So you want to travel but your bank account says no, huh? I surely can help you start somewhere with these 10 tips on how to start travel planning on a budget at a very basic level. I have already mentioned in a previous post about 11 Tips to Help Plan Your Next Travel Destination and while it has helped, this post adds more to those tips.
If traveling, no matter where you want to go, is something you've always wanted to do, here's your start!
Creating a travel savings separate from your regular and emergency savings is a great way to start managing your next trip. Utilize an account that does not penalize you for funds below a certain amount.
You've ever seen those photos online of mason jars filled with dollar bills labeled with the city that person wants to travel to next? This is exactly what you're doing but you'll have to put more than just dollar bills if you want to go places before you die.
Start off with what you can. If you know you can set aside $50 each paycheck, try setting up an allotment with your bank account so that once your paycheck is available, the $50 has already moved over to your travel account. Not everyone can spend more than $50 a paycheck but it can be a start if traveling is something you really want to do. The obvious is to put more money each paycheck to book your next trip sooner but I will always encourage you to pay your bills first!
Also, set your priorities. Is going out to eat and spending $50 or more on dinner really worth it when you're trying to reach your travel goal(s)? Sacrifice a little to gain more in traveling.
Cash or Reward Redemptions
This can be anywhere from credit cards to loyalty memberships on products or services you regularly use. Some credit cards can help you fly for free and some credit cards give you cash back just because you put gas in your car or even get groceries! Services that you may regularly use for hotel bookings or loyalty membership from your local grocery store can offer some type of cash or reward redemption.
Also, credit cards that will help you acquire points to redeem cash, mileage for flights, or rewards on hotels are an easy way to save up for your next travel adventure. Try using your credit card as you would use it as a debit card. If you have the money in your checking account already then you can purchase your every day needs (food, gas, clothing, etc) with the credit card and pay it off immediately with your debit card to prevent having to pay for high interest fees. If credit cards aren't your thing, stick to using free loyalty memberships that offer cash back or rewards for the products and services you regularly use.
Sign up to receive newsletters and sales promotions. Set them in a folder for discounts and sales for when you need to use them before they expire. It's simple, there's no fee for signing up and you'll be notified when airlines, hotels, and other travel deals are available.
Local Currency & Local Websites
If you're using a credit card on foreign purchases, some places will ask if you want to use USD or the local currency. Always go for the local currency. Don't ask me why but Forbes can explain a bit more on choosing local currencies .The exchange rate will be shown and although you may not calculate so fast in your head what the conversion will be, you're better off using the local currency. Be sure to use a credit card that does not charge international fees (foreign transaction fees) if you're traveling abroad. If you do have this fee then you'll end up paying just about the same as you would in USD for some cases.
Also, while making foreign online purchases, enter the web address in the country you're purchasing from. For example, I went to Disneyland Paris in April and found that it was about $20 less when I purchased tickets on disneylandparis.fr. Same as when I went to Ireland and rented a car from Avis. I was even told by the representative to visitAvis.ie for a better rental rate.
As I have mentioned in my post about 11 Tips to Help Plan Your Next Travel Destination, creating a budget spreadsheet will help you track your travel budget goal and compare to how much you actually spent. When I go on a trip, I keep my receipts and calculate how much I spent to locate where I can reduce spending for my next trip. This is a great tool to use while you can see where your money will go towards.
For most budget trips, you would want to stay flexible and travel with an open mind. This means that if you fly with budget airlines such as RyanAir (in Europe) or Allegiant (in the U.S.) you're likely (but not always) to fly out in a further location, have really early/late flights, and you won't get first class treatment.
The same goes for the timing of the year that travel accommodations are at the best price. You will find cheaper deals in the off season which could have some pros and cons to it. One being that some cities close down their activities and restaurants with minimal things to do and places to eat since they make most of their business during high seasons. But for other cities it may be better since less tourists are there.
Check out Best Time To Go for stats in cities all over the world with the best times around the year to visit. Be flexible on the time of the year or even during the week if you want to pay less to travel.
Budget traveling to some boils down to how comfortable you are with spending your hard earned money in low budget accommodations. Are you comfortable staying in a hostel? Maybe a low star hotel or guesthouse? Someone's couch? Would you sleep through the night in an overnight train or overnight bus ride? Are you comfortable being packed like sardines while using a busy metro line to get around the city? Would you sleep in an airport during your layover or for a very early flight? Not all the time will you run into having to ask yourself those questions. Those were all things I did to save but there were times where I've also received great deals that I didn't have to trade comfortability for.
This is quite the obvious (well, most of these tips are) but traveling as a group will divide costs greatly. As I like to say "the more the merrier" because I always have a great time in groups of friends while traveling. Renting an apartment, car/van rentals, and getting group discounts can help not only you but all of your travel buddies save money.
Free Activities, Museums, Landmarks, & Tours
This tip is more of what you would do during your trip but will still serve you while planning for your next adventure.
I would suggest while planning your trip to visit the website of the city you are visiting. There will most likely be a calendar with dates of activities and free events going on locally. This is a great way to avoid the long lines at the popular tourists attractions and you can also get a feel of the culture in that particular city.
There are also free museums depending on the region that you are traveling to. Some museums or churches may ask for a small donation but it is not mandatory.
Of course there are many famous landmarks around the world that will ask for you to pay and wait in long lines to visit it. For some it is worth seeing but there are some that you can skip out on and spend more time and less money elsewhere. Go there to see it, hang out, take a photo and then head out to your next spot.
What better tour can you take than a free walking tour? It's free and you're learning great pointers and history inside any city you decide to travel to by foot.
Lastly, whether you're bringing your own cooler of food in a road trip across the country or renting an apartment with a kitchen included, the best way to save on eating cheap is to buy your own groceries and snacks. If you can't get your own groceries to cook, food trucks and street food are some awesome cheap eats.
So these are the tips and tools I've been using since I started traveling in Europe (can also be used mostly anywhere) and they've helped greatly. What are some things you can add to this as a traveler on a budget?