One of the questions travel bloggers get asked all the time is how they can afford to jet-set on a writer’s salary. Here’s five tips I’ve learned to integrate into my travels to keep the adventure high but the costs low.
1.) Research transportation options ahead of time. Even if you vow to stay completely away from cabs and only take public transportation, this can add up very quick very fast (London Underground, I’m talking to you!) Do your homework in advance: plan your days so you are seeing everything in an area that only requires one train ride. Or if you’re going to be jetting across town a lot, maybe it makes sense to buy a week pass rather than individual tickets. Using NYC as an example, you would pay $2.75 for a single subway ride purchased at a vending machine, or you could pay $30 for a 7-day unlimited pass. Figuring out your travel schedule in advance can end up saving you heaps in the end.
2.) Consider hotel alternatives. While I’ll be the first to admit I have a serious love affair with hotels (the little shampoo bottles, fluffy robes and slippers, need I mention room service?), your travel budget can surely stretch a lot further if you consider other options. Hostels offer beds in shared rooms for super cheap (I stayed in Kyoto, Japan, this way for $15 a night!). Or join a site like CouchSurfers and crash for free in a local’s living room. Another great alternative is a Home Swap, trading your cozy Brooklyn loft for a Tuscany villa, for no more than the cost of becoming a member of their site. Not only do these options save a huge chunk of change on lodging, but they also provide kitchens, which let you cook at “home” and save tons on your food budget. Brilliant vacation planning if we do say so ourselves.
3.) Coupon sites. These are sites most people know about, but some folks may be hesitant to try, thinking, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” But honestly folks, I’ve gotten some of my best vacation deals via coupon codes. Whether they are country specific, or more general sites that span across the countries (thinking of the likes of Groupon and LivingSocial), there are major deals to be had. Last summer my sister and I grabbed a Groupon to an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic, and by the time we split the cost, were not paying a penny over $250 each…food, drinks, lodging, and entertainment included. Not too shabby for an international week on the beach.
4.) Talk to the locals, both before and during your trip. In the age of social media, this is easier than ever. Before you even leave on your trip, connect with people via Twitter who live in your travel destination (I can’t tell you how many tourists we’ve talked to here at UsedYorkCity!) They’ll be happy to give you recommendations of their favorite restaurants, watering holes, and off-the-beaten-path things to do that will never appear in any guidebook. Bonus: these will almost always cost less than what you’ll naturally stumble upon in the touristy areas of a city. And of course when you’re at your destination, spend time chatting with store clerks, waiters, or folks at the park walking their dog (assuming you speak the same language!) Creating ties with the locals living in that community, even just in that moment, can help strengthen travel memories for years to come, while leading you to some of the best hidden gems in the area.
5.) Take advantage of free days and bring your student ID. Almost every museum has free or “pay-what-you-wish” days, and if you map out these days and times ahead of time, you won’t make the mistake of going on a Thursday and spending $25 to get in when you can go on a Friday afternoon and get in for free. Museums aside, this works for a lot of other things as well. Whether you’re booking tickets to a show, spending a day at a bathhouse, or getting a refresher mani-pedi, many businesses offer discounted rates if you utilize them at less busy times during the weekdays as opposed to busy hours during nights and weekends. If your schedule allows, why not? And of course, if you are a student (or have a student ID lingering about somewhere…), you can get huge discounts on normal admission fees to museums, shows, films…just about anything.
We’d love to hear from our fellow travelers! What tried-and-true tips do you have that help you travel for cheap?
By: Jessica Tiare Bowen