Here are just a few ideas on how to save money while traveling. You can save money where it’s possible so that you can splurge on what you really love.
1. Don’t Over-Think Things!
I know it seems counter-intuitive, but do not distress over reserving and finalizing your trip. Sometimes it might work in your favor, but other times excessive pre-planning can actually go against your best interests!
Take my latest trip as a perfect example:
We start to plan about 5 or 6 months away from our departure date. Preferring to leave from Naples, Italy, we check flights going to Jakarta, Indonesia. The prices are a bit high, about 680 Euro if I remember correctly. So we decide to look for flights leaving from Rome. They cost more than one hundred euro less (!!!), including our round-trip train and bus tickets to get to FCO. We went ahead and reserved. About a month and a half after reserving, I go to check and see how much the flights went up. Silly me. As I’m sure you can imagine, the prices did not go up. The flight from Naples to Jakarta went down about one hundred euro! Not much to do but sit back and berate yourself for planning ahead.
As for hotels, the prices normally don’t go up unless you are walking in or calling in a reservation the day of. When I worked in a hotel, that’s basically how it goes. On my last trip to Thailand and Cambodia, we reserved all of our hotels either a day or two in advance and got great prices for where we stayed.
2. Eat Local!
One of the best ways to watch your wallet (and your waistline) while travelling is to eat where the locals do. By now, I would desperately hope that you all know to bypass the main-square tourist traps. Find the local market, a small mom-and-pop hole in the wall, or a travelling food cart. Even if you have to point and gesticulate to get your lunch, I can bet you it will be amazing.
Here in Nice, I could go to the Hard Rock Café and pay 18 Euro for a hamburger. Sure, it would be fine, but wouldn’t you rather try the local specialties? If I went to one of the local places, I could literally get a plate of socca, a huge tuna pan bagnat, deep-friend spicy cod fritters, a piece of pissaladiere, and delicious fried zucchini flowers for the same price. Don’t even get me started as to what 18 euro could get you in Cambodia or Peru!
3. Don’t Be Afraid of Cheap Hotels!
When I travel, I am not in the luxury price range. I am not in the mid-range either. I stay at the so-called “budget” hotels. Yeah, that means the cheapies.
Some people might go on vacation just to hang out in their swanky hotel, but I wake up, shower, and hit the road. It is merely a place to sleep for me, and I don’t want to pay a lot. (I don’t want to get bedbugs either, so I do use discretion when reserving!)
Some of the best cheap hotels I’ve stayed at were in Thailand. On Ko Chang island, we were able to hang out every night on the front porch of our 20 euro a night bungalow. Add in a large bottle of ice-cold Singha and yup, that’s basically my idea of perfection. In Bangkok, we stayed at a hostel in a private room that would rival certain 4-star hotels in any European capital. The location was top, the staff was absolutely amazing and breakfast was even included! (Want the name? You’ll have to kill me first!)
Just because hotels are cheap doesn’t mean your vacation has to be. Use that extra money to see more of the city you’re in, use it to buy a special gift to take home, or save it and use it for your next trip.
4. Get Used to Public Transportation.
Sure, getting used to using public transportation in a foreign language is a bit intimidating, but man, can it save you some serious cash. Most of the larger cities around the world have pretty great ways to get around without using taxis. (As a side note, be sure to actually have a ticket and validate it because playing the stupid tourist does not always work.)
Take for example, the south of France. We once took a taxi from Monaco to the airport in Nice. The taxi ride was literally less than 20 minutes and we shelled out 80 euro for the honor. Be assured, I was ready to rip that Mercedes logo right off the front of that jerk’s taxi and use it for a gansta-esque necklace. I didn’t, but I did realize how important it was to AVOID TAXIS at all costs.
In other places, like Bangkok, there is so much traffic at times that mass transport is really the best option. I just know you love being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic with that meter ticking away. Right? Oh, no? Me either!
5. Watch your Money!
Make sure that you are careful about your money when you are travelling. I normally have a bit of the local currency before I go (thanks Mom!), just to get me started. We always use AAA, and their rates seem to be pretty fair. I think it’s nice to be able to jump right into the action, instead of farting around at the ATM or worse, the currency exchange desks.
Once my initial stash runs out, I hit the ATM. Depending on how long I will be in a country, I try to take out as much money as the ATM lets me. I will state it clearly for you: I just plain hate foreign transaction fees.
Most of the times, people are honest when giving you change but that’s not always the case. Count it. At the super-mega famous tourist attractions in Luxor, Egypt, young touts would kindly change a 10 euro bill for 2 euro coins. Kidding. They would slip in one or two local coins that look strikingly similar to Euro cents, but are worth next to nothing.
There you have it, my top 5 list of ways to stretch your dollar (or pound, baht, etc) on vacation! I hope that these will come in handy when you are thinking about your next trip!