Friday, August 5, 2011

The Places You Want to Go part of this blog

I had a reader leave a really great comment today about how to save money when you are travelling.  She is travelling overseas which can definitely be more of a money saving challenge (foreign coupon policies?) but no matter where you are going there are plenty of tricks and tips for saving money when you travel.  I'm going to start this out today, but break it up into different posts so that you can make the most of the information.
Today's mini lesson: How to save money when travelling overseas (the internet is your best friend)
1. Travelzoo
If you have recently decided to head off into the wild blue yonder and haven't a care as to where you are going (or actually even if you already have a very specific idea of where you want to go), try signing up for Travel Zoo's "Weekly Top 20."  Every week, this website will send you INCREDIBLE deals on packages for trips around the world.  Most of these vacations include airfare, hotels, transportation, and even extra credits and goodies for a teeny tiny fraction of what it would be if you booked it by yourself.  For instance, this week you can book a 7 night, all inclusive trip to Jamaica for $599 including airfare.  JAMAICA for only $600.  This is a great way to get started on an exotic vaca for a lot less money
2.  Be choosy with your airline
Always use booking sites to help you find the cheapest tickets (make sure though that you aren't making 12 connections in 12 cities over 12 days though!) but also be conscious of the airline that you are being given.  Many airlines are now charging AT LEAST $25 per checked bag per person each way.  Depending on how many people and bags you have, this can add at least a few hundred dollars on to your trip.  However, some airlines don't charge a penny for checking bags, so even though you might be paying $60 more for the ticket, you're ultimately going to be paying less.  Just something to be aware of.
3.  Pick hotels wisely
You may have horrible nightmares still from the movie Hostel, but they can actually be affordable, nice places to stay.  Try out, you just might be surprised at what you find.  Not all hostels are fully of crazy dirty partying college students who are just out to "hitchhike their way across the continent", some are actually much more like hotels, only often much cheaper.  By now, almost all of them have private rooms that you can reserve, so you're not sleeping dorm style either.  I think that in other countries, hostels are also a great way to experience a little bit more of the culture and attitude than some other normal old hotel.
4.  Don't underestimate the power of reviews
If you find somewhere cheap and think you've hit the jackpot, don't celebrate yet.  First, I suggest reading all of the reviews about it that are available.  ESPECIALLY when it comes to travelling in other countries (often in third world countries but not always), the normal standards for even the worst hotel here in America don't tend to apply.  If you can find a cheap place that looks great and also has great reviews, then you might just be in luck!
5.  Eating out
Eating out can be a killer on the traveler's budget.  Especially because people often have a solid idea of what they will be paying for their airfare, hotel and transportation ahead of time, and then just say "oh we'll just watch what we spend on eating out".  Huh uh, no good.  You will go over budget every time.  Here is something to try.  In a lot of places, earlier meals are cheaper than later meals.  For instance, when my boyfriend and I traveled to Costa Rica, we thought that the food would be dirt cheap.  It was not, it was actually just as expensive if not more so than here in the states.  So, instead of eating out for every meal, we did this:
Breakfast and lunch were MUCH cheaper than dinner in Costa Rica.  We also found that grocery store food was very reasonably priced, and they had some great local and regional stuff to eat in the grocery stores.  We ate pasties and fruit from the grocery store for breakfast.  Then when lunch came we would go out and eat a late large lunch that was reasonably priced.  For dinner, we would go out to decent restaurants, but instead of each getting something to eat, since we were still full from lunch, we just shared an entree and an appetizer.  This worked out so well that I would really suggest it to anyone travelling where prices are similar.
6. Putting it together
There are obviously many ways of saving money when you travel abroad, and they start as soon as you start planning your trip.  The very best way to save money is to ALWAYS be conscious of the money you are spending.  Save your receipts, and keep a running total so it doesn't blindside you when you get home.  There are other money saving shortcuts you can take like taking a public bus instead of a taxi, trains instead of planes, etc.  but those things also depend very much on the safety of the country you are in.  Tomorrow, I'll be talking more about domestic trips, and also about road trips.


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