Think about that one destination you've been dreaming of visiting for the longest time. What's kept you from actually going there? If it's not the vacation time, it's probably the money. Travel can be expensive and you might think you can't afford your dream trip. But the truth is that you probably can afford to travel if you change your mindset. It may not be as long of a trip as you want or as luxurious as you dream, but travel is for everyone, and there are many different ways to work with a budget.
Being flexible on the exact destination can save you money. For example, using Kayak's explore option will give you a list of flight prices from any given destination, allowing you to decide which is the most reasonable price you're willing to pay. This can take you to new places you didn't even know you'd want to visit. However, if you have a set place in mind, there's also Airfarewatchdog.com. This does exactly what it describes. It keeps track of destinations you specify and sends you an alert when prices drop. If your travel destination is driving distance, then consider using a car sharing program. There are plenty of these services around the world that allow you to rent a seat in a vehicle that is already taking your route. There are also services for renting a private car from an individual rather than a company such as the US based Relay Rides. Once in a destination, you should take local transportation to save money on taxis. Also note that many large cities have smartphone apps to help you navigate their public transit systems.
Once you've sorted out how you're getting to where you're going, you have to decide where to lay your head at night. A hotel is the first thought for many, but probably the most expensive option. Instead, consider alternative lodging such as house swapping and couchsurfing. There are many house swapping sites that allow you to stay in someone's home while the homeowner is away in exchange for you letting someone stay in yours. Similarly, websites like Airbnb are a great option for affordable accommodations while traveling. Couchsurfing is great if you want to meet locals as well and have a more social experience. One of the best parts of all these options is that they can also save you money on dining as they all allow you to cook. Renting an accommodation with a kitchen can keep you from having to dine out for every meal of every day of the trip.
Once the logistics of your trip have been sorted out within your budget, continue to further plan ahead by investigating affordable sightseeing options. Paying entrance fees to various tourist jaunts can get pricey. However, there are many ways to avoid this. Self-guided tours are becoming more and more popular with the development of various apps that will highlight all the main tourist sites for you, while supplying background information that you'd otherwise have to pay (and tip) a guide for. Additionally, look into discount or free days at main sights such as museums, galleries, and monuments. Many will offer such a day once a week or month. The main thing here is to be prepared for crowds, so arrive early.
Some of the best travel deals in transportation and accommodations occur off-season so this is the ideal time to go. Another way to further reduce costs is to find and apply for one of the many credit card offers that come with sign-up bonuses. Many of these credit card points can be accrued and used to book hotels and flights at incredible savings. There are plenty of offers for you to take advantage of and put toward your next trip. Offering credit cards with sign up bonuses is a marketing strategy for these companies, but if you know how to navigate them well, it can really save you money in the long run, and suddenly that trip you never thought you could afford will be on your calendar sooner than you expected.
What tips do you have for saving money when you travel?
Auston grew up in Phoenix before escaping to Chicago in 2008. After 4 years working as an engineer, he sold his belongings and embarked on a round-the-world trip. After traveling non-stop for a year, he finally settled in Spain with his husband where he now calls home. When he's not traveling or writing guides about events, festivals or the best LGBT destinations, he enjoys the long sunny days and nightlife of Madrid. Read Auston's blog at Two Bad Tourists, or follow him on Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram.
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