Ways I’ve cut down my travel expense budget

If you’ve been following any of my travel tips, you know that starting out with a travel budget is essential before you even start saving for the trip itself.  You need to know how much to save, so that requires a lot of research and coming up with an estimated budget to work from.

Once you have that estimated budget, and you’ve looked at your general finances, you may notice it’s going take you some time to save for that trip.  Let’s say you have $150 a month to commit to saving for a trip and you see that your dream trip is going to cost $3,500.  That means it is going to take two years to save for the trip.  If you don’t want to wait that long and/or you’re willing to change a few things around, you could go on that trip sooner.

A few ways that I’ve managed to cut down on my trip expenses have included anything from choosing another airport to cutting off a day or two from the itinerary.

Here are a few ways you could possibly cut down your travel expense budget:

1.  Picking a different departure airport.  Are there other airports besides your home-base airport you could fly out of?  Since we’re in Central Ohio, Columbus is the best airport for us.  However, I’ve considered driving to Washington, D.C. which is only 6 hours from us.  I found flights to South America that were $450 cheaper a person leaving from there.  Even with a $60 hotel, $100 for parking and $80 for gas, we’d still save $660 on airfare, which is a great deal.  Another option if you’re in the midwest is driving and staying with a friend or family member who lives near a larger airport.  Staying with Aunt Sally in New York might save you some $$$.  

2.  Picking a different arrival airport.  If your dream is to go to Paris but tickets to London are a lot cheaper, maybe consider flying to London and taking the chunnel over.  You want to do your homework because adding in additional transportation from the place you fly to to the place you’re going could add up.  But if the cost savings is significant enough, this could work for you.  

3.  Rearranging your itinerary.  If you’re dead set on which destination you’ve picked, then this won’t work, but if you have wiggle room, you could change some things around.  I have lists of different places I want to see all the time.  If airfare to one place is outrageous, I may consider waiting on that trip and going on a less expensive one.  For example, airfare to South America is very expensive from where I am.  If I have a trip planned in the Spring for South America, but ticket prices are too expensive, I will choose a less expensive destination that I equally want to go to.  Like I said, it may not be available to rearrange your itinerary.  But if you’re flying into one country and leaving another, you can obviously choose to start in the country with the least expensive airfare.

4.  Finding cheaper hotel accommodations.  I can not say enough good things about Airbnb.  What a great way to save some money on accommodations!  B&B’s are also great ways to save money.  Forgo staying at an expensive boutique hotel, and find a great hotel with character that can potentially be half the cost.  Even if you think you’ve found a perfect place to stay, keep looking until you find something less expensive that will work for you.  

5.  Planning a trip with friends to split costs.  I don’t plan trips with other people so I can save some money, but if you have friends who want to go on a trip with you, you can save some money this way.  Ways you can split the costs with other people include: taxi fare, car rentals, Airbnb condo or apartment rentals or the possibility of getting group-rated prices at sightseeing locations.  And if you drink, you can split the cost of a bottle of wine and share it together.  

6.  Forgoing restaurants for cheaper grocery store options.  One trip, I mapped out every place we went and marked the closest grocery stores to our hotel or B&B.  I wanted to make sure we could walk to the grocery store to get food to make sandwiches, snacks and breakfast foods.  This can save a ton on a trip where you’re mostly eating at restaurants which have inflated prices.  (This goes double if you’re staying in a huge city like Rome, Paris or New York.  Prices are very high.)  Rick Steves talks about staying somewhere that serves breakfast and packing up some meat and a croissant for later as a snack.  He figures you’re paying to stay there, you might as well get some more mileage out of the food.

7.  Finding ways to do it yourself.  We had a tour scheduled with a company that was going to cost $150 a person.  Instead, we found a good guide online, downloaded some maps and free audio guides and did the tour ourselves.  All we had to pay for was an entrance fee, but we ended up saving about $250 total.  Tours can be great, but if they’re too expensive, find other ways to do it. 

8.  Cutting the trip length down.  Yes, I would love to go to Europe and stay for two months.  However, I know that with two people, for every day we stay, we will spend $150-$200 per day.  By just shaving off two days, we could save $300-400 dollars on the entire trip itself.

How about you?  Do you have any ways you’ve managed to trim your travel expenses?

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