People have commented on social media wondering how I can travel as often as I do. It’s not because I make a lot of money. There’s a reason I call myself a #cheapasian, it’s all about the budget traveling. I love amazing experiences but it’s about what’s most important at the time, money or the experience? Sometimes it’s definitely worth the splurge but not on this post.
1. Budget traveling is about priorities.
For me, food is a priority, I would rather spend $100 on an amazing meal than $100 on a hotel room (which for that much nowadays, isn’t that amazing, unless you’re in Southeast Asia where that $100 will go far). I usually travel with groups of friends and we will share a room, in a hotel that means 4 of us in a room, that $100 room becomes $25, heck yeah!
When it comes to lodging, I’m looking for the best deal but I want something that has great reviews also. No deal is worth a dirty hotel. I will compare between AirBnb and hotels, using tripadvisor and expedia. I like tripadvisor for the reviews and expedia because I can earn free nights (of course, my rooms are so cheap, it’s going to take awhile). You can also use hotels.com and booking.com. They all offer bonuses for using them. I prefer to stick to one so that I can earn all of my points on one but go with the best deal first, sometimes one will be having a sale that the other one isn’t.
Keep in mind details, like location. In Cinque Terre we got an AirBnb that had a great price but was quite a walk from the train station and taxis weren’t very accesible. I would have rather paid a little more and walked a lot less. I also need a place with wifi. Su need A/C. Make sure you know what your musts are when booking.
Also if you have ebates, you will get an additional discount when you book thru them. If you buy anything online, check ebates first to see if you can get a discount. It takes you directly to the website (or in my case I have the ebates plug in on my browser so will let me know anytime I look at a website if I can get an additional discount).
2. The secret is in the miles.
If you aren’t maximizing your frequent flyer miles, you’re making a big mistake. It’s not just budget traveling, it’s smart traveling. Both of my tickets to Europe were purchased with miles. In the past every ticket I bought for work was purchased on Delta so that I could maximize my points. I also use my card for all of my purchases so that everything I buy, goes towards earning points. There are some people who take earning miles to an extreme (spreadsheets, manufactured spending, etc) but that’s too much work for me. I do have a couple of cards I opened for miles, the Chase Sapphire cards. They both have fees, but for me, the benefits outweigh the cost. The Points Guy is a great website to learn more about accruing and using miles. Travel Hacking 101 is my favorite FB group for points utilization.
Know when it’s worthwhile to redeem your miles versus buying a ticket. 2 years ago when I went to Vietnam my plane ticket was $900. The ticket is $550 for next month. I have enough miles to pay for the ticket with miles but decided to keep my miles for a more expensive trip. If you are buying a ticket, skyscanner is a wonderful website to see when you can get the cheapest ticket. You can search by month, instead of specific days.
3. Keep an eye out for killer deals.
I get Travelzoo’s Top 20 deal in my email weekly. I unsubscribe to a lot of things but there are some great deals there. Once there was a deal for a 7 night cruise with the 3rd and 4th person in the room free. We split the cost 4 ways for the room and with Airfare to Los Angeles our 7 day Mexican cruise was $350. I also researched and booked our own excursions and saved even more money. FYI, 4 people to a room was a bit too much, even for this budget traveler.
My friend Lin found us a killer deal to take the Eurostar train from London to Paris, 3 night hotel stay and it included a river cruise a trip to the top of Montparnasse for a fantastic view of Paris on wowcher for about $250.
I follow Secret Flying’s facebook page and make sure you mark it so that you see their posts first, since FB limits what you see, otherwise you might miss a great deal. I also follow Frequent Miler, The Flight Deal, Fare Deal Alert and Airfare Watchdog on Twitter. You can also subscribe to their newsletters or get mobile alerts when they tweet but I don’t like getting a lot of emails and even worse, a lot of texts. Twitter is the perfect way to keep track of things without it being invasive in my inbox or phone. A lot of times they tweet the same info but sometimes they don’t. Can’t hurt to follow them all.
4. Travel during shoulder season.
If you go to Europe during the summer, you will pay more because that’s when others are also traveling there. When we went to Greece, we went in September. It was ideal. The weather was still good but prices for hotels were a fraction of what they were a couple of weeks earlier. We were able to rent our ATVs for half of what they normally cost. Plus, way less people! A definite win! When we were in Maui for my sister’s wedding, the prices doubled in the week we were there. Painful to watch and on our wallets.
5. Don’t eat every meal out.
Food is probably my biggest passion and where I spend most of my money. The best thing about traveling for me is all of the food but eating out every meal adds up quickly. In Vietnam, a lot of the hotels include breakfast and some of them are amazing. These are at hotels that are $20 a night. If we’re staying at an AirBnb we will stop at a deli or market and load up on food we can eat easily. We bought some olives in Greece, along with cured meats and cheeses. Add in some bottles of wine and it’s a fantastic meal, with local food but at a fraction of the price. Another great money saving tip is get your food to go. In Europe, they charge you extra to eat in the restaurant. In Vietnam, go ahead and eat every meal out, it’s that cheap.
6. Flexibility is key.
In Vietnam, it’s cheaper to book hotels and tours when you get there than to book online ahead of time. This stresses me out, I like knowing where I’m going and that I have a place to stay so I’m willing to pay a little more to know I have a bed at night. The downside to that is, I can’t stay longer if I love a place because the next leg in my trip is already planned. I’m trying to do a somewhat loose schedule for my next trip to Vietnam, only have half of my trip planned. We will see how long I can leave it like that.
Have lots of friends all over the world. There is no way I could have stayed in the UK for 3 months if it wasn’t for Lin. Having that homebase near Birmingham, England was awesome. I took trips to Scotland, London, Bath, Wales and Paris while I was there. I spent a month with my friends Nes and Jan Kees in The Netherlands when I was between jobs 0ver 10 years ago and we went to Spain. Even if you can’t spend extended time with people in their homes, having local friends to show you the best places to go and the cheapest places to eat is amazing but even more importantly, local friends give you a real flavor for the city.
I hope these tips help you and would love for you to share some of your favorite travel tips or travel related websites. I’m always open to learning new ways to be a budget traveler.
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