Budgeting. Could there be a more humdrum topic? But! Keeping track of money can actually…
On the brink of the new year, I began to plan for 2020. I made lists of things I wanted to learn how to cook, items I wanted to save up for, and places I wanted to go. Planning is key when it comes to goals both big and small, but especially for those of us who are itching to get out of our comfort zones and try something new. If you’re planning your 2020 travel plans, here are some things to keep in mind to help you save some cash.
First, prioritize where you want your money to go.
When you travel, what do you enjoy most? For me, I’d rather put my money where my mouth is, literally. I’m happiest putting most of my dollars toward meals. I’m happiest eating local cuisine, and though none of my meals necessarily need to be lavish, I’d rather not compromise on trying as many new things—local snacks, craft beer or cocktails, and the best restaurants in the area.
What I am happy letting go of is buying souvenirs, staying in the perfect hotel, or hitting every tourist destination. I’m okay sleeping someplace that’s more cost-efficient, and if a museum ticket or park entrance fee is a bit steep, I’m usually okay skipping it. If the city I’m visiting is known for one specific spot, I’ll try to hit that and then skip spots lower down the list if need be.
When selecting a destination, consider visiting somewhere you already have friends or family.
I made my 2020 travel list based on places I want to go and people I want to see, and luckily there’s a bit of overlap between the two. Visiting a friend is fun enough as it is, and with the added benefit of seeing a new city. And it doesn’t hurt to have the potential to save by eliminating hotel costs or eating the occasional meal at home.
Look for cheaper flights.
Since flights can often be the most expensive part of a trip, they are also the area where you can look to maximize savings to lower the budget of your overall vacation.
If you’re okay losing some time by traveling with flight itineraries that have longer layovers, you’re already setting yourself up for having a trip with a lower cost. Plus, longer layovers can sometimes mean the ability to explore a new destination! On past trips, I was able to spend a few hours in Amsterdam while returning home to the U.S. from India, and spend an hour grabbing pizza with my parents while flying from Los Angeles to Asia, all thanks to longer layovers.
Remember to set alerts for cheaper flights, and check out thriftytraveler.com for good flight deals.
Consider cheap or free housing.
Ahead of time, look up house swap or house sitting options. And as long as you feel safe and comfortable doing so, couch surfing is also a great option—you save money and maybe even make a few local friends. If you’d rather live somewhere else, hostels are usually very affordable. Or, look up cheaper Airbnbs or motels along your route or just outside your destination. You might have to travel a bit more into the center of the city, but depending on public transportation costs or your desire to walk around, this could be the most cost-friendly housing option.
When it comes to food, consider packing snacks or shopping at grocery stores.
For most of my life, I’ve been a vegetarian. So when I visit places where meat is included in most of their popular cuisine options, I’ll pack a couple of protein bars in my bag. This saves me from shelling out some cash on a plate of boiled potatoes or another bland veg alternative, and it has the added benefit of helping me save money.
But if you’re trying to save precious space in your bag and avoid baggage fees, remember that a grocery store could be your best friend. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is visit a local grocery store for fresh produce and local snacks. More often than not, I’ll be able to try something I’ve never had before.
Use the right credit card.
Are you using a card that gives you travel points, rewards, or cashback? Do some research ahead of booking flights, hotels, etc. and find out what the best option is for you, whether it be applying for a new card or simply changing the rewards options available to you with your current card.
Lastly, find free things to do.
Whether you’re happy visiting a local park, library, or other public space, remember that there are tons of free things to do in any city. Many museums also offer free admission days, and many walking tours around a city will usually show you hot spots and neighborhoods for free. A quick Google search will give you more specifics.
Happy traveling, friends!
Virali Dave is a writer in Los Angeles. Born in Mumbai, she has always considered the west coast to be the best coast. She can be found chronicling encounters with burritos on Instagram @virali and on Twitter @viralidave.