You’ve done it: You’re on the road or just landed in a new country, and you’re ready to start exploring, studying, and experiencing. While your adventure will cost money, it doesn’t have to be excessive. Read on for tips on how to save cash while traveling the world better, longer, and possibly with more fun.
1. Fly smart
Need to catch a flight to your next stop? There are a number of ways to find the best price: Sign up for newsletters and keep an eye on promotions that notify you when certain routes are on special. Meanwhile, shop around on price comparison websites, paying special attention to the often cheaper midweek, red-eye, and early-morning flights. A final tip with often immediate results: Clear your browser history and delete the cookies before using flight comparison sites again. This prevents them from remembering your search preferences and hiking up prices!
2. Try new accommodation options
Apart from flights, the major cost of overseas travel is accommodation. Even though nights in hotels can be wonderful – all crisp sheets, pools, and mini bars – they can quickly add up. Luckily, there are a bunch of ways to go! Apart from hostels, there are hospitality exchange communities and apartment rentals. Hospitality exchange programs let you stay in a local’s home (in a spare room, bed, or couch) and work under the assumption that you might one day return the favor to another traveler when you return home. Renting an apartment short term (through Airbnb, for example) means that you’ll have the usual conveniences of being at home, such as a kitchen, washing machine, and Wi-Fi.
3. Eat like the locals eat
Heading to a restaurant three times a day is a sure way to drain your wallet dry. Instead, stock up on fresh ingredients and cook for yourself. This is easier when you’ve got your own kitchen (another point for renting an apartment!), but many hostels are also equipped with a guest kitchen.
If you have to or want to eat out – and who doesn’t at some point? – stash snacks like fruit, nuts and cereal bars in your bag, or take advantage of local street food. These cheap bites not only burst with local flavors but will also make sure you stay happy (and non-hangry!) until your next meal rolls around. Also, keep an eye out for restaurant lunch specials: Especially in Europe and Latin America, you can often choose an entree/salad, main course, and dessert for (sometimes much) less than $20. As a final food tip, I recommend you bring along a reusable water bottle and fill it up at every opportunity. That way, you can avoid spending on price-inflated bottled water and save the environment at the same time.
4. Wash your own clothes
Hand-washing your clothes is easy to do and will save you stacks on laundry services. Make use of your rental apartment’s washing machine (hostels may charge) or use the bathroom sink if you’ve only got a few items to wash.
5. Find freebie activities
Most museums and art galleries have free days during the week, meaning you can spend your would-be entrance fee on something else! Check with ho(s)tel staff, your teachers, or online to find out which is your magic day. Local festivals and celebrations are another excellent way to have a great day out on the cheap. Depending on the country you’re exploring, there’s almost always a saint’s day, local anniversary, or culinary or cultural event coming up – that’s where you’ll find music, parades, local dishes and colorful people joining in the fun. Of course, don’t forget the classic free activity: wandering the streets. Head to riverside walks, parks, plazas, street markets and artisanal strips and get happily lost!
6. Think before you buy souvenirs
Sure, that mask, sketch, or handmade bag might be wonderful – but do you really need it? Remember, besides the financial cost, you’ve got to carry the item with you until you arrive home. So, don’t impulse-buy: Practice self-control, take a walk, and return to the market or the store if you decide it’s really worth the cost.