Today, budget minded international travelers who do good research and have the assistance of a knowledgeable and savvy travel professional have plenty of options and alternatives that should satisfy their need for thriftiness and value.
Before you make a final decision about where in the world you would like to visit, you must do some research. Ultimately this is your first step to taking control of your budget and finances.
It is important to consider what season it will be at your travel destination when you arrive. There are often tremendous bargains to be found when you travel to a location when it is not the height of their usual tourist season. Then, plan to learn as much as you can about anything that might have an impact on your travel costs. For example, learn about the tipping rate and whether or not gratuities are included in the cost of services.
Find out what are your “must-see” sights and how much it will cost to go to your favorite museums or other tourist attractions. Many international cities offer discount cards for travelers who want to visit various sights and discount transportation passes like London’s oyster card that allows you to travel on the underground system, many of the national rail services, tram and buses. Find out what is free or very low cost to visit like national parks and churches. Plan to take advantage of visiting the local markets to soak up the culture and perhaps enjoy some low cost local food.
2) Actually Make A Budget:
Whether you make a spreadsheet or use a pen and paper, but making an actual budget is a must. Understand what costs are fixed such as hotels and plane tickets. You can keep these costs down by booking in advance and not at the height of the tourist season if possible. Then, make a list of variable costs, the things that are constantly changing and your choices can affect like food, transfers, communications, etc. You can find out a lot of this information about your specific international destination through your previous research or by speaking with a travel professional.
Budget for your meals. Do you like to eat local cuisine, American–style fast food or street food? Also, remember to budget extra for a couple of splurge meals – you are on vacation after all! Factor in the cost of bottled water as you may need to drink only bottled water in some countries. Also, control your drinking budget – if you enjoy beer and wine, try to stick with the local brands as they are often the best price and you get to indulge in the local scene.
How will you get from the airport to your hotel? Instead of taking a private transfer like a taxi, consider a shared ride or public transportation. Also, consider taking public transportation for sightseeing.
Before you leave, buy items that you may need like sunscreen or over the counter remedies for headaches, motion sickness or upset stomach. Items like these often cost a lot or may not even be easily accessible abroad.
Do not forget to plan for use of your mobile devices. Do you want to bring any? Will you have free Wi-Fi? Check with your carrier about possible roaming charges and inquire about temporary phone rates.
Finally, plan to have access to 1.5 times more money than you think you need. Even though you are on a budget, having more money available to you does not mean you have to spend it. The funds can be used in case of emergency or for a once-in-a-lifetime activity or experience. Try to get the most value for your dollar. Before you go, check the availability of ATM’s. It is generally better to use ATMs to get best exchange rate over the exchange brokers at the airport or cashing travelers checks at the bank. It is best to contact your bank before you travel and let them know where you are planning to travel – this will help ensure that your bank does not stop or limit your transactions while you are overseas because of perceived fraud. It is also advisable to bring a back-up credit card for emergencies.
3) Purchase Good Travel Insurance:
Travel insurance protects travelers from unforeseen circumstances after they have already paid for their trip. For budget travelers this is even more critical as they often cannot afford to pay for unforeseen “big–ticket” expenses. Travel insurance provides protection if they have to cancel the trip because of personal emergency like a death in the family or errors on the part of the airlines or travel companies. It also protects travelers if emergencies arise once they reach their destination and provide 24-hour travel assistance. Although travel insurance is often perceived as a financial burden by many travelers, most policies cost about only 4-8% of the trip cost and will be totally worth it if any emergency situations arise.
4) All- Inclusive Vacations:
Depending on where you are going, consider taking an all-inclusive trip. Once the trip is purchased most things including gratuities are taken care of for you. With almost everything being included, a budget traveler can focus on relaxing and not worrying about the next expense. An all-inclusive vacation can be more economical in the long run also. A traveler knows how much they are going to spend and there are no real surprises! Today, many travelers are looking for value - the best bang for their buck - and all inclusives often provide it. All-inclusive resort vacations generally include air, accommodations, food and drink, entertainment and most activities. Variable costs may include travel documents, immunizations that may be required, off-resort excursions, spa treatments, etc.
A budget traveler also may want to consider a river cruise. Generally known as a luxury vacation, with some prudent planning a budget minded traveler could take a fabulous vacation and get a tremendous value. Many river cruise companies often offer specials on airfare and 2-for-1 pricing on the cruise itself. As with all-inclusive resorts, most of your costs are fixed and you know about them in advance so you can budget your funds.
5) Think Outside Of the Box:
There are several alternatives to the average hotel room. AirBNB offers private rentals including rooms, apartments, treehouses and boats; Couchsurfing is a hospitality exchange site where you can stay with locals in almost every country on earth; it has 7 million members; and you can learn about culture, food and language first hand; or BeWelcome, a non-profit, open source and member run service where you find a place to stay with local hosts home from all over the world. These sites are great sources for adventurous budget–minded travelers who want to explore the world but have limited funds.
Also, regarding air, if you have plenty of time and patience and do not mind multiple layovers at inconvenient times, you can often get deep airline ticket discounts. If you are equally patient and flexible, you can use frequent flier miles, but using them may also mean dealing with various changing restrictions.
Finally, regardless of your travel budget, the reason why we travel is create dream travel experiences and memories. Whether on a budget or not, make sure that is your goal as you plan your vacation!