Budget travel can quickly become expensive if one is careless with their preparedness and expenses. Here are ten money-saving travel tips that allow for an economical, comfortable, and interesting trip!
1. Bring a reusable water bottle with you.
I never leave my Sigg bottle behind, and it has saved me hundreds of dollars that I would have otherwise spent on bottled water in locations where tap is perfectly potable. Many countries with potable water have water fountains in parks, museums, and plazas. If all else fails, entering a bar and politely explaining that you could not find a fountain should be enough for them to fill it without any problem.
2. Wear comfortable shoes!
This may be a given, but if you travel ready to walk, than you only have to use public transportation when absolutely necessary. This can also be said for heavy purses, cumbersome duffels…anything that may make you uncomfortable or tired during the day.
3. Ask a local how to get from one destination to another, but judge for yourself how long or short is the distance.
Culture to culture and person to person, opinion varies over what exactly is “too far away to walk”. A good question to ask is “about how much time will it take if I decide to walk?”, than you can decide for yourself if you want to go for the long (or short) haul.
4. Research before your trip!
Know your cheapest transportation options and find out if there are day/week passes that are also valid for other types of public transportation or museum discounts. Additionally, there may be significant savings between buying individual tickets and purchasing a reusable card (even if only used for one trip). For example, the T (commuter rail) in Boston gives you the option to purchase a Charlie Card or a single-ride ticket. Ticket and cash-on-board customers pay a surcharge. In New York City, ticket machines give you the option to recharge your card with $5, $10, $20, or ‘other amounts’, yet those who only need two rides only need pay $4.50 (which can be selected with ‘other amounts’). Researching public transportation ahead of time will help you save over the course of your trip. Also consider renting a bike!
5. If you are lucky enough to be enjoying a long stay in one country, ask around about a youth card.
Maximum age varies by country. In the U.S., the equivalent would be a College I.D. In the EU, anyone under 26 years old is eligible. Once you receive your card, don’t forget to use it! It will equal tons of savings on train and bus fares, museum and movie tickets, just ask if it is accepted wherever you make a purchase.
6. Look into museum hours and specials before you plan your itinerary.
Many museums offer specific days or hours of suggested admission or entry free of charge. In touristy areas, beware of companies offering museum “deals” where for a single price you can visit multiple museums. Often the museums included are more affordable on their own or completely free of charge to visit! Furthermore, check out local holidays to make sure that the museum is not unexpectedly closed.
Madrid's Parque de Retiro
7. Enjoy city parks.
They are free and offer great forms of local culture and art such as public sculpture, music, dance, and sports. They are a place to socialize with the local people or share a picnic with your travel companions. Getting sun helps jet lag!
8. Eat local, eat cheap.
Picnicking can be one of the most affordable ways to eat while traveling. I always attempt to visit a grocery store even if it is only to grab a snack to keep on me. If you are staying in a place with a public kitchen, try to experiment with the local foods! It is healthier and less costly to eat at “home”. When you do eat out, wander away from the touristy areas and enter a restaurant where locals are eating, or ask a local for a good restaurant that is away from all of the crowds.
9. Be wary of tourist deals, but find the tourist discounts.
In international cities, department stores may offer tourist discounts. Additionally, save any $50+ purchase receipts to see if you are eligible for a VAT (Value Added Tax) refund at the airport on your way home.
10. Pay in cash!
You will be more aware of how much you spend day to day than you would be by paying with a credit card. You will also avoid any foreign transaction fees, and if you can withdrawal sufficient cash before you leave your home country, also avoid foreign ATM withdrawal fees.
I find that the less money one spends is relative to the amount of cultural interaction one experiences. By attempting to travel on a budget, one usually ends up eating common, regional foods, enjoying drinks at authentic bars of the country, wandering the streets and absorbing people’s mannerisms and accents…the list goes on. Watching one’s pennies makes for an interesting, genuine, and affordable cultural experience!