travel for less tips

11 Ways To Travel For Less

With countries slowly opening their doors to tourists after the lockdowns caused by the pandemic, it might be the perfect time to take a trip within or out of the country. While taking an overseas trip may be expensive due to inflation and additional health screening protocols, this should not hinder you from attempting that long overdue out-of-the-country trip you have been longing for.

So fear not! You can have a great experience in another country without spending a king’s ransom. Just follow these 10 tips to travel for less:

  1. Buy your budget airline tickets as early as possible. Simply put, the sooner you buy your tickets, the lower your tier and the less you’ll pay. The later you buy, the higher your tier and the higher you’ll pay. So if your schedule allows for planning months in advance, buy your tickets as early as you can. Plus, the chances of sitting on your most preferred seat on the plane is higher when you book your flight in advance. Budget airlines use a system of dynamic prices on their tickets — they sell the first few seats at the lowest prices, and then they get more expensive as the plane fills up. If you buy your tickets later, it’s assumed that you’re desperate to fly and are willing to pay more.
  1. Make one of your flight days Tuesday through Thursday. Flying on a weekday will often result in cheaper prices, as most people fly nearer the weekend. Ideally, all your flights should fall between these days, but if they can’t, having even just one Tuesday – Thursday flight will still save you money.

  2. Instead of exchanging cash at a currency exchange, take money out of your ATM instead. Before doing this, though, check your ATM card for a PLUS or Cirrus logo, which allows you to make withdrawals at any ATM around the world which works with the PLUS or Cirrus interbank networks. You’ll get better rates than with currency exchanges. You’ll have to pay a transaction fee each time you do this (around US$3.50 per withdrawal; check with your bank for details), so withdraw larger amounts less frequently — instead of making 2 $100 withdrawals, make one $200 withdrawal. Also, since you get charged $1.00 for every inquiry and $0.50 for every rejected transaction, check your balance online for free before you go to an ATM.

  3. Write down everything you spend. Writing down what you spend makes you more conscious of how much you’re spending, and you’ll be less likely to overspend. This also helps you keep better track of how you’re doing against your budget, so you won’t suddenly run out of money halfway through your trip. This is also a good way of reviewing your spending habits during your trip so you can plan better the next time you decide to take another vacation.

  4. Travel on the off-season. Here in Southeast Asia, that’s the rainy season: June to October. March through May can be a pretty good time to travel too as it’s too hot for most tourists — although you’ll have to be aware of all the other Pinoys travelling then as it’s our summer vacation. If you travel on the off-season, it’ll be less crowded and things will be cheaper. If you’re planning a longer-haul trip, do some research on when the off-season is, and travel then. Do check the weather forecast for your desired date to make sure you won’t be stuck in your hotel because of bad weather, though.

  5. Try alternative lodging.  Hotels can be pricey. Instead, check out Airbnb or hostels with large dorms; these are often the cheapest option, and you get to meet fellow travelers. But if you’re on a super tight budget, try Hosts don’t charge and you’re not expected to pay, but you should show appreciation by taking them out to dinner or helping out around the house, which is still not too bad for free accommodation in a new city. And you get to make new friends while you’re at it. This also lets you get a more “local” feel of the place rather than the VIP treatment you get when staying at hotels. Both do have their pros and cons so be sure to weigh your options very well.

  6. Sign up for airline mailing lists and social media accounts. Many airlines announce seat sales through their  social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) accounts, and some of them even hold contests for free flights. Stay on top of cheap fares by following them and signing up for their mailing lists.

  7. The best things in life, and travel, are free. Wherever you end up going, you’ll find something to do for free. Drop by a tourist information center and see if there are any free city tours or activities. Check online, too — there are a lot of free walking tours available for most big destinations. There are also a lot of free museums if you look hard enough, so you can experience your destination’s history and culture for the low price of 0.

  8. Cook some meals. If you’re staying in a place with a kitchen, doing groceries and cooking your own meals can save you a lot of money. Plus, you get to explore a different country’s grocery store, which can be an adventure all on its own. But don’t cook all your meals in the name of saving money — you should also enjoy the local cuisine.

  9. Pack light — use this handy underwear chart. A kind soul created a handy chart so you can find out exactly how many pairs of underwear you should take for a trip. Check it out (chart credit: Carrie Smith): underwear chartSo if you’re going on a 7 day trip and don’t want to wash, bring 7 pairs of underwear. But if you don’t mind washing, say, twice, you can get away with bringing 3 pairs of underwear. Basically, the more you’re willing to wash, the less you’ll have to bring — and this applies to shirts, pants, the rest.

  1. Be flexible. (See what we did there?) Don’t let penny-pinching ruin your holiday. When you’re planning your vacation, start with the big expenses first — flights, accommodation — then add the little expenses, like entry fees to sites, meals, and a souvenir or two. But don’t forget to allow for the occasional splurge in your budget. If you plan for this splurge early enough, you won’t feel guilty when you spend that money on a unique experience, like bungee jumping off the Macau Tower. Don’t overcommit to the idea of spending as little money as possible — instead, budget properly and allow yourself to enjoy what your destination has to offer.

Now you’re ready to pack your bags and embark on an adventure! If you have more budget travel tips to share, sound off in the comments below.

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This article was first published in September 2014 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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