When people begin formulating a budget, it is helpful to have a realistic goal in mind, such as saving for a vacation. A fun goal like travel keeps people motivated to follow the budget and meet their other financial objectives. With proper planning and some creativity, saving for vacations can take less time than people may think.
The following are some key ways to make vacations more affordable:
Avoid transaction fees as much as possible.
Before traveling abroad, individuals should notify their debit and credit card companies and then research the fees involved with foreign transactions. Many cards have foreign transaction fees and/or currency exchange fees. One way to avoid these expenses is to apply for a card with no transaction fees.
When changing money, people should do so at a trusted bank rather than at the airport, where the worst exchange rates exist. Individuals can avoid exchange fees altogether by simply pulling foreign currency out of an ATM with their debit cards, although this may incur an additional fee beyond what the machine charges for the service.
Limit communication expenses by relying on Internet services.
Extending cell-phone service internationally can cost a lot of money. To avoid this expense altogether, travelers can simply turn cellular data off and rely on wireless Internet at hotels, restaurants, and tourist destinations. People can send text messages through WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and similar apps, while they can send voice communications via Skype, FaceTime, and other apps. Those who need to make local calls can often purchase new SIM cards to insert in their unlocked phones or simply pick up a pay-as-you-go phone for much less than an international plan would cost.
Think outside the box with housing arrangements.
Staying at large hotel chains can put a great strain on one’s budget, and these accommodations rarely have any real benefit for travelers. Instead of shelling out for expensive hotels, vacationers may want to consider some local, independently owned lodgings that often have a much lower price point. Looking at online reviews can help find the best options.
Travelers can also make house swaps and housesitting arrangements through sites like House Carers, Mind My House, and others. Airbnb, vrbo, and Wimdu are also great sites through which people can rent whole apartments or rooms in houses for a fraction of the cost of hotels. The latter two options can give individuals access to a kitchen, which will also save on the expense of eating out for every meal.
Be as flexible as possible with flights and timing.
When searching for flights, changing arrival or departure by a day, or even a few hours, can save an incredible amount of money. Generally, it is cheaper to travel during the week than on the weekends, and flights with stops are less expensive than direct ones. AirfareWatchdog.com is a great tool for tracking flight costs, although Google has some useful flight-search tools and Kayak offers an Explore tool to browse for cheap airfare.
Travel is also most expensive during peak seasons, which generally means winter for the Caribbean and summer for Europe. By traveling just before or after the peak, or even completely in the off-season, people can save themselves hundreds of dollars.
Rely on public transportation as much as possible.
One of the biggest expenses in travel is the cost of getting around at one’s destination. In some cities, people can rely completely on public transportation. Even many smaller cities around the world have relatively thorough public transportation systems. Before departing, individuals should familiarize themselves with the system and figure out how to get to the places they want to go. Even if public transit does not take people the entire way, going part of the way on public transit can cut taxi costs in half. Using public transit can also reduce the number of days that individuals need to rent a vehicle.
Keep an eye out for free or by-donation tour options.
When traveling, many people still hire guides to take them around to various destinations. However, a little bit of online research can usually reveal a number of free excursions that are just as good as the paid tours. Often, the free tours are walking ones that provide an introduction to the culture of the city as well as a look at some of the top attractions. Sometimes, these tours ask for donations at the end, which basically amounts to tipping the tour guide. Another way to save money is to investigate Couchsurfing.org, which can connect travelers to locals who enjoy showing visitors around for free.
Look for daily deals before traveling.
Although this option is not available for all vacation destinations, a great way to cut expenses is to purchase deals from Groupon, Living Social, and similar websites before traveling. Doing so can give travelers a clear idea of what kinds of activities are available in a destination while helping them save money. Additionally, these deals can reduce money spent on food because many restaurants will offer deep savings on gift certificates.