Being a teacher makes me a budget traveler. I cut back in other areas of my life so traveling can be possible. I may not own a house anytime soon, but that is not my priority. Besides watching my spending carefully, I have some tricks to save on the expenses of the trip. I’ve broken it down to before, during, and after the trip to save money efficiently.
Before the Trip
Carefully consider your destination(s).
-Some places are much more affordable than others. If you want to avoid high currency rates and an expensive lifestyle, avoid Switzerland and Scandinavia. Eastern Europe, South America, and Thailand are all examples of places where money can be saved.
Stay in an apartment.
-If you are planning on making a city your home base, consider renting an apartment. This summer I will be paying less than 60 Euros a day for my month-long stay in Paris. If I was traveling with others I could save even more money. If you are going to be mobile on your trip, then this will not be a money-saver.
-I hear about people saving money on booking flights last minute, but I have never pulled this off. I bought my flight for June back in January. If I were to buy it now, I would pay over $300 more. I also like to buy my flight directly from the airline. I use sites like Skyscanner to get a feel for prices, and investigate more on the airline’s website. If you are visiting multiple cities, fly into one city and out of another. This will save you time and money. Finally, be creative. I am flying through Scandinavian Airlines even though my destination is not in Scandinavia. It was the best bargain. Aer Lingus is another source I turn to frequently for European flights.
Consider passes to save money.
-Museum passes and city passes can offer some savings if you know you are going to hit a lot of major sights. Just make sure you don’t overload yourself on museums.
During the Trip
-Eating out is cheaper at lunch than at dinner. I don’t know what it is about travel, but I am typically starving a lunch. I need a substantial meal to give me the energy I need to explore in the afternoon and evening. I fill up at lunch with cheaper prices and then fix something for dinner. Even if you don’t have a kitchen where you are staying, you can make this work. Pick up some fruit and veggies at the market and some meats and cheeses to make a sandwich. Even if you don’t do this for every dinner, cutting back on a few will help you out.
Obtain currency from the ATM with a debit card.
-I have made the mistake of getting money from my bank and the airport. This really limited how far my dollar could go. The most efficient way to acquire money abroad is from an ATM with your debit card. I take out the limit provided at the ATM (usually between 200-300). I try to use my credit card when possible for other purchases because there is no fee.
-My first few trips were quite costly. When I look back it was mostly a shopping trip. Not just for me, but I love to buy gifts for people I care about. Over time I have realized that it was costing me a lot of money and really weighing down my bag. Perhaps a postcard isn’t such a bad thing. If you are insistent on buying gifts for some, pick affordable options that are easy to pack. Here are some of my favorite souvenirs.
Use Skype or e-mail to communicate back home.
-Cell phones are so expensive. The cost per minute really is not conducive for sharing your never-ending adventures with friends and family. Make sure you have a data plan abroad or turn off your data roaming because fees will skyrocket before you know it. This summer I will be staying in touch with my family with Skype and e-mail. Skype is free as long as you are contacting someone else with Skype. Many hotels and apartments also have computers available for you to use if you wish to send an e-mail.
-Taxis can be very expensive both here, and in other countries. I love using the subway or buses to get around. So many cities have a great infrastructure built for getting around. Look to guidebooks to figure out the best ticket or bundle for your needs.
After the Trip
Monitor your bank and credit card accounts.
-When I get home, I watch carefully for stray charges. This is also a way for me to consciously acknowledge what I have spent, and learn more about my spending habits so I can save even more for the next trip.
Don’t convert your currency back to dollars.
-I always know that I am going to travel again soon, so I never exchange my money back to dollars. As long as you were planning carefully, there shouldn’t be that much currency left over. It is nice to have a head start for the next trip. If you aren’t ever going to return, perhaps a friend will, and providing some currency can be a great gift.
Remember, the goal is to save money where you can so you can see and do the most on your trip. There are some things I don’t cut back on because it is worth it to spend a little more. I just can’t feel that way about everything I spend money on or my trips would be few and far between.
Do you have any strategies to help you save money?