Seeing the world doesn’t require unlimited funds. If you are saving money for a future full of adventure around the globe, you may be able to get started on your journey sooner if you understand the basic principals of traveling on a budget.
If you have children along for the ride, traveling is a whole different experience. The kids dictate the stamina of the group. This can be a drag, or you can take advantage of their smaller tolerances for fancy restaurants, late nights, and long shopping trips.
For small children, watching a skid loader move boxes can be the thrill of a lifetime. Look at your travel plans from their point of view and adjust your expectations accordingly. Research fun things to do along the way and at your destination for their age group. Travel can be unnerving for small children, so take your time and try to stick to their normal meal, nap, and bedtime routines as much as possible.
You may be wondering what this advice has to do with your budget. Melt-downs are expensive. Kids never lose it at an appropriate time. Here’s when they’ll become inconsolable:
Before you book your hotel, check out the local Airbnb options. For families and those traveling with a group, it’s often a much better deal to get one nice home with a full kitchen and separate bedrooms than either cram into one hotel room or buy multiple rooms.
Even if you aren’t traveling with kids, you may want to spend a night “in” and cook food from the local farmers market. If the home you rent has a back yard, you could plan an evening of playing outside followed by a normal bedtime routine the night before you most potentially-challenging day.
During the weeks leading up to your trip, try to get your kids to stick to a bedtime routine that will let them get plenty of sleep. Make sure they eat well, too. This will help support their immune systems and hopefully help them stay well during your trip.
Pack a care-bag for kids that are prone to certain ailments, complete with medications you know are effective and comfort items that will help them get through a short illness quickly. It’s best to handle small health emergencies with your supplies from home instead of making a visit to an urgent care clinic or hospital while you are away from home for many reasons, one of which is that they may not take your health insurance. Make sure you pack prescriptions, as well. Replacing those while you are traveling is inconvenient, unnerving, and expensive.
When you leave the country, you have a whole new set of things to handle related to finances. Before you leave, call your credit card company and your backup credit card company to let them know your dates of travel and your destination. Double check that your cards will work in the countries where you’ll spend time.
Visit your bank to get some cash in the local currency of your destination, as well. You may get a much better exchange rate elsewhere, but you’ll need some emergency cash in case your credit card and backup credit card aren’t working for some reason.
Drop of photocopies of your driver’s license, passport, and birth certificate off at the home of a trusted friend or relative that you know will be available during your time away. If you lose your documents, having someone at home with copies will help you immensely.
If you are traveling overseas with a minor and both parents aren’t present, make sure you understand the rules for entering and exiting each country you’ll visit. Having the proper documentation on hand will help your trip go smoothly.
A large part of traveling on a budget involves preventing expensive mishaps by thinking ahead. If you can stick to your budget by avoiding emergencies, you’ll be able to more thoroughly enjoy your time away.
If you are in Nebraska, have a red beer (tomato juice and Budweiser) and a steak. Not only will it be the best you’ve ever had, but it’ll also be a fraction of the cost of lobster, which had to travel halfway across the country to get to the Midwest. If you are in Maine, have a local craft beer and try the lobster. It’s fresh.
Every area of the world has a local culinary specialty. Not only will you save some money by eating what the locals eat, but you’ll also get to experience the best food the area has to offer.
If you book your flight with your credit card, double check the perks and automatic travel insurance. A free checked bag, airport lounge access, delayed flight insurance, and additional insurance for rental cars may be included at no charge.
If those perks aren’t offered by your credit card company at no charge, research your options carefully. Travel insurance is generally inexpensive and it could save you thousands if your plans go awry.
Understanding potential fees for using ATMs or swiping your card overseas is important. You don’t want to come home to hundreds of dollars in fees because you didn’t understand the terms and policies imposed by your bank.
While you probably don’t want to spend January in New York City, the summer months can be crowded and expensive. Instead, book your trip during the shoulder season. You’ll enjoy the best weather and see Times Square and The Statue of Liberty with a smaller crowd. Plan to travel to the city that never sleeps in April, May, September, or October.
The shoulder season is between peak season or high season when there are a high number of tourists in the area and offseason, when some businesses may be closed and the weather could be less than friendly. During the shoulder season, you’ll get great rates, excellent service, and the opportunity to enjoy traveling without the crowds of tourists all around.
Use an app like Expedia to get great last minute deals. They typically offer 20% to 50% off of published rates. You can find deals on flights, entire trips, car rentals, and hotel rooms.
If you want to go on a cruise and have a flexible schedule, check out Cruise Finder by iCruise. Their Hot Deal section offers deep discounts on cruises all over the world at a fraction of the price just two weeks from the departure date.
For a quick getaway, HotelTonight will help you score a discounted hotel room up to seven days in advance in 1,700 cities. For the best rates, search using the Geo Rates feature, which targets deals to people based on their location.
Travelzoo offers every accommodation and transportation option you could want. You can also get discounts on things to do and restaurants at your destination.
For a more personalized experience, try Trip.com. The website bases its suggestions and deals on your personal preferences. Hotel room discounts average 25% off published rates.
The rise of the sharing economy has created a worldwide movement that allows free travel accommodations if you are willing to make some compromises and are comfortable interacting with new people.
If you’d like a more long-term nomadic existence but you don’t want to pay for accommodations, think about becoming a professional house sitter. People who travel but leave their pets at home often need to hire someone to keep an eye on things while they are away. Check out Trusted Housesitters and Home Exchange to learn more about this option.
House sitting, especially when it involves the care of pets, isn’t a fast option for free accommodation. If you want a non-traditional format for your time away or would like to settle into a community for a few weeks or months alone or with your significant other, house sitting may work well for you.
For the more free-spirited crowd with a strong social media network, booking a ticket and asking if anyone knows someone who will host you is a fun option. If you really want to see a new place, the best way to do it is by staying with someone who lives there and asking them for recommendations about what you should do, where you should go, and what you should eat.
If you aren’t comfortable staying with complete strangers, tapping into your social network for a place to stay is a nice way to get better acquainted with people you already know.
No matter your plans or accommodations, never trade your safety for savings. If you feel uncomfortable, switch to plan B, even it’s a more expensive plan.
If you are traveling solo, be sure to let someone know your plans and keep in touch with family and friends. Make sure you have a working cell phone and some extra money to fall back on if the unexpected happens.
There’s nothing worse than having a miserable time on vacation because you agreed to book a cruise even though you hate the open water. If flying turns you into a nervous wreck, plan a road trip. If the city makes you tense, head toward most beautiful places in the Midwest. If you find museums boring, don’t agree to walk through three of them in a city where you would rather do any of 1,000 truly exciting things.
The most important part of traveling on a budget is dumping the idea that you must stay in a boutique hotel, rent a car, and fly to your destination. If you want to do those things, concentrate on learning how to use credit card rewards and perks to decrease the amount of money you’ll spend on transportation and accommodations on vacation.
If your credit is in good shape, you can accumulate high-value travel rewards in just a few months and then book your accommodations for little or no money.