|Volunteer vacation + host family with National Parks pass = happy Lisa|
(Angels Landing, Zion Canyon, Utah)
After getting this question from one of my friends, I rummaged through all my “Travel Tip Tuesdays” blogs in confusion. This search left me with a question of my own: How have I not covered this topic before?!
Extreme budgeting has always been one of the main focuses of my travels. On my Epic Trip Out West of 2011, for instance, I spent (including airfare and all expenses) an average of $15 a day. Now that’s budget!
I’ve danced all around the subject of budget travel in several of my blogs (and written about general money-saving here), but I’ve never tackled it head-on. So, without further ado, here are some general principles that have guided me.
Find the cheapest transportation. Getting to your destination is one of the most expensive parts, so focus on saving money on this. I’m not a big fan of price-checking a bazillion sites online, although if you find that fun, go for it (or try Expedia or Kayak). In general, you can get much cheaper flights if you travel a) on weekdays instead of weekends, b) not on or around holidays, and c) between Labor Day and Memorial Day, not the other way around. (See my blog about forms of transportation.)
Cut down on your lodging expenses. This is often the biggest expense on a trip, so if you can cut out even a few nights of hotels, you’ll save yourself hundreds of dollars. Hostels are great for the solo traveler (see safety tips here), but a hotel is often cheaper for two or more people. Hotels will often give you a better rate if you stay a week (or even if you just haggle a bit). And of course, I’m a big believer in Couchsurfing (see my blog)!
Bring your own food. Experiencing local cuisine is fun, but if you limit your restaurant meals, you free up your budget. Non-perishable snacks are great, and it’s even better if you pack some things that double as meals, such as trail mix or Clif bars. (See my blog about travel foods I like.)
|I spent a whole afternoon at the free|
Degrazia Gallery in the Sun.
Focus on free attractions. Taking your whole family to a museum can drain you dry in a day, leaving you no money to spend on smaller pleasures. Use the Internet to search for free days at popular attractions, be on the lookout for coupons, and seek out cheap or free things to do. Nature areas, art galleries, farmer’s markets, city events, self-guided walking tours, and festivals are usually free and fun! (I've also written about places I generally like in every city.)
Prioritize. As in any financial circumstance, the point of budgeting when you travel is to make sure that you prioritize the things that are important to you, rather than wasting money on things you don’t care about. If food isn’t a big deal, eat PBJ and use that money for something else. If you don’t care how you get to a destination, book yourself on a crammed (read: cheaper) flight. (I’ve written a couple blogs about priorities, here and here.)
With just a little preparation and creativity, budget travel can be safe, relaxed, and just plain fun. Bon voyage!