As I write this I’m preparing to leave on a family vacation to Ireland and Scotland to trace some of our family lineage with my grandparents. As a child, my parents encouraged my brother and me to travel often. I have been to almost every state in the U.S. (I have a few left to cross off still – anybody reading this from the Dakotas?) and have managed to visit around a dozen countries. Of course, traveling isn’t cheap and can be difficult to do on a budget. Instead of maxing out your credit cards to make your traveling dreams a reality, consider some of the following tips:
Set alerts on airfare search sites
We like to use kayak.com and airfarewatchdog.com. Both sites allow you to set an alert that emails you for cheap flights based on places you’d like to go to. My husband recently found flights for $500 round-trip to Milan on airfarewatchdog.com. Arrivederci!
If you can be flexible about when you go (and even where you go) you can find some incredible deals like the aforementioned flight to Italy. There’s an app called hoteltonight that shows discount prices for hotels the night of and if you can handle not having your lodging booked ahead of time, this app has some great deals. If you don’t want to risk it on trips, this app is also great for staycations and spur of the moment romantic getaways.
Travel with someone else
Splitting costs make things cheaper. Obviously, it’s cheaper to split hotel room costs but thanks to sites like VRBO and Airbnb, you can save even more by splitting a short-term rental with a group of friends. Plus, staying in a rental or a bed and breakfast often gives you a more authentic experience and the opportunity to meet more locals.
Don’t eat every meal in a restaurant
Like budgeting for everyday life, choosing alternative food options can also make traveling more affordable. If you’re staying in a rental, consider checking out the local market and cooking your own food. Alternatively, don’t be afraid of food carts. Some of my best traveling meals were from local street vendors. When I was in Paris I had a Nutella crepe from a cart near The Cathedral of Notre-Dame that was life-changing. Similarly, I remember eating Cornish pasties from a cart in a London train station and falafel from a stand in Israel – both delicious and inexpensive.
Make friends who live elsewhere
This one’s a little more difficult because typically you make friends with those in your community, but if you have the chance to befriend someone who lives elsewhere, you create opportunities to stay with friends in distant places. We have a layover in Boston on our way to Ireland and I have a handful of friends living there who are meeting us for dinner and would gladly let us stay with them if we wanted to travel there. Not having to pay for lodging can make traveling significantly cheaper (don't forget to return the favor!).
Check out Groupon
I haven’t done this yet, but Groupon.com is constantly offering great deals on trips all over. In the past, I’ve seen trips to exotic places around the world often for around $1,000 per person that include lodging and transportation.
Finally, I would encourage you to save first. I know that makes me sound like a spoil-sport, but as a financial planner, I can’t help myself. My family includes traveling in our budget and we make sure that we are maxing out our IRA contributions first before we turn to figuring out what we can spend most efficiently on traveling. By budgeting well and living within our means day-to-day, we were able to pay for this trip without having to dip into savings and without the use of debt which is the best way to pay for any kind of luxurious item or trip. If you’d like to learn more about smart saving and spending I invite you to poke around our blog or give us a call. Until then, Bon Voyage!