How To Avoid Money Pits Abroad – Saving Money on Travel

Budget Travel — By on March 16, 2011 at 7:17 am

By Kayleigh Minicozzi
LG Contributor

Saving Money on TravelSometimes I find myself daydreaming of exciting adventures while glued to my computer keys for 12 hours of the day. I imagine myself packing up and heading to the Tuscan country side or leisurely sipping café au lait at a sidewalk bar on the Champs Elysees. Although this technique serves a purpose to distract me from the mundane routine of my work day, I like many other Americans, rarely act on the fantasy because it sounds too darn expensive.

Abroad travel all too often paints a romantic picture but in the current economy feels unrealistic. Most of us don’t even entertain the idea of using vacation time to cross the pond because we have more bills to pay than we have money coming in. After all is said and done, traveling to another country can on average cost a few thousand dollars.

The light at the end of this gloomy tunnel is the fact that in any abroad travel budget, there are some basic heavy hitters that suck up a large portion of your recreational funds and by making some small changes you can cut them down.

Getting There and Getting Around

Nothing depletes my motivation more than the thought that after saving for an international trip, a majority of my money will be spent just to get to my destination and then get around once I’m there. In my mind if 75% of my budget is going to planes, trains and automobiles, I won’t get the relaxing, cultural and rejuvenating experience I needed.

  • Cutting down on the international airfare is first on the chopping block. There are a number of more simple maneuvers like booking early, traveling at night or during the week and avoiding peak seasons that can really save bug bucks. Other wallet remedies are less obvious. Searching for all airports near you is a smart practice because many times one airport can have a much lower price than another. You should also subscribe to travel deal websites like Iberia, Bargain Travel and Airfare Watchdog all of which give you alerts of the cheapest deal of the week and give your price forecast of when flights to different countries will be at their cheapest or their peak. Lastly, do your homework and use price tracking sites like Yapta or Travelocity that can monitor ticket price decreases and get you a refund for the different if cheaper deals come up before you check-in. You can set up automated email or twitter alerts so there is very little work on your end.
  • Transit once you reach your destination and want to country or city hop, can be another access point for some major savings. Instead of flying around Europe, look into using the bus tours or trains. In addition to being cheaper, they are less time consuming, more comfortable and sometimes even take less time than flights. If you play your cards right, you can even time it so your traveling via train or bus in the evening hours and can use that time to sleep instead of getting a hotel—double savings. If you’re a recent grad (or still look like one) and have a student ID you can get even more perks and discounts with rail travel so be sure to ask.

Accommodations

The second biggest fund drain while traveling abroad is typically your lodging. Factoring in international prices and exchange rate can present a final price that rivals your rent for a few months. Personally this is the point in the planning process where I get the most frustrated and want to throw in the towel but there are some creative alternatives to the typical hotel stay.

  • Hostels, despite the stereotype that they are simply rows of bunk beds in a huge, dirty room, often offer similar, if not the same options as lower tier hotels but at a fraction of the price. You can reserve a private room with its own beds, bathroom and wifi access and then split the cost with a travel companion. Hostels also often have added amenities like free breakfast, local tours, drink specials and in house activities like computers, karaoke and billiards. Sites like Hostel Bookers and Hostel World can give you an outline of what the hostel offers along with customer testimonials and rakings of the establishment in areas like cleanliness, location and staff friendliness.
  • If you’re feeling more adventurous opt for a more culturally enriching experience through staying with locals. Fully furnished vacation homes are often for rent by the week at a much lower rate and give you the luxury of an entire floor rather than a tiny room. Browse through Vacation Homes Abroad, Vrbo, AirBnB or Villa Renters to get more information about the process. A similar but cheaper option is using sites that allow you to rent a room within a family home or couch surf to apartments owned by young people. Some sites to start your search are Start Easy Living and Couch Surfing.

Local Attractions

After making the trek and spending the dough to get somewhere, I want to cram as much as I possibly can into my vacation days. Museums, tours, monuments, shopping and local cuisine sampling, you name it, it’s on my itinerary. This method has given me the opportunity to maximize my travels but all those purchases can add up. After a few voyages under my belt, I started planning ahead even when it came to entertainment and found a few proactive ideas that can save time and money when planning play time.

  • Booking ahead is surprisingly an easy, reliable and cheap method. Whether it’s getting tickets to a show or purchasing pre-sale museum passes, you can usually get discounted rates and they will deliver your passes right to your hotel or hostel. You can even use this method when it comes to booking Double-Decker bus tours, making restaurant reservations or participating in local festivals or events.
  • In addition to booking before you fly out, coupon codes, club memberships and student discounts are another great way to spread your dollar a little farther. Students often get reduced rates on local attractions as do teachers and professors and member club cards can serve a similar purpose if the location partners with the group. Some sites to explore are Retail Me Not and Groupolitan for great ideas, deals and discounts.

    1 Comment

  • Anis says:

    Great article! For country hopping in Europe, my friends and I use Ryanair (www.ryanair.com); it’s not the most lovable airline, but it gets you there cheap. For accomodations I have a couple recommendations: Hosteling International has really great hostels (www.hihostels.com); if you’re flying to Europe from the U.S. and stopping in NYC (something my friends and I love to do), I would definitely recommend HI-NYC. For travelers interested in enriching their travel experience by connecting with locals, there’s a free hospitality exchange community called Tripping, and they have a network for The Lost Girls: http://www.tripping.com/network/the-lost-girls.