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Destination Anywhere: How To Save Money While Traveling

Updated on January 23, 2015
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Many people enjoy traveling. Traveling, however, means different things to different people. One person may consider traveling driving one hour to a sleepy coastal town, staying at a ritzy bed and breakfast with her husband for two nights, and returning home afterwards without a single detour. Another person may consider traveling taking two weeks off of work to explore Europe with a backpack and three close friends. Yet another person would define traveling as getting on his motorcycle, throwing a few clean items of clothing in a backpack, and heading out without a definite plan. Regardless how you define traveling, there are numerous ways to save money while in transit.

The first way is to be aware of the costs you can eliminate before you leave town. This can include ensuring your car is in working order before you embark on a road trip to potentially save yourself the hassle and expense of a tow truck because you have a tire, which you should have replaced before leaving town, blow out on you. You can also save money by not committing too hastily when purchasing plane tickets. Whether you use www.priceline.com, www.kayak.com, or another website, it is important to check around for different prices and options. It helps if your travel dates are flexible, as it can be significantly cheaper to fly in the middle of the week compared to the weekend. Once you have booked a flight, another way to save money is to pack light and save on luggage fees. The website www.onebag.com offers suggestions on how to pack light; furthermore, even if you don’t use this website, one way to pack light is to pack multi-use clothing items such as hiking pants which zip off at the knee and become shorts or neutral-colored pants which can be coordinated with a larger number of tops than a pair of bright orange pants.

Another way to save money is to travel during the off season. What constitutes off season will vary somewhat depending on your travel destination, though it is typically during the winter months. Airfare is often cheaper in the off-season; in addition, hotels, cabins rentals, hostels, and so forth are often cheaper as well. I know someone who lives near Boston, Massachusetts, and he recommends visiting the island of Martha’s Vineyard during the off season because the hotels are half price and the crowds of tourists are gone.

Even if you travel during the high volume season, it is possible to save money by staying in hostels or camping. Hostel amenities range from large bunk rooms to private room options. The bunk rooms are the cheapest option, and, if you choose decide to stay in a bunk room, it is recommended you bring a set of earplugs in case someone in the bunk room snores. Hostels typically feature a kitchen for guests to use, as well as laundry facilities and storage lockers. In addition, hostels often provide up-to-date tourist information about current events, quirky destinations, and public transportation options. Camping may not be as comfortable as staying inside, yet you can make your camping experience more enjoyable by packing a thick, durable air mattress, headlamps, extra blankets, and camp chairs.

Another way to save money is realizing that every purchase, no matter how small, adds up quickly. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t splurge on hand-squeezed orange juice on a tropical island or enjoy the local dining options in San Francisco, California. It does mean, however, you can save a good deal of money by not purchasing a beverage every time you stop at a gas station, or by determining how many souvenirs you can buy during the entire trip beforehand to help discourage impromptu (and sometimes expensive) purchases. On road trips it’s possible to save money by visiting grocery stores instead of regularly eating out. If you are also staying in hostels, you can buy food at the grocery store and prepare entire meals in the hostel’s kitchen. This means you don’t have to eat endless containers of potato salad, bags of potato chips, and other picnic-type food while traveling. Visiting grocery stores is also useful for anyone who regularly eats fruit and vegetables. While certain restaurants offer fruit and vegetables, it is typically much cheaper (and the quality of produce notably better) when you purchase fruit and vegetables at a grocery store.

Another way to save money is by asking the locals where they recommend you eat, explore, and stay. These options may not automatically be the cheapest ones, though locals often know about the hole-in-a-wall diners with amazing and relatively inexpensive food. They may also know where to get the cheapest local beer, and, moreover, for those travelers who want to rub elbows with the locals instead of being surrounded by other travelers, this is one way to make this happen.

Still another way to save money is to research free or inexpensive events in your upcoming destinations. Such events may include free concerts in city parks, farmers’ markets, and free wine tastings. Most of what you want to do while traveling will cost money, and therefore finding free options is essential.

Another way to save money is to lower your pre-trip expectations. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking, “After all, since I am traveling to London, England, I simply must attend three Broadway shows, visit all the famous museums, and eat in a pub every night.” There is nothing wrong with wanting to do all of these things; however, if you budget isn’t padded enough to proceed, it’s helpful to consider adjusting your expectations and priorities. Or, if you simply must stick to this itinerary, you should consider postponing your trip until you have saved up enough money to do everything on your travel wish list.

Money can also be saved by doing your research ahead of time. It’s prudent to know which hotel and hostel reservations can be cancelled without a fee. In the unfortunate case of having missed a train or plane, you can at least avoid getting charged to stay at a hotel you failed to reach. Travel insurance may be worth researching, especially before an expensive trip abroad, in case your trip is delayed because of a family tragedy or severe weather. If you are renting a car, you should call your car insurance company to see if your current car insurance will cover you while you are driving the rental car. Many insurances companies offer this feature, and you can save money by not purchasing the extra insurance offered by the car rental company.

These options are a few of the numerous ways, large and small, you can save money while in transit. Travel can be one of the greatest joys in life, and, if you do it right, you will create enduring memories and still have money in your travel budget remaining when you return home.

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