Traveling is a great way to enjoy new experiences, learn about the world and take a break from the monotony of daily living. But the cost of travel can be prohibitive, so many of us don't get away as frequently as we'd like or miss out on places we've dreamed of visiting. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to travel and explore the world without breaking the bank.
Visit Family or Friends
When thinking about where to travel on a small budget, visiting places near family or friends can help keep the costs down. Depending on the situation, it could reduce or eliminate the need for a hotel, rental car or eating out every meal. Traveling to an area near family or friends can also reduce your entertainment cost since spending time visiting and catching up will serve as part of your entertainment. It's also an excellent opportunity to have your own local tour guide since your family or friends there will know all the hot spots, attractions and not-to-be-missed sightseeing.
With so many airlines, hotels and tours to choose from, planning a trip can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites simplify this by allowing you to enter your travel dates and preferences to compare prices and features from different companies. These websites are particularly helpful for comparing costs in a single place and keeping track of your findings. Many travel comparison sites also show ratings, so you don't waste your money on a seemingly good deal that turns out to be a bad experience. Different travel comparison sites focus on particular parts of traveling. Some of the most popular include Booking.com, Priceline, Expedia, Kayak and Trivago.
There are also many theories about the best time to book your flight, with the most common being on a Tuesday afternoon, six weeks before your trip. While this exact date is subject to debate, it does seem that airline fare sales tend to start on Tuesdays. Your best bet is to start checking fares early and pay attention to any patterns. Some airlines also have better deals if you book at least two weeks before your trip.
If you're traveling as a family or with multiple people, the cost of airline tickets for everyone adds up quickly. Depending on how far you plan to travel, a road trip might be a good option. Your journey can become part of your vacation. Gas for one car which can hold everyone will likely cost much less than airline tickets for multiple people. It can also be better for the planet. If you're feeling extra adventurous, rent an RV to save on both your travel and lodging costs (but do the math for the added fuel costs). You can typically find RV parks along any route for much lower prices than staying in a hotel. It can also be a fun bonding experience for your family or group to travel this way.
Discounts & Deals
Websites like Groupon and LivingSocial offer significant discounts on specific travel deals. Because they only offer deals to particular places within a range of dates, this is a good option if you want to travel but don't have a specific destination or dates in mind. Depending on your age and interests, some companies host trips and tours with lodging, attractions and travel costs included. Traveling with a tour group can result in deeper discounts than traveling alone. Topdeck and Contiki are popular group tour hosts that cater mainly to young adults and offer specific budget travel options. Elderhostel and Collette Vacations are popular choices for senior citizens. For all ages, Flash Pack and Austin Adventures are excellent choices.
Companies such as Costco or AAA also offer travel packages at discounted prices. By signing up for a free membership on certain websites, such as Hotels.com, you can earn free hotel-stay nights and get exclusive discounts on hotels.
Another way to reduce travel costs is to save money for travel with a travel rewards credit card that caters to your interests. Many airlines offer credit cards on which you can earn miles to redeem for future travel. Some specific travel destinations, like Disney, also have credit cards you can use to earn rewards toward future vacation costs. Capital One and many other credit card companies also offer similar travel reward credit cards that provide greater flexibility.
It's easy to overlook fascinating or exciting attractions, sightseeing and activities that are close to home. If you have the travel bug but lack the time or money for a big trip, do some research to see what opportunities and adventures you can find nearby for a weekend or day trip. This can save you a lot of money on travel and lodging expenses. Plus, it's easier to pack food for a short journey, which can also save you money instead of eating out. You might be surprised at what exciting new things you've been missing out on locally or nearby.
Realize that with a little creativity and effort, traveling doesn't need to be out of reach just because of a small budget. If you plan ahead and travel smart, you can find lots of opportunities to explore the world around you.
Kimberly Blaker is a freelance lifestyle writer. She's also founder and director of KB Creative Digital Services, an internet marketing agency, at kbcreativedigital.com.