The holidays are upon us, and that means many people will be traveling to see their family members. My husband and I are included in that bunch, but unlike most Americans, we’ll be making a longer trek to see our families by traveling from our home in the Caribbean to Louisiana to spend two weeks with our families.
We know first hand that international travel is certainly expensive, but with the right amount of planning we’ve been able to travel to almost a dozen different countries on very (very) modest incomes. Below are my biggest tips on how to get the most out of your travel bucks both before you go and during your stay.
1. Manage Your Expectations
Before you make any travel plans, you have to ask yourself what you really want out of your international vacation. If you want to stay in a 5 star hotel, that’s perfectly fine, but you might only get to stay for 3 nights instead of 10. After living abroad for a year and a half, I’ve learned to roll with the punches. Most things, like dining out and the size of hotel rooms, are not going to be what you’re used to. However, I think that’s part of the fun of learning about a new place. Essentially, the higher your expectations, the more money you will need to spend and the more time it will take to save it. So ask yourself how badly you want to go and when, and that will help you get started.
2. Choose A Rental Instead of a Hotel
There are tons of great websites out there that show you where you can rent an apartment, a studio, or a small house for a certain period of time. By doing this, you can save up to a third on lodging, and you can feel like a local. You won’t have room service and you might not have a big shower. However, you could get the perks of a small stove or a small fridge to put all those pastries in that you gather as you walk through the streets of Paris.
3. Do Your Research
My husband and I go a little overboard with this. We love to know the ins and the outs of every place we visit. We scope out the best restaurants that are affordable as well as figure out how to make the most of each place we want to see. Our best moment was reading about a Roma Pass, which after purchasing it allowed us to skip about 300 people in line when we went to see the Colosseum in Rome. There was a fee, but we thought our time was more worth it. After all, sometimes traveling internationally is a once in a lifetime event. You don’t want to spend that time waiting in line when there is so much more to see.
4. Get A Travel Rewards Card
I only advocate credit cards to those who can use them responsibly. There are entire websites online that are devoted to teaching you how to collect frequent flier miles. There are even folks who repeatedly open new credit cards to get the rewards. While I wouldn’t recommend that for everyone, it definitely works for those who take the time to do their research.
5. Avoid the Tourist Traps
You don’t want to blow your budget by collecting cheap souvenirs at every single place you visit. We try to pick up a piece of art wherever we go, whether it’s a drawing from a street vendor, a painted tile, or a pretty watercolor. That way our home is filled with beautiful reminders of our travels that supersede wall magnets any day.
What other tips and tricks do you have for making your dollar stretch during international travel? I’d love to hear your take on it.
photo by jimbowen0306