Top Ten Tips for Budget Travel
It's hard to save and to budget for travel - and then you arrive at your well-researched, chosen destination - to find that expenses are way more than you anticipated? What can you do?
Here are my Top Ten Tips for Budget Travel.
1. Plan Ahead. Airfares are often cheaper far in advance. By getting your reservations in early for accommodations, you can get what you want at the price you want.
2. Choose your Location Wisely. You will probably pay more for a vacation in London than in Edinburgh; more for Chicago than for Minneapolis. Yet all of these locations are packed full of culture, good food, diversity, and a great arts and theater scene. Figure out what you want, and then research alternatives to the Big Tourist Destinations.
Stone Arch Bridge View from the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis
3. Travel in the Shoulder Seasons. It won't be the perfect weather, but it can be just as beautiful. As well, prices in shoulder seasons are often much less expensive than in high season. You'll have less tourists to deal with, more options for sightseeing with less crowds, and a much more relaxed pace to your journeys.
4. Sharecation. It's the new way to save money, by pooling it with friends or family. Rent a big house and everyone can fit in. The bonus? Memories of great meals, swims, markets, and crazy fun. Make sure to take time alone for each family.
5. Rent a Home. We always rent homes whenever we travel. You save a lot of money by eating at home - and get to learn the culture even more, by shopping at markets and local grocery stores. You'll have a lot more room (even a yard), and can plan picnics right outside your door. In our seaside cottage in Ireland, we cherished meals eaten al fresco, steps from the kitchen. You'll also save on laundry costs, as most homes have laundry facilities. When we rented an apartment in Chicago, we were RIGHT on the Magnificent Mile, downtown. What a view!
Rental Apartment, on Chicago's Magnificent Mile
Our front yard in Ireland, at Pier Cove on the Ring of Kerry
6. If you Didn't Plan Ahead, Take Advantage of Late Offers. Don't care where you go - just want to go? Subscribe to travelzoo, or Sherman's top 25 travel newsletters and take advantage of late offers and deals. That weekend in Paris for $300? Take it!
7. Deals. They are everywhere - Groupon, Living Social - these sites that offer great deals each day. We subscribe to their daily emails a few months before we head somewhere. We had some fantastic meals in Scotland courtesy of Groupon deals. And, every time we head to my Mother-in-law's, we have at least 3-4 meals and activities planned - it's a great way to learn an unfamiliar place. Eat out at lunch, instead of dinner - you'll save the cost of dinner by half. Or, take advantage of early bird dinners (in Europe, often up to 7pm - quite late for families with kids).
8. Rising Fuel Costs - these can really cramp your vacation. If you can't afford to rent a car, check out the public transportation where you're going. In London, I borrowed a bike from a friend - and got around (not all of London, of course) quite well. There was nothing like bicycling around Bloomsbury! Look into carpools in Craigslist or other country-specific resources. Look into monthly subway, metro, or bus passes.
9. Find Free Resources. So many cities have visitor walks - for instance, Paris Walks is a free program that matches up Paris guides with visitors. I know there is one in Chicago, as well. Head to the library, and find local events and classes. See if there are free summer theater programs or movies in the park. Stay somewhere (or just meet new people for coffee) using Couchsurfing - or Sevas. These websites have free places to stay - or offers to meet and show guests around.
10. Shop Locally. Food is always less expensive at local markets. The fish that we bought at Kenmare Market was fresh, delicious, and inexpensive. So were the fresh organic vegetables, olives, and homemade tea. We also snagged gifts for friends and family there - supporting local artisans, and getting unique and individual gifts. In Newfoundland, we loved the local grocery stores for unique, local items.
Olives, Kenmare Market, Ireland
What are your top money-saving ideas for travel?
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