Down the street or across the world, these tips can help you become a budget traveler
Traveling anywhere, let alone the world, shouldn’t be as expensive as our family or friends might make it out to be. You shouldn’t have to save thousands of dollars just to go abroad for a few weeks. Here are some ways my partner and I save money while still enjoying ourselves.
1. Travel Credit Cards
Of course, everyone has heard of travel credit cards by this point.
You know who hasn’t?
Me, in 2013. Setting off for my first ever backpacking-around-the-world trip (that ended after only a few countries), I brought a debit card. That’s no cash back, no rewards, no travel protection, and perhaps most importantly, no foreign transaction fee.
However, to any type of traveler, seasoned or freshly starting out, a credit card can be a powerful tool. It can give you theft and buyer’s protection, help you cover canceled flights, offer auto collision coverage, and perhaps most importantly, most of them have zero foreign transaction fees.
(If you’d like to read my article about the pros and cons of travel credit cards, click the link below!).
2. House Sitting
If you’re no stranger to this site, then you know we like talking about house sitting. Once a concept once only found in the back of travel magazines, house sitting has become a popular way to see another country (or city) for free.
The concept is simple: take care of someone’s house and pets, and in return, live like a local. And because you’ll often be house sitting for someone on vacation or away for work, you can easily find sits that ask you to be there for weeks. Or even months!
These days, most people get their start through websites like TrustedHousesitters (affiliate link), Nomador, or MindMyHouse. Despite what might be written elsewhere on the Internet, I don’t believe there’s one “best” house sitting website. However, it might seem that way due to TrustedHousesitters generous affiliate program.
I personally enjoy Nomador, despite not having found any sits through there [yet]. It is France-centric and is the best place to casually scroll through house sitting options along the water in Guadeloupe and Martinique. MindMyHouse is a smaller website, but I have had more success finding house sits on this platform. I also enjoy the fact it’s the cheapest of the three ($20 a year instead of TrustedHousesitter’s $120 or Nomador’s $99 a year).
If you’d like to know a little bit about setting up your profile, or choosing the best owners, I have a few articles here on the subject.
3. Monthly Stays in Short Term Rentals/Hotels
Right off the bat, I should probably mention that I don’t love the idea of short term rentals and how they affect communities and neighborhoods. Having grown up in Savannah, GA, I saw how the influx of these apartments that could only be rented through websites like AirBnB would turn entire neighborhoods into ghost towns during the off-season. Not to mention, if you aren’t living somewhere, do you really care about leaving trash in the street or whether or not your music is too loud?
However, as a traveler, I struggle with the fact I enjoy short term rentals.
For one, I like having a kitchen. Cooking while traveling is one of my favorite things to do.
I also like not living right across the street from other hotels. Since hotels are often built in groups, it can feel a little like I’m trespassing in a city rather than experiencing a city.
And now that I live in Italy, I’ve come to find that many owners will rent out their apartment as a short term rental only in July, August, and September, leaving the other months free for students or temporary workers.
With that said…
AirBnb does encourage their owners to offer monthly discounts for staying more than 28 days. And if you’re lucky, this is combined with a “New Listing” discount and you’re staying for a few hundred dollars a month, instead of a night.
I do recommend messaging the home owners first. There have been a few occasions, in our experience, where the home owner was unaware that two of their discounts were added together. This would have led to them losing money after paying for utilities.
Booking has recently started offering monthly discounts for any of the participating hotels, but I haven’t found them to be as cost-saving.
VRBO (affiliate link) still doesn’t offer monthly discounts, to the best of my knowledge. However, with VRBO, the only offers are entire apartments, not rooms in people’s houses.
If you prefer to stay at someone’s house and get to know them, consider HomeStay (affiliate link). They only allow people to rent out rooms in their house, which makes a generous effort at solving the issue of short-term rentals destroying neighborhoods.
4. Cooking at the Apartment
As I mention in #3, cooking at the apartment we rent is one of my favorite things to do. I understand that to some travelers, cooking while on vacation is like doing chores on vacation. But to any other home cooks who enjoy experimenting, you might find that you enjoy cooking while abroad. There are new ingredients to play around with, local dishes to try making on your own, and of course, it saves money.
A plate of cacio e pepe (Pecorino Romano cheese and cracked black pepper sauce with pasta) in Rome costs an average of €7-€12 at most hosteria. Even if you want to use a l’etto (1/10th of a kilo, so 1/5th of a pound) of nice Pecorino Romano and spend €4 on it, the dry pasta will only cost €1-€1.50, saving you money. Of course, if you use the cheap cheese, then the dish might cost €3 total.
I realize this isn’t exactly ground-breaking advice, but in the past few weeks, no fewer than four Romans have asked me why I decided to come to Rome in the summer.
“It’s the worst time of the year to visit!” — Actual Romans in Rome
They recommended that I visit in autumn, which got me thinking. (To be clear, I visited Rome because of a house sit that I found through TrustedHousesitters.)
Flight aggregates like Expedia and Skyscanner (both are affiliate links) show that flights to Rome in October are typically cheaper than flights to Rome in June, July, or August. (For this test, I choose JFK as a departure point.)
Booking and Expedia Hotels show that October and November are cheaper than the summer as well.
I hope that some of these tips, tricks, and methods can help some of you save money. While I’m a huge believer in everyone traveling, I don’t think it’s necessary to spend thousands of dollars to do so.
There are a number of other methods to save money while traveling (such as hostels), but I thought these five are a good start!