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How to enjoy your travels on a tight budget

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Okay, let’s face it: traveling on a budget is challenging. According to a recent survey, the average American expects to spend nearly $2,000 on vacation, and this amount of money can easily reach the five-figure mark for families.

Unsurprisingly, most of that money will go toward travel costs such as airline tickets, with lodging coming in second. If your primary travel goal is to cross places off your bucket list, you’ll need to know how to stretch your budget.

This list of travel hacks aims to help you see the world without breaking the bank, with advice on everything from getting free trips to saving money on common budget busters.

Don’t pack too much

Packing light will save you money on checked baggage fees, but there are a few other reasons to do so. For starters, packing light makes it much easier to get around. You can move around more easily with a light suitcase or backpack, so you won’t have to pay for a taxi when you can use public transportation instead.

So, how do you go about packing light? Bring clothing that you can easily wash in a sink. Choose clothing that dries quickly and that you can mix and match. You don’t need to cram four pairs of shoes into your bag if you stick to essential items that go with almost any outfit. Plus, packing light means you won’t fall victim to buying souvenirs because you won’t have enough room in your suitcase or backpack.

Try a cruise instead of a flight

Cruising is an excellent way to visit various places, and a single fare covers all of the trip’s costs. Because all food, lodging, and entertainment are part of the package, the advantages of an upfront fee make budgetary control for a cruise effortless for families. Families who live close enough to a cruise port to drive there could save even more money because they wouldn’t have to pay for airfare.

Don’t miss out on flight deals

Stay updated for short-term airfare deals on websites like Momondo and Orbitz if you’re itching to travel far and want to save on airfare. Both sites provide information on deals that typically last only a few days, requiring you to strike while the iron is hot. However, if you look around often enough, you can find international deals for less than $500 round-trip from the United States to places like Japan, Italy, and the Philippines.

Airbnb’s over hotels

Many travelers pick sides on this issue. Yes, they all offer a place to stay while traveling, but the amenities and experiences they offer are vastly different. Yes, a hotel includes housekeeping, amenities, and other services. Additionally, staying at a hotel allows you to earn rewards that help you redeem for free hotel nights. Combining it with a hotel credit card can make it even more enjoyable due to elite status perks.

Airbnb offers a unique experience because each property has no check-in desk or dedicated staff. Once you arrive at the property, you’re mostly on your own, but you can still communicate with your Airbnb host for help before or during your stay. If you’re traveling on a budget, Airbnb will be much more cost-effective. Furthermore, an Airbnb home will most likely include a fully equipped kitchen, allowing you to prepare meals at your Airbnb rather than eat out every night. In addition, unlike many hotels, you will not be responsible for resort or parking fees.

Book flights early

While finding cheap flights by booking at the last minute is often possible, the opposite is also true. If you can plan your trip six to nine months in advance, booking airfare early is a great way to save money. Most airlines allow you to book up to 11 months in advance, allowing you to compare prices early on. Regarding airfare, Google Flights allows you to search for flights to various destinations or regions around the world using flexible dates.

Begin tracking prices to get an idea of how much a flight will cost on the dates you want to travel. Then, when you find a good deal on a flight to where you want to go, be ready to pay with your credit card.

Find alternative airports

While flying from the nearest airport is always the most suitable option, don’t be afraid to shop for flights from other airports. You might find that getting to the exact location costs hundreds of dollars less, making the total cost of gas, parking, and driving time a good investment. It might be even better to keep going a few hours to a bigger airport with more travel options. You may find a direct flight or a route with fewer layovers and save money.

Use your miles and points

Finally, remember that your flights and hotel stays can earn you valuable points and miles. Using your points and miles can help with traveling on a budget, as you can significantly reduce your out-of-pocket expenses for flights and lodging. Some credit card users amass millions of points each year and can cover almost all of their travel expenses with points earned. As demand for travel keeps rising, prices are likely to increase in tandem.

Saving money on travel may necessitate a few extra steps or more research, but it can pay off in the long run. Travel can still be affordable if you use credit cards, are flexible with your accommodations, and use social media to your advantage.

