Traveling does not have to be expensive. However I think most people are unaware of how many less-expensive options there are available to us these days.
Personally, I’m not “cheap.” I have expensive tastes. My grandmother used to say to me that I have champagne tastes on a beer budget. When I can take advantage of the fancy stuff, I do. But that’s not reality. Reality is that I’m on a tight budget like most people.
How does one travel and yet not spend a lot of money? It can take a bit of time, research and energy, but following these tips can sure help you spread your money out — and enjoy more time on your trip, as well as saving you enough to take trips more often!
I’m actually in Colombia right now for 10 days. I got my ticket (business class) using miles from my credit card. I ended up spending less than $100 for the few miles I was short, as well as the taxes. Whenever possible, use a credit card that allows you to earn miles for each purchase. Then understand your benefits — and take advantage of them. You’re already spending the money. Why not earn miles for free travel at the same time — with no extra cost? You can compare airline frequent flier programs using a very useful USA Today comparison tool.
The apartment I’m renting I was able to find using airbnb. It’s a website where average everyday people anywhere around the world can list a room in their house, their apartment, or their whole house for rent. I was able to find a great, new apartment in Cali in a good neighborhood with an outdoor patio, 24-hour security guard and a rooftop deck for only $25 per night.
Also becoming more popular is CouchSurfing. Despite its funny name, it’s an absolutely amazing concept. Basically, when you join CouchSurfing, you’re joining a community and a culture. You are able to tap into a great group of people instantaneously anywhere in the world.
“CouchSurfers” create profiles and either offer to host guests in their home for free, or they offer to “hang out with” or give advice to travelers who will be in their area. Conversely, one can search for a free place to stay using this website. Because there are groups and sub-groups, one can easily find others who share similar interests or lifestyles. I have both CouchSurfed — and hosted CouchSurfers and have enjoyed both immensely.
I’m not sure how to explain this, but I find that all the people I’ve encountered are very similar in that they are respectful, kind, generous and happy to spend time getting to know new people and places. For those who do not feel comfortable with the idea, I still strongly suggest getting to know people online before traveling to an area. Tips from locals are invaluable.
Depending on your line of work and your interests, you might also find there are grants available to you, which would pay for all your travel expenses. I’m the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization in Costa Rica, Tropical Adventures Foundation. We run volunteer programs throughout the country. I’ve seen a variety of people, such as teachers, get their entire trip paid for through grants. It may be wise to spend some time researching this as well.
Shopping for specials can be time-consuming online. There are so many websites out there. However there are some websites that are worth mentioning:
- SmarterTravel has great Deal Alerts, as well as Trip Ideas and price comparison tools.
- Airfarewatchdog is an indispensable tool when searching for airfare. You can create Fare Alerts which will let you know automatically when there are specials to a certain city, from a certain city, between specific cities — and more. Why spend time searching for hours when you can automate the task?
The bottom line is that traveling on a budget is sort of like cutting coupons for groceries. One has to be conscious of what they want, and spend some time searching for how to get what they want for less. I’ve always believed that where there’s a will, there’s a way! Happy Travels!