Friendly Planet Blog

9 tips for budget-conscious travelers

International travel can seem like a luxury affair, but that doesn’t have to be the case. If you’re a budget traveler determined to see the world without breaking the bank, you’re in luck. Here are nine of my easy, money-saving tips for traveling overseas.

1. Avoid foreign conversion fees. Sneaky foreign conversion fees can put a dent in a travel budget, adding an additional 1 to 3 percent to every transaction made with a debit or credit card overseas. Before traveling, research if your bank charges a fee for international debit or credit card use. If so, consider applying for a card like the Capital One Visa or any of the other cards that are free of transaction fees.

2. Document your expenses. It’s easy to get swept up in the romance of travel and end up paying 50 euros for a hand-pressed bottle of olive oil or 100 euros for a carafe of local wine, but expensive impulse buys can quickly add up. Instead, create a budget for yourself before departure. Try to decide in advance approximately how much you’d like to spend on food, tours, and even those unexpected items. Then document your daily spend as you travel. This simple strategy will allow you see how much you’re spending, and help curb excess purchases along the way.

3. Shop off the beaten path. Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean you have to forgo souvenirs. Rather than picking up trinkets at the entrance of well-known attractions like the Great Wall of China or the Coliseum, shop at local street markets instead. Not only will you purchase more authentic gifts, but you’ll have fun putting your bartering skills to the test.

4. Choose a hotel with breakfast. By simply choosing to stay in a hotel with a complimentary breakfast, you can save between $10 and $20 per person per day. I suggest eating a big meal in the morning, and even grabbing some fruit from the breakfast buffet on your way out to munch on throughout the day. You’ll save money by enjoying a smaller lunch, and maybe save enough to splurge on dinner at a nice restaurant.   

5. Travel during low season. One of my best money savings tips is to travel during off-peak seasons. You’ll not only save on airfare and accommodations, but you’ll also avoid swarms of tourists and be able to get closer to many sites. For example, book European vacations between mid-September and early November or between mid-January and the end of March for the lowest airfares. Also, consider spending holidays abroad! You can often find great deals on flights and hotels during the Thanksgiving weekend and on Christmas Day. But do your homework. You might not want to travel to a new destination during its holiday season. It might be the dead of winter in the U.S., but if you travel to China during the Chinese New Year, you’ll pay more and be mobbed everywhere you go.

6. Research prices ahead of time. I can’t stress how important it is to research a destination before you travel. Most travelers compare accommodations before booking a hotel, but what about restaurants, admission fees, and transportation costs? This research will give you a broad view of differing costs. For example, comparing transportation prices will allow you make the sound financial choice between purchasing a one-day metro pass or a multiple-day hop-on-hop-off bus pass. Your research will help you decide whether it’s cheaper to travel alone or purchase a tour package. Tour packages often offer the best value for your money, because the basics are all included in the price, leaving only the extras as variables in your travel budget.

7. Hit the supermarket. All-day excursions can leave travelers with a big appetite, and when you begin to feel ravenous, you’ll shell out cash for a snack even if it’s absurdly overpriced. Instead, load up on healthy snacks at a local grocery store. You will save money and ward off hunger before it begins. It’s very easy to find fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, and other healthy snacks, no matter where you go. Just be sure to select foods that are safe to eat according to the standards of the country you’re visiting.

8. Avoid baggage fees at all costs. As tempting as it is to slip in a few extra pairs of jeans or shoes into your suitcase, try to limit packing to the essentials so you don’t exceed airline baggage weight limits. My best packing tip is to lay out everything you want to bring and then cut it in half. That goes for things like toiletries too, since most hotels provide you with shampoo and conditioner. You’ll be surprised how little you actually need when traveling abroad! Take only what you absolutely can’t live without because if you discover you left an item behind, chances are very good you’ll find it at your destination.

9. Bundle when possible. When researching potential vacations, keep an eye out for packaged deals. Tour operators specialize in packaging airfare, accommodations, meals, and touring, and they can usually offer prices that average consumers can’t get by bundling all of these elements on their own. Just be sure to compare your options in order to make an informed decision before you purchase.

There you have it, proof that international travel doesn’t have to break the bank. Have any other tips for saving money while traveling? Let me know!

4 Comments

  1. Carolyn Bumbaugh

    We will be taking our first cruise in August (your Greek islands package) and I’m wondering if shampoo, conditioner and hand lotion are provided.

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  2. Hi Carolyn,
    Louis Cruises (the cruise company for our Greek tour packages) provides all-in-one shampoo and conditioner, body wash, and body lotion. Hope that helps and happy travels!

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  3. Lou Apodaca

    My wife and I are senior citizens and we are looking at your ( FP) 16 day River cruise from Beijing to Shanghai . My wife is concerned about the Hotel accommodations. They are not specified and she would like to know what the American Hotel equivilant would be to the Hotels used by the tour. Everything else sounds great.

    Thank you for your response, Lou Apodaca

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  4. Hi Lou,

    I’m excited that you and your wife are considering traveling with us on our Best of China & Yangtze River Cruise tour. All of the hotels in this package are 4 to 5 star accommodations, and we carefully selected them for their high standards of service and quality.

    Here’s the list of hotels travelers stay in on our Best of China & Yangtze River Cruise and links to review sites so you can read what other travelers had to say.

    1. Jin Jian Hotel, Shanghai: 4.5 star
    2. Lijian Waterfall Hotel, Guilin: 4.5 star
    3. Grand Mercure, Xi’an: 5 star
    4. Park Plaza, Beijing: 4 star

    Additionally, on the cruise you will enjoy upgraded, executive-level cabins at no additional charge.

    I hope this helps make your decision a little easier, and we look forward to seeing you both on one of our tours.

    Sincerely,
    Peggy Goldman

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About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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