(Photo: Dragon & Tiger Pagodas in Kaohsiung, Taiwan)
Ever since I was in middle school, I’ve been interested in travel. I loved the idea of going somewhere completely new and learning about other cultures and languages. In college, I made it a goal to make my travel dreams come true. I haven’t gone to that many countries yet, but I would say I’m lucky enough to have been around the world…for that is a privilege in itself. I’ve been able to take a plane somewhere every year for the past 4 years. Here are my tips on how to save money while you’re traveling:
- Find a great deal on flights – I like using kayak.com to search for flights, because there are great filters such as choosing more than 1 airport near you and making dates flexible so it can generate the cheapest options. If you don’t have a specific destination and are open to any destination, I recommend travelpirates.com! They update the site each day with the latest flight deals, and also post any pricing mistakes – if you catch it before the airline does, you’ll get a flight for dirt cheap!
- Airbnb & Hostels – Instead of spending over $200 a night for a hotel room, why not rent a whole apartment or a house for less? You also get a more local feel with an Airbnb. When I went to NYC, I rented a private room/shared bathroom for $57/night. In Seattle, I rented an entire apartment for $95/night. If all you need is a twin bed and don’t mind living with strangers, you should look for a hostel, which is kind of like a dorm for travelers. When I stayed in hostels while traveling in Taiwan, I was only paying about $20/night.
- Turo – This is like the Airbnb of car rentals! Turo is SO much cheaper than your traditional car rental companies like Hertz or Enterprise, and much easier too! In Seattle, I rented a 2014 Honda CR-V to drive to Vancouver and it was only $158 for 3 days, compared to the $380 for a Ford Focus from Enterprise. There is also no extra fee if you are under the age of 25 🙂 All I had to do was find the car based off of my search preferences and follow the directions from the car owner on how to get the keys and how to return the car.
- Plan ahead so you know how much you’ll need – Always create an itinerary if you’re on a budget. Plan out what you’re going to do each day and remember to account for travel time, whether you are walking, taking public transportation, or driving. Also account for time to eat. Check online for how much each activity will roughly cost, and note that down next to each activity. If you do this a few months ahead, you will know how much money you’ll need for what you want to do, and can start saving! Also remember that your itinerary can always change, you can edit it up until your trip and even during your trip if you change your mind, but it’s always good to start out with a plan!
- Don’t eat out for every meal – Okay, I know a part of traveling and being on vacation is to eat good food right? Well, if you’re on a budget and are renting an Airbnb with a kitchen, you can always cook. Maybe you aren’t big on breakfast. Instead of going out for a full meal, you can always stop by the local grocery store and pick up some yogurt, or hit up a local bakery for some fresh pastries. There were more lunch and dinner restaurants than breakfast places I wanted to go to when I went to Seattle, so for a couple breakfasts, Allen and I would just have a cup of yogurt so we wouldn’t have to spend $35 on breakfast each day. A little goes a long way!
- Find things to do that are free – Each city has a variety of free activities – you can always do a quick Google search for wherever you’re going. In Vancouver, I wanted to go to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, but after looking it up and reading mixed reviews, it did not seem like it was worth $40 for an overcrowded bridge filled with tourists. Instead, I explored UBC, which had few tourists and amazing views!
- Go during the off season – If your schedule is flexible and your work allows it, go when everyone else will be working! Instead of traveling over summer or during the winter holidays, try going in the fall or spring. Flights and living accommodations will be cheaper!
Are you always wondering, “How do these people find the money to travel all the time?!” when scrolling through social media photos? Here are additional tips on how to save money in general:
- Mint.com – Mint puts everything money related into one website for you! You can connect all of your bank accounts and even pay your credit card bills all through one site. For me, I like to be able to see all of my transactions. It can keep track of how much income you’re getting each month and how much you are spending overall. You can create a budget based off of what categories you are willing to spend more or less on (such as shopping, dining out, make-up, etc.). It even has a section for student loans, which is really important for me! I also like that it predicts a credit score for you each month. The feature I use most is definitely scheduling monthly credit card payments.
- Put aside money from each paycheck – You’d be surprised how something so easy and simple gets overlooked by others. Some people leave a bunch of money in their checking account after each paycheck and spend endlessly! With each paycheck, try putting a portion of it into a savings account. It depends on how much you normally spend – for example, if you have credit card debt, housing, utilities, transportation, and food costs that the majority of your paycheck goes to, try putting 10% of your paycheck into your savings. If you still live at home with your parents and don’t have to pay rent and utilities, you can put more of your paycheck into your savings, say 30% – 50% depending on your spending habits!
- Buy what you need, not what you want – Often times we just spend money on things we don’t need. Maybe you see a cute shirt at the store that you want, but maybe you already have another shirt with a similar style or color. Do you really need it? Or maybe there’s a new phone out everyone is getting so you want it too. Do you really need to splurge on a new phone if your current one is working just fine? Think if you will often use the product and try not to be impulsive. If anything, wait for sales!
- Find a good credit card, and use it wisely – There’s so many good credit cards out there now. If you’re a young adult and don’t have one yet, be sure to apply for one so you can start building credit! This will be very important for when you want to rent your own apartment, purchase a car, home, or apply for loans in the future…basically whenever you need to purchase something that costs a lot of money. Right now, I have the Chase Freedom Unlimited card which gives me 1.5% cash back on every purchase! Another good one is the Chase Freedom, which gives you 5% back on certain categories each quarter, such as 5% back on gas one quarter and 5% back on groceries the next. Find the credit card that works best with your spending habits. I also have a credit card with Delta Airlines, which had a promotion that gave me 60,000 miles (that’s about 6 free round trips from SJC to LAX) as a bonus for signing up! I get 1 mile for each $1 I spend. I can also use the miles I earn with Delta’s partner airlines around the world.
- E-bates.com – This is a cash back website you connect with your web browser. They give you cash back (usually between 1%-10%) when you shop online! It’s really easy to use and not a scam 🙂
- Find a side-hustle – Whether it’s taking on a part-time job or turning your hobby into a business, starting a side-hustle never hurts when you want to make a little extra cash. In college, I had bake sales to pay off my parking tickets!
- Sell items that are still in good condition – Craigslist, Amazon, Ebay, Poshmark…take your pick! If you have unused items that are still in great condition, why not make money off of it? If you don’t want to deal with the internet and shipping, you can always take old clothing items to your local thrift store to sell.
- Cook at home – I know people who moved out of their parents’ home and now eat out every day because they either don’t know how to cook or don’t have time to cook. The thing is, you can save a lot of money if you learn how to cook and make time to do it. I used to be one of those people who said I don’t have time to work out, but now I know you can make time for it. Since I know I’m too tired after work to hit the gym, I do it before work at 6:30am! If you still live at home and your parents cook, it’s even easier to save money by eating dinner at home and packing leftovers for lunch.
I hope these helped! Let me know if you have any other tips I could add to these lists, or comment below your next travel destination! 🙂