How to Travel on a Budget

We’re on CTV News Express today again and we love having our posts go along with what we’re talking about on air. Seven minutes isn’t a lot of time for these two chatty people so we like to expand on what we could have, should have and would have said if we had unlimited time.
For more CTV New Express Segments check out our special TV appearances page

So what’s that Travel Couple talking about today?

Saving money of course! 

money saving tips for travel With the holiday season coming fast, money is on everyone’s mind. We would love to be able to tell you all that we’re independently wealthy and don’t have to worry about a cent, but that is not the case. We have to think about every penny we spend on travel and we want to share our tips and tricks to making your future travels more affordable. So even though you have to watch your wallet for Christmas, that doesn’t mean you still can’t enjoy some of the finer things in  life. Just follow these budget savings tips and you’ll be able to travel more for less!

1 – Choose The Right Destination

Expensive Destination

 Expensive Destinations vs Cheap Destinations

Cheap Destination

Where you travel has a great impact on the cost of a trip. Travel to developing nations is a cheaper option. Both destinations are beautiful, but one is cheaper than the other. 

Travel to Thailand or Vietnam is much cheaper than traveling to Bora Bora or Tahiti. Look for places that have a good infrastructure for independent travel where you can stretch your dollar and make it last longer. We can stay on a beach bungalow in Malaysia or Thailand for $10 a night as opposed to booking an expensive week at an overcrowded all inclusive Caribbean resort.  A Guest house in Honduras can go for $20 to $30 per night and meals at these destinations can be as low as $2-$3.  Beer is as low as a buck a bottle. Traveling to off the beaten path destinations will keep overpriced businesses in popular locations from digging too deep into your wallet and the local people of the not so well travelled places will be happy to have your business.

2 – Travel Independently

If you want to travel on a budget the best way is to do it independently. All inclusive resorts may be easier but you are paying for the convenience and really, don’t you want to sample the local culture?
a. Hire local guides – We have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for less than $900 and we have been to Everest Base Camp for less than $1000 for a 14 day trek including meals and accommodation. We booked our tours once we arrived in the country and by hiring a local guide, we know that all the money we spend goes to them instead of the tour company.
budget-travel-shop-locally

Shop Locally

b. Eat at local restaurants – If you want a truly authentic experience, eat where the locals eat. If a place is filled with local people, you can be sure that the food is fresh, delicious and affordable.
c. Picnic – Travel to Europe can be very expensive but you can eat gourmet meals by shopping at the supermarket, buying a nice bottle of wine for €2-€4 and indulging in fresh meats and cheeses for next to nothing. Bring a blanket and a basket to one of the stunning parks on the continent and enjoy a real European experience.
d. Shop at a local Market – Forget shopping at Duty Free stores or boutiques, shop at local markets for handcraft designs and handmade clothing. We have walked away with amazing works of art for bargain basement prices that have been conversations pieces for years when on display in our home. (well, when we had a home) Shopping at the local markets not only save you money, but you contribute to the local economy. Make sure to be ready to barter, it’s all part of the fun.
#3e Local Transportation

Take Local Transport

e. Take Local Transport or Walk – Booking tours from your hotel is expensive. Go downtown and find a local travel agent. They can take you on a tour and you’ll see a different side of the city. Or grab a map and a guide book and walk yourself, hire a bicycle or hop into a rickshaw.  You’ll have way more fun sightseeing locally than from behind the glass of a tour bus.
f. Take Advantage of Free Attractions – After taking advantage of all the free attractions, museums and discounts, we barely spent anything on our European vacation. Many cities in Europe offer discounts at museums after a certain hour or even have many free attractions. Check with the tourist board when you arrive or look online to see what things are free in each city. City passes help to save a lot of money as well. Just do a simple google search like “Free Things to do in Paris.” 

3 – Use Alternative Accommodation

a. Camp or Hire a Campervan- We stayed in France, Spain and Italy for a month last summer in our tent. The campgrounds of Europe are luxurious complete with swimming pools, spas, restaurants and sometimes free shuttles to major attractions. All this for less than €20 a night. We rented a car for €600 for a month and paid less than €500 for the month of accommodations to camp through Europe! We camped all the way from England to Mongolia, many times for free! and in New Zealand we hired a campervan to drive around and take our time experiencing the country.
Allways-Campervan_New_Zealand

