People are always surprised at how much we get to see and do on our trips. They wonder how we can afford to do all of it! As many of you know, just the cost of traveling to and from your destination can be the most expensive part of the trip. And it’s amazing how your expenses can add up once you factor in all the things you want to see and do while you are visiting. But that’s the good stuff…the whole point of going! You don’t want to skimp on your experience, but you also don’t want to empty your bank account!
So in this Budget Travel Tips post, we are going to share with you some ways that you can maximize your experience and get more for your vacation budget!
Research “Must-See” Attraction Websites for Specials & Discounts
Whenever we are making our list of “must-see” places during our trip, we immediately search all their websites for prices and possible discounts that we can take advantage of in order to save some cash. Some sights will have discounts on certain days or times of the day, others might offer discounts to students or groups.
For example, the Lourve museum in Paris offers free admission on the first Sunday of every month. It’s crowded, but the museum is so big that you only notice the crowds around famous works (like the Mona Lisa, which is always crowded regardless of the day). Also, the Lourve offers discounts to art teachers and certain EU members.
Other museums and attractions may have twilight hours, where you get a discount if you go late in the evening. With some advance research and planning of your itinerary, you can find all kinds of ways to save on your entrance tickets, which can really eat into your vacation budget!
Be Creative – Don’t Go With the Crowd
When we went to the Eiffel Tower, the lines for the elevator were super long. As we stood around trying to decide if it was worth it to wait in that line, we noticed a different line that was shorter. We inquired and learned that it was the line for the stairs, apparently, no one wanted to take the stairs! We learned that we could take the stairs without waiting in hardly any line, and it was much cheaper than taking the elevator! Being budget travelers, we jumped at the chance to save some additional cash & have a more unique experience. To read more about our stair adventure up the Eiffel Tower, click here.
Another example is taking a gondola ride in Venice. Many travelers go to the main areas near St. Mark’s Square – where all the other tourists are! Don’t do this. These gondoliers will charge you the most…because they can! And because they are anxious to move you through your ride and get back to the next paying customer, you may not get the best ride experience. What people don’t realize is that if you walk 10 minutes or so, away from all the mass crowds, you can often find a gondolier who is willing to negotiate for a much cheaper rate. If he doesn’t, then just keep moving to the next one.
Combine Activities (Including Dining) When Possible
We are always looking for some kind of “freebie” or bonuses when we buy tickets to visit monuments or book day trips / tours. Whenever you can combine different activities into one price, and especially if there is a meal involved, it can be worth it (but do the math to be sure it really is a deal). Also, check out local operators directly because we find they offer the best rates as opposed to going through a 3rd party online.
For example, a friend and I were visiting Rome and wanted to take a trip down to explore the ancient city of Pompeii. We didn’t have a car and were very limited on time. So we booked a 1 day tour. For a reasonable price it included our transportation, a private tour guide up to the top of Mt.Vesuvius, then another specialized guide through the ancient city of Pompeii, as well as a traditional pizza lunch and a couple drinks. When we added up the cost of doing it ourselves (including the hassle of finding our own way using public transportation to Naples), it was actually a great deal & a more efficient use of our time!
Another idea is to check for “multiple entries” on any admission tickets that you buy. Many times we have found that buying a ticket for one museum may give you free entry to a couple others nearby. Other times we’ve learned that we can take our ticket stub for discounts on meals at some restaurants. There are a lot of ways you can work this system and stretch your vacation budget.
Consider “City Passes” – But Do the Math
You may have seen them advertised all over tourism websites, “city passes” that will get you all sorts of free admission, transportation and discounts. It is a very convenient offer, especially with the transportation included, but be aware that just because they are marketed as a “deal” doesn’t mean it’s a deal for you. Every traveler has different preferences and items on their “must see” list.
Our recommendation is to do the math based upon what YOU want to see and do. When we choose to travel to a destination we go through and make a “wish list” of all the things we want to see, then we note the price at the door. We cross-reference that with a list of what is offered in the City Pass to see if there is any overlap with our wish list. If there is overlap, then we compare the total costs of each to see which is the better deal. This is important to do so that you know you are getting the most for your vacation budget. For example, we chose to purchase the pass in Rome & Dublin; however, we opted not to purchase the pass in Edinburgh or Florence.
Book Accommodations With Valuable “Freebies”
When you are searching out accommodations, don’t look at price and amenities alone because there are many other factors that could impact your overall vacation budget. For example, we love finding a place to stay that offers free breakfast. Not only does it save some cash, but it is hugely convenient! Also, location is a major factor. Pick a hotel that is convenient to where you will be spending the most time. Not only will it save you huge amounts of time, but it will save you money on local transportation!
Other “freebies” to look for go beyond amenities like wi-fi and swimming pools. We have stayed at a number of places that offer FREE walking tours of a city or steeply discounted activities around town. We are all about the free or discounted activities! We have found that sometimes paying a little extra for the right type of accommodation with these kind of “freebies” will actually get you a lot more for your vacation budget.
Certain Accommodation Types are More Vacation Budget-Friendly!
Many travelers fall into the trap of hotels. But experienced travelers know that hotels can be the most expensive type of accommodation, and they often lack many of the “freebies” mentioned above. We have found that bed and breakfasts and small boutique hotels often offer many more perks for a better price. We also believe in hostels, and while they are not for everyone, many people will be surprised at what they offer. Not all hostels are created equal, to learn more read our post 5 Misconceptions About Staying in Hostels. You may be very surprised at what you learn!
Also, having access to a kitchen is a great way to save money. Dining out can be extremely expensive. Many hostels (and even some boutique hotels) have open kitchens that you can use. Another option is to rent an apartment or home. Airbnb is a great resource for inexpensive apartment or home accommodations, and it provides a unique experience.
Traveling for Less Means We Can Travel More!
Overall, these are just some of the many budget travel tips to help you make your money go further when you travel. But it will take some advanced planning and some creative thinking. There will always be some tradeoffs to make; however, we love the challenge of seeing what all we can accomplish on our small vacation budget. Over the years, we have had some awesome experiences and done SO much while spending much less than the average traveler. Traveling for less means that we can travel more!
Do you have any other tips about getting the most for your money when you travel? Or examples of an awesome deal that you found? Please share below in the comments! We would love to hear them!