I love to travel, but I don’t like spending more than I have to. Over the years, I’ve picked up a few tips that have helped me stretch my travel dollars, and I’m here to share them with you. You won’t find any travel hacks here; these are practical tips that anyone can use right now.
Budget for your trip
If you don’t have any money available and are in need of a vacation, it can be tempting to charge your trip to your credit card. By doing this, you’ll incur interest charges which means you’ll be paying more for your trip in the long run, which will only cause you more stress. Instead, start a budget for your trip. Set aside some money every month that’s dedicated to your travels. It’ll require a little forward planning. Another advantage of having a travel budget is that you won’t feel guilty about spending when you’re abroad, so you can go ahead and have that extra scoop of gelato.
Be flexible with your flights
If you have set dates for a specific location, then it’s unlikely you’re going to get a deal on airfare. However, if you’re flexible with your dates, there’s a good chance you can find better prices. Flying on weekdays or during the low season will usually save you some money. Flights with stopovers are usually cheaper than direct flights, but you need to factor in the value of your time. Finally, instead of spending hours searching for the lowest airfare, just set up a price alert. Google Flights, Skyscanner, and KAYAK all give you the option to be alerted by email of any price drops after you’ve entered your flight information.
Consider all accommodations
There’s no denying that hotels offer comfort, but the name brand names ones can be a bit expensive. To reduce your costs, stay somewhere near a metro line but away from the downtown core since costs will usually be lower. Airbnb is a popular option these days since you can rent a room or an entire apartment or house. Vacation homes are a good choice if you’re travelling in a group, and there’s always hostels if you’re looking for the cheapest bed available.
Use credit cards to your advantage
Assuming you pay your bills in full at the end of every billing cycle, using your credit cards can benefit you. Travel rewards credit cards allow you to accumulate points which can later be used to redeem towards your travel expenses. A cash-back card can also be useful since you can save the cash back earned for your vacations. Keep in mind that many premium travel cards include a comprehensive travel insurance package which could save you a few hundred dollars every year.
Think about the exchange rates
Whenever you exchange your Canadian dollars, you’re going to pay an exchange fee. Your local bank will offer competitive rates for common currencies, but expect to pay a premium for exchange fees. Generally speaking, the cheapest way to get the local currency is to use an ATM since you’ll pay the spot rate + 2.5% in fees. You may also have to pay a one-time user fee, so withdraw your daily limit each time. Alternatively, you could charge all your purchases to a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.
Look for the closest grocery store
There’s nothing wrong with eating out when on vacation, but if you do it every meal, you’re going to spend a small fortune. One of the best ways to save money is to find the closest grocery store to load up on supplies. Water, snacks, and breakfast items are the best things to pick up, but keep in mind that in many countries you can buy alcohol from grocery stores. You could also buy prepared meals or sandwiches so you don’t need to eat at restaurants all the time.
Free is always better
Regardless of where you’re visiting, one of the first things to do is to find out what attractions are free. Many museums and art galleries around the world are free or offer reduced admission on certain days. It’s always worth checking out to see if there are any festivals or outdoor concerts going on. You’ll also want to explore any trendy neighbourhoods or browse markets for local goods.
Barry Choi is a personal finance and budget travel expert at Moneywehave.com.
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