Even after you’ve done all the bookings and confirmed each reservation, keeping the cost of travel low beyond flights and hotel rooms, requires a few more preparatory steps.
Call Your Bank.
Before any international travel, develop a plan for how you intend to withdraw local currency. Will you leave with cash and then exchange it? Will you withdraw local currency directly from the ATM? If using an ATM, do you have a debit card that will reimburse any fees incurred? Do you have a credit card that allows you to make foreign transactions without a hefty fee?
These are questions to ask yourself a good 4-6 weeks ahead of departure, so that you have plenty of time to make any necessary banking changes or preparations- like getting a checking account that reimburses ATM fees worldwide. Once you have a plan in action, be sure to call each of the cards and accounts you plan to access abroad to let them know your travel plans- dates and countries. You don’t want your card to suddenly stop working due to suspected fraudulent activity leaving you financially stranded.
Decide on a Communication Strategy.
Taking your cell phone abroad and roaming in a foreign country, even if it’s just to access data can add up to a monster of a bill in a very short time. Consider downloading communication apps that run solely on Wi-Fi like Skype, Whats App, Google Hangouts, or otherwise. That way you can chat whenever you come across a hot spot.
To make sure your phone doesn’t accidentally pick up a foreign data signal and charge you a fortune for it, put your cell on airplane mode from the moment you leave the country to the time you return back home. You’ll still have all the functionality of your apps and Wi-Fi capability, you just won’t be at risk of racking up some major roaming charges.
If you’re traveling domestic, most airlines will charge you, even for a single checked bag. Sticking to a carry on if at all possible can save you around $25 each way. If you decide to go ahead and check a bag, at home or abroad, keep it below the weight limitations; United and American charge $100 for each checked bag over 50 lbs.
If you have a few heavy items, consider transferring them to your carry on. While your carry on can’t exceed a certain size, few airlines have restrictions on weight, and many that do, do not enforce the limit strictly.
I take peanut butter just about everywhere I travel, not just because I don’t want to spend my precious travel time looking for the kind of peanut butter I like, but because I don’t want to spend an extra $5-10 a day on breakfast.
Trail mix? Granola bars? Nuts? Dried fruits? A few dollars saved at breakfast can free up enough in the budget for an entire happy hour drink, maybe even two!
Rent Out Your Room.
One of my all time favorite money saving strategies for travel is to sublet my room while I’m away. That simple step alone can cover the cost of the majority of my trip, if not all of it. I’ve had a lot of luck finding subletters through friends and on social media, but you can also turn to traditional sites like air b n’ b to assist in your search for a temporary renter.
Knowing as much as possible about your destination, from how to get around cheaply, to low cost activities and events, is a major money saver. Once you arrive, you won’t want to spend time debating the relative value of each and every alternative-taxi vs. bus vs. train etc. Do the research in advance so that you can maximize your play time while still making financially sound, value conscious choices.
What do you do to prepare for affordable travel?