Aug 11, 2009

How I Keep Expenses Low While Traveling

Many people have marveled at the fact that I manage to travel so many different places when I am a graduate student (who didn’t pull out any loans). Ergo, I thought I’d give some tips on keeping travel expenses low. Most people probably already do these things, but I’m going to share anyway.

1) Stay at budget hotels, small local hotels or even hostels.
Whenever I plan a trip somewhere, I look for the cheapest accommodations I can that are still a) safe and b) not disgusting. You can save an insane amount of money doing this. For example, on my last trip to TN, we only paid $155 per person on a week's worth of hotel stays!! This is the same as one night in some hotels. Now I know not everyone is like this, but when I am traveling all I really need is a bed and a shower. Websites like can really help when looking for a hotel. But read the reviews with care. Sometimes the hotels are given bad reviews for something that doesn’t matter to you-- it’s all about realizing what aspects of a hotel stay are the most important to you and finding one that fits. I’ve found the best budget hotels are Days Inn and Howard Johnson— really clean beds and bathrooms, free breakfast, and sometimes a pool! I’ve never stayed at a hostel in the US before, but they do have them in some cities

2) Find out the cheapest method of transportation and go with that.
Usually when I travel with my friends, we drive. This isn’t always the best bet though, depending on where you’re going and how much time you have. Sometimes the train has very good deals, and you can see more of the country you’re traveling through. And if you’re in Europe, the train is definitely the way to go. In Germany you can by discount tickets for use in a particular area, or the special weekend ticket that can be used on trains in any part of the country. Also, surprisingly enough, sometimes flying really can be cheaper than driving, even though this seems counter-intuitive.

3) Bring friends!
This is great because it’s not only much more fun, but you can also split costs on things like gas, parking, cabs and hotel rooms. Just make sure you bring friends who are not super big spenders, because they might tempt you to spend more than what you can afford on food, entertainment and accommodation. And I've found it's harder to say no when you're "on vacation."

4) If you are a student, bring your ID with you!
You might be amazed at the discounts you can get with a student ID. Sometimes they are as good or even better than the senior citizen discounts. This is especially true if you go to Europe, since almost everywhere you go will have some sort of student discount. All those little discounts can add up, so you can use that money towards a better purpose, like dinner!

5) Try to get away from super-touristy areas.
Now I know that if you are going to a place for the first time, you want to see the things that you've heard about. I do the same thing! But if you are looking for good food or other activities, wander away from the touristy areas. You will get similar thrills with a smaller price tag. This espeically goes for restaurants, which will jack their prices through the roof if they are in a super touristy area(Times Square, anyone?).

6) Don't buy overpriced souvenirs (they are just junk!).
This kind of goes with the above tip, considering any touristy area will have a plethora of stores where all kinds of crap is sold. Even if something seems cool, ask yourself whether it's really necessary, or if Mom really needs another mug. I'm not sure about your families, but my family doesn't want any of this stuff, and they don't appreciate these types of things when I do cave and buy one or two. Save your money and take pictures, write your memories in a journal, or if you must collect something, try something cheap like postcards.


Serendipity said...

I love the tips! I try not to be persuaded by knickknacks but their my weakness! Especially when I travel to Cali. :)