For tips 1-5, click here.
6. Change your eating habits. Food is a big travel expense but it’s also one of the best ways to experience local culture. So what do you do? Don’t stoop so low as the dollar menu, but do consider the ways that changing your eating habits can save you a bundle. Many restaurants in big cities have lunch specials that keep you in budget without leaving you hungry.
If you eat during the lunch special times (which are typically scheduled for the slower part of the lunch shift), you’re likely to eat a meal big enough to cover lunch and dinner. Also look for shops that offer late afternoon specials. Sandwich shops and delis that offer pre-made meals will often reduce their prices by as much as half after 3, 4, or 6 PM in order to move inventory.
7. Mix business with pleasure. While this tip won’t work for everyone, it can be a boon to freelancers and business owners. My husband, for example, is a private chef, so he looks for local gigs in the cities we’ll be visiting. In addition to contacting local chefs and arranging to meet them (free meals!), he will often get free or reduced lodging for offering a cooking class at an off-beat location in our destination city. This tip requires some creativity on your part, but offers some of the best cost savings advantages on this list!
8. Travel in the off season. It’s always the off-season somewhere! The slow period of tourism in the Caribbean, for example, is the summer. It’s hot, to be sure, but not significantly hotter than other times of the year… hot deals being an important exception. Hotels and other tourism and hospitality industry service providers often slash their prices by as much as half during the slow period. Plus, these places aren’t overrun with other tourists.
This strategy works well in other countries, too. A few years back I snagged a deal offered by AerLingus for a six night/seven day package that included round trip flight, car rental, lodging, and breakfast for just around $600 USD. Sure, it was in March (damp and chilly), but it was worth every penny.
9. Get off the beaten path. Touristy sites are often a disappointment; they’re also a huge drain on the traveler’s wallet. Avoid overcrowded, overpriced places and explore real culture off the beaten path. Joining a travel community is a great way to learn about local hotspots that are easier on your budget and are more interesting than the guidebook-recommended sites. Passionate travelers are friendly folks; jump into an online travel forum. Reach out to others and ask questions. They’re generally very happy to offer local recommendations.
10. Travel close to home. Most people take their hometown for granted, never exploring it like a tourist would. If your budget is super-stretched, stay in your own city or town and explore it as a tourist. For more tips about traveling close to home, check out this excellent article, “7 Steps for Creating an In-Town Vacation.” If you don’t believe traveling close to home can be full of great discoveries, check out stories from Matador members who have vacationed in their own hometowns.
Need MORE tips? Matador members have plenty of experience stretching their travel dollars. Check out Nomadic Matt’s articles, “Down on the Dollar” and “How to Find a Cheap Flight.” If you’re planning a trip to Europe, be sure to read Craig Martin’s guide to money-saving destinations. And MatadorTrips has lots of budget guides to cities around the world!