Personal Finance

4 Travel Hacks for the Budget-Minded

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Exploring the world can easily add up to some big bills, but it is also possible to catch all the sights and learn all about local culture on a tight budget. Whether you work along the way or are just trying to vacation on the cheap, you can have a great experience without breaking the bank. Certain destinations cost less than others, but you can make any trip affordable by following some money-saving tips.

1. Do Your Research

There are probably several places around the world you want to travel to. Depending on the flexibility of your schedule, research the options before you pick your spot. In doing so, you may find cheap or free options at your destination. While you don’t need to schedule every hour of your trip, get an idea of what is happening at your destination during your stay – there could be a festival or special exhibit that you don’t want to miss. Also, it’s important to stay educated on common travel scams like ATM skimming or conversion charges so you can recognize and avoid them.

2. Go Off-Season

Since many spots are interesting any time of year, try to schedule your trip during the less busy time for travel. You will get cheaper airfare, find deals on hotel rooms, spend less time in lines and meet more locals than tourists. This, of course, will depend on your destination. When contacting potential places to stay or visit, ask if they have off-season rates and during what time of the year. You can experience all of the same attractions and revelries without spending a fortune just based on timing.

3. Call Before You Book

Flights will likely be the most expensive aspect of your travels. While you search for options, even if your trip is in the preliminary stages, it is smart to open an incognito tab on your browser and check discount sites like Kayak, Momondo, Sky Scanner, and even Google Flights. Track flight costs ahead of time and cross-check your sources, but Tuesday is the time of week you will likely find the cheapest option.

Similarly, you can find deals on accommodations online through Kayak or Hotwire. Once you have found the cheapest provider, try calling the hotel or airline to be sure this is the best price and that it includes all the normal amenities. Whether you ask outright, explain the trip is for a special event, or mention an airline or hotel nearby offering a better deal — you may be able to get a better price just by taking the time to call.

4. Live Like a Local

We all know that touristy activities and spots have higher prices. Living like a local can help give you new perspective on your destination while cutting back on costs. Consider renting an apartment or living with a family in their home through sites like AirBnB to get an authentic experience for a lower rate than most hotels. Even if it may seem daunting to learn a public transportation system in a new city, it is usually not too difficult and much more affordable than taxis. Be sure you tip according to the custom of the destination, not how you do at home. And one thing a local would never do? Spend money on silly souvenirs, so be sure to buy only the things you need. Usually the memories you make are the best thing you bring back home anyway.

There are plenty of people who will tell you they live under X amount of dollars per day while traveling. While it is possible to explore on the cheap, it’s a good idea to focus on value over cost – this way you get the most out of your experience. Decide what you or your group’s priorities are and allocate some splurging in your budget for whatever you find the most important, from a highly rated restaurant to a special show or craft you would not get to see at home. By saving money on flights, accommodations and transportation, you can use the money you save to absorb all the cultural aspects available at your destination. Plan ahead, but be sure to have some extra funds for the spontaneous adventures that may pop up along your journey.

Finally, spending more than you can afford on travels can eventually catch up with you. If you find yourself going into debt to see the world — debt that you can’t pay off in a relatively short period of time — it’s time to reconsider your budget. Carrying too much credit card debt can have a negative affect on your credit scores, especially if it’s a high percentage of your available credit. If you’re carrying credit card debt and you want to know how it’s affecting your credit scores, the free tools on Credit.com can show you — by giving you an overview of how all factors of your credit report are affecting your scores, along with two free scores updated every month.

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