Traveling the world can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Unfortunately, many people believe that they're unable to travel due to the high costs that accompany plane tickets, hotels, and excursions. Travel does not have to be cost prohibitive, however. Here are some tips to save money on your next international trip.
Search for the Best Travel Deals
Travelers used to make travel decisions based on their favorite brands and companies. Frequent travelers still get perks from repeat business at their favorite hotels and airlines, but most of this is geared towards business travelers, rather than individuals and families paying for their own vacations.
These days, savvy travelers always start their searches at major portals like Kayak, Priceline, and Hotels.com. Keep in mind that some airlines, namely discount carrier Southwest, do not participate in the portals and have to be searched individually.
You can save even more by being flexible with your travel dates and arrangements. Airbnb and hostels are great alternatives to the traditional hotel, though there are still lots of ways to save on hotels when planning your vacation. You can even look to some alternative discount sources like Costco and your employer for additional savings.
Check out this must-see guide to the 50 best travel sites to help you plan a vacation on a budget.
Stockpile Miles and Points as a Travel Hacker
Travel hacking is a method in which travelers seek out the best current offers, comb through them using advanced travel planning techniques, and utilize their collection of accumulated miles and points in order to get free or discounted travel rates. Travel hacking is not for everyone. It takes a serious time commitment, some upfront investments, and it can lead to a temporarily lower credit score.
On the upside, however, it can open up the world to people at a fraction of the cost of a full-price plane ticket. A few years ago, I was able to arrange a round-trip flight to Israel for $144. More recently, I took a trip to Spain and Portugal with my wife, and paid just $400 for our round-trip flight from Portland to Barcelona, with a return from Lisbon.
If you're interested in learning more about travel hacking, check out this travel hacking guide.
Plan Affordable Activities
When you arrive at your destination, avoid being sucked into overrated, expensive tourist traps. There are plenty of ways to see the best destinations and sights without spending as much as the typical tourist.
Look to guide books like the Lonely Planet series and do some online research before leaving home to find coupons for major sites and other great activities off the beaten path. Urban hikes, architecture tours, and park tours are a great way to get to know a city and culture without spending a dime.
Don't Forget Travel Insurance
There's a lot that can go wrong after you've left home. Getting sick while traveling is no fun, but it happens all the time. It's easy to get sick while on a plane- particularly if you don't hydrate or didn't sleep well the night before. While recovering from touring and jet lag, getting over something as small as a cold can be difficult.
If you want to cover yourself in case of an illness or injury, make sure you have a plan for this possibility. Before you leave, research local healthcare options and decide whether you need travel medical insurance. Some countries offer free healthcare to citizens, but foreign travelers without travel insurance can get stuck with a bill reaching hundreds or thousands of dollars. Russia, Cuba, Dubai, and other destinations are even moving to require travelers to have travel health insurance when entering the country, so be aware of your destination country's insurance requirements.
Finally, keep in mind that an international travel health insurance plan could be the difference between a trip ruined by an unforeseen illness or injury and a vacation with access to quality care and financial help should you unexpectedly need medical care.