Travel is possible no matter how much money you have, or don’t have. Traveling isn’t defined by going to super fancy international destinations; it’s just making the effort to see a new place, try some new things, and meet some new people.
Here are some of the best travel tips for how you can get up and go, no matter what your budget
Travel Tips: Planning Your Trip
1 – Determine your budget
This is probably one of the most important travel tips and also the first thing you should do as it can change where you’re able to go. Once you calculate this you can decide where to go and for how long. Then, once you’ve picked your destination (see #2), its important to figure out how much you will have to spend each day. The cost of hotels and airfare occurs upfront and is unchanged. However, daily spending can be very variable and if you aren’t aware of cost of goods in the country you’re visiting, you can end up spending way more than you anticipate.
Break down expenses by category, and your corresponding budget for each:
- Transportation (if needed)
- Tours/activities (if not pre-purchased)
You can calculate your travel budget for each category by first, figuring out average cost of lunch and dinner for each day, multiplied by total days on your trip (assuming your breakfast is provided by hotel). Round the sum up to the nearest whole number to account for unanticipated alterations that may occur.
The more prepared you are in regard to your expenses, the less likely you are to overspend. You can look up the cost of eating out at your destination online. I recommend researching some restaurants and checking out their menus to see what you’ll be dealing with.
2 – Choose your Destination Wisely
Where you go largely depends on your budget (see #1). It seems like every few months or so a new “it spot” pops up and everyone wants to/has to go there. However, don’t get sucked into this popularity contest, especially if its a destination that you cannot afford. There are so many untapped destinations around the world to choose from.
Check out this most recent list of cheap travel destinations by Forbes. Hope this helps you get inspired!
3 – Timing is everything
Travel during the off-season; finding cheap flights will be much easier, and prices for everything, in general, will be less. A quick Google search can help you answer this question for different areas.
4 – Plan ahead
Give yourself time to save, to find cheap flights and the best deals. Shop around online, read blogs, ask friends for recommendations. Also, pre-plan a few activities. This way you avoid paying full price when you get there; in addition, paying ahead of time reduces the costs you accrue while you’re actually traveling. Viator and Tripadvisor are my favorite resources for this.
Check out this post on planning a trip. Many of these recommendations apply to any trip, including solo or with friends/family as well.
I’d also use your planning as an opportunity to make note of other small ways you can save. For instance, check-in with your credit card companies and see if they charge a foreign transaction fee. The ones that do, don’t use them!
Many countries require a visa. If you happen to be planning on going to one, then make sure you find out their visa process. Every so often you’ll that if you get your visa beforehand (versus at the airport) it will cost you less. Other times, you’ll see that you only have one option to get it when you arrive at the airport. In which case, this is helpful information so you can be prepared for that additional cost after you land!
5 – Promotions
Sign up for promotions e.g Scotts cheap flights or Next Vacay. You sign up and receive updates in your email regarding cheap flight deals. Your dates may be relegated to whatever the airlines dictate, but if you’re flexible, I think this is a great resource. Also, keep an eye out for deals on airline websites. Many often offer discount ticket prices for different dates.
6 – Maximize travel points
If you have a travel credit card that allows the use of points for travel (I hope you do, if not GET ONE)—then be sure to check out flight deals through them (Chase and Amex are great for this, I have both). In addition, once you book with a great card, the points you earn can be used towards future spending or trips! A win-win.
Don’t forget with your airlines that you frequently use already. Sometimes we have frequent flier miles accumulated that can be used if not for the whole round trip, but at least one way!
7 – Skip the middleman
When booking flights and hotels, book directly through their individual websites. I find that I sometimes get better deals this way (on my last trip, I found a hotel promotion for a free bottle of champagne upon check in!). Also, if you ever have to change or cancel you don’t have to deal with the hassle of an intermediary.
8 – Hotel Location matters
Nothing is worse than getting a really cheap hotel and then realizing that you’re in the middle of nowhere and now need to take a taxi or some other form of transport to get anywhere. It basically shoots your travel budget in the foot. It’s better to spend a little bit more per night if your location is central and you’re able to avoid the extra cost of daily transportation.
One way to figure out the best location is to Google map the location of hotels in your destination city and look to see where they are in relation to popular attractions. Don’t forget about air bnb and VRBO options! Sometimes you’ll get a better deal in a better location. This is also a great option if traveling in groups.
9 – Travel Packing Tips
Taking a large suitcase abroad can be costly. Check-in fees if you take local flights in your destination country, trunk fees (I’ve been charged for having a cabby put my large suitcase in his trunk before), and the general all-around headache of toting everything with you.
Click the link to see how you can travel with only a carryon and backpack. Also, take a collapsible bag as an extra. I have a small foldable backpack that I always take. In case I shop too much, I can open up this second bag and fill it up. On the way home, check-in the carryon (international check-in is free).
Travel Tips for any budget: When You’re There
10 – Meals
Hopefully you have a hotel with complimentary breakfast (or snack)—free meal!
Also, some of my favorite restaurants have been the Mom & Pop hole-in-the-walls that I’ve randomly found while wandering around a city. You don’t need a fancy spot to get good food. Ask local people like your hotel concierge or tour guide for recommendations on popular local spots. Always ask to read the menu before sitting down to dine; you’ll ensure the food choices look good and you’ll be able to scan the prices to ensure that its within budget.
Depending on where you are, I’d also recommend checking out the street food options. These are often much cheaper and give you a true sense of local flavor. So definitely don’t hesitate to eat street food!
11 – Avoid tourist traps
On my to Thailand, my friend and I were trying to hail a taxi and each driver we spoke to tried to get us to agree to a flat rate, i.e., not run the meter. In theory, this sounds great. However, my friend kept asking to use the meter; she wanted to see what the actual metered cost was. When we finally found a driver who agreed to it, we saw that the meter was actually cheaper by about 50 percent.
While the American dollar is pretty strong around the world, and paying an extra dollar or two doesn’t seem like a big deal in a third world country, those extra dollars add up really fast.
Do your research before you go and ask your hotel concierge on what to expect. Many times they can advise which taxi companies to avoid or which shopping areas are the most honest, etc, etc.
12 – Look for free things to do
A lot of this information can be found through the local tourism office (or tourism site for that particular place). You can usually find budget-friendly things to do, for instance, free walking tours, which are a great way to experience the local culture.
Some General International Travel Tips to Keep in Mind
Take extra copies of your passport (or even spare passport photos can help in the event you need to get a new one made)
Take a small combination lock to use on your suitcases to keep everything locked and safe in your hotel room. I’ve been robbed before. It does happen and its the worst feeling, plus who wants the extra cost of that!
Many airlines claim to give you the best travel insurance. I actually wouldn’t recommend this. It’s an added cost that rarely pays off. I would recommend you see if you have international health insurance coverage, or if there’s a small plan you can purchase through your current provider before you go. This is especially helpful, I think, if you’re going to more remote areas with limited access, or if the likelihood of injury or illness might be higher.
What are some of your travel tips?
Please leave any feedback below. Would love to hear what you think and if you have anything to add to this list!
Sanjana is a physician anesthesiologist, avid traveler, and entrepreneur. She founded The Female Professional in order to give women a voice and a platform to express themselves. With her experiences as a physician, as a CEO of a startup, and as a writer, she understands the struggles and frustrations that women face. She also understands what it takes to move past those things and come out on top. Through this platform, Sanjana aims to empower women to be their best, authentic, selves, achieve work/life balance, and live life to the fullest.