Exploring the world sounds fun and exciting, but it can be expensive to travel. However, there are ways to experience the trip of your dreams on a budget. Follow these money-saving tips when planning your next vacation to help make it more affordable.
- Join a frequent flyer program. It will probably take time to accumulate frequent flyer points, but the perks can be worth it. Depending on the program, rewards can include cheaper fares, upgrades, free companion tickets, and more.
- Be flexible with scheduling. Timing your ticket purchases wisely can help you save big. Aim to travel during days of the week when airfare tends to be cheaper. Similarly, try to fly at unpopular hours (e.g., early morning or red-eye flights) for more affordable pricing. Avoid traveling during peak holiday seasons and school breaks, and be aware of big events such as conferences or trade shows that tend to make hotel prices soar.
- Comparison shop. Research online to find the cheapest flights to your desired destination. Mix and match your airlines and airports for the best rates — you might discover that two one-way tickets are cheaper, overall, than purchasing one round-trip ticket. Consider all-inclusive options, since the up-front price you pay is usually the total cost of your trip.
- Pack smart. Checked baggage fees can rack up quickly, especially if you exceed an airline's weight limit. Try to stick with carry-on luggage or just remember to pack lightly to avoid paying extra for overweight bags.
- Consider alternatives to hotels. Lower-cost lodging options can include hostels, home-exchange programs, B&Bs, and vacation rentals. But they do require careful research. Find a match that best suits your needs by narrowing down potential options according to your budget, number of guests, length of stay, and space requirements. Look at ratings and reviews to determine whether a particular location and property will work for you.
- Download apps to your smartphone. Take advantage of free travel apps that can help you save money on things like gas, car rental, airfare, hotels/accommodations, and more. Find and download messaging apps that your family and friends also have so you don't have to pay for text messages you send/receive while traveling.
- Reduce mobile roaming charges. After a relaxing vacation, you probably won't want to come home to an expensive phone bill due to data roaming charges. Fortunately, many mobile networks offer data roaming deals, so check with your phone's carrier to learn about packages and discounts that may be available to you. And before you embark on your travels, adjust settings on your phone to disable data roaming as well as software downloads. App and phone updates are important, but most can wait until you are connected to Wi-Fi, which is available for free at many places.
- Find free activities. Regardless of where you're traveling, it's likely that there are plenty of fun and free or low-cost activities. Sightseeing, walking, browsing stores, and attending local concerts/fairs/cultural events are great ways to explore a new place without spending too much (or any) money.
- Act like a local. Blend in with the locals by dining out and shopping at stores located away from popular tourist streets. Prepare your own food when it's practical, and don't shy away from street food — it's less expensive than a sit-down restaurant.
- Save on car rental. If possible, stick with public transportation on your trip. But if you must rent a car, book the cheapest option you can find online. You can save even more money by choosing to forego car rental insurance, but you'll want to review your existing auto insurance policy first to see if it comes with some form of coverage for rentals.
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