6 tips for taking a great vacation on a budget

May 16, 2016

Regardless of if you’re visiting Europe, Asia or staying in Canada, here’s how to save a bundle and still have a wonderful trip on a budget.

6 tips for taking a great vacation on a budget

1. Know how to pack

We all do it: pack a load of clothing and only wear half of it on our holiday. The truth is, you won't need most of what you bring, so try to start off by packing light.

  • By packing light you will save on checked-baggage fees with airlines and other forms of transportation.
  • If you’ve got light luggage, like a backpack, you can take comfort in knowing all of your belongings are with you and you won’t have to pay to store your items.
  • Don’t pack toiletries since many hotels offer them for free.

2. Know where to stay

While we all dream of the infinity pools and luxurious spa hotels, accommodations like this are likely to shorten your trip significantly due to their cost.

  • If you’re planning a trip where you want to see lots of sights, you will be spending little time in your room anyway, so choosing the right hotel can save you a lot of money.
  • Inns and hostels are a great choice and are common in many countries.
  • Shared lodging not only saves money, but reduces the carbon footprint of the traveller and hotel.
  • While youth hostels are very popular among young backpackers, there are many luxury hostels that often offer private en suite rooms, so you don't have to sacrifice comfort for cost when picking a hostel.
  • Staying somewhere with a shared common room or kitchen helps you connect with other travellers and even find out some tips on where to travel next (and where to avoid).
  • Hotels will often charge a double-occupancy price, even if you’re travelling solo, so you might want to consider skipping the hotel for a more budget-friendly accommodation.
  • If you’re staying at a reasonably priced hotel, be sure to get access to their free Wi-Fi. Contact the hotel before booking to ensure they do not charge you to use their Internet.

3. Know what to eat

When you’re travelling, you can avoid spending a lot of your budget on meals, by planning ahead a little.

  • Hostels often have shared kitchens, meaning you can cook many meals yourself and even share the cost of some ingredients with fellow travellers.
  • If you’re not staying at a hostel, look for accommodations that offer free breakfast or have a kitchenette so you can make your own meals. It’s amazing how much you’ll save by not eating every meal at a restaurant.
  • When you do inevitably eat at a restaurant, you can still save money; just try eating like a local. Not only are these dishes likely to be delicious, but they will be cheaper than any “western” food you might find.
  • Be sure to pack your own snacks and water bottles to save on those between-meal snacks while on-the-go.
  • When you travel, it’s important to know when you’re supposed to leave your server a tip, and how much. This will save you from paying too little, thus offending your server.

4. Know how to get around

How you get from place to place will begin to add up so it’s a good idea to have some idea of how you’ll want to travel.

  • Usually, over-land travel via busses and trains will offer you the best deal, especially if you’re able to book in advance.
  • If you’re travelling a great distance, consider an overnight train so you can save on a night’s accommodation on the way to your next destination.
  • Within a city, walking is obviously the only free way to get around, but many cities have shared bike systems or day-passes you can purchase for the public transportation.
  • Remember that taxis and any other private transportation services are likely to cost you more. If you do take a taxi, be sure to negotiate the price before you get in so you’re not left with a big bill.
  • Why not take the idea further and opt for a hiking trip? A number of long-distance hiking routes are well-marked, and offer accommodations along the path at low prices, or even no cost. Another original and budget-friendly idea? A bikepacking trip!

5. Know how to be entertained

No matter where in the world you go, it will be difficult to see absolutely everything, especially if you’re trying to save money.

  • Make a list of the must-see sights on your list. Figure out how much they cost and be sure to budget for that day accordingly.
  • Look into local meet-ups  to befriend someone who really knows the city to show you around some of the places you might not find in your travel guide.
  • Check the community board where you’re staying as many hostels arrange free or reduced-rate activities and tours with local companies.
  • Consider skipping the main tourist-trap areas, which often have much higher prices for just about everything.
  •  Check out free evenings at museums, art galleries and other cultural hubs in the city you’re visiting.
  • Purchase a city pass for cheap or free access to all your destination has to offer. It’ll grant you access to dozens of museums and other attractions at a great price.
  • While shopping, negotiate as much as possible, when possible. In many countries, it’s a necessary practice to avoid paying up five or 10 times the fair price. Familiarize yourself with local bargaining practices.

6. Know how to manage your money

Watch out for bank fees and foreign transaction fees. Before you leave home, know what you’ll be paying each time you swipe your card so you can factor that into your budget.

It’s very exciting to start planning a vacation, but there’s not much point in snagging a great deal on your flights only to end up going through your budget within days of arriving.

These simple tips will help guide you to making budget-friendly choices that still allow you to have a fantastic trip.

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