In the monotony of the everyday, it is inevitable that our minds slowly drift away from the computer screens in front of us and into visions of exotic travel destinations. What usually brings us back? Our bank account statement. The most common excuse we have heard for people not going on a trip they pine for is, “I don’t have enough money.” Your income should not be what holds you back from venturing on your dream vacation. A lack of funds is no longer a legitimate excuse; the key is to plan ahead and be resourceful. Remember, a limited budget doesn’t mean that you won’t have a great time. After all, some of the best travel stories come from trips done on a shoestring budget. Here are our tips on how to plan your dream vacation without emptying your bank account.
1. Plan Ahead
Buying your plane ticket in advance will reduce the cost immensely; the longer you wait, the higher the price will be. Look to travel during off-peak seasons; not only will your flight be cheaper, but other accommodations, such as hotels and restaurants, will be as well.
2. Bring Friends
Travel buddies can serve a greater purpose than simple companionship: they will also lessen your travel expenses. Amenities such as train travel, cab fares, and hostels often offer discounts for those traveling in a group. The more people you have, the more ways you can split up costs.
3. Pack Light
Don’t skimp on the necessities, but try not to over pack. Bring a carry-on sized piece of luggage to avoid paying any baggage fees.
4. Travel by Train
In many countries, trains are the way to go. You see more of the country than you would flying far above it, it’s less of a hassle than renting a car, and it is the cheapest way to go. Many train companies such as Eurail have the option of buying group tickets, which are cheaper than buying individual tickets for each of your traveling companions. But be forewarned, if you plan on getting hungry on the train, stock up beforehand. While trains do provide food and beverage, the markups can abolish your previously set budget.
5. Don’t Be Scared– Go for the Hostels
It is a preconceived notion amongst some travelers that hostels are dingy, dirty places to stay and should only be used as a last resort. Wrong. Hostels can provide amenities that many hotels do, but for half the cost. The more travel companions you have, the cheaper it will be, as many hostels charge less per person if you opt to stay in a room with a large group.
6. Street Meat
In most countries, the best samples of the local cuisine are from the sidewalk stalls or the sidewalk cafes that everyone but the locals overlook. These bodegas have earned the less-than-appetizing term of “street meat.” Do not be fooled — it is delicious and cheap, allowing you to stay within your budget while still being able to sample authentic and delectable bites of the local food.
7. House Wine/Local Beers
If you’re planning to go out, avoid ordering drinks with hard liquor, as they usually cost more. Instead, go for house wines or local beers. This will allow you to sample a bit of the culture while saving money. Also, follow the locals. Local hangouts will give you a more authentic take on the culture of the land you are visiting and probably give you a lower price point.
8. The Best Souvenirs Are Pictures
While it may be tempting to buy amazing vintage goods in Paris, or authentic artifacts in Cambodia, stick to pictures for the time being. One day, when you have made your millions, you will be able to go back and do all the shopping you want. But right now may not be the best time to splurge, considering the current recession. Pictures do it all: they are free and capture all the cherished moments of your dream vacation.
You traveled all this way to see this foreign country, so you’ll want to take everything in. Instead of rushing around in cabs, walk to your destinations. It may be far, but it will allow you to get a better lay of the land. If necessary, take public transportation. For more rural areas, make sure to book cars ahead of time or at least barter for the best price you can get. Never be afraid to negotiate.
10. Watch Out for Tourist Traps
If you travel during the peak season, watch out for tourist traps. Some places will even provide special markups on menus or offer you a “tourist menu” that is the same thing as the normal menu, only twice the price. Avoid dining near tourist hotspots, as these destinations will amp up prices. Don’t be afraid of going to the local market to get your grub. Most hostels do offer kitchen amenities so you might as well take advantage.