Travel can be very expensive – but with some planning there are certainly ways an independent traveler can cut down on costs. Type in “budget travel” in Google; Google is always generous with listings but for these key words it is especially generous. A recent query spit out approximately 38 million hits! Where to start your research?
Since airfare is often the highest expense on a trip – in our experience it is wise to try a number of outlets before actually purchasing your ticket. The single most important aspect of cost and airfare is timing – search for prices on different days – often the price varies. When planning a vacation try to fly during the “off season” – go to places that historically see large numbers of visitors – but go during their low season.
Another method used to find cheap tickets and low airfare is to call the airline directly – sometimes you would be surprised, the price is cheaper than using the web. Sometimes you can even talk the price down a little bit – have only had limited success with this but it doesn’t hurt to try.
I often call several “Bucket Consolidators”. These are independent travel firms that often buy large quantities of tickets to certain destinations and as a result get discounts from the airlines. Some of these companies will concentrate their efforts on a certain part of the world or certain countries and so tickets might be cheaper to these places. Get a hold of the newspaper for the closest major metropolitan area to where you live; these companies usually advertise in the travel section of that cities newspaper.
If you need to use long distance regional transportation – consider flying. Often budget regional carriers help drive the overall costs of tickets down even on some of the major carriers. In Europe it can often make more sense financially to fly rather than take a train. This is especially common in Europe.
Your next largest cost is usually accommodation. Couch Surfing or similar sites promoting this form of travel can be a huge money saver. After all, outside of airfare and food, lodging is one of the most expensive parts of travel. Couch Surfing hosts allow “surfers” to stay at the hosts’ apartment or home free of charge. While not only saving money, often your host will show you around or provide information about where they live – you can see an area through their eyes, rather than just being a tourist at a hotel or hostel.
As an alternative to couch surfing, consider a home or apartment swap exchange. You can find reputable travelers at a number of home swapping sites – we list several here.
A great way to save on meals is to purchase food from supermarkets. Limit going out to restaurants to a minimum and enjoy local food when possible. Find places that have a kitchen whether its a couch surfing host or a hostel and cook your own food.
Local transportation can often be intimidating – but with a little experience under your belt this is often the cheapest way to get around a city or country.
If you use PayPal, be sure to get a PayPal debit card and use this where possible. Often major credit cards charge a rather hefty International transaction fee and using a PayPal debit card to make purchases eliminates these extra fees.