Now that you know how to travel on a budget, where do you plan to go?

Well, if you are unsure where to go with your limited budget, here are a few options that might pique your interest.

Mexico

Mexico, unsurprisingly, tops the list of the cheapest places to visit in 2022. For many Americans, the country is a cheap and easy place to go because there are so many low-cost direct flights. The cheapest places to fly in Mexico are San José del Cabo (in Baja California Sur), Puerto Vallarta, and Cancun, with January being the most affordable month for each. Luckily, January in these beachy places is warm, balmy, and full of bright colors, textures, and flavors to make you forget about the winter blues.

Are you looking for a weekend getaway rather than a beach vacation? Mexico City, with its rich Aztec legacies and diverse array of museums, is another budget-friendly option in the country. The cheapest month to travel there is May.

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is another popular tourist destination in the United States. Santo Domingo and Punta Cana are the two most affordable cities to fly into, and January is the cheapest month to do so. Even though Santo Domingo is the country’s capital, a trip there does not have to be costly. Take the late-1400s architecture and stroll through the Colonial Zone for a memorable (and free) experience.

On the other hand, Punta Cana is a popular tourist destination with numerous resorts (and ways to spend lots of money). But in Punta Cana, you can get some of life’s best things for free, like sand beaches and hikes to waterfalls.

Costa Rica

San José, Costa Rica’s capital and largest city, is a must-see for any adventurous traveler. Expect Victorian mansions, El Pueblo’s nightlife, plenty of culture, and historic coffee plantations in the area.

For a glimpse into what it might be like to have an uninterrupted jewelry budget, visit the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum. Non-residents pay $15 for admission, which gives them access to over 1,500 gold objects and pieces. Fly to San José in May to save money on airfare to this vibrant (and affordable) city.

Fiji Island

Most of us envision Pacific Island vacations as pricey getaways with high-end resorts, food, and services. That isn’t always the case, though. Unlike its costlier island neighbors and the aggressive marketing by Fiji Water, Fiji is a relatively inexpensive destination.

Although many resorts in the country charge $1,000 per night, you can still enjoy beautiful beaches, world-class scuba, delicious seafood, and friendly locals without putting your house up for sale.

South Korea

South Korea can be a bit underrated in terms of vacation planning. In my opinion, South Korea is one of the world’s best “undiscovered” travel destinations, with prices comparable to Southeast Asia. It’s high-tech, the food is delectable and eclectic, the countryside is breathtakingly beautiful, and the nightlife is incredible.

It is one of the world’s most underappreciated travel destinations. With the South Korean currency pegged at 1,100 won to the US dollar and most things costing only a few thousand, it’s challenging to go over budget here. You can easily purchase beer bottles for less than a dollar at 7-Eleven. Trains are inexpensive, everything is affordable here, and it’s also entertaining and unique! Visit South Korea if you’re looking for a low-cost Asian vacation. There are numerous international flights to this location!

Cambodia

Cambodia is one of my favorites because it’s inexpensive and beautiful, and the people are incredibly welcoming. For $20, you can get a private, air-conditioned room, $2 worth of street food, and $20 means of transportation across the country. You’re living large if you spend more than $50 per day. It’s much less expensive than its neighbors, just as gorgeous, and home to some of the world’s friendliest people.

China

While China’s days as a super-cheap destination are long gone, it still is a budget destination – and one of Asia’s cheapest – with one drawback. It would help if you left the big cities behind. Sure, the cities are still reasonably priced. Hostels are less than $30 per day, meals are $2-5 per person, and city transportation is less than a dollar.

However, getting off the beaten path and into the country’s interior makes the country even more affordable. You’ll find the best travel deals and bargains here! China is still one of the most cost-effective destinations on the planet.

Conclusion

Remember, everyone, and you don’t always have to spend much money on vacation. There are plenty of cost-efficient vacation spots worldwide, and finding them doesn’t take much effort. There are always places on any continent you can visit on a budget—even countries that we consider expensive can be pretty affordable if you know the right tips and tricks.

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