You have been looking forward to your annual vacation since your plane touched down to come home from your last trip. It is the one time a year that you can unwind, let loose, and finally relax. The unfortunate reality is that vacations are expensive. Fortunately, there are ways to save money even while on vacation. Here are 11 tips to save money when traveling to any destination.
Tip 1: Be Flexible About When or Where You Travel
You may have decided that this year, you are going to Tokyo, Japan. It is great that you have a destination in mind. By being flexible about when you travel, you can save a lot of money. Going on weekdays instead of holidays and off-season instead of high-season can significantly reduce your travel expenses. Alternatively, if you are flexible about where you go, you may also be able to score a great deal.
For example, if you know that you want to go somewhere the first two weeks of October, you can set up travel alerts and snatch up the cheapest flight to any destination as soon as there is a deal. With more places to choose from, it is more likely you will find a hefty discount and save money. Just make sure that you don't want to travel during high-season, such as when kids are off from school, and during major holidays.
Tip 2: Plan Early
If you plan your trip early enough, you can monitor airplane ticket prices for a few months. By analyzing the flight prices and trends, you will know what is considered a reasonable price and when it is too high to buy. You should even consider joining a local Facebook group that alerts you to competitive travel deals.
Tip 3: Use a Local SIM Card
When traveling to another country, your current cellphone provider will likely charge you sky-high roaming fees. However, if you already have an unlocked smartphone, you can buy and use a local SIM card. Major cellphone carriers usually offer tourist SIM cards that give you the ability to surf the web and make phone calls. A cellphone can be incredibly useful in another country to pull up a map of your location, to call a restaurant for a reservation, or to even look up how to ask where the bathroom is in another language. Be sure to bring your passport and possibly one additional form of identification when purchasing the SIM card.
Tip 4: Apply for a Travel-Friendly Credit Card
If you use your credit card overseas, virtually any country outside where your card was issued, you will be charged fees. All transactions that occur overseas incur a foreign transaction fee. This fee is unavoidable and is usually charged as a percentage of the transaction amount. For example, some cards, such as the OCBC Plus! Visa Card, include a currency conversion fee and a bank administrative fee together for all foreign transactions. However, by having a travel-friendly credit card with a low foreign transaction fee, you will be able to save money on each purchase you charge. Plus, this saves on the headache of converting a lot of your Singaporean money into your destination's local currency.
Another thing to consider when choosing your travel-friendly credit card is how it rewards you for overseas purchases. Your local BOC Sheng Siong Card that you use to buy groceries will not reward you the same way the CIMB Visa Signature Card will, for example. A travel-friendly credit card offers special rewards for transactions made in another country using a foreign currency. Moreover, these rewards will help you get back some money that you lose on the foreign transaction fee.
Tip 5: Pack Your Own Airport Snacks
Airports advise passengers to arrive hours before their flight departure. If you're like me, when I have time to kill, I prefer to eat away my boredom. Unfortunately, once you pass through airport security, food prices sky-rocket. Instead, try to bring your own airport snacks. Make sure that your bag will not crush these foods and that they are eligible to pass through security.
Tip 6: Consider a Priority Pass Lounge at the Airport
If you want to start your vacation before you even get on your flight, you should consider an airport lounge. These lounges are quiet, have comfortable seats, offer pre-flight food and drinks, have free Wi-Fi, and other amenities. Some lounges even have nap rooms, gyms, as well as massage, nail and beauty services at extra costs.
You can purchase Priority Pass access for an annual fee. However, certain credit cards come with complimentary airport lounge access! In fact, this could be the same card that you applied for in Tip 4. Considering how much you may spend on food, drinks, and alcohol at the airport, an exclusive airport lounge may be a more favorable and cost-friendly alternative. Unfortunately, only the cardholder has airport lounge access. You will need to pay a fee for each subsequent guest, such as additional family members. Be sure to read the terms and conditions of this credit card feature before you head to the airport. Some credit cards require you to activate this feature and allow sufficient processing time before you receive your membership card.
Tip 7: Use Local Transportation
While this may not be the most convenient, using local public transportation, as locals do, may be the most adventurous and cost-effective. Taxis are comfortable, convenient, safe, but extremely expensive when compared to local transport. Most cities have fairly modern buses and trains. However, don't be afraid to try the different modes of transportation that locals use. In Thailand, there are tuk-tuks. In the Dominican Republic, there are guaguas. Explore the city, mingle with the locals, and save some money!
Tip 8: Use Ride-Sharing Apps or Websites
If you're in a rush or just prefer not to travel by public transportation, consider ride-sharing platforms. These apps or websites connect drivers and passengers. Yes, I said "passengers" in the plural form. You are essentially carpooling with other users on the same platform that are traveling in the same general direction. One well-known ride-sharing app is Uber. A popular ride-sharing website is BlaBlaCar. Finally, a common ride-sharing message board is Gumtree. Of course, these platforms vary by country and location. Be sure to check travel websites, blogs, or even local Facebook groups to ask about what is available and trustworthy in your destination country.
Tip 9: Follow the "Six-Block Rule"
Because part of the vacation experience is not cooking but exploring local cuisine, a large portion of your travel expenses will likely be food and dining. You can still eat out but follow the "six-block rule." This rule is a travel guideline. Most restaurants within a six-block radius of any popular tourist attraction will likely be more expensive and aimed at attracting wealthy tourists. By walking six blocks away in one direction, you are exiting the tourist area and are likely to find more local food options that are more reasonably priced and probably just as good, if not better.
Tip 10: Look for Discounts
Many attractions, such as museums and theme parks, offer special discounts for seniors, students, and children. Always bring identification with your date of birth to show that you qualify for it. Furthermore, some attractions may also offer a discounted group rate. If you have a list of attractions that you want to visit, do some research and ask around before purchasing your tickets. For example, many museums, especially in Europe, have one free admission night per month.
Tip 11: Find a Grocery Store
I deliberately saved this tip for last. Some people are adamant about not cooking while on vacation. I am one of them. However, there is usually one exception to this rule. A grocery store will always have lower prices than eating out in a restaurant. One method to save money is to buy groceries in a supermarket, as the locals do. Consider having a picnic on your vacation. This idea is especially advantageous when it coincides with an attraction on your list, such as having a picnic in Central Park, New York City in the United States. A picnic lunch is a perfect way to slow down, unwind, and enjoy the sights.
Just because you are on vacation, doesn't mean you need to burn through your entire budget all at once. There are ways to save money while traveling and still enjoy all of the local eats and attractions. You do not need to compromise! A large part of this is planning your vacation well. By being smart with your money, you will be able to afford to say, "Where to next?"