International travel offers a slew of benefits that domestic vacations just don’t— new cultures, ancient ruins, unfamiliar foods, and natural wonders, to name a few. But broadening your horizons isn’t exactly easy on your bank account. Depending on your destination, the airfare alone could cost more than a month’s wages. To better afford the experience, David Bakkes shares five ways to rein in expenses:
1. Save on Airfare
Use a travel aggregator like BookingBuddy to stay current on the best airline ticket deals. For first class or business class international fares, check with a travel agent who may have access to consolidator tickets. You can’t find these fares online as they’re negotiated directly with the airlines, but they can save you up to 70 percent. That said, consolidator tickets often carry greater restrictions than standard published fares. Plus, you aren’t necessarily guaranteed the cheapest rate, which is why it pays to do your own research, including looking directly at airline websites. If you’re planning well in advance, rack up miles on a travel rewards credit card. Just make sure to pay your balance off every month or this strategy could work against you.
2. Save on Lodging
When you travel overseas, you have a wide variety of lodging options beyond traditional hotels, such as hostels and vacation rentals. I recently traveled to Paris and saved close to 50 percent by renting a flat compared to staying in a hotel. Plus, by renting from a local, you’ll often find yourself in the heart of local culture and may get tips on the best places to visit and where to eat, especially at a discount.
3. Save on Sightseeing
Purchase a good guidebook before you set out to get a sense of your options, and to look for free days at museums and other attractions. For example, admission at The Louvre is free on the first Sunday of every month, and certain museums in Moscow are free on the third Sunday each month. For a more local advice and deals, check out Peter’s Like a Local series with Michelin.
4. Save on Food
Instead of eating out every night, rent lodging with a full kitchen. This can be a huge money-saver and provides the added experience of shopping at local markets and cooking with local ingredients. Before you confirm your reservation, search for grocery stores near where you’re staying – walking or biking distance is ideal, if possible. The added benefit of cooking your meals is that you can better afford and enjoy the best local restaurants.
5. Save on Transportation
Before you book a rental car, research the area to see how people get around. You may be used to a car in this country, but it could be an unnecessary expense where you’re headed, and not even as efficient as another mode of transport, such as bike, subway, train, bus, taxi, or good old fashioned walking. On my recent trip to Paris, I didn’t pay for any local transportation and comfortably walked to†the Eiffel Tower, and Champs de Elysees, for example. If you plan to walk, however, where you stay is vital.
Before and during your travels, prepare yourself to be vigilant against theft. Make at least two copies of your passport and keep them separate from the original. For example, you might store the original in a safe at your hotel or flat, carry one copy yourself, and give another to a companion. Also, travel with three credit cards or fewer, and prioritize ones without foreign transaction fees. Make a list of all credit cards in your possession, along with customer service contact information for each, and make a copy of this list. Keep one with you, separate from your cards, and the other where you’re staying. Smart planning and travel is the key to a successful and affordable international vacation.
What other ways can you think of to save on international travel?
For more international travel skills, check out:
- Video Travel Tip: Protecting Yourself on the Road
- Top 5 International Myths Stereotypes Debunked
- Chip Technology in Credit Cards
By David Bakke for PeterGreenberg.com Bakke is a frequent traveler located in Atlanta and blogs for the financial site, Money Crashers Personal Finance.