Alright, friends and readers, it’s time to bring these special travel editions of my Frugal Friday posts to a close. Yes, I’ve showed you how to get to your destination as frugally as possible, and how to find a place to stay that won’t cost you an arm and a leg (or any other body parts, for that matter). But, while cutting down what you spend to get there and stay there is important, there’s not much point in traveling if you don’t do anything entertaining at your destination, whether it be as simple as site-seeing or as physical as hitting all the rides in a giant theme park. (Pro Tip: Expect to spend a LOT more time waiting than riding.)
So, for this final travel related Frugal Friday (at least, final until I decide I can get away with doing more posts on the topic), I figured it would be appropriate to provide some advice on how to keep your vacation costs to a minimum once you arrive. Now, given the huge variety of things there are to do in the world, as well as my fairly limited experience traveling (particularly as an adult, when all the costs fall on my head), I can’t hope to cover all the ways to save on your travel plans; this post is intended to provide you with a decent start, with some ways to cut your expenses, as well as inspiration in coming up with your own methods of saving. On that note, let’s begin:
1. Travel Somewhere With No (or Low) Admission Costs: A fairly obvious one, but one that many people forget. There are lots of places that don’t require you to pay an entrance fee to get in, or at least keep the fees to a minimum, from national parks to historical sites. (Amazing how some of the most uplifting and historical sites in the country charge the least amount of money to experience them, while crummy movies charge more and more every year. Makes you stop and think.) Of course, if even that ends up being a bit prohibitive, you can always…
2. Take Advantage of Special Deals: Many worthy travel destinations have special savings deals during certain times of the year, whether because they are trying to boost attendance during slow periods or simply to drive further attendance. A little pre-planning, by looking up information about your destination online and finding out when, if ever, they offer special pricing, can do a world of good for your wallet and your ability to attend special places inexpensively. It doesn’t do much to cut your costs if you are traveling on a sudden whim (but then, not much I’ve recommended these past few weeks does), but if you have some flexibility in your travel times and a destination that offers special deals, you can make out pretty well.
3. Live Like a Local: It probably doesn’t surprise anyone reading this, but if you stick to the areas of tourist meccas that cater to, well, tourists, you’re likely to be ripped off. After all, with customers who will be gone the next week, frequently don’t know the language, and may not even know just how much the local currency in their pocket is really worth, who could blame them for bumping up the prices a bit? As a result, if you want to keep your expenses to a minimum while traveling, try to live like a local. We touched on this last week with the lodging edition, but spending more time in local markets and restaurants will cut down the ‘traveler premium’ many tourists pay by a substantial amount. It’ll also give you a more authentic view of what life is like as you do your traveling.
4. Know the Exchange Rates: It’s easy to lose track of your spending while you are abroad; it’s even easier to do if you don’t know whether that bill you just used to pay your bar tab is worth $30 or $3000. Try to some idea of what the exchange rates are for any place(s) you are traveling. You don’t need to follow the minute by minute (or even the daily) exchange rate fluctuations, but knowing how a little knowledge of the exchange rate of the Euro or the Yen could save you from handing over too much money or accepting too large a credit card bill. Although, speaking of credit cards….
5. Minimize Your Use of Credit Cards While Traveling (If Not Leave It at Home Altogether): If at all possible, it’s probably a good idea for you to stop your credit card use, period, leaving the card at home and simply pay for anything you need while traveling with cold, hard cash. That said, I know plenty of people, myself included, who would be at a loss without their credit cards. If you simply must take it, be sure to monitor how you use the card, know how much you are spending, and keep the spending to a minimum. Also, make sure you do some research into your destination and be sure that where you are going there is little chance your card number will be stolen or abused; some places have less restrictions (or less enforcement), which should be taken into account. If you notice any thing wrong, call your credit card company as soon as you are able and try to have the issue straightened out. (Suddenly, leaving your card at home while traveling is looking better and better…) It’s possible to use your credit card safely and securely abroad, but it takes a little bit of effort on your part.