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How to Travel on a Tight Vacation Budget

Vacation Budget

You could be someone who likes to travel a lot and experience new things, or maybe you just need a break from everything, and one of the best ways to take a break is obviously to go on vacation somewhere, to explore and relax in a new setting. However, whether you’re a travel enthusiast or looking to unwind, trips can unfortunately be very expensive. 

You must pay for the flight ticket, hotel rooms, food, and more. What’s worse is that some of these hotels and airlines, in addition to restaurants and many other services, will try to rip you off and get you to pay for lots of unnecessary stuff. But what many people don’t realize is that there’s always a way to get the most out of a vacation without breaking the bank trying. Here are a few important tips that can save you thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses.

Book the Right Flight

If you’re traveling by plane, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, and most importantly, don’t stick to one website to book your flight. You have to do your homework and compare the prices of different airlines offered on many websites to get the best deal. You’d be surprised to see how cheap some tickets can be. Even if the difference isn’t that great, make this a matter of principle: you can’t really save money if you don’t pay attention to small details. Small amounts of money can add up really fast. 

Which websites to use is a matter of preference; some people use Google Flights, while others go to Kayak.com. What really matters is that you do enough research. With that said, it’s important to note that things aren’t always very simple, in the sense that a cheaper ticket price doesn’t necessarily mean you will save more money, as airlines don’t give out cheap tickets out of kindness. Usually, they will make up for the price by charging extra fees for everything. You might have to pay to have your luggage checked, to use a credit card, to pay for a carry-on and so many other things.

These ‘hidden costs’ can stack up pretty fast, and you might end up paying more for this seemingly cheap flight than you would otherwise pay for one with a higher ticket price and lower hidden costs. Make sure you look up the airline you’re going to go with and see what people are saying about it online so you can find out if they sneakily charge people a lot more than they should. The issue of hidden costs isn’t exclusive to airlines, though; it is something that you should keep in mind throughout your trip, as it could come up at many points. For example, you have to consider the location of the airport you will land in. If it is far from the city, you will have to pay for transportation. Similarly, suppose you’re unsure whether to book a direct flight or connecting flights and get a deal with a long layover. Generally speaking, direct flights are a bit more expensive, but there’s more to this than that.

Obviously, a 24-hour layover might be great since you will have time to explore the city you’re in. An 8-hour layover, on the other hand, will make it very likely for you to spend a big portion of that time at the airport. You might get hungry, and decide to buy a sandwich, and surely you know how much airport sandwiches cost. Suddenly, you’ll find that you’re paying much more than you should and that connecting flights didn’t save you much. Therefore, always ask yourself: ‘Is the deal so good that it justifies wasting time and money during layovers?’ The answer depends on the cities you’re visiting and the deal you’re getting. 

Regardless of the airline or the flight, it’s a good rule of thumb to book your flights as early as possible, ideally as soon as you decide where to go. Don’t wait for those last-minute deals; good deals of this kind are pretty rare, and you’re not likely to get them. What’s likely, on the other hand, is that the longer you wait, the more expensive flights and hotels will get, especially when hotels are all booked out. It’s also recommended to try to travel light as much as possible. That is, don’t use oversized bags and pack only what you know you might need on your trip. You will save a lot on extra baggage fees.

Finally, bigger airports usually have more and better offers than relatively smaller ones, so take a look at bigger airports first, especially if they’re the same distance from where you are as other smaller ones. As for the best time to travel, tickets are obviously more expensive when it’s a travel season like the holidays, and everybody is scrambling to book a flight. But it’s also worth mentioning that tickets get more expensive over the weekend, so if you have the opportunity to travel during a normal weekday like Tuesday, do it; it’ll save you a few bucks. 

Be Careful About Where to Stay

After booking your flight and arriving to your destination, you need to think about saving money on your trip. The first order of business is to avoid exchanging money at the airport, if you’re traveling to a foreign country. You will most likely get a worse exchange rate than you can get at other places. The only exception to this rule is if you’re traveling to a country that heavily depends on cash. In that case, you will need cash to pay for things like taxis or public transport, so it’s better to exchange just a little bit of money that would be enough to handle these transactions. The best way to take out cash in a foreign country is to use your debit card at your local bank, and try to avoid private ATMs because they typically charge higher fees. Also, if you’re going to be traveling internationally, always try to get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. Otherwise, you might be charged extra fees on every payment you make with your credit card during your trip, which can add up.

Moving on to where you will be staying. Most people book hotels without thinking twice about it, but things aren’t so simple. If you’re a young person traveling alone or in a small group, looking for a hostel or even a pod hotel might be a good idea. Pod hotels are places designed to provide people with small pods to sleep in. They’re not super comfy or luxurious, but if you’re young, you’re probably going to be doing a lot of sightseeing anyway; you only need a place to sleep, and these are super cheap while being comfortable and clean enough at the same time. Alternatively, you could look for an Airbnb (NASDAQ: ABNB). This option works better for larger groups of people as well. Renting an apartment isn’t just cheaper than a hotel, but it can save you some money on food because it will be easier to cook your own meals.

If you do book a hotel, however, there are a few things you should be aware of. First, the location is super important, since you don’t want to stay in a hotel that’s too far from the main city and end up wasting money on transportation. Picking a hotel that’s in the middle of the city might be more expensive, but the transportation money you’d save could be more than enough to make up for the price difference, so do your calculations. Second, keep in mind the possible hidden costs involved in booking a hotel. For instance, some hotels will require you to pay $150 for your stay, and as soon as you arrive, they might surprise you with mandatory fees and say they give you access to things you don’t actually need, so be careful when you’re booking a hotel and don’t just focus on the booking price. You also shouldn’t have breakfast at a hotel if it’s already part of your plan because you can get the same meal much cheaper at a restaurant or a nearby café.

Avoid Tourist Restaurants

It’d be cheaper to bring groceries and cook meals instead of eating out. However, you’re probably thinking that would be too big of a hassle. After all, you’re going on vacation and want to have a good time, but cooking doesn’t go well. Well, luckily, you actually don’t have to waste a ton of money on expensive restaurant food. 

 It’s very important to avoid pricey restaurants that serve no purpose other than being a tourist attraction. These restaurants don’t usually provide anything special in terms of food or service quality; they capitalize on their reputation as a place all tourists go to, even though it’s possible to get much better food at a much more affordable price at a local place.  It’s a good rule of thumb to look for the restaurants locals often visit; these are typically both good and cheap. You should venture a little bit away from touristy areas and check out local restaurants as you walk. You can also use the internet to check the restaurant reviews or search for the best restaurants in your area. You will most likely find loads of information about hidden gems: the cheapest and most high-quality restaurants in your city, so check those out. 

In general, you need a balance between cost and comfort when it comes to food expenses. The best way to balance the two is to cook one meal a day, which is ideally supposed to be dinner because it’s the most expensive meal offered at restaurants. Nevertheless, it’s always fine to try out dinner in a new city. How many times you eat out comes down to your budget at the end of the day. 

Transportation

With food and accommodation out of the way, you’ll certainly be moving around a lot. Services like Uber (NYSE: UBER) will eat away at your budget, so it’s best to use public transportation, or, even better, just walk whenever possible. Walking won’t just save you money, but it will also be a great way to take in the city you’re in. Many countries have high-quality public transportation services, and they’re usually very cheap, so make use of that if you’re in one of those countries. 

The Bottom Line

Now you have a good idea of what expenses to look out for when you’re planning for your next vacation. Combining all the cash you can save with these tips can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars, which can make life a lot easier and your trip more enjoyable. 

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