Here are some tips I came across as I was trying to plan some of my trips on a small budget. Becoming a member of traveling groups (most at no cost) is a great way to get more tips and insight into your next destination. Check out Facebook groups and forums like Travbuddy , Thorn Tree and Travelers Point. Enjoy!
Step 1: Choosing When to Travel Impacts Your Budget
Avid travelers know that the seasons in which you travel impacts your cost. Not only from the ticket prices (which mostly can be obtained at a lower cost months in advance or last minute) but also in all the other factors of your stay such as hotels and attractions.
Know the low seasons and plan accordingly. Ensure to research weather conditions along with any visit restrictions. Some attractions and areas might be closed during low season. When booking international destinations check prices in the local currency, there might be a price difference.
Be flexible with your traveling days, Fridays and weekends tend to be at a higher price than the rest of the days of the week. Time of travel also affects the price. Most airlines publish their sales on Monday nights.
Check if there is any extended overlay option that would allow you to visit another destination. I found this list of companies that would also provide accommodation http://maphappy.org/2015/03/long-layover-ahead-of... This is useful to prevent jetlag, give your body some time to adjust to the change during long trips.
Use social media to your advantage: Some transportation companies might publish promotions and discounts on Twitter or Facebook.
Some booking companies I used in the past for flight booking:
If you decide to travel in Europe or the US via bus, a great affordable option is Megabus http://megabus.com/ I used it a couple of times while living in New York and I did 5-6 hour trips for 4 dollars round trip.
Step 2: Check Affordable Housing
Free hospitality services:
There are multiple networks of people that are looking to take you in. The advantage is not only the low cost but the potential that the person you are staying with might give you useful tips about the are you are visiting. For all these sites you are required to create a profile, verification always helps find you a place.
Global Freeloaders http://www.globalfreeloaders.com/
Hospitality Club http://www.hospitalityclub.org/
Some people associate hostels with young crowds of travelers, which in most cases is true. From personal experience I know that doing a in depth research about the hostel that you chose to stay will improve your overall experience. There are some hostels that commonly used by older crowds and might be better suited for those looking for a low key environment. Check reviews and travelers forums to see what others staying in those locations think.
Home sitting is a great way to save some cash and help others while doing so. There are multiple options for home sitting, some are location specific and others are a broader network. Make sure your profile is details and that your schedule is flexible, this will make your profile more appealing
Framing for a stay:
Some of my friends have tried WWOOFing (http://www.wwoof.net/) and they got to travel for less while learning to grow food and farm. There is a cost associate it and WWOOFing is not the only program available out there. Below I listed a couple of others:
Share rooms or book through online deal finder tools:
If you want to book a hotel or rent a room at a family home there are multiple options for searching your best rate. Below I included some options. When using these tools make sure so use the map view to get a better understanding of price ranges in the area. I have been using Airbnb for quite some time, I tend to look for hosts with good reviews at yet an affordable price.
Most volunteering projects have some cost associated. Those at lower cost require a longer commitment. Check ONGs and other groups that are involved in causes you are passionate about. Below are some options to get you started:
Monastery and temples:
While researching for a recent trip I came across an article that described staying at monasteries around the world for a low cost. I have yet to try this option, seems a good alternative.
Step 3: Use Promo Codes
Some services such as Grupon and Livingsocial offers great discounts on activities, lodging and sometimes package vacations. Other times coupons are buried in the Internet. It’s a matter of taking some times to search through the web on whatever is it that you have on your itinerary. There are promotions that only apply for specific dates or as a group package (minimum of two purchases).
Amazon Local: http://local.amazon.com
If you are traveling by car, there are bookletts with discount coupons in most rest areas and information centers.
Step 4: Reward Point, Student and Age Discount
Use your rewards to your advantage. Numerous credit cards offer discounts if you book the flight or hotel through them. There are discounts applied to military, elderly and students. Before attending to any of the attractions check if you can apply any extra perks. Being a member of AAA also gives you discounts to parks and hotels.
Step 5: Travel Light, Not Check Bags
Some airlines might charge you extra for checking your bag. Packing light will not only save you some money but will save you time. You will not need to wait on the pick up carrousel. Make sure to follow all the FDA regulations regarding carry ons : https://www.faa.gov/passengers/prepare_fly/baggag...
Check the weather and take the minimum amount of clothes. To give you an idea, the picture showed is that of
Robert Scales carry on for his 18 day travels through China.
Step 6: Sweepstakes and Contests
Sweepstakes are a long shot but if everybody would think that way then there would be no winners. There are multiple sites that compile up to date sweepstake and contests regarding travel.
Step 7: Plan Ahead Your Eating
Planning ahead your meals can save you time and money. Ask the locals and other travelers for affordable authentic food. If you are staying in a hotel check if there are any discounts available. If you are staying in Airbnb you might be able to save money by cooking instead of eating out.
Depending on where you are traveling you might need to be careful with your water consumption. Keep in mind that fruits and vegetables are washed with water so you might need to re consider your food choices.
Step 8: Transportation
If traveling during the day public transportation is a great way to get around the city for those cities that have good public transportation roads. Make sure to make your research about safe areas and kinds of public transportation to take. If you are unsure you can get a map of routes and schedules get a copy prior to your trip. I tend to save images on my phone and use it during my travel as references. The good thing is that I am saving in printing and being "green"; the negative side is that the battery can drain quickly or the phone can overheat. In other places, depending on where you want to visit while on your stay, you can rent bicycles or a moped to make your way around the city.
Share rides: Both in the states and in Latin America I have share rides with other travelers to either get to places locally or longer drives (3-4 hour). Lift offers a ride share options along with the two options listed below:
Avoid taxis or be ready to bargain. Its common that taxis will change their rate, forget to put their meter on or take you the long route to get a few extra dollars out of you. Not all traxi drivers will do such thing but
Step 9: Currency
If traveling internationally ensure you have some cash in the destination’s currency before you arrive. You might not be able to find a currency exchange as soon as you arrive. In addition, when performing the exchange check if your bank gives you a better rate at either using your debit card at an ATM or using your credit card.
Be aware of what the currency is prior to your trip. This will help you make quick calculations. I carry a small calculator with a postit it that details the currency exchange calculator.
Step 10: Check Free Attractions
Depending on where you are traveling you might find free attractions such as concerts, art exhibits, museums and at times even zoos are free in exchange for food donation. If its your birthday there are multiple companies, such as the Catalina Express (for the Catalina Island departing from San Pedro CA) which offer a free ticket on your birthday. Tools such as meetup.com might alert you of other types of events that are happening in the area.