There are many tricks to saving on airfare—from the flight search engine you choose to knowing the cheapest days to travel. According to Rick Seaney, the CEO of FareCompare, “Always compare airfare prices on a comparison search site and always search a day or two ahead and behind your targeted itinerary dates. The savings may surprise you.”
In terms of the perfect time to travel this summer, Seaney suggests avoiding June 15–August 29, which is peak season and likely to yield higher priced tickets. Rather, late May and late August are good times to fly to snag cheaper fares. If you must fly during peak season, Airfarewatchdog says that, “The lowest in-and-out [flight] combinations tend to include outbound flights on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday with return flights on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday.” Avoiding traveling on a Friday and returning on a Sunday can save you up to 20 percent on airfare.
While London may burn a hole in your wallet, Vietnam will find you living like a king. If keeping a budget is top of mind and traveling longer is the goal, then look to travel to cheaper countries. Forbes reports that the cheapest destinations to travel to this year include: Mexico, South Africa, Morocco and Cambodia. As a rule of thumb, Southeast Asia and South America will always stretch your dollars compared to Europe.
Outside of flights, hotels can prove the biggest expense when heading abroad. Large name hotels, all-inclusive resorts and high-end boutiques might be fun for a night splurge but will suck up your funds in a flash.
The options of where to stay don’t necessarily need to be whittled down to comfortable vs. cheap; there are plenty of places to sleep that are both affordable and nice. Great alternatives to hotels are Airbnb rentals and hostels. Hostels can often get a bad reputation as being an enclave of twenty-somethings who like to party, but many hostels are now being recognized and awarded for their quality accommodations.
That’s right, you can do more than find affordable accommodations, you can stay for free. Worldpackers allows you to stay at hostels around the world for free in exchange for your skills. Whether an experienced photographer, social media maven or willing to do hard labor, you can find free beds at a hostel in exchange for supporting their staff. Similarly, WWOOF provides travelers with room and board in exchange for their volunteer work on a local farm.
If you’re hoping to do more than wander around aimlessly, consider free walking tours and other cheap activities to enjoy while abroad. Vayable is a great resource where locals post tours and activities for visitors.
One of the best ways to make travel more affordable is to earn money while traveling. If headed on a one-week vacation, then earning money abroad may not be a priority; but if traveling long term, earning money can mark the difference between continuing your adventure or packing up early.
A popular way to earn money while traveling is to teach english abroad. Companies like World Teach do not require teaching experience or certification for their programs. World Teach provides a living stipend to their volunteers, paired with the experience of living abroad. Another option is to take on freelance work while traveling. Upwork allows you to post your resume and apply for various freelance projects that can be done remotely, anywhere in the world. Other ways to earn money while traveling include working as a temporary au pair and housesitting.
If you’re traveling long-term or simply looking to enjoy a vacation without suffering a financial loss, then it comes down to traveling frugally. Take local transportation or walk instead of ordering a taxi or Uber. Eat street food, shop at grocery stores and buy from farmer’s markets instead of dining at fine restaurants. If available in the destination, use discount cards such as CityPASS to save on local attractions, museum entry and tickets.
While there are ways to cut down expenses while traveling, making travel more affordable starts before the plane takes off. Take a look at your monthly expenses, what can you cut? If you forego that daily Starbucks coffee, you can save money. If you cook at home one night vs. order food, that’s saving money. If you funnel a portion of your paycheck to a travel savings account, you can sit back and watch as the money grows. Apps like Mint can help analyze your personal spending and help you save for that dream trip.