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TIPS FOR BUDGET TRAVELING

Written by DanielaZavala. Posted in PracticalAdvice, Tips, Videos

Published on November 26, 2013 with No Comments

Many people think that you need to have a lot of money or take a year off to travel the world, but the reality is that it’s all about planning and smart choices. Here are some tips that may seem very basic, but have made a big difference in my budget and my experience.

AIR TICKET

Some people buy their plane tickets very close to the date of the trip. Although there are indeed some last minute promotions you could take advantage of, the key to save on airfare (especially international destinations) is to buy it four to six months in advance. There are also websites (such as www.cheapoair.com and www.kayak.com) in which you can register and sign in for “airfares alarms” that send you notifications when the fare goes down from the price you saw on your first search. These websites also compare instantly different offers from airlines, allowing you to see the cheapest options and the itineraries that best fit your schedule.

If you have a program to earn miles with an airline, USE IT. I have traveled extensively thanks to the miles I’ve accumulated in previous travels. But remember, these seats are limited, so you have to make a reservation in advance (minimum six months) and be flexible with your travel dates. Another way to lower the cost of the airfare is traveling at the end of the season or offseason. The ticket price may drop in half or less. (Traveling off-season can also mean savings in accommodation!)

ACCOMODATION

Are you traveling for work or vacation? If it is for vacation, do you want to be pampered and rest? Or, are you looking to explore and go sightseeing all day? That may be the first question you should ask yourself prior booking a hotel. If you want to have a relaxing vacation that involves staying at the hotel most of the time and enjoying the amenities, then make the investment on a good luxurious hotel. BUT if you are going to be out sightseeing all day long, you may be just OK with a more basic accommodation option.

When I was in my 20s, I stayed in dozens of youth hostels. I still do sometimes, but instead of mixed room, I stay in private rooms in some hostels. Nowadays, I mostly stay in family-run bed and breakfasts because these are cheaper and equally comfortable. It also gives you a homey feeling as well as more personalized attention because you will have direct contact with the owners or manager. If traveling solo, staying in hostels and bed and breakfasts will give you the possibility to also meet and mingle with other travelers.

For reliable information on hotels in different categories, there is nothing like www.tripadvisor.com . This website has a huge database of hotels around the world, and in here, agenda-free costumers give the reviews. Another option –for those more adventurous- is www.couchsurfing.org, a super extensive network internationally, in which members can contact people in places where they are traveling and staying ” in their couches.”

TOURS VS. INDEPENDENT TRAVEL

I particularly prefer to travel independently because it gives me more flexibility with what I do and go, but it also helps me to save money because I avoid high agency fees. Independent travel forces you to make the work though: research, plan in advance and make your own itinerary. Many countries have good transportation system or those hop on and off busses, which makes it so easy to get around on your own. There are other places where the transportation system is not as developed, but if you plan ahead, you can travel without a tour operator. Having said that, there are some places (especially in Africa, and some riskier destinations) where hiring a guide or taking a tour package may be a good option due to the lack of infrastructure and security reasons. Having a tour operation to take care of the logistics may help you make the most of your time (if you don’t have so much of it) Prices and quality can vary widely between agencies (the most expensive are not necessarily the best). I recommend you to contact different agencies, compare quotes and read the reviews from previous customers.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

I have always believed that one of the most important factors when choosing a hotel is its location. Staying in a central location or a hotel that is near the places you plan to visit can save you money and time. Instead of spending money in taxis o wasting time taking public transport, you could do a walk tour on your own. Regarding domestic transportation or moving around within a country, you should take the train or a private bus line instead of taking internal flights, which are pricier. There are some countries that are the exception (where flights can be cheaper than a train), so check and compare both before booking.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

Many credit cards nowadays include travel insurances and foreign health plan if the airfare is purchased with that credit card. This allows you to save money because you don’t need to buy a separate insurance. For traditional destinations, I honestly don’t buy insurance. However, if you are traveling to a place, where security is volatile or where you’re going to do a sport that involves a risk of getting sick or suffering an injury (such as climbing Kilimanjaro or India where many travelers get sick due to food) is recommended to buy insurance with emergency evacuation. I have used www.travelguard.com

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