A stunning 49% of Americans plan to travel more in 2023, and prices are reflecting that increased demand. Fortunately, with a bit of research, there are still plenty of ways to save money and have a fantastic trip without blowing the budget.
Avoid Tourist Hotspots
Consider alternative destinations to avoid the high prices (and crowds). If you had your heart set on Paris, consider Budapest or Buenos Aires, for example.
Or, if you have the flexibility, avoid peak times for destination hot spots. Usually, you’ll encounter better prices along with fewer people.
Do Your Research Before You Leave
Researching details about your destination in advance can help you save once you arrive.
- Locate a market within walking distance of your hotel. When you arrive, stock up on snacks and drinks. The cost will be a fraction of what you’d pay at the hotel or minibar. Plus, grocery shopping can be a fun adventure in foreign countries.
- Instead of just hopping in a cab, research your options before you leave. If you’re in a city with good public transportation, consider buying a pass for the metro and experience the city like a local.
- Check out local taxi-booking or ride-share apps that work best in the region. Uber can often be more expensive than taxis in many parts of the world, so check before you arrive and download the best app for the area.
Boost Your Travel Efficiency
Investing in TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry, or Clear can significantly speed up your journey, saving you time.
Even better, many of today’s premium travel credit cards include free membership in these programs. These cards also may provide free airport lounge access. You’ll get comfort as well as free food and drinks, helping you save on overpriced airport food while you wait for your flight.
Be Currency Smart
Don’t let currency confusion cause a headache when traveling to a new country.
- Estimate how much cash you will need. Fortunately, credit cards are widely accepted in many parts of the world, allowing you to pay for most costs by card.
- Always travel internationally with a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
- Beware of a practice called dynamic currency conversion. When paying with a card, the merchant will ask you (either verbally or on-screen) if you want to pay in your home currency. Always say no, because if you pay in U.S. dollars, you will be charged a hefty and unnecessary conversion fee.
As for cash needs, you can save by ordering foreign currency before you leave from your bank or credit union. They often offer the best exchange rates without extra fees. Or, if you forget, you can get cash from an ATM at your destination. That can be far cheaper than going to a currency exchange vendor. Look online for an ATM on your bank’s network to avoid extra fees.
But beware, many ATMs also use dynamic currency exchange. If you are given the option to withdraw in U.S. dollars, don’t do it! That will be subject to an extra, unnecessary, percentage-based fee.
Other Ways to Get More Value for Your Dollar
With the high cost of airfare this year, it can make sense to look for savings on hotels and activities.
- Hotel pricing today can often change from week to week. There can also be significant price variations between similar hotels. For example, 4-star hotels in Barcelona may have a surprisingly broad price range. An hour of research might yield a considerable price difference or yield a better hotel for the same price.
- Portals such as Hotels.com or Booking.com can help you find the best deal. Hotels.com also offers a price match guarantee in case the price drops after you book (which happens frequently). If you see a lower price, you can fill out a form and they will credit you the difference.
- Heavy crowds can make tourist attractions expensive and unpleasant. You can have a better time and save money by researching some off-the-beaten-path things to do. Sites like AtlasObscura.com and Tripadvisor.com can help you find less popular but interesting things to do.
- Consider hiking or walking to get acquainted with a new area, stay healthy, and save money. Most cities will have hills you can hike to get a bird’s eye view of the city, which is a fun way to explore. Or, look out for bike-sharing programs in cities where you can rent a bike as a fun means of getting from one location to another.
Keep in mind that simply saving money is not necessarily the only goal. You can always apply what you’ve saved to a more expensive but particularly memorable experience. The key? Spend where it counts!
With travel costs rising, a little research upfront can yield big savings….and may lead to an even more memorable trip.