Planning the trip of a lifetime? Here’s everything you need to know in order to have a great adventure, within your travel budget!
by James Deutsch, Travel Writer | James Deutsch is a writer and content strategist with a passion for travel. Always on the move, he bounces between the west and east coasts, pursuing his love for writing, music, and finding unique knick-knacks and gifts.
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When you’re planning the trip of a lifetime, the last thing you want to do is worry about the budget. It’s such a huge point of stress for so many people because it may seem like no matter what you try, you just can’t stay within budget. Budgeting for travel sounds more intimidating than it is, and there are a multitude of tools and strategies available to the modern traveler. A little effort goes a long way in keeping you and your wallet happy, and small compromises can promise a great time from the moment you embark on your trip.
There are a few surefire tricks that work pretty much every time, allowing you to cut certain expenses whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally. Here’s where you can start:
Flights are cheaper on certain days
It’s not true 100% of the time, but there are certain days where expected web traffic on airline sites means rising flight prices—and the same is true of the opposite effect! Generally speaking, it is cheapest to fly out midweek because you avoid the weekend surge. And if you’re planning your next vacation already, you’ll want to lock in your flights at least one to three months before a domestic trip and 6 to 8 months if you’re jet-setting internationally.
Having a kitchen is everything
You don’t have to go out to eat for every meal in order to enjoy a vacation. In fact, one of the best ways to get a lay of the land is to grocery shop where the locals do. By staying somewhere that is designed like an apartment, or at least has a kitchen, you open yourself up to the possibilities of a different kind of immersion. Having a kitchen also comes in handy if you’re traveling with picky eaters! And you don’t have to even cook all the time—it can be a once-a-day home cooked meal situation that really saves you bucks in the long run. And you can use the money you saved on the restaurant meals, on activities that you definitely don’t want to miss!
A road trip is only as good as its snacks
While stopping at the side of the road for a cafe can be refreshing on occasion, prices just aren’t what they used to be. But you don’t have to hit up a drive-thru or diner for every meal when you’re traveling by car—stock up on snacks before you hit the road and save your spending for the pit stops that really get you excited. Even last-minute planners can enjoy the convenience and cost-effectiveness of grocery shopping for the car trip. You can load up the ingredients for delicious sandwiches or picnic-style meals – the creative culinary possibilities are endless.
Road trips can be stressful, but a great way to not lose your head is to make sure your vehicle is easy to organize. Do your snack grocery shopping and keep all the cold stuff in a cooler and all the dry items in a collapsible organizer built specifically for the trunk of your car. Once the snacks have been devoured and you reach your destination, you can collapse the organizer and gain back some space for inevitable souvenirs.
Sometimes the hotel is the better option
While house-sharing websites like Airbnb and VRBO have taken our society by storm with their cute, unique options for shelter, they are not always the cheapest option. More and more, the added taxes and tacked-on fees make prices less justifiable. It’s fun to stay somewhere aesthetically pleasing, but at what cost? Don’t write off hotels just yet – they can provide a more affordable and relaxing experience. Airbnbs often have unique rules, whereas hotels tend to be more straightforward. Airbnbs will charge you if you don’t clean before you leave, while hotels have staff who are prepared for a little mess. The pricing difference can be significant, making a return to hotel accommodations worth considering.
Eat Where The Locals Eat
All you have to do is ask one local for guidance. Not only is eating where the locals eat a great way to immerse yourself in the culture, but it also can mean significantly cheaper food prices. When you travel somewhere with a booming tourism industry, there are often “hot spots” that are ultimately just tourist traps. These can be fun, but they can really run your tab up. A great way to cut costs and explore some more is to chat with a local about their favorite spots to eat. You could find yourself at an exciting, less-traveled location enjoying a satisfying, delicious meal at the locals-only price.
A Little Research Goes A Long Way
Googling excursions that are free to the public can be a great way to make sure you don’t get swindled as a result of last-minute planning. Being able to compare prices between different excursions by different companies is helpful if you want to avoid spending more than you need to. No matter where you’re traveling next, chances are there are internet threads and articles written about exciting activities to try in that location. Narrow your searches down to family-friendly fun or themes specific to your interests. You don’t have to be stuck in your room all day to save money—you can plan ahead and know exactly where your budget lies the whole time.
Go Somewhere with Great Public Transit
If you don’t have to rent a car, don’t. Instead, plan a trip somewhere with a well-developed public transportation system that you can use during your stay. There are plenty of places, domestic and international, that are famous for their transit. Renting a car is expensive and so is taking a cab or rideshare daily—especially in cities, the prices can be outrageous. Let the excitement of approaching transportation like a local guide you to new places that you wouldn’t have otherwise stumbled upon!
Traveling is such a fun, fulfilling activity. It is something that more people need to take advantage of. It’s part of being human and gaining more knowledge about the world around you—and it’s possible with practically any budget. All it takes is some effort and research. There are so many ways to cut costs for your travel budget; just pick your destination, lock in your budget, and work backwards from there with these cost-cutting tips in mind.