See The World
Seek Adventure Travel Happy
I'll be honest, budgeting for travel is one of the biggest parts of what I do when I'm planning a trip...besides day dreaming about it (which is considerable). It's easy to see other people's awesome vacations and think "if only I made a little more money, I could finally do that too". You end up putting off your dream trip until "someday" and when you do that, "someday" may never come. Even people who make a ton of money often live paycheck to paycheck and end up putting their financial well being in stake to keep up appearances. Here are a few tips that I have used that made awesome trips with in reach.
1. Make priorities: What do you really want to get out of this trip? Do you want to stay in a lavish hotel with room service, or would budget accommodation be fine as long as you can afford that scuba trip you've been dying to go on? Both times we went to the Bahamas we stayed at a place called The Orange Hill Inn. It wasn't the cheapest place, but it was close. We did extensive research on where we wanted to stay and we were honest about what we wanted out of it. We wanted an affordable relaxing trip and to be able to afford to go on some excursions and drink lots of rum punch. If we had stayed at Paradise Island we probably wouldn't have been able to afford to do anything else. Also, the Orange Hill Inn is awesome and totally exceeded our expectations for the price (which is why we've been twice). I'd totally recommend it.
2. Sign-up for a miles reward card: This can be tricky, because you have to be very disciplined and use your card wisely. Most cards give you bonus miles for just signing up, which goes a long way to a free flight. About 5 months after getting our card, we had free flights to Florida to go on our first cruise. Because we flew for free it made that trip totally doable. We felt like we could splurge on fancy drinks and snorkeling with sea turtles. We put almost all of our monthly expenses on the card and pay it off every month. Trust me, all those groceries, gas, Christmas shopping, etc builds up over time. We're pretty close to having another round trip ticket in the bag. Realistically, we'll have one free trip for the both of us, every other year. We're pretty frugal, so we're not putting $50,000 worth of miles on there a year. But you have to pay it off every month. As soon as you start paying interest, this is a no win game...which is how the credit card companies can offer these cards in the first place.
3. Stalk Airline Prices: While planning for our trip to Italy, I started checking prices a few times a week at about 10 months out. I got to where I was checking prices everyday, sometimes twice a day. I started to see the patterns on when prices were going up and down and by how much. I was doing this because I knew I was getting close to the sweet spot for a price drop. For one reason or another, prices are often dropped on Tuesday afternoons. This isn't always true, but I've had a lot of luck with this. I've also found that Thursdays are a cheap day to depart on. Again, not always. If you are not obsessive enough to check this often (which I'm sure most normal people are not, I'm a little crazy) you can use a a free service like Yapta. They will automatically send you an email when your price drops or goes up. Within two weeks of buying my tickets, prices have gone up over $200 per ticket and haven't come back down. Domestic and International flights are different, so get a feel early for where prices are, the average, and where you'll feel comfortable. Things like Kayak's Price predictor can be helpful, but it doesn't always work if you are very far out, or have a complicated multi-stop trip. Also, look into alternative airports. Flying to London and prices got you down? Look into flying into Dublin. It is one of the cheapest places in Europe to fly to, often times by a lot!
4. Don't get hosed on "Deals": Some places are going to try and sell you discount packs. Those are often only deals if you do EVERY thing on them. At that point you may save 10% or so. But if you don't do everything you've actually paid more than you would have if you paid individually for those items. Be sure that these deals aren't really selling you more than you want.
5. Be aware of local customs: For example, tipping isn't customary everywhere. Italy and New Zealand are two places among many where tipping is not expected. I waited tables for a bit in New Zealand as was paid an hourly wage of $15. That isn't bad at all. I know it might feel wrong to not tip, but in countries where it's not part of the culture, they are often making a living wage. You can still tip if the service is extraordinary, but sometimes even then it isn't expected or accepted. Also, know if you need to negotiate your cab fare before hand. Not all places have set meters or prices. If you don't negotiate before hand you're going to get stuck owing a lot more later.
6. Don't eat out for every meal: I love food and love eating out, but sometimes it's nice to just have some orange juice and in english muffin in bed before heading out for the day. Save serious money and time by picking up some snacks and other food items at a grocery store after you arrive. Also, in some places in Europe, bottled water is very expensive and isn't served complementary with your meal. You'll save a lot of money by bringing your own water bottle along and filling up at your hotel and at public water fountains. Hydration is key!
7. Don't overpack: Soon, I will be posting some packing tips, but this one is a double killer. 1) you'll be charged both ways by the airline for the extra bag and again if your bag is overweight. 2) And then you have to lug that huge thing every where you go. Save your wallet and your back some frustration and cut back.
8. Look for services that offer perks: Often time in tourist destinations, there are services that offer perks. For example, we rented a car in New Zealand and the company offered us 20% off a day cruise of Milford Sound...which we were already planning on going to. There is a lot of competition in tourist locations, use that to your advantage. And if they don't advertise those kinds of benefits, don't be afraid to ask.
9. Don't go crazy for souvenirs: Be honest, how often are you going to wear the beret you got in Paris? Do you need another key chain/t-shirt/miniature replica/etc? Now, don't keep yourself from buying something you really really want. But ask yourself if this purchase will be something that I am really happy about 10 years from now and will add to my experience. If not, save on that crazy overpriced trinket and spend that money on something that will add memories for years to come. Don't feel bad if you've been sucked into buying something dumb. It happens to all of us. Hello, my name is Skeeter and I'm a former souvenir-aholic. Note: this also goes for tribal braids (more than likely, you can't pull them off as well as you think, and you're going to have a sunburned scalp), and caricature pictures.
10. Don't skimp on the important stuff: So, you're in Belize and want to go scuba diving. If you've gone all that way, make sure you go with a reputable scuba diving company...not just some guy on the street offering scuba diving trips for a great pice. With some things its ok to skimp on, but if it's something with equipment that your life depends on, don't cut corners. This is particularly true in places of the world where regulations might be lax. You might be fine, or you might break every bone in your body, and wish you hadn't trusted that nice guy who said he could hook you up with some bungee jumping. People are opportunists and tourists are easy pickings. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
I got to the end of this list and realized that I have a few more tips that might be useful, but this is getting wordy and I'm sure you have better things to do like check on flights to Peru or something...More to come later.
Thanks for stopping by!
Hi there! I'm Skeeter. I grew up moving a lot and that makes me a bit restless for travel and exploration. I started this blog with my husband Pat when we decided to backpack New Zealand for a year. We are always looking for the next adventure and are loving life. We're just your average couple with two sassy dogs and a love for travel. We're sharing our travels and the tips we pick up along the way.
Hello! I'm Liz. Blogging is very new to me, but I'm so excited to finally write as much as I talk!
"Don't forget to travel happy"-Skeeter & Liz