Updated: May 1, 2021
By Rhonda Armbrust
In an ever-changing world, be prepared for opportunities to travel. Maybe it’s a job transfer or an invitation from a friend. You never know when you’ll want to spin across the globe.
Do you get a rush when you realize how much you saved on a purchase? That’s me.
My skin tingles when the checker circles that amount on my receipt. I have rewritten the rules of frugality. Saving money is a challenge and a game I play. So, I’ve gathered (and practiced) ways to save on travel expenses. The first step is to make consistent contributions to a designated vacation savings account or a pile of dough under the mattress.
Watch for credit card offers that include rewards when signing up. Typically, 40,000 points equate to about $400 so it’s not a small change. Try to find cards with no annual fee. I bounce from card to card, fulfilling the purchase requirement (the lower the better) to get the initial points to dump by putting everything from groceries to utility bills on the card. Then I pay the balance off each month. I cancel the card when it’s no longer beneficial. If you acquire enough travel rewards to cover your flight, you’ve taken a sizeable chunk out of your vacation expenses.
The higher your credit rating, the better the reward card offers you will qualify for. If you don’t have any credit, start with setting up a small account such as a tire purchase. Make sure the company you are purchasing from or setting the loan up reports the debt to the three credit agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Simply ask them if they do.
Also, you can apply for any credit card and pay it off monthly to build credit. It may take a while to qualify for rewards, so start improving your score right away. In the 800s is excellent, the 700s very good, and the 600s acceptable. Pay your bills on time and don’t have tons of debt. Cancel the cards you no longer use.
No credit card miles? Opt for flexible dates and check the airline’s rate calendar for low fare days. Once you arrive at your destination you can take trains, subways, buses, Ubers, or visit AutoSlash.com for the lowest prices on car rentals.
The next hurdle is housing. There are different ways to save depending on your desires, needs, and where you are going. Hostels often offer some of the best rates. Find a spot at HostelWorld.com Join Couchsurfing.com and stay with locals. If you travel with a group, you can split the cost of vacation rentals that have several bedrooms.
Another option is renting out your own property while you are gone. Many people want to rent homes short-term. One way to find them is by listing your house with the vacation rental sites such as VRBO or Airbnb with your available dates determined by the time you’ll be away. You can also trade your home for a residence where you would like to visit. Home Exchange has listings all over the world for these trades. Almost everything is negotiable, so when you are at a hotel or other lodging, negotiate to get the best deal.
Have you heard of car camping? A friend of mine drove from Washington State to the northernmost point in Alaska and car camped most of the way. That entails cooking, eating, and sometimes even bathing in the great outdoors and sleeping in your car. You can pitch a tent if you are on a driving vacation. Another tactic is to rent government-owned cabins in parks. Go to recreation.gov to find a spot in the U.S.
Now that you’ve tackled the transportation and housing issues, let’s look at other ways to save while traveling. Dining out can be expensive. Book a room that has cooking facilities, shop local markets, and prepare your own food. In exotic locals, this can be a grand adventure that adds flavor to your meals.
Here’s a don’t. Don’t buy souvenirs. They are cute at the moment but often end up on an ignored shelf somewhere gathering dust. Postcards are an inexpensive way to remember your adventure.
Here’s a do or two. Do travel during the off-season as rates are often lower, especially on housing and attractions. Eat, party, and play where the locals are. Do the free stuff. Sometimes tourist traps are pricey, so talk to natives. You might discover a more ravishing place to visit than a site you would pay for. Hiking is often free, fun, and exciting. Grab a spot in a volleyball match and make new friends. Hang out by a tennis court, or a basketball court, and join in the sport. Scroll through the area’s Meetup groups, then attend the events or peruse dating apps. Going on exotic adventures is not just about the place. It’s a lot about the people. So meet them.
Transportation, check. Lodging, check. Food, check. Activities, check. Be prepared for your next adventure by planning and researching your bucket list of destinations and once you’ve got your strategies dialed in you can travel on almost any budget.