Everyone knows you should comparison shop for airfares and hotel rates when you’re planning a trip, since different websites access different blocks of inventory. However, there are many other great ways to make your travel dollars go further, including some that don’t get much press. Here are our suggestions:
1. Local transportation – Do you really need that rental car? If you plan your trip “smartly” in advance, you may be able to organize your itinerary so that you can rely on public transportation, airport shuttles, taxis, and even…walking! Find a hotel close to the metro station, a restaurant around the corner from your hotel, or a museum on the trolley line. In addition, group nearby points of interest together in your day-to-day itinerary to limit the time and money you spend hopping around. NileGuide offers some helpful proximity planning tools that enable you see exactly how far away anything is from anything else, and also suggests nearby points of interest.
2. Deep dive – Sometimes the best part of traveling is really settling in to experience a specific town or region more deeply, falling into the natural rhythms of life and meeting the locals. It’s rare that, when you return from a trip, you wish you spent more time in a car/bus/plane just to see that one more cathedral/museum/monument; instead, you usually regret not spending more time in a few of your favorite spots. Find a great place and explore it on foot or by bicycle.
3. Stay outdoors – While not everyone likes to sleep under the stars, camping is one of the easiest ways to save money on one of the largest expense items in many trips: the hotel. Plus, the great thing about the outdoors is that most activities there are free (or close to it). Instead of the expensive guided tour, go for a walk or a hike on your own, doing some online research beforehand to make sure you’re not missing the good stuff. Rent a bike to explore the city park or an off-the-beaten-path neighborhood.
4. Ditch the tourists – Speaking of off-the-beaten-path, it’s a travel truism that things get more expensive the closer you get to where the tourists hang out. Try a contrarian approach: figure out which direction the tourists are going, and walk in the opposite direction. Of course, you need to employ this approach wisely, and there’s a reason the Louvre and the Coliseum are so popular, and everyone should see them once. And you don’t want to lose yourself in a sketchy neighborhood. But often you’ll meet locals who are far more open to meeting you in an environment “outside the bounds,” as it were.
5. Use the web – The days of having to spend $30 on a guidebook and other forms of printed media are over. Now you can find everything you need online, and faster and easier than every before. NileGuide enables you to create a custom itinerary, and then download and print your own personalized guidebook for free. Next month, we’ll even deliver it straight to your iPhone. Forget lugging around that old book!
6. Go South – In the lexicon of the UN, “the South” is a synonym for the developing world (in the old days, they would call it the Third World). In this case, don’t worry about political correctness, just consider your wallet. If you’re lusting for international travel, consider changing your focus from Europe to Asia, Africa, or Latin America. Sure, the airfare tab can sting, but you may have some unused frequent flier miles sitting around. Plus, the airlines are now in a major price war, and the daily money you’ll save by visiting Vietnam instead of France, or Bolivia instead of Italy, will more than make up for the additional cost of airfare (In fact, from the U.S., airfares to Latin America are often cheaper than those to Europe). A great meal in Thailand may set you back $5, while the same experience would cost $100 in London or Madrid.
7. Stay (at a) home – These days, there are a proliferation of options to find and book vacation rentals or homestays around the world. If you’re a family traveler, the cost of booking 2 hotel rooms for a week can be daunting, and the picture only gets worse when you factor in restaurant meals. Why not rent a home with plenty of room for the family and a full kitchen where you can cook family dinners together and relax around the house? Plus, you won’t get nickel and dimed on hotel fees.
8. Watch those fees - Speaking of hotel fees, watch out—in some places they can account for up to 25% of the cost of your stay. Make sure you know what to expect in advance. If you’re a business traveler, why pay internet connection fees when you can bring your laptop and connection card? If you’re an fitness junkie, why pay $15 for using the crappy hotel treadmill when you can map out a good 5-mile run outside. And why pay for a $120 massage at the hotel spa when you can likely find a nearby day spa that will give you the same treatment for $75?
9. Go Off Season – There is “off season,” and then there is “OFF SEASON.” The former may simply mean that it’s a bit colder, more humid, or less popular. The latter may mean that you’ll be wading through monsoon rains and won’t see the sun for a week. Depending on where you want to go, find out if off-season travel could fulfill your needs. For example, Alaska in March can be a beautiful place, with clear skies, plenty of daylight, and reasonably temperatures (depending on your definition). During off seasons, prices are often 50-100% lower, and without the crowds you’ll likely have some great experiences that you would never have otherwise (see #2). If the deepest part of winter or the hottest part of summer won’t cut it, shoulder season is a next-best option.
10. Know What’s On – Some of the best events around the world are free. Every major travel destination has street fairs, public concerts, festivals, and exhibitions almost every weekend. Find out what’s going on during your trip (or even better, plan your trip around them), and spend your days being entertained for free. Why pay cover fees for bars and clubs or buy pricey concert tickets when you can usually find an alternative that won’t put a dent in your wallet. NileGuide will be adding Events in this year so you can do just that.
Photo by bradipo/Creative Commons