Our Campervan in New Zealand by AllWays Rentals

b. Budget Rooms – Chain hotels are expensive, instead look for independent guest houses or B&B’s. You can stay in a beach bungalow for less than $10 if you have the patience to look around for a bargain. Use a guide book like Lonely Planet to find budget areas and accommodations. It can be done!
#4c Budget Rooms
c. Hostels – Save on your room to enjoy your time in your destination. Hostels have come a long way in recent years and you can find many of the amenities that you will find in hotels including private rooms with bath and TV. Plus, most hostels offer free wifi and a kitchen to cook your meals saving on eating out.
d. Stay for Free -Housesitting, couchsurfing  and work exchange are some of the best options. If you want to travel and think you can’t afford it; if you are feeling burnt out and tired of constant sightseeing; or if you are just looking for a unique travel adventure, then we recommend trying these accommodations and opportunities for stay for free around the world
e. Apartment Rentals or Air BnB – We love using apartment rentals to save money. More people can stay together in one place to split the cost, and you can cook at home which will save you a ton of money. Plus, apartment rentals are normally in the heart of all the action for a fraction of the price of a hotel.

4 – Use a Travel Agent

Start by searching the Internet for prices and availability. When you have a good idea as to what things cost and what you want to spend go to your travel agent. They can still find you the best deal. They have an entire resource at their fingertips. They know the little tricks to find the best deal and they can compare many fares, airlines and dates at once.
Travel_Agent_Flight_Booking

Use a Travel Agent for Piece of Mind

5 – Use a Travel Rewards Credit Card

amex gold rewards

Fillling up the car with our AMEX Gold Rewards

a. Rewards – Use a travel rewards credit card to accumulate mileage and receive bonus rewards for signing up. You have to spend money anyway, so it only makes sense to accumulate rewards as you shop. We use the American Express Gold Rewards card and wish that we started using it earlier. Every time we use our AMEX card we receive 1 point for every dollar spent. When using it at drug stores, grocery store or gas stations in Canada, we receive double the points!
b. Flexibility – We can book our own travel, pay for it with the AMEX Gold Rewards Card and then call American Express to have them pay for the purchase with our points, or we can transfer our points 1:1 to Aeroplan and use our points to earn a free flight! There are many other partners that you can transfer your rewards to as well such as  Alitalia, British Airways, Delta, Cathay Pacific, Hilton Honors, Starwood Preferred Guest and Priority Club.
c. Travel Insurance – When traveling for 15 days or less we automatically get travel insurance with our card. We save a lot of money on travel insurance. Hundreds of dollars a year!
d. Points never expire. What’s even better is that we have up to 12 months to decide whether we want to pay for our travel spend with our points or not. We can pay for our travel with our AMEX Gold Rewards Card and then we have an entire year to ask them to pay for our purchase with our rewards!
a. Be Flexible – if you are willing to travel on a different day, you can possibly save hundreds of dollars on your flight. Flight costs vary from day to day. Booking on a Monday may not have the best deals as buying on a Thursday and the same can be said for flying. Flights may be cheaper if you fly on the weekend as opposed to Monday morning. Shop around and compare.
b.Check with Different Airports for departure – Flights out of a city in the States may be cheaper than flying out of a Canadian departure city. If you live near the border, it is worth checking departures from the closest American airport. Many American airports offer shuttle services from Canada as well.

6. Time and Patience 

time-clock
It is easier to travel on a budget if you have the time. When you land at the airport after doing your research you will know where the taxi driver needs to take you to search for your budget accommodation. Normally an area is filled with accommodation so you can walk from place to place looking for the best deal when you are let off.
Take the time to do the research before you go. Read blogs like this one for advice and tips on the destination, check out forums like The Lonely Planet Thorn Tree or India Mike and arm yourself with a guide book. They are still a great reference for maps and locations.

Bonus Tip: Use a Trip Calculator and Check Currency

I never settle on a price until I calculate the Canadian currency. There is nothing wrong with pulling out a calculator.
The Benefits are Two fold:
a. To do your calculations when shopping. Many times you won’t be able to speak their language and they won’t be able to speak yours. You can punch in the number on the calculator to show a merchant what you are willing to pay and they can easily understand.
b. Quickly reference the currency conversion. We always research the approximate exchange rate. When dealing with calculations sometimes in the thousands it can be confusing and doing the conversion in your head can be dangerous. It is easy to think that a price sounds great when you hear it in the local currency, but once you do the conversion you may be surprised to see that you are being taken to the cleaners. Remember that Seinfeld episode with Kramer and the Japanese? Don’t get yourself in that situation.

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