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By Josh Roberts, SmarterTravel.com | April 10, 2015
As every seasoned traveler knows, traveling on a budget doesn’t always mean traveling “cheap” – they’re just good at stretching each and every dollar. Below you’ll find the top tips that everyone traveling on a budget should know about to avoid skimping where it counts!
Immerse yourself in your new surroundings by walking everywhere. If walking is out of the question, familiarize yourself with your destination’s public transit system, which is also a budget game-changer. Also consider staying in centrally located accommodations as the price difference between a room downtown can offset the cost frequent cab rides or train tickets.
Use Different Airports
When traveling on a budget, where you fly is just as important as when you fly. Most major cities in the U.S and other countries have alternate airports that are served by low-cost airlines. Consider flying to an outlying airport if you’re final destination isn’t located in a major city as you might end up closer to your destination.
For example, I live closer to Boston and often search for departures from Manchester, New Hampshire when I’m looking to stretch my budget as I often find better prices from Manchester.
If you can pack everything that you need for your trip in a carry-on bag, don’t hesitate to do so. If you can’t, you may want to reevaluate what you consider essential for your trip. Expert budget travelers save money by skipping those checked-bag fees, which can add up much quicker than you think as most major airlines can cost at least $50 round-trip.
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Knowing where to eat, shop, stay and which days you can find discounted tickets to attractions, are essential skills commonly found in seasoned budget travelers. It may take a little hard work, but by thoroughly researching your destination before you arrive is often overlooked, but critical for traveling on a budget. Use tools such as the TripAdvisor community forums to learn about stretching a dollar on your next trip.
Really traveling on a budget? Travel during your destination’s off-season. If summer is the best time to visit, go in the winter – you can save money on everything including flights, hotels, meals and even rental car prices. However, there is a reason it’s not peak-season: usually the weather. If that makes or breaks your decision, split the difference and travel during the shoulder season, which often takes place in the spring and fall. Everything is still open, the crowds are thinner and the weather is on the cusp of changing.
Take A Weekday Flight
Tuesdays and Wednesdays are proven to be cheaper days to fly than other day of the week (unless those days fall on or near a major holiday). If you’re planning a weeklong vacation, think about taking a Wednesday to Tuesday type trip instead – you’ll find your wallet just a little bit thicker because of it.
As a budget traveler, one of the most important things you can do is recognize a deal when you see one. That’s why benchmarking prices on everything from accommodations, flights and bundled packages is so critical.
Although it takes patience and persistence, tracking prices over a period of time to get a good idea of what your trip should cost can help you identify a big saving opportunity when you come across one. If patience isn’t one of your stronger virtues, subscribe to a fare-alert service so you can be notified automatically when the price falls to your budget.
Look for Refunds
Did you know that nonrefundable flights are fully refundable within 24 hours of booking? When traveling on a budget, don’t stop shopping around when you book your flight and make use of your entire 24-hour booking window. The refund potential for car rentals and hotels is even greater, as most rental cars are fully refundable right up until the day that you’re scheduled to pick it up. For hotels, budget travelers use sites like Tingo for guaranteed refunds every time the price drops.
Some studies suggest that you can save between 30 and 40 percent when you book a vacation home or apartment rather than a hotel, and that’s just the upfront price. By eating your meals at home and shopping at local grocery stores, you’ll not only save money, but you’ll also get to experience life as a local. With most rental units containing laundry facilities, you can pack lighter which can getting rid of a checked bag cost. And don’t forget to put those haggling skills to the test. Expert budget travelers negotiate price, length of stay and arrival/departure dates – everything is up for discussion and discussions can lead to great savings.
Pack Your Meals
Expert budget travelers know that meals are a secret budget buster. They add up quickly, especially if you find yourself dining out frequently. The solution? Pack your lunch, breakfast, or both, especially if you’re staying in a rental unit or hotel suite equipped with a kitchen or refrigerator.
Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean you have to skimp on new foods. If culinary experiences are a big part of your vacation, consider spending your food money at lunch as prices are cheaper during the day than dinner hours.
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