There are a lot of things budget-conscious travelers do to keep their costs down.  They plan ahead, travel off-season and are always looking for ways to save.  There are many tips and tricks of the budget-conscious traveler, but here are some that have proven to be the most helpful and cost-saving for me.

They keep their travel dates flexible.  Budget-conscious travelers are willing to change their itinerary around if it means getting a better deal.  Flights are one of the most expensive parts of your trip, so if you can save a few hundred dollars by leaving on a Tuesday and coming back on a Wednesday, that’s the way to do it.  Sometimes, you may see a smoking flight deal for a particular time period, and if you can be flexible, you can get a much better deal.

They cook their own meals and find ways to eat cheaply.  In Europe, they typically serve deli meat and cheese for breakfast, and there’s always bread.  That’s a real easy way to make a sandwich.  I laughed the first time I saw Rick Steves make a sandwich to take with him for lunch, but now, it makes sense.  If you’re too scared to try that, staying at a place with a kitchen available for cooking is definitely the way to go.  Eating from street vendors and small cafes, as opposed to finding nice sit-down restaurants, is a way to enjoy local cuisine without breaking the bank.  One trip we took, we ate every single meal at our home rental, instead of one night out.

They travel off-season.  Off-season travel has it’s downfalls; some things might be closed or weather might be iffy, etc.  But the price is right.  Hotels and flights are typically cheaper; even rental cars are cheaper.  Seasoned budget travelers will often try to find the slowest time of the year to go somewhere, knowing prices will be lower.  (Plus they know they’ll have the place to themselves!)

They always ask the question: “Can this be done for cheaper?”  A lot of times the easiest and most convenient option is the most expensive option.  If taking an Uber from the airport to the hotel is $75, a budget traveler will find out how much the bus or metro costs.  This is also the reason why many budget-travelers are also travelers who pack light.  Those two things tend to go hand-in-hand.  Knowing that you may be inconvenienced with sitting in a bus stop or moving your bag on and off a subway, means that you want a lot less baggage to move around.

They take advantage of the free and discounted stuff.  Guidebooks are a budget traveler’s friend.  Guidebooks tell you when happy hours are, when museums have free days and what sorts of passes exist that can get you in more for a lot less.  I was waiting in line to see the Colosseum and reading through my guide book.  I noticed there was a pass I could buy that would let us skip the lines (the current line we were in was going to take about 2 hours) and get into other places in town for free.  We walked across the street, purchased the pass from a convenience store and walked right to the front of the line.  Instead of paying $30 to see all the museums in one large city we visited, we took advantage of the “museums are free day” and saw everything for $0.  We go to convention bureaus to see what sorts of coupons might exist.  A lot of hotels have racks with cards offering “buy one get one” adventures.  Keep your eyes peeled for the discounts!

They plan ahead and plan accordingly in order to avoid needless spending. Last minute shopping can add up if you’re not prepared.  Budget-travelers pack sunblock and Aloe Vera for when the sunblock fails.  They bring plastic silverware so they don’t have to purchase any.  They bring reusable water bottles, so they can just fill that up instead of wasting money on a pack of water bottles.  They pack snacks for the airport so they don’t end up spending $40 for a bag of chips.  They don’t waste money checking a bag.  They pack light so they can carry it on.  They check out guide books and magazines from their library, instead of buying them.  They get cash out of the ATM at the airport in order to avoid being charged excessive fees or get a bad exchange rate from their banks. The point is, they plan ahead because these are the little things you don’t think of until you’re dealing with it in the moment.

Nina Thomas

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