As a young professional only recently out of school, I know all about living on a budget. Coupon-clipping, DIY cleaning products, and more — name the budget-saving tip, and I’ve probably done it.
A lot of people on tight budgets cut out travel as an “unnecessary expense,” which is a shame, because travel is unbelievably enriching, and can be completely affordable. When my boyfriend and I began dating, we determined pretty quickly that travel is not something we’re willing to sacrifice, especially at our age. We’ve learned a few tricks along the way that are worthwhile, and can help you insert vacations back into your budget life!
#1: Use a fare aggregator to research flights.
It’s tempting to look up flights on Expedia and call it a day when booking travel, but there are a lot of tools on the Web that can save you money and do a lot of detective work for you. Fare aggregators like Kayak, Booking Buddy, and my favorite, Bing Travel, can help you track down flights to your destination of choice while allowing you to tweak circumstances like layover time without having to completely re-enter your search or check across numerous airlines. We used these tools to find a multi-city flight plan for Italy that saved us tons of money and time. Added bonus? Many aggregators have email alerts. When a flight to Costa Rica opened up for $504 (with taxes) in 2012, my boyfriend got an email about it, and we were booked later that day.
#2: Research your Frequent Flyer Miles
So you have a miles program? Awesome! But don’t feel compelled to book with the specific airline you signed up for the program with. Most airlines are part of alliances, and miles earned on one airline can be redeemed on partner airlines. For example, if you use U.S. Airways’ Dividend Miles program, you can earn miles from any Star Alliance partner by booking through their website. So, if you fly to Germany with the very popular Lufthansa, those miles can still count.
It’s also worth noting that if you don’t have a Miles program, you should consider signing up for one. It’s free, and easy to earn miles on everyday purchases (without a credit card), and can be really valuable in the long run. We’re saving up our miles for a trip to New Zealand!
#3: Check out hostels
Seriously, don’t turn your nose up at hostels. I initially did, thinking I would have to sleep in a dorm (which is an option, of course), and didn’t want to do that on a vacation with my boyfriend. In our trips to Costa Rica and Italy, we stayed in “hostels” — but we had private rooms, private bathrooms, and great amenities! Take a cruise through a website like Hostelworld to read great reviews and look through pictures, and even book and save money. One note, though: prices are generally listed per person, even for private rooms.
#4: Shop a Grocery Store
I love eating out, especially when traveling. Unfortunately, a few days in, I get tired of it, and it gets expensive. My solution? Hit up a grocery store! Not only is it fun to explore grocery stores in other countries, but you can get food for a few days for significantly less money than an entree for a single person. When I travel with my boyfriend, we generally grab bread, cheese, and a tomato. Instant lunch!
#5: ID cards
Are you a student traveling? Make sure you take your ID card with you! You can get discounts at typically expensive attractions like museums. Some places have age limits on these ID cards, so be sure to check. One caveat, though: in the European Union, this discount generally only applies to EU Students, but it’s worth taking your card anyway. At the Vatican, I got a discount anyway!
What budget travel tips do you want to share? Share in the comments section below!