How to travel for less
If you've only got a minute:
- Plan ahead to save money on flights, accommodation, and activities.
- Travel during off-peak season and explore less popular destinations for more affordable yet rewarding experiences.
- Choose budget-friendly options like hostels or vacation rentals and dine where the locals eat.
- Set up a holiday budget to prevent over-spending.
Traveling can be a wonderful way to open our eyes to new culture and experiences, but it can also be expensive. Fortunately, there are many ways to travel for less and save money without sacrificing the quality of your trip.
Here are some tips on how to travel for less.
Planning ahead can help you save money on flights, accommodation, and other travel-related expenses. It can also help reduce stress by allowing you more time to research and prepare for your trip. Some of these include things like packing, arranging of transportation, booking of tours and activities.
Take advantage of early-bird discounts or special deals that are only available if you book ahead (last minute bookings are often more costly!). This is especially important if you're traveling during peak seasons when availability is limited. Booking your flights strategically also helps you save money. This could mean flying on a weekday instead of a weekend, and taking a flight with a layover.
When looking for air tickets, do compare across different airlines instead of sticking to the one you are familiar with. If you are not particular, budget airlines typically offer lower fares. They do, however, charge fees for checked baggage and in-flight meals, so packing light and placing some snacks in your hand carry luggage is something you want to take into consideration.
While searching for flights, keep your dates flexible so that you can take advantage of cheaper fares. If you are flying further, consider taking the red-eye since you save both time and money by sleeping on the plane!
Where possible, consider travelling during shoulder season instead - the period that falls between peak and off-peak seasons. You can avoid long lines and crowded attractions and more importantly, save some money on your trip.
You can also sign up for travel rewards programs offered by airlines, hotels, and credit card companies. These programs often allow you to earn points or miles that can be redeemed for free flights, hotel stays, and other travel-related expenses for your next trip.
Do remember to take up travel insurance as well – while some may feel that it is an unnecessary expense, it can provide you with the assurance you need when things do not go as planned (train strike, accident, medical emergency...etc).
Popular tourist destinations can be expensive, so travel off the beaten path to lesser-known places and seek out local experiences and attractions. It may be cheaper and more rewarding.
If you plan on visiting popular attractions or events, consider getting the tickets in advance to avoid long queues and save some money on admission fees (for eg. early-bird discounts or online promotions). Some attractions also offer discounts for students, seniors and occasionally travellers.
Many cities offer free activities such as walking tours or free admissions at museums and parks. Do your research early and take advantage of these options. Not only is it a great way to explore the city, you get to learn more about the local culture without breaking the bank.
You can also avoid expensive roaming charges by using free public Wi-Fi instead of your phone's data. In fact you can put your phone away and fully immerse yourself in your trip. Take it as a digital detox and only use it when required (of course, it wouldn't hurt to snap some videos and pictures as keepsake!).
Look for budget-friendly options such as hostels, homestays, Airbnb or vacation rentals. These options are typically much cheaper than hotels and often offer more authentic and unique experiences. You can also consider visiting countries where your friends are so that you might stay with them for the night.
If you're a big fan of the great outdoors, camping is another way to enjoy nature and explore different destinations. The cost of camping can vary depending on the location, amenities, and season, so it's essential to do some research and compare different options to find the most affordable camping experience that meets your needs (for example, traditional tent camping vs luxurious glamping).
If you're feeling adventurous, couch-surfing is an option too (do your due diligence before taking the plunge)! Not only do you get to live and mingle with the locals - if you're lucky, your host may even volunteer to take you on local tours and whip up home-cooked meals for you!
Public transportation is usually much cheaper than cabs or rental cars. Consider using buses, trains or subways to get around. For example, it costs less than $20 to get to Seoul’s city centre (from the airport) via bus and minimally $50 via cab. Many major cities now provide affordable public transport to city centres from the airport.
On the other hand, if you are travelling in between states/cities and have a driver’s license, you may consider renting a car instead of taking flights or trains, especially if there are a few people to share the cost. A road trip can be a fun and adventurous way to explore new places. You can also save more money by staying in accommodations further from the city, which can sometimes be cheaper.
Alternatively, you can rent a bicycle. It is a fun and cheap way to see the city and you get to burn off some holiday calories too!
Food and shopping
Avoid tourist traps and expensive restaurants by eating where the locals dine. This can be a great way to save some money and enjoy the tastes of local cuisine and culture.
If you’re staying at an Airbnb or hostel, you may be able to cook your own meals occasionally instead of eating out. Shop at local markets for fresh produce and ingredients. You may also find some unique gifts which are often cheaper than in malls or touristy areas.
Alternatively, convenience stores offer a wide variety of ready-to-eat options such as sandwiches, salads, hot dogs and pre-packaged meals. You can typically find these stores in many locations, making it convenient for an affordable and quick meal.
Most supermarkets offer discounts on perishable items or pre-prepared meals closer to closing time so do keep a look out for such deals.
All in all
Traveling doesn't have to be expensive! With some planning and flexibility, you can still have wholesome experience and wonderful time while still keeping within your budget.
It may be helpful to set up a holiday budget based on the major items – air tickets, transport, accommodation, food and miscellaneous expenses. This can help you keep your expenses in check and prevent you from overspending.