Traveling internationally can get expensive—and fast. But there are still plenty of ways for you to cut expenses and experience more of the world for less.
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you have to go on vacation. But if you feel so inclined, and are setting your sights on international destinations, there are a plethora of ways to throw your budget out the window. If you’re planning on going across the pond or across the globe, a little preparation could save you big time in the long run.
Obviously, you aren’t taking to the skies without at least a little planning, but there may be some things you haven’t considered for your budgeting arsenal—especially if you haven’t been overseas in a few years. Whether it’s creating a physical budget, getting a credit card with zero foreign transaction fees (Visa cards will be your best friend for this as they’re widely accepted) or being flexible with your destination, there are plenty of ways to make sure you don’t overspend.
Be choosy with hotels.
As wonderful as it might be to wake up to the sight of the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben, you will be paying for that sight more than for the hotel itself. Unless you’re totally sold on that hotel room view, it’s best to stay a little bit away from the center of the city or major attractions.
Sure, it would be a fun wake-up or goodnight view, but how much time are you actually going to be spending in your hotel?
Hopefully, if you’re in Paris or London you’ll be seeing those famous views more up close than just from the window of a cozy room. Not only would getting a hotel a little bit off-center save you some money (or a lot of money) it may also mean seeing things you might not otherwise see.
Skyscanner (a great way to scout cheap airfare across the internet) suggests the same price saving advice.
“If your hotel room has a view of the Eiffel Tower chances are it’s going to be tiny and very overpriced,” according to Skyscanner. “Instead of blowing all your money on a city centre location, opt for a hotel outside the city limits where you can still enjoy all the attractions during the day but get to retreat to a quieter (and cheaper) location to rest your head at night.”
This seems like a no-brainer, but with a little research you can find some of the best local cuisines that will come at a cheaper price than any chains or imported restaurants.
Smarter Travel goes one step further and advises not asking hotel concierges for advice about where to eat and take to local food blogs for advisement instead.
“They tend to have a set list of pricey or touristy spots near the hotel that they suggest,” according to Smarter Travel. “Instead, ask bartenders or baristas where they personally like to eat, or consult travel guidebooks and their companion websites for lists of the best cheap eats in a city. The ‘Rough Guides’ and ‘Let’s Go’ series of guidebooks are two good choices.”
You definitely need to look into restaurants beforehand or ask around before eating out just to make sure it’s reputable, but broadening your palate will colorize your experiences. Of course, just like in your own town or city, you want to know enough to not end up in a … messy situation afterward. Read reviews and get a sense of the cleanliness of the place before you venture in.
This advice is particularly important when taking street food into consideration. Even Smarter Travel suggests being cautious of street vendors. There is a way to find great treats on the street, but there are many ways it can go wrong as well.
When it comes to ordering on the street, Smarter Travel offers some tried and true thoughts on food safety: “Be sure your dish is served hot, and take a look at the cart or kiosk before ordering. Does it look clean and well kept? Is it busy? (The fewer the customers, the longer the food may sit before being served.)”
Life Hack recommends the grocery shopping route as another way of saving some money. You can eat like a local and make your own food to go or picnic somewhere nearby.
Be a flexible traveler.
If you’re searching for airline deals, you’ll obviously be better off not having your sights totally set on one destination or one set of dates. The more flexible you can be, the more options you’ll have both budget and destination-wise.
Frugal Travel Guy (FTG) suggests the flexible approach to save as much money as possible while still getting that international travel adventure.
“Of course, flight ‘deals’ always work best when you’re able to keep an open mind,” Holly Johnson of FTG said. “If you are willing to consider multiple destinations or even plan your trips around airfare deals, you can explore new corners of the world and save money in one fell swoop. For example, if you’re willing to travel anywhere in Asia and wait until a deal comes along, you’re more likely to find a sale than if you were only willing to fly into Phuket, Thailand or Beijing, China.”
The other thing to keep an eye out for is airfare sales. Sales and mistake fares happen on occasion, and if you’re lucky enough to find one, snag it.
Johnson said she has seen economy flights from major US cities to places like Europe, Asia, and South America for less than $500 round-trip! Especially for some Asian destinations, that’s a bargain. Economy flights to Beijing, for example, can start at $1,000 so it’s definitely worthwhile to keep an eye out for deals.
You should also try to book flights in the afternoon as prices tend to be lower. There is a rumor that Tuesday afternoons are the cheapest time to book flights, so that’s worth a try too.
House-sitting for free accommodation.
If you aren’t opposed to roughin’ it out of a hotel, house-sitting while traveling abroad is a great way to score free accommodation while also getting the chance to live like a local during your travels. Ordinary Traveler suggests turning to Trusted Housesitters to get yourself in the house sitting game.
As of June 2019, the yearly membership for Trusted Housesitters is $119/year. That’s a far cry from the cost of hotels domestic or abroad.
“Trusted Housesitters is the best website to connect with homeowners looking for people to house-sit and care for their pets while they are away,” Ordinary Traveler said. “They have the largest selection of houses all over the world. I recommend becoming a member to get the best selection of house-sit gigs and have the opportunity to apply for the most popular locations as soon as they are listed!”
Housesitting is like AirBnb without the price tag, but it does come with the responsibility of keeping an eye on someone’s home or pets. If you’re willing to take on that responsibility you can reap the rewards of the traveler life.
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