It’s resolutions season, and if you’ve decided to travel more this year, you might want to start budgeting now. Spending money on travel is experiential spending; Essentially, you’re buying memories and experiences instead of more stuff. And resolving to travel more also means resolving to save effectively. You don’t want to book flights and hotels on a credit card if you won’t be able to pay them off. Instead, work on saving for travel before you book, and choose a destination that won’t overextend your travel fund.
You may have to make concessions in order to travel affordably. But isn’t that part of the fun? Being open to going to one part of the world instead of a specific country, or being flexible in other regards could go a long way to making your trip affordable. And in a way, it can make it more memorable. (I once chose Milan, Italy as a destination because the flight was nine euros from Paris. It was definitely memorable.) If you’re looking to travel more in 2018, here’s how you can do it affordably.
1. Be flexible with your destination and travel dates. If you have your heart set on Paris in June, guess what? So does everyone else, and that makes flying to a European hotspot in the summer a little pricey. Instead, look to travel in the off-season, which will drive prices down and help you avoid the crowds. And don’t hesitate to consider lesser-known destinations. Taking the time to do a little digging will help you find some off-the-beaten-path places. Not only will these areas allow you to experience more local flavor, they have the added perk of being less costly.
2. Be wary of destinations that offer cheap airfare but are expensive once you land. For example, airlines sometimes advertise inexpensive round-trip airfare to places like Copenhagen or Iceland. While those tickets are a steal, Denmark and Iceland are both known to be expensive countries. On the other hand, destinations in Southeast Asia and Central America are said to be fairly inexpensive. Choosing a destination that allows you to find affordable lodging and food can help stretch your money.
3. Find alternative housing. Booking hotel rooms and cozy Airbnbs lets you travel luxuriously, but it’s not always the most frugal way to go. To keep costs low, opt for a room in a shared house or apartment on Airbnb. You could end up staying in expensive cities for $40 a night. Choosing a hostel is always an option too. Are hostels glamorous? No. Are they affordable? Definitely.
4. Pick a destination inside the country. We have so much to see inside the U.S. People travel from all over the world to see our national parks. Why not pay the Grand Canyon a visit this year? Or check out a state you’ve never been to. You could even take a road trip and hit a few cities you’ve never seen before. Travel doesn’t necessarily mean getting on a plane. You can drive a few hours and experience an entirely new culture.
5. Set flight alerts to find the right prices. If your heart’s set on a flying to a specific place, set alerts so that you’re the first to know when the prices drop. Once the flights get to a price you like, you can jump on them. Flight alerts also help you stay within budget, because it encourages you to only book if the price is right.
6. Find a destination with free lodging. It goes without saying that if you have friends or family in a place you’ve always wanted to see, your next trip should involve paying them a visit. After all, you can’t beat free lodging—and it doesn’t hurt that if you have local friends and family, you have a readymade tour guide. You can also get creative in order to find free lodging. You can house sit (or pet sit) abroad, or even consider couch surfing.
7. Use discounts, reward points, or coupons to save some extra cash. Some travel credit cards come with enough bonus points to cover an international round-trip flight. Of course, you shouldn’t sign up for a credit card just for the bonus points. But if you’re in the market for a new card anyway, looking into travel cards couldn’t hurt. If that’s not your style, look into hotel discounts (some offer lower rates if you stay for multiple nights). You can also find discounts by checking out Groupons for whatever city you’re traveling to. You could end up dining at an exclusive restaurant or staying in a five-star hotel on the cheap.