Sunday, June 2, 2013

Traveling for Pennies

travel for less
Ok, not really pennies, per say because who are we kidding? Traveling can be expensive. But it can still be affordable.

I was born with the travel bug. And as I've grown older, this has only gotten worse. I feel very fortunate to have been able to travel as much as I have been but it's not because we make a ton of money and it's definitely not because someone sponsors us to travel (even though I'm pretty sure this would be everyone's dream). We do three simple things to make our travel dreams come true.

1. We prioritize. Would we love to go out for dinner more often? Sure. But for us, saving for trips and being able to travel more often is more important. We also live very strictly off of the envelope system each month and this has helped us save so much more money than we would have otherwise. What is the envelope system? Well, we figure out what we want to spend each month on different categories such as groceries, entertainment, household, or our personal spending. Then we put that amount of money into labeled envelopes and once it's gone, it's gone! We have found that when we don't put money in there we're a whole lot more likely to go shopping and spend a few dollars here, a few dollars there, which can quickly add up!

2. We budget on our trips. For us, budgeting for everything on trips let's us do more, see more, and best of all, travel more often! I actually carry around a small notebook with me when we travel to keep track of our purchases, including meals. I know exactly how much money we have in our budget to spend each day so if I keep track and find out at the end of the day that we have some left over, we can save it for something in the future or go out that night for a nicer meal.

3. We use some tried and true travel tips. If we find something that works on a trip to save some money, you bet we're going to repeat it on every trip after that. Here are some that we've tried in the past that have worked for us:

.look at renting an apartment or house instead of a hotel. We like to search sites such as AgodaVRBO, Gogobot, House Trip and AirBnB.

.book hotels and flights in advance. Booking in advance versus last minute has the potential to save you tons. Plus, I can't tell you how many people we saw walking around from place to place in Thailand looking for a place only to find that they were all booked. Larger cities such as Bangkok, you won't have a problem finding any place, it just may not be the one you want. However, smaller cities such as Railay, where there are a limited amount of places, you want to book before you go to avoid inflated prices and booked up hotels. Which leads me to...

.before you book a hotel give them a call and ask if they have any upcoming specials that may not be advertised yet.

.check to see when high or low season is. In high season, prices will of course be higher and book up faster. However, if you go just one week outside of high season, prices will be dramatically lower and places will be easier to find. We're actually going to Cambodia this summer during low season. Low season also means monsoon season. But after doing some research and talking to people that have lived there, they raved about this time of year. Sure, it rains. But not all day. Plus the pools at Angkor Wat are a vivid green this time of year. If your travel dates are flexible, it would be worth looking into going during low season.

.pick the cheapest room at a nice hotel. I have a friend who swears by this. They picked a higher end hotel which therefore had great service, amenities and food, but booked the cheapest room the place had to offer.

.you don't always have to eat at restaurants! While we were traveling in Japan we frequented grocery stores and shopping centers to eat meals. We often saved our money so we could eat at a little nicer spot for dinner.

.book early morning tours. Sometimes companies offer a discount if you book their first tour of the day. Why? No one likes to get up early. Unless you're my husband.

.check which companies your hotel is affiliated with. At our hotel in Chiang Mai, we got a much cheaper deal on zip lining than any of the other competitors because they struck a deal with the place we stayed.

.plan for everything, even the unexpected. In our travel budget we have a special category for the 'unknown'. You find an unexpected attraction you want to try, your clothes get ruined, you find a piece of artwork you just can't live without. These are bound to happen and it's nice to know you won't blow your budget on it.

.rent a car, motorbike, bicycle, walk, or use public transit. Many times, any of these are going to be cheaper than taking a taxi. We figured it out in Thailand that for the price of an all day bike rental, it cost us the same as a round trip taxi fare.

.get insurance. When you are traveling, the unexpected is bound to happen at some time or another. Lost luggage, canceled flights, rabid dogs biting you (actually happened to a friend of ours who told us about travel insurance!) You can never be too safe. We use World Nomads travel insurance. For the both of us getting advanced coverage (included scuba accidents) for two weeks, it cost around $100. The price depends on where you are going and where you are coming from but we also found some coupon codes online that helped us save money as well.

I hope some of these tips help you plan your next trip!

These thoughts and advice are based solely off of my own experience. I fully realize that everyone's situation and experiences are different. 

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