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The worst kind of vacation is the one you don’t enjoy, the one you regret, and the one you’ve spent way too much money on said trip.
I’m hoping you’ve never gone on that kind of trip because I have and it makes my blood boil.
I went on a trip to the Philippines with immediate and extended family. Travelling with a large group is tough because sometimes you have to deal with stuff you may not like. For me, on that trip I compromised more than I would like– money, way too much money. Specifically, the thing that irked me was paying too much money on overpriced accommodations and activities because my relatives prepaid a package for all of us.
Instead we could have paid the same amount of money for WAY better accommodations that weren’t 5 hours away from the places we wanted to go and as well as have a better planned itinerary.
Okay, I should probably say that this alone didn’t make my blood boil, but this made my trip unnecessarily expensive, inconvenient, and tiresome.
The point of all this is that I’m going to show you how to avoid this kind of trip, how to travel cheap and still make it worthwhile.
1. Stay Away From Travel Packages
Travel packages sound nice. They offer a percentage discount and it takes out all the hassle of planning. But that doesn’t mean they’re actually cheaper.
Sales associates try to rush you by saying the deal they’re offering you won’t last or that its the last day the offer is valid. They’re wrong. They’re flat out lying to you.
A front desk attendant in a hotel in Puerta Princesa, Palawan blatantly told my relatives that it would have been cheaper by half the price to book directly through them than purchasing through a third party. That meant their package that they “got a good deal on” was the opposite. They overpaid for a trip they could’ve gotten cheaper.
2. Travel Agencies Don’t Have the Best Deals
Travel agencies are like shopping on Priceline or Kayak. They compile a list of flights, potentially not including all the available flights, and share them with you.
For my trip to Philippines, my relative inquired in hope of better deals. The results were the same flights I searched on my own and were advertised the same or higher.
While it doesn’t hurt to go that route and ask, you’ll likely find the same results on your own.
3. Purchase Directly
Sites like Priceline and Kayak make it seem like they’ll get the best deals out there. They are good for seeing a wide range of flights all at once, determining which flights appeal the most to you, and seeing how prices fluctuate all in one spot. But it isn’t a guarantee that you will find the best deals.
They have the same deals if you purchase directly through the airline. And unlike purchasing directly, their site may not have the most up-to-date prices which mean the airline may show it cheaper.
You’re also adding another step if anything goes wrong. For example, on my flight back from Atlanta, a tornado cancelled and delayed all flights. But since I had purchased directly, I could easily grab a new flight right away. Purchasing from a third party may mean that you have to go through them by giving them a call instead of handling it straight at the airport.
This also applies to hotels. A cancellation at a hotel in Laughlin through Booking.com required a call to the website’s customer service whereas booking directly just meant going to the front desk. The prices also act the same for hotels as well. If the hotel has its own website, especially if it is not a major chain, the likelihood that you’ll find a cheaper price directly is high. This also applies to Airbnb as companies started promoting there instead of just your average individual.
4. Watch Prices Up to a Year in Advance
Flight and hotel prices fluctuate within the year. For the most part, they stay the same. But once in awhile, their prices will drop drastically. This means you can save hundreds off your flight.
I don’t recommend just buying it a year in advance and assuming they will be cheaper. I found that for hotels that is more likely the case, but for flights the discounts arrive randomly at various price points. So only watch the prices starting a year in advance. When you find a steep enough discount you’re comfortable with, go for it.
5. Travel During Off-Season
I understand that summer is the most convenient time for people to travel, but if you can sneak a trip at almost any other time you won’t regret it. Not only will it be cheaper, but it’s just more enjoyable and relaxing to travel on an off-season. Depending on the kind of travelling you’re doing and the desire of a “local experience,” then off-season is your best bet. You’ll avoid crowds and lines. You’ll actually be able to sit in a cafe and not feel like you’re among a million.
The costs for travelling off-season are a lot cheaper. Generally, summer will always not be. This includes spring break as well. But sometimes you can get away with it the moment summer starts like the beginning of June or at the very end when everyone is starting school. The difference in price can be alarming. For example, a Honolulu round trip from Los Angeles can be $800 give or take during the summer. But as September hits, you can find it as low as $300.
6. Closer Accommodations May Be Cheaper
Almost anywhere you go, accommodations near tourist attractions are expensive. But that doesn’t mean you should totally disregard them. Focusing on how to travel cheap means thinking of every detail. If you’re planning to take an Uber or taxi every day from a farther location, then the costs may be the same as getting it closer or more expensive. Then there’s the added bonus of being surrounded by everything and not having to wake up earlier just to get anywhere.
7. Look For Accommodations Other Than Hotels
We’re all over hotels now, aren’t we? With the popularity of Airbnb, hotels may not even be the first place you look. And it shouldn’t be. I honestly prefer Airbnbs when I travel out of the country, because it gives me the added experience of living in a home of a local.
You should also look at places like Booking.com for private rooms and small hotels or hostels (hostelworld.com) if you’re interested in such accommodations.
8. Take Advantage of Grocery Stores
One of the things I always put on my itinerary is to cook a meal when I’m abroad. No grocery store is like the one back at home (unless you’re just hopping to the next city or state). Every new place has their own kind of cuisine and thus their grocery stores have different foods they sell. You can try new foods just by going to the grocery store. And I don’t mean getting fancy and preparing an extravagant meal. Buy easily prepared foods. It’s like buying already marinated chicken Parmesan at Target versus your visiting country’s equivalent. Choosing to cook means less money spent on dining at restaurants.
Don’t just think of cooking a meal either. Take advantage of grocery stores to purchase snacks, drinks, and breakfast options. Instead of always getting ready to get a bite to eat, it’s worthwhile to consider hopping to the grocery store in order to get food. Like cooking for yourself at home, if you want to travel cheap you should consider cooking for yourself or at the very least consider grabbing snacks, drinks, and breakfast options. Because if you’re hungry when all the stores are closed or you’re starving the moment you get up, I’d prefer that especially since its cheaper.
9. Plan an Itinerary
Planning makes perfect. And in this case, it makes your budget perfect. If you know where you’re going, what you’re going to do, and where you’re staying, then you know almost the entirety of what you’re going to spend. And that is the key to making sure you stay within budget, that you can afford to travel, and that you can travel cheap.
Vacationing needs to be relaxing and worthwhile, but it doesn’t mean you have to spend buckets to do it. Figuring out how to travel cheap will make you feel like you’re vacationing like a queen.