How to Travel on a Budget
Travelling sounds great, but it's not cheap...
My best friend Olivia and I just took a girls trip to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, and Phuket to celebrate graduating college and spend a chunk of time together before we go our separate ways in life. Thankfully, we got to cuddle almost every night (see tip #3!) ;) And let me tell you, we were NOT short on the celebration these few weeks, especially with the places we stayed such as the Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat al Beri (breathtaking view of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque) Qasr al Sarab (desert oasis resort), Emirates Palace (the ultimate royal treatment), Marina Bay Sands (iconic infinity pool skyline view of Singapore), and Amatara Wellness Resort (the premier relaxation in Phuket). Although this trip was definitely a splurge, we saved hundreds, if not thousands of dollars following these ten tips for the average young traveler!
My 10 Tips
1) Book Early
I understand this one is always hard because of changing schedules and such, but if you're guaranteed to have time off, lock it in and save the money! So how early? I was completely done with planning this trip by the end of January when it started the second week June. The bottom line is: the earlier the better. The first step is to look at flight deals. Flying on a Tuesday can be at least $100 cheaper than on a Friday. Second, check for hotel deals and packages. There are some steals out there if you put in a little research! For flights I typically just use Google Flights and for hotels and resorts Booking.com. As far as flight insurance, I'm honestly not a buyer and am willing to live on the wild side, fully aware I might regret it in the future, hence the point of insurance, haha. Up to you!
2) Consider Going During the Off Season
For this one, you really need to know yourself and your goals for the trip. Do you want to sit on the beach in the sun? Do you want to eat? Do you just want to see a place? Do you care about temperature or crowds? For example, my focus for the UAE: desert climate, religious experience, and architecture. For Singapore: gardens, architecture and FOOD. For Thailand: relaxation and spa treatment. Once you know your goals, you can evaluate if saving all the money in the off season works for you!
We went to both the UAE and Thailand in their respective off seasons (both busy seasons are October - February). It's the off season in the UAE in June because of the intense heat. It was nearly 110 degrees F everyday and sunny. But to me, being from the North East, heat is just heat. 90 and 105 are both freaking HOT so it doesn't make much of a difference. Plus I don't really like crowds so that was another "check". We also went during the holy month of Ramadan (different time each year because it's on a different calendar) which isn't ideal for visitors trying to eat during the day in public (working on my post for details of traveling to a Muslim country during Ramadan). But this worked out for us too because we got huge "Ramadan discounts" on fancy meals after sundown! In Thailand, June is the start of monsoon season, so it's not super sunny and rains multiple times a day (was true for us!) Does that matter for the spa? Nope! It made it even better. Plus our package at Amatara Wellness Resort included a free hour long shuttle to and from the airport and the entire spa was 50% off!
3) Travel with a Buddy to Split the Cost
Maybe it's easier for girls than guys, but splitting a room and even a bed is no big deal and saves hundreds! Basically, you are dividing all the accommodations in half. Plus, you can split/alternate costs like taxis, tips, etc.
4) Eat Big Breakfasts
After flights and hotels, food is your biggest expense. If your hotel offers breakfast, take advantage of it and fill up! Maybe even snag an apple (or 3) for lunch so you don't have to buy a meal!
5) Take Cheap Transportation
It's so easy to take Uber, Lyft, or taxis! But, if you want to save money, ALWAYS take cheap transportation if you can. For example: it was $2.90 for an hour metro ride from the Singapore airport to Marina Bay Sands and a $50 taxi ride. Plus, it was easy to do, well labeled and helps you get orientated to the city right away for the duration of your trip! Don't be lazy, this is money that does not have to be spent!
6) Prioritize your Hotels
Again, this one that requires you to know yourself. I'm fine with lugging my suitcase around metro stations but I always want to stay in a nice place. I love fluffy robes, infinity pools, ambiance, and great service. But, do I need to stay in the nicest hotel if I'm not going to enjoy it during the day? No. For example, in Singapore, we only stayed one night at the Marina Bay Sands and stayed at Destination Singapore Beach Road for the remainder of our time because we went out exploring all day.
7) Use Hotel Water and Pregame
This is common knowledge to most, but I want to emphasize the water. Hotels will almost always provide free water. Outside the US, this will probably be bottled so you can take it along. Most restaurants will charge for it, so just bring the hotel water with you!
8) Try to Consolidate your Travel
If you have a large chunk of time off and are far away from home, visit as many close places as possible right then. This is especially true in Europe and Southeast Asia. Flights can be as cheap as $35 and trains even cheaper! To make back-to-back travel less overwhelming, set a slower pace and build in a few "just relax days."
9) Read the Fine Print About Luggage on Airlines
Airlines do this thing where they advertise a really cheap ticket price but then you have to buy all these add-ons (often including a checked bag, especially for shorter flights!) Read the details before you hit purchase. Paying for a checked bag online when you buy your ticket is significantly cheaper than at the check-in desk when it weights 55lbs.
10) Know Yourself and Budget Beforehand
"You deserve it, you're on vacation!" Well, sometimes! You deserve the adventure and to enjoy and spoil yourself, yes, but don't let it be a frenzy that you'll regret when you get back home. I try to budget the amount I will realistically spend on food, shopping, transportation, etc. beforehand. If you are exchanging cash, take out a certain amount and only use that. For easy price conversions, there are many apps that you can download.
I hope these tips help you in your future travel and adventures. If you have any questions, comment below, email firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Instagram! Thanks for reading :)
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