Want to maximize your next trip while also minimizing costs? Don’t we all!
As fun and fulfilling as travelling is, it can get expensive fast. Flights and accommodations hog the majority of the budget, while experiences like sightseeing and trying delicious new food takes care of the rest.
Fortunately, travelling on a tight budget isn’t a pipe dream — if you know a few tricks.
Choose an awesome but cheap destination
Thankfully, there are some excellent travel destinations you can explore for less money without sacrificing on experience. In fact, many of these places are bucket list worthy anyway.
Explore exotic beaches, waterfalls, and volcanic mountains in Jeju, South Korea. Wander through dozens of museums, churches, and historic sites in St. Petersburg, Russia. Or take in the majesty of the Giza Pyramids and the Great Sphinx in Cairo, Egypt.
There are plenty of cheap places to travel around the world that offer unparalleled opportunities. You just need to know where to go!
Shop for the best travel insurance rates
Spending money on something you hope you’ll never need hurts. And many people are tempted to forego travel insurance for this reason. Everyone’s needs are different, but in general, most people shouldn’t skip it.
For one thing, the price of medical care outside your home country can be so staggering that taking a chance just isn’t worth it. If you have non-refundable trip deposits, you risk losing that money if your plans change.
On the smaller (but more likely) scale, small annoyances that come with travel can end up costing you more than you think — things like travel delays and lost luggage.
That said, travel insurance adds to the cost of your trip, so you want to be selective. A sound approach is to compare travel insurance plans and choose one that delivers the coverage you need for a price you’re comfortable with.
Book off season
The time of year you choose to travel can have a large impact on the prices you pay for flights and especially accommodations. It’s a supply and demand thing.
Generally speaking, if you’re okay with travelling during a destination’s off season or even shoulder season, you’ll pay lower prices. As a bonus, things will also be less crowded.
You need to be sensible with this one. What are you comfortable with, and what are the goals of your trip? If you’re after a relaxing beach vacation, it doesn’t make sense to take it during monsoon season, no matter the savings.
On the other hand, if you’re planning a museum-heavy sightseeing trip, visiting during the winter may not bother you too much.
Score a cheap flight
In addition to booking off season, there are all sorts of tools you can leverage to find great deals on flights.
Google Flights is a meta search engine that offers powerful price tracking. Use it to find the best deal on a flight, discover the cheapest destinations for your travel dates, or track price trends. Get notified when a flight you’re watching drops in price.
Online travel agencies like Expedia or Orbitz can help you find and book flights and hotels. I typically prefer to book directly with the airline or through a credit card rewards travel portal, but if a deal is available through an online agency, it’s worth considering.
One benefit worth mentioning is that some cash back rewards apps such as Rakuten feature offers for online travel agencies, so you can double up on savings. Drawbacks might include limited flexibility, so be sure to read the fine print.
Maximize credit card rewards
What’s better than a cheap flight? A free flight! Same goes for hotels.
Anyone with the discipline to use a credit card responsibly should use a good rewards card for all their expenses. The best travel credit cards in Canada often come with generous sign up bonuses and lucrative earn rates, allowing you to save hundreds on travel when you redeem your points.
Consider alternative accommodations
When it comes to accommodations, hotels aren’t your only option.
Especially if you’re travelling with a companion or group, an Airbnb split between friends can be a much cheaper way to go. Having a kitchen at your disposal means you can save money on food, too, since you’ll have the option of cooking rather than eating out for every meal. As an added bonus, Airbnbs are usually in local neighborhoods, which have a different vibe than hotel districts. (Just make sure the neighborhood is safe!).
Hostels are also an option for the budget traveller if you’re just looking for a place to sleep. Female dorms are available in most hostels, and some boast single rooms. If you’re a solo female traveller, a women’s hostel can be a great place to meet like-minded travellers.
Research the transit situation before you go
Transportation is a major cost that some newer travellers fail to consider when planning a trip. If you’re visiting a walkable city where most of the main attractions are close together, it may not be an issue.
But if that’s not the case, or if you’re staying outside the city center, you need to understand the transit situation before arriving. What’s available? Is it safe and accessible? Can you buy a pass that suits your needs and saves you money?
The last thing you want to do is book cheap accommodations on the city’s outskirts only to discover the transit system is cumbersome or inconvenient. If you do that, you’ll end up spending all your savings on taxis.
Grab a sightseeing pass
If you’re planning a sightseeing adventure, take a few minutes to see if there are any sightseeing passes for your destination. Many cities have them, and the savings can be impressive — sometimes more than 50% compared to paying at the gate!
There are two basic types of sightseeing passes. The first offers all-inclusive access to a bunch of attractions for a set number of days, while the other grants admission to a set number of attractions over a longer period of time.
The all-inclusive type is great for someone who wants to experience as much as possible in a short period of time. Travellers who prefer a more flexible and relaxed pace get better value from the second type.
Either way, it’s worth checking your options and crunching some quick numbers to see if a sightseeing pass will save you money.
Bonus tip: Passes frequently go on sale. Sign up for their newsletters and watch for a good deal.
Be prepared to haggle
Most Westerners aren’t accustomed to it, but in some places, negotiating prices is the norm — especially in market-type situations. Experienced vendors know this but aren’t in a hurry to volunteer the information to foreigners. In fact, they usually count on visitors paying full price.
I recommend learning a bit about the culture of the destination you’re visiting so you know what to expect. If you’re likely to be in situations where negotiation is the norm, be prepared to get outside your comfort zone and try your hand at haggling. Who knows how much you’ll save?