Let’s face it, travel is expensive and when you start adding up the prices for a trip across Europe or even your own country, the costs are often staggering. Not to mention the fact that the plane ticket price alone can commonly cost upwards of $1,500 USD. So what can we do to lessen the blow and make travel cheaper? There are thousands of ways to cut costs without too much trouble. Below are a few ways to make the biggest impact on your travel expenses: food, accommodation, and airfare.

3 Ways To Minimize Your Travel Expenses:

1. Saving Serious Dough on Food:

Photo Credit: Jeff Kubina
Photo Credit: Jeff Kubina

Discovering delicious and cheap eats while traveling can often be difficult unless you have a basic framework to operate from. The cheapest way to eat and perhaps the most beneficial (as far as cultural experiences go) is to visit grocery stores and cook your own meals. If you’re staying at a hostel or in someone’s home, you’ll often have access to a kitchen, and if you don’t, there’s nothing wrong with eating fruit and sandwiches. Don’t be afraid to be creative.
As a general rule, avoid restaurants when possible, unless there is some sort of special. Restaurants can get incredibly pricey depending on where you are and where you eat at. On top of that, there are often tips and expensive alcohol – overall it’s often not worth it and it makes finding cheap food a hassle. I do suggest eating out during happy hours and when there is a lunch special. Lunch specials are often great bargains and anytime you can get cheap alcohol is a win in my book!

As far as the day to day eating goes, while you’re exploring museums and just walking around the city, stick to food stands. Just be careful to take things slow if you’re not used to the food yet, because they can make you crazy sick for a few days. Food at street stalls often only cost a few dollars: it’s delicious and filling, and the convenience is awesome. Together these tips will have one of the biggest impacts on your travel expenses.

2. Finding the Right Accommodation:

Photo Credit: Honza Soukup
Photo Credit: Honza Soukup

Minimizing your travel expenses and saving money on accommodation often comes down to how comfortable you are with certain living conditions. The typical traveler in the United States stays at hotels, which can be hard to find for less than $80 USD after all of the taxes and fees are paid. Hotels, while comfortable and nice, can be a budget killer and will turn what would have been a three week trip into just an extended weekend. The next option is using sites like Airbnb, where you can stay in unused rooms in certified people’s homes for about half the cost of a hotel and sometimes even less.

The most common method to reduce your travel expenses and save on accommodation, at least by people outside of the U.S., is to use hostels, which is going to be your best bet for consistent cheap travel. It’s also a great way to meet other travelers. Hostels can cost as little as a few dollars or around $40 USD, but typically you should be able to find a bed for around $15 to $20 USD, which will extend the length of your travel tenfold compared to a hotel next door. One of the biggest ways to make an impact on your travel expenses is finding accommodation using a website called Couchsurfing. Certified home owners will allow you to sleep on their couch for free and it’s an excellent way to experience the local culture at its most intimate form – in the home.

3. Choosing the Right Airfare at the Right Time:

Photo Credit: Alan Levine
Photo Credit: Alan Levine

Let’s start off talking about how to save money on Airfare since that seems to be the biggest way to kill your dreams of traveling to exotic destinations. One of the first things you are going to want to do before you travel is research plane ticket prices for at least a couple of weeks before you make your purchase. You should be comparing prices on every search engine you can find, a few good ones to start with are Momondo, STA Travel (if you’re a student or a teacher), and Hipmunk. You’re going to want to evaluate at least eight to ten different engines and book your ticket two to three months out.

If you are on a small or tight budget, it may be worth it to fly and explore Costa Rica rather than France or Thailand, because the difference in ticket price can be $1,000 USD or more. The time of season is also important because it can save you up to $300 on your ticket. If you’re flying in mid-summer or near the holidays, that’s going to be the hardest on your bank account. It’s best to fly in less popular months such as February or October. Finally, the time of week and hour that you fly can save you up to another $200 USD. Flying on the weekends is going to cost more than flying on Tuesday through Thursday and flying at a peak time such as in the afternoon is going to be more expensive (because more seats will have been sold on that flight) than the one leaving at six in the morning.

What are your tips for making the biggest impact on your travel expenses? There are far too many things I couldn’t add in here and there are many ways that I don’t know of.

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