Living in a digital world gives us access to see the world behind a screen, while dreaming of all the places to add to a bucket list. The challenge many times is finding the means to checking off these dream destinations as travel gets more and more expensive. From flights to meals on-the-go and places to lodge, living like a nomad can seem like a daunting task for the wallet.
According to the Global Travel Forecast from the Global Business Travel Association, costs of travel are forecasted to increase a bit in 2019. The cost of flights are set to increase by 2.6% around the world and could go up by as much 1.8% in North America. With stats like these, it’s no wonder many travel seekers are imagining a bigger hurdle toward chasing their destination dreams.
However, with the right tools, strategy and determination to get there, it is possible to travel on a budget. You’ll have to be a little more flexible and disciplined in the planning phase and while you’re at Point B, but the memories you’ll make are more than worth it.
Here’s five things you can do if you’re traveling on a dime:
Set a Budget and Savings Goal
First thing’s first. You have to be realistic about your financial outlook. While traveling is good for the soul, being responsible about how you do it is how you take advantage of the reward. A nifty platform to help you take that first step is Turbo – which helps you see a clear picture of where you stand financially through three key numbers: credit score, verified income, and debt-to-income ratio. By understanding where you’re at, you can set some goals to where you want to be.
Once you’ve decided a realistic budget and timeline for a travel adventure, you’ll need to set savings goals. How much money can you put away daily, weekly or monthly to get you to the dream location? A great resource to setting this savings goal is the Mint app. It’s also particularly fun to watch that savings goal bar fill up and know you’re just a few deposits away from that dream destination!
Visit During Off-Peak Season
Every destination has high and low seasons. It can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to visit on one or the other. For example, year-round warm climates like the Caribbean usually tend to be in low season during summer months. Hey, it’s hot! While destinations closer to the poles will be cheaper to visit during frigid winter months. You’re usually sacrificing better weather or a cultural moment (think: major carnivals, holidays relevant to location) for a cheaper experience, but there are pockets of days that are a happy compromise for anyone.
When doing this research, be sure that once you find a budget-friendly time that’s off-peak you’re also looking to see that the activities on your bucket list are open to visitors. There are some major tourist attractions that are closed during these cheaper seasons because of weather or costs of operating with such low traffic.
Flights: The 8-Week Rule and Tuesday Finds
Flights are the trickiest part of any trip! Prices fluctuate very frequently and it can be nerve-racking to go back and forth on airline website to find the best savings. For international flights, the sooner you book the better. For domestic flights, 8 weeks is anecdotally the sweet spot in finding the best fares. Buying too far out might make you miss out on new routes that pop up over time and booking after that is risky as flights start to sell out and increase in price. If you’re feeling adventurous, Skyscanner and Flight Glitch’s Newsletter are two great resources for finding the best deals in random locations across the globe!
Another trick is to sign on and check fares on Tuesdays. It’s been said that Monday nights are when airlines submit their flight deals, so Tuesday morning would reflect the best deal of the week. You can save up to 15 percent off a flight by doing this. According to Budget Traveler, Tuesday is also almost always the cheapest priced day of the week to travel because of the low demand for flights on this day. If you’re willing and able to travel to or from on a Tuesday, this will be a huge money saver.
Hostels, Hotels and House Sharing
After airfare, finding a place to rest your head at night is the next big-ticket item. Three main ways to stay are via hostels, traditional hotels or shared homes. Each region comes with its pros/cons for each type of lodging. In the United States, Airbnb and hotels offer some of the best value for what you get in return, while many places in Europe are notorious for the quality of hostels. While each comes with their benefits and drawbacks, a great way to keep budget-friendly here is to research across a trifecta that touches each of these places to stay.
You’ll usually find that hostels are the cheapest in any area of the world, though you may end up sharing a room with strangers. Hostels.com is a great resource to finding authentic reviews of a particular location. Airbnb is a popular source for shared homes, and can definitely save you money over hotels, though sometimes you miss out on amenities you’d get at staying somewhere more specialized. Be sure to be thorough in your neighborhood research if you go the shared homes route. Finally, while hotels are the most expensive, it’s usually a guaranteed private and safe place to stay. Hotel Tonight is a great tool to finding cheap deals at boutique hotels if you’re willing to get surprised with getting whatever room they have available – worry not, it’s always a standard room and you may get surprised with a fancier upgrade if you’re lucky.
Find Fixed-Cost Trips
Have a budget but don’t want to do much planning after that? A fixed-cost trip might be the one for you. Through websites like Kayak, Living Social, Groupon, etc. you’re able to find vacations that come at one price tag and can be all-inclusive of lodging, meals, excursions, city travel, and sometimes even airfare. This is also particularly great for first-time or solo travelers that don’t want to worry about figuring things out along the way – it’s all done for you!
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of this is also that it can truly match the budget you’ve set up for the trip if you’re paying one inclusive bill. If you’re feeling more spontaneous, there are sites like Pack Up + Go which offer “surprise” trips for a fixed cost. You fill out a survey, share dates and needs, pack your bags and go out to discover somewhere near at a transparent price. Don’t forget to set aside some “treat yourself” or souvenir dollars as well.
In the end, what it really takes is having a passion for wanting to see the world up close. You’ll have to be crafty and determined to get there along the way, but it’s worth every saved penny.