How to cut travel expenses

Whenever I tell people our travel plans, or where we have traveled to, the question I receive the most is “how do you travel so much?”.  I realize to a person that works 9-5 our traveling seems a little excessive, especially since Drew and I still work our office jobs for the time being.  To be honest, we budget travel (insert scary movie music here!).  I don’t know why, but whenever I start explaining that we budget travel every single person assumes we are staying in horrible places with bugs, and dirty sheets and eating soup at the hotel every night.  Why is that?  Since when did the word “budget” start implying cheap or bad quality?  I digress.

I have decided to put together a list of ideas on how to cut expenses with budget traveling.  These are some great tips that have helped us plan our trips to Italy, Ireland and Germany.

  1. One of the biggest tips is to BE FLEXIBLE!  If you are really interested in cutting your expenses be flexible with everything, from dates, to mode of transportation.  We usually start out with an idea of where we want to go and a timeframe, like a week or two abroad.  Then we narrow it down to around 3-4 months where we have nothing going on and we can pretty much take time off and not miss holidays or birthdays.  Then we start looking at flight deals for budget airlines.  If we are going to be traveling between places we while abroad we look at rental car prices, train prices, gas prices and plane prices and compare it all for the cheapest option.
  2. Lodging will probably be your second biggest expense depending on how you travel.  Now there are several things to consider when choosing lodging.  The first is location.  If you are saving money by staying out of town, what does transportation cost to get into town?  You might not be saving much.  The next thing to consider is booking early.  This will give you the most options because as time gets closer rooms book up and hotels raise their prices.  Now hostels are another route to go, however we only stay in hostels that have private double rooms for my husband and I and these are on the high side so they might now save you much if you cherish your privacy like we do.  Another big tip is to use Ebates.  Quite a few hotels and travel sites are found on Ebates and this is will get you some cashback which is always nice after a trip.
  3. Food is another huge cost, and for this one we tend to budget a certain amount each day for food and try not to go over.  Some ways to keep this cost down is to  have breakfast at the hotel only if it’s free.  If not we usually stop by the local grocery store and grab cereal bars or fruit and have that for breakfast.  Lunch is our big meal of the day.  This is because dinner is usually more expensive at restaurants.  Dinner is something we make ourselves from the grocery store.  Picnics for dinner are really nice if it’s not too cold out.
  4. The sights…the whole reason you wanted to go there in the first place.  The entrance fees and tour costs can add up!  Some quick tips for keeping this down is to first look for discounts online.  Don’t automatically assume that the hotel will have the cheapest tickets for the sights because chances they will not.  The next tip is to only go to sights that interest you.  This might sound redundant, but I hear so many people say they went somewhere because a friend said they “had to see it” and the person hated it because it wasn’t their cup of tea.  Do your research.  If you are in Dublin and a bookworm, Trinity College or the literary tours would be right up your alley.  If you hate reading and haven’t picked up a book since high school, these are probably a waste of money for you.
  5. Lastly transportation.  For this the answer is simple, do your RESEARCH! Are you renting a car?  Have you checked out the amount they are going to put on hold on your credit card?  Taking a train?  Price out if an easy pass or buying tickets separately is cheaper or maybe a bus that might take a little more time to get there is cheaper.  Taking a taxi?  Make sure you negotiate before you get in the taxi or ask that the meter be turned on. Always research all aspects of every form of transportation so when you get to that rental car place you already know about that $1000 hold placed on your credit card.

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