By Natalie DeYoung
Times are tough for ladies who are travelers at heart. Every year the cost of travel goes up, making that 7-country hop around the Mediterranean seem like an impossible dream. From airfare to hotels to cab fares, the price tag on a single trip can add up to the down payment on a luxury car. What’s a girl with a wandering soul to do? Never fear! With a little creativity and a willingness to roll up your sleeves, there are always tricks to cutting spending. Usually, implementing these cost-cutting techniques will also gain you a richer, more cultural experience, too.
Here are a few tips for saving your dollars while trekking the globe.
Do your homework. A little research beforehand is probably the most efficient way to keep your travel budget in check, and now the Internet makes this easier than ever. By searching ahead of time, you can find discounted theatre tickets, whether it’s more economical to buy a weekly metro pass or a daily one, and where you’ll get the best food for the least amount of money. You can also plan your daily itinerary this way, so you don’t waste too much time and money traveling from point A to point B on a given day.
Plan your trip during the off-season. No, you don’t want to be in Central America during hurricane season, but there is still a little wiggle room when you’re trying to pinch your pennies. Instead of vacationing during peak vacation months, plan your trip for the first few weeks before the season starts, or right after it ends. For example, if you don’t want to be in Paris during the cold winter, try a few weeks before summer starts, or the first few weeks of fall. You still get the good weather, but miss the gouging prices (not to mention the crowds).
Be Flexible. With a little wiggling, you can save money on airfare if you’re willing to fly on odd days. It’s cheapest to fly on a Wednesday, so a Wednesday through Tuesday trip will save you more money than a Friday through Thursday trip. If you’re able to, watch the airlines a few months in advance to know when to buy. The Bing Travel search engine has a neat feature that will give you a general idea as to whether ticket prices are rising or falling, which is a good place to start.
Find the best accommodation option for your region. Don’t just assume that hostels are the only bet for an affordable stay, though in some metropolitan areas they are definitely the way to go. In many cities, one-star hotels are a far better, cleaner and more convenient way to save money. In certain très expensive cities, Airbnb or VRBO will save you more. This all requires a certain amount of homework, so once you select a destination, pick up a copy of Let’s Go to dig into the ideal place to drop your luggage.
Put on your walking shoes. If you’re in good health, walk wherever possible. When in a metropolitan area like New York or Munich, this is the best way to see the city anyway, saving your wallet while scoping out the architecture. Too far to walk? Take the metro or the bus, which won’t gouge you like a cab or rental car will.
Make sure something is really saving you money. Sometimes, a cheaper plane ticket is not worth it if you have to pay $50 to check your bag – both ways. Or, a cheaper plane ticket to an out-of-the-way airport may be more expensive once you add in what it costs you to get from the airport to the city. The same is true of a cheap motel outside of the city; if it’ll take you more than an hour and cost you more to get into the city every day, it’s not worth it.
Splurge when it counts. If what you’ve dreamed of is going on a safari in Africa, do not go all the way to Kenya and not spring for at least the cost of a day tour. Similarly, if you spend all that money on a plane ticket to Barcelona, make sure you don’t just snack on the stash of granola bars you stowed in your bag. Splurge on some paella and tapas: it’s worth it. Promise.