I believe that there is somewhere in the world you are dying to explore. You daydream about it from your sad little cubicle. Perhaps your room is decorated with an excessive amount of maps. Maybe you want to plan an anniversary trip with your husband or boyfriend. "I would love to travel but it's just too expensive," you tell yourself. "I really want to go somewhere faraway." *Insert excessive crying* "...but I just don't know how!"
I am about to share a life-changing secret with you. Are you ready for it? It is possible to travel comfortably without spending a lot of money. Yeah, I said it.
Last year, I had an extreme case of the travel bug. In order to sustain my sanity—and my long distance relationship—I knew what I had to do. I had to cure the travel bug with, well, travel. As a result, I learned how to go places on a budget. In 2013, I flew from Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe (a handful of times), San Francisco, New York City, Upstate New York, and Vermont. I made it work and you can too.
How To Travel (Anywhere) On a Budget
1. Have a job. You're working, right? You have some money saved up? Okay, continue.
2. Subscribe, subscribe, subscribe. I understand the loathing of junk mail. Believe me, every unwelcome message from Match.com or ChristianMingle-or-whatever makes me want to register for a new email address, like: DoIlookthatdesperate@howrude.com. Coupons, dating services, etc. can make your inbox feel cluttered. I get it. However, you're missing out if you aren't getting emails from the following businesses: Go Last Minute, One Travel, Virgin America, Priceline, and Spirit Deals. These carriers will