The most commonly cited reason for not traveling isn’t fear or uneasiness – it’s money. For many people, the prospect of traveling is a tough one; you get past those-big ticket expenses, like flights and accommodation, and there are still numberless other, small expenses, some of which are difficult to plan for. It’s better, they might say, to stay at home and put that money toward more practical things, more everyday things.
There are two points on that we’d like to make. One: traveling is a great use of your money, no matter what anyone tells you. It affords you the rare and unique opportunity to step outside of your own cultural experience and see someone else’s, which can be not only exhilarating but educational as well. Two: travel doesn’t have to be expensive.
There are a number of things you can do to reduce the overall price of a trip. Obviously, choosing an inexpensive destination is going to net you an inexpensive trip (unless you really splurge on the extras), but also, how you book your flights, the way you pack your bags (hint: pack merino wool clothing for guys and pack light) and where you eat while abroad can all have a profound effect on your wallet.
In this article, we’ll run through a number of different ways that you can save money on your upcoming trip, from the planning phase, to the trip itself.
The first and most fundamental way you can cut down on travel costs is by choosing an inexpensive destination. This section will look at a few of the most popular “cheap” travel destinations, and offer a little tidbit about each. The countries have been broken up geographically, into Europe, The Americas, Asia, and Africa & The Middle East.
With an inexpensive destination in mind, the next biggest hurdle to jump is finding a reasonable flight. While, in general, the cost of your flight will depend greatly on your location relative to your destination, there are certain steps you can take to potentially lower the price.
For starters, when searching for a flight online, keep your flight searches in Incognito Mode to avoid fare hikes from monitored cookies. Open up Google Chrome’s Incognito Mode (or the equivalent for your preferred browser) and ensure that companies aren’t tracking your cookies, bumping up the price based on increased demand.
Then you will have to choose a time for your trip. If you can – that is, if work and life permits – go on the off-season or shoulder season (generally winter or fall). Try to leave and return sometime in the midweek, avoiding the weekends, when demand is higher, and therefore so is the price. Also, assuming this isn’t a last minute trip, book your flight between two and four months in advance for the best fares. Use multiple airfare search sites, cross-referencing to find the cheapest option. And sign up for error fare email lists or Facebook pages: the Scott’s Cheap Flights email list and the YYZ Deals FB page are both great resources to get started. If your trip is farther in the future, consider getting one of these: the best travel credit cards, offering points on purchases. If you put all the clothes, gear and luggage you need for your trip on this credit card, you can make it so your trip’s necessities help pay for your flight.
We’ve talked about it quite a few times on this blog, but that doesn’t make it any less true: Travel light, that way you won’t have to pay those exorbitant luggage fees, nor will you have to worry about waiting at the luggage carousel and carrying a large suitcase around. Packing light might even save you on travel – whereas you might need to flag a cab when hauling around heavy luggage, with a small bag you are good to ride the bus or take the subway around. Armed with a few of our sweat-wicking t-shirts, sweatshirts, grey merino wool socks and the best boxers you've tried on in your life, you’ll be set for one bag trip. With that in mind, let’s look at a few budget options for luggage, in three categories: hard-case carry-on, soft-case carry-on and backpack:
The American Tourist Dartz 20” Spinner, 69.99 at the time of writing
Samsonite Large Rolling Underseater, $120 at the time of writing
The North Face Flyweight Pack
Of course, these are only a few options, and there are a ton of great, reasonable luggage options out there. If you have a budget luggage option to which you are particularly loyal, let us know in the comments!
Make use of local public transport, like the bus or trains, to get around, and, unless dangerous circumstances warrant it, avoid using cabs. Better yet, rent a bike at your destination, that way you can save money and work off a few calories. If you are going to bike, though, keep in mind that our black v neck t shirt looks great even with some sweat on it! When traveling between destinations, book any overland buses or trains through a reputable tourist centre or hotel, to avoid overcharging. And for longer overland trips, consider budget airlines, which, although occasionally annoying, can get you where you need to go cheaply and quickly – for instance, Air Asia, Ryanair, Porter Airlines, Air Arabia, Jetstar Airways, etc.
The sharing economy, as it’s so called, has given us at least one major travel benefit: the homestay hospitality network. The most popular of these sites is obviously AirBnB, but lesser-known sites like Wimdu are also great resources. Cross-reference between the two, and find the best value. Of course, for an even cheaper accommodation (read: free), check out community accommodation sites like Couchsurfing or Global Freeloaders. You sign up, connect with hosts and stay on their couch (or whatever their equivalent is) for free. It’s not glamorous, but it does save money. If you want to partake in a full house exchange, offering your house to someone as well, you can visit HomeExchange.com or MindMyHouse. Finally, Hostels, or Pensions, are great, cheap accommodation options. Geared more toward young travellers, you’ll nevertheless usually find a diverse range of ages at a hostel. Pretty much every destination has them, and they can save you a good deal compared to hotels. Some hostels can be drafty, though, especially in the winter off-season, so try our merino wool socks and boxers as an insulating base layer.
The easiest way to save money on food while traveling is to eat from grocery stores. Depending on where you are, grocery store meals can be quite good. Take Japan, for example, where you can get tasty, ready-made bento lunches at supermarkets for a fraction of the price it costs to go to a restaurant. Another tip for eating on a budget is to eat street food, and eat local. Oftentimes, when abroad, it’s the western food that costs the most – pizzas, hamburgers, pints of Guinness, etc. If you can go without those creature comforts, not only will you save money, but you will experience more of the local culture as well. On that same note, avoid the tourist traps; in general, if the restaurant has a guy out front waving a laminated English menu in your face, it’s probably neither authentic nor reasonably priced. Get recommendations from locals for good, inexpensive food and seek out Happy Hours and other meal deals.
Sometimes you just have to see the famous local monument or attraction, like the Mona Lisa in Paris, or Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. But for all those other times, seek out the less expensive attractions, like the monuments on this Lonely Planet list, which are no less beautiful but a lot less pricey. As for entertainment, put away the Frommer’s Guides and Lonely Planets – once an establishment is published in a popular guidebook, they often use that as grounds for upping their prices. Instead, use the site Like A Local Guide or local subreddits on Reddit for information on how to enjoy yourself off the tourist path. Users on both those forums would also probably be more than happy to offer up money-saving tips.
For anything packing, clothing or Merino wool related, you can always call us to learn more or check out our website. This blog has lots to offer in the way of travel and packing advice, so we encourage you to peruse it before you head off on your next trip. As for external sites, we’re not even going to pretend that we’ve compiled the ultimate list of resources for travelers looking to save money; that distinction goes to the good people at WiseBread, who’ve put together a list of the 40 most useful travel websites for saving money. There are a lot of amazing sites on that list, so it’s well worth a scroll. In conclusion, traveling doesn’t have to be costly to be exciting. You can pick a fantastic destination that’s suited to your taste and temperament, find a reasonable flight and experience that destination without shelling over an inordinate amount of cash. If you’ve ever used “it’s too expensive” as an excuse not to travel, hopefully this guide has given you enough evidence to the contrary to get you packing your bags.