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What’s the secret to travelling on a budget?
It’s very possible when you know how.
You probably know other people who get the best deals on hotel and flights as they travel the world!
How do they do it? Do they know some travel tips and tricks that you don’t?
Actually, yes they do.
I’m one of those people. Traveling is one of my life’s passions. I love experiencing other cultures, learning new languages, and meeting people. Those travel adventures shape my attitudes about the world and life.
And today I’m going to show you the best tips and tricks to travel on a budget in 2017.
How to Plan for Vacation
I am always mindful about planning at least one to two vacations every year.
My process of selecting a country to visit is from recommendations from the backpackers I meet during my travels. Most of the time, it is just my desire to experience the culture!
Planning start around late January to early February. I request most of my time-offs from work. Once I get approval, I book only my flights. When I get closer to going on vacation, I reserve one to two days of hotel accommodations.
When I get there, I plan the details; the remaining hotel stays, activities and tours. I ask the locals I meet on my flight, in the streets, on the local buses for suggestions where to go and things to do. The majority of the times, the places they recommend are extremely affordable.
How to Travel on a Small Budget
I travel on a very minimal budget, and my estimated budget goal is to spend less $700 per person. Traveling on a small budget requires flexibility and patience. Also, the willingness to go on holidays during non-peak times.
The airfares and rooms are much cheaper during the off-seasons. However, if you prefer going on vacations during the holidays or escaping the winters in the Caribbean, that will put a big dent in your budget goals.
According to a study by Cheapair, flights are less expensive at least two months before the travel dates for International travel and three weeks to 3½ months for U.S. domestic flights. Buy your ticket early!
Best Cheap Travel Search Sites
Here are my tips to find cheap airfares. First, start searching for flights using various travel online sites. Some of my favorites search engines:
Kayak is a popular fare aggregator and travel metasearch engine.
Their search engine is super user-friendly and easy to find cheap flights. It displays airfare prices from several sites and airlines. It has lots of cool functionality. A couple of the features that I like about Kayak.
On the left panel under the “Top Filters,” the “Times” section shows the landing and takeoff, clicking on the start and end of the circles. You also see the most and least expensive and busy times.
Under the same tab, the Top Filter, when you scroll to the bottom, you will see other booking sites and their prices for comparison. There is a Track Prices feature to receive emails when the fare changes for your trip.
My go-to section is the “Recommended,” located at the top of the results. You get the list of suggested tickets, which are their proposed cheap airfares from airlines.
My major drawback is it does not feature airfares from the low-cost budget carriers, Southwest and JetBlue.
CheapTickets is another online travel services company. You should be grateful that they have done most of the leg work for you. It saves you lots of time with planning your trips.
It has several ads in the Google main search results for: “Flights Under $199”, “Travel Package Deals Under $500” “Hotels Under $50” and there is “Secret Bargain” to find low-cost flights and packages for members only.
AirfareSpot is another cheap flight search engine. You can filter by your city, and it displays flight deals from the major cities in the United States.
You save time going through search results and select a particular country. There is a list of the popular vacation destinations and the airfares prices from several cities.I like that it also displays the fare restrictions. Sign-up for their newsletter to receive daily airfare updates.
The major airlines Delta and American Airlines have fares wars where they have cheap tickets within a limited time. Those airlines are usually the most expensive, but if you are flexible, you might find cheap airfares. It is worth including them in your research. Sign-up for their newsletter to get updates on airfares deals.
Ways to Travel for Free
The flights are still too costly and beyond your budget goals. Credit cards points or airlines reward points are budget-savers. I use points only when I am traveling during the peak-times and holidays seasons.
Redeeming Credit Cards Points
I hate to promote using credit cards to pay for your expenses to gain points. But, use them wisely! Piling on credit cards debts to travel is not being responsible.
Instead, I recommend taking weekend trips locally. People from all around the world come to the US to visit. You too can be a tourist in your town without going into debts.
Using credit card points is straightforward. The credit card company has a travel site where you can search for flights. You pay taxes and fees, so the ticket is not free but saves you a couple of hundred dollars.
Cashing on Airline Points
Redeem the airline’s travel is very easy, simply going to the airline website and select the use the reward points feature when searching for flights. Similar to credit cards points, you only pay for the taxes and fees. Those costs are minimal and depend on the airlines and the cost of the fare.
Another way to travel cheap is with a Buddy Pass. Asking friends, or anyone you know if they have friends who work for any of the airlines.
Airlines Buddy Pass
With a Buddy Pass, you fly for reduced rate or for free. However, you are not guaranteed a seat. You fly on standby and pay a small fee. With the airlines always overbooking their flights, you have to be Uber flexible and require lots of patience to wait for an assigned seat.
