Cheap Travel and Other Tips
I often get asked about traveling. How I personally do it, or better yet, how I can afford it.
This is a real difficult question to answer because it is really up to the individual asking; everyone wants something different out of travel, has places they won’t go, or things they will not do.
This blog post is more for the ones who are not afraid to sacrifice in order to save some dough.
Let’s dive in.
Use airfare apps or sites such as Skyscanner, Hopper, or Hipmunk.
These apps and sites allow you to find the cheapest flights by pretty much cross-referencing other sites such as Kayak.com. If you don’t have a set date yet you can use the graph tool or the color coordinated price tool (no idea what the correct terminology happens to be) but you will see what I mean. Once on these sites it is pretty self-explanatory. Select destinations, dates, and so on.
For flying I recommend checking flights early and using the price tracker apps like Hopper, which see if flights go up or down and notify you accordingly. It is almost like playing the stock market.
The cheapest flight may have long layovers so plan for sleeping in airports if you want to save money. This is far from my favorite part of traveling but for the experience I’ll do just about whatever it takes.
Also try booking flights during the weekdays two months or two weeks before, as it seems flights are cheaper. Oh, and try not to fly weekends or big holidays if you can avoid that. You will not only pay more but will also be in a world of misery when the flight delays start to hit.
Skyscanner also has an “explore” option, which allows you to basically look at the best deals and dates no matter where and when they are. This is good for getting ideas on where to go or inspiration to get up and running.
Coach surfing, hostels, home stays, Airbnb, hotels.
Pretty much in that above order.
Seriously, this is going to be the second most expensive part of your budget (behind airfare).
I get a lot of questions about the safety of hostels and regards to staying with other people and I have done this hundreds of times, on five different continents, you will be just fine. Just always watch out for yourself.
Bring a lock or rent one at the hostels. Most, if not all, have a locker for your luggage and belongings. The hostels are shared spaces like dorms in college and are a great way to meet people if you are traveling solo. And before you ask, I have met plenty of solo women travelers as well that stay in the hostels.
Hostels have amenities just like a hotel, yet some are better than others.
For first timers you can use Hostelworld or couch surfing apps and for my older friends out there than AirBnb might be a better option, especially if you have kids.
The apps mentioned above give you a rating and review system on Hostelworld; and couch surfing is much like a social media site and people are “verified”.
AirBnb allows you to pick out a place that is an entire home, condo, etc, or you can rent out a room. Renting a room is cheaper but obviously less private.
Of course there are sites and apps like bookings.com, hotels.com, kayak.com… I really shouldn’t have to go into detail about these.
Food, food, food.
As far as food goes, there are also many options.
Being a bit of a food person I tend to eat street food or as locally as I can get and that can be anything from tostadas, a piping hot and aromatic bowl of pho, or even some pigs brains. Now you don’t have to eat like this to avoid spending a fortune but eating what the locals eat is usually the best way to avoid that, but maybe not dysentery.
Western food is expensive no matter where you go, so I tend to avoid it. If you don’t see any cows around, the chances are a hamburger is going to cost you a pretty penny and probably won’t be appetizing—or even beef.
You can also buy groceries and cook for yourself (depending on where you are staying). Most hostels and Airbnb places have kitchens available for use. So buying at local markets and making your own food is probably the cheapest way to go other than starvation.
How do I get there?
Then we come to transportation.
Buses are usually cheap and can range from city buses to cross country sleepers. Be sure to check the reviews on bus companies before getting tickets.
There is a lot of information out there about sleeper buses and city routes on other blogs and websites. Personally, I have never really had any horror stories other than in Vietnam where they wanted my party to sleep on the aisle floor of an overnight bus.
Just be cautious and careful.
Trains are great in Europe and other places like Japan but will cost you a little more usually. They also tend to get you to your destination faster.
Taxis, tuk-tuks, and Ubers are also an option but be weary of getting ripped off. Always make sure your taxi is being metered or you negotiate a fair before getting in. The same applies for tuk-tuks.
Lastly, just be aware of what is going on around you, stay safe, and have a good time. Travel isn’t about getting to the destination; it is about the journey – good or bad.
Register with the embassy
Figure out where the embassy is and make sure to write down the address.
I screen shot everything too. You can register with them and make life easy or you can be like me, lazy.
Knowing where to find the embassy in the countries being traveled to is fine just in case you lose your passport or run into trouble.
Take photos/photocopies of important documents
Photos and photocopies can spare someone from a lot of stress.
Take cell phone photos of important things such as: passports, visas or anything else that is needed while out in the world.
Once said documents are lost there is not as much stress if a photo is on hand; although new documents will be needed eventually.
This is a trick to spare a few days of headaches.
Bring extra passport photos
Passport photos come in handy for in country visas (visa that can be purchased in the country you are traveling through).
Having some extra pictures of your mug is good anyways.
For all of my fellow narcissists out there.
Stay at a hotel or with a host after flying
You will thank me later for this one.
Yes, you can get right off the plane and run to a hostel or go out and explore but most likely jetlag will catch up with you.
Why not take it easy for just a day by knowing you have amenities surrounding you?
Now, if this is your first rodeo, just go out and get your feet wet.
Find the names of local transportation before leaving
If the research can be done beforehand, than why not do it?
Find out what the names are for the buses, trains, and other transit; maybe even print out underground rail maps as they can get confusing in some big cities. I know that Berlin is a little crazy when it comes to the underground.
Having apps for the different forms of transportation is a good thought too.
These are very useful when trying to find the schedules of arriving and departing trains and buses.
Change your cell service
Don’t buy an international plan because most of the cell service providers have something they can switch the service to while traveling.
Most of the time this is done at no extra costs but there are limitations.
These limitations can range from not having any service other than Wi-Fi in certain countries to having the slowest service or emergency outgoing calls only.
I do not work for a service provider, so contact the specific one you have and sort out the details.
Don’t be afraid to keep them on the line while you ask questions to iron out all the fine print. We all pay a ridiculous amount for the use of these devices, they can field a few questions.
Alert your credit card and bank providers
Credit card companies will most likely shut off cards if they are not alerted beforehand about traveling out of country or even out of your hometown.
Avoid getting declined that cannoli because your card won’t go through.
This also applies to your bank. Call them and give them a heads up that you are leaving the country.
Again, you don’t want to be trying to take out money for beers at a local pub just to be cut off by the bank.
Skip all of the grief and call the bank and credit companies, they will probably ask what countries and for how long.
On a side note, if you don’t like talking on the phone log on to the website and most likely there is an option to set travel details. This would also be a good time to ask if there are any foreign interest rates or anything of that nature. Some companies will charge you interest or fees to use your card in other countries.
Bring books or fill up your phone with music
Planes, trains, and automobiles can only get people from point A to point B so fast.
Entertainment is a must, so load that cell phone, iPad, or other device up with music, books, movies, and what ever else you can. If you have room in you luggage, pack some books in there.
Nothing sucks more than a 6-hour train or bus ride without music.
Keep a level head and be aware of your surroundings