how much the whole picture of travel will cost, including hotel, flights, excursions, etc., instead of simply looking for cheap flights.
- Consider unexpected destinations to fly into, such as Iceland, Finland or Paris, and also research the best times of the year to travel to your destination.
- If you have your heart set on a more expensive locale, try booking during the off-season, where you’ll see fewer crowds and get better deals on hotels.
Try to plan ahead of time.
- Bundling your bookings in advance by using websites like Expedia and Kayak can help you save more than if you book your hotel, airfare and excursions separately.
- “Travel Tuesday”: Tuesdays are almost always the cheapest day of the week to travel as well as booking tickets, due to the low demand for flights on this day.
- Research public transportation such as buses, trains and light rails to avoid expensive taxis.
- Get comfortable with discomfort: the cheapest travel options might not be the most comfortable or what you are used to. However, don’t forget to occasionally treat yourself! A small nod to luxury is often the battery charge you need to refuel you for the next stage of your travel journey.
Stretch your dollar like a pro.
- Do as the locals do: excursions, bars, restaurants and hotspots listed by travel guides – even those listed as “off-the-beaten path” – usually aren’t a secret. In fact, anything that is marketed towards tourists is likely to be marked up. Instead, pay attention to where the locals go. Look for menus without English, or ask your hotel concierge or bartender where the best neighborhood spots are.
- Collect experiences, not things. With souvenirs becoming less local and more mass produced, focus on the experience you could have (a show, train ride, museum, et cetera) instead of a trinket to bring home.
- Learn to haggle: although in America haggling isn’t quite as popular as in many countries, often times you can finagle your way to a better deal simply by asking.
- Bring your own snacks when you are out-and-about. It will prevent you from spending money on tourist trap restaurants and you can save your money to try more authentic food.
Traveling on a dime requires research and determination, but with any luck, you will come home with an adventurous travel story that money literally can’t buy.