Traveling on a buddy pass requires some effort. Do not wear clothing that would not be considered being acceptable by the airline. Because you are representing their brand, they have the right to refuse a seat frankly because of your unapproved attire or behavior.
How to Find Cheap Accommodations
Hotel accommodations can be an arm and leg, especially if you are traveling to famous tourists’ destinations. In the less touristy places, hotels prices may range from $50-$150 per night.
Though, in the main cities, Tokyo, New York City, and Hong Kong, you will pay an exorbitant amount of money for a hotel room.
I do not book rooms with the main chains or 4-stars hotels unless they have package deals. I will reserve a room for one day or two days when I am traveling on my birthday.
How to Save on Hotel Rooms
The cheapest way to save on lodging is to stay in Hostels. There are 33,000 hostels in over 170 countries. They offer clean, cheap dorms and private beds.
Hostels do not provide the luxury major hotel brands offer. But, it saves you money to splurge on tours and activities. You get the basics needed to be comfortable, a bed, a pillow, a towel, a bathroom with a shower. What else do you need?
In many expensive areas, opting for a community shower and toilet can save you $30 a night. Hostels come with a kitchen and cooking utensils to cook your meals — a significant saving for traveling solo travelers.
Go Local Feel
If Hostel is not your thing, Airbnb has become very popular with many travelers. It is not cheaper than a hostel, but you get some luxury and local feel for half the price of a hotel room.
Groupon connects subscribers with merchants by offering travel packages. It has great deals on hotels and perfect for last minute trips. Sign-up for the newsletter to receive those deals right in your email box.
Camping is the super money saver! There are many beautiful camping sites around the world. The camping grounds are safe, free and charge a small fee to setup a tent. Rent the camping gears once you get there. Start with the local Tourism office to find out about camping tours and camping sites.
Take Overnight Buses
Taking overnight buses can save a hotel night stay. Traveling around the country, look to see if there is an overnight bus. There are overnight tourists’ buses with an air conditioner and comfortable seats. I bring an inflatable pillow and a blanket to make the bus trip more pleasant.
Travel Budget Example
I planned to spend $500 for my trip to Nicaragua. Using Miami as my home destination and all prices are in US dollars. Here’s my estimated budget as a solo traveler:
Round trip flights to Managua on Taca International Air: $378
Six nights private lodging in hostels: $120 per person
Hiking Tour: $10
Public transportation ticket on chicken buses: $5
Cultural Tours: $10
Food for six days: $50
Money for unplanned activities, souvenirs, etc.: $20
The total cost of the trip was $573. I went over my budget by $73 because I decided to stay in a private room, instead of a dorm. The cost for a bed in a dorm was $10. I also bought more souvenirs than I initially estimated.
When I travel to stay within my budget; I walk everywhere, eat local, attend free local events and go on very inexpensive tours. I go grocery shopping at the outdoor markets or grocery stores. I cook my meals at the hostel. Buy food from the street vendors.
This budget is not for everyone. My budget might be too tight for you or may cause you from not fully enjoying your trip. Look into using airlines points. That would save you the $378 for the airfare. Extra money for you to spend lavishly on a hotel room, souvenirs, and tours.
5 Places to go on a Low Budget
These countries are affordable and will give you a full cultural experience. Safety has improved considerably in recent years in these places. And they won’t put a hole in your pocket.
El Salvador – One of the most affordable places in Central America. Famous for its beaches, surfing, and hilly landscape. The exchange rate makes travel for Americans incredibly budget-friendly.
Honduras has a real mix of cultures, Mestizo, Caucasian, Amerindian, and Afro-Caribbean. You get the experience all those cultures, dances, and food in one place. The Mayan ceremonial site Copán are extraordinary to visit. Soak the sun on the unspoiled and pristine beaches in Bay Islands of Roatán, Útila, and Guanaja.
Mexico has something for everyone, whether you are looking for deserted beaches, ancient ruins, or exciting nightlife. A visit to Mexico is unlike anything else in Central America.
Let’s face it! Traveling around the world is a thrilling experience, but it can be extremely pricey. The tourism industry is about a billion dollars business. The Allianz Global Assistance had a survey this year (2017) that U.S. travelers will be spending more than $100 billion on vacations this summer alone.
They will pay $1,978 on average for summer vacations, a 10 percent increase from the previous year. They will pay $1,978 on average for summer vacations, a 10 percent increase from the past year. A study by TravelPulse shows that Gen-Xers—travelers between the ages of 35-54—will be spending the most amount of money on travel: $2,628.
There are many ways to find affordable activities wherever you go. A little preparation and flexibility can lead you to the cultural experience you expect to get from your vacations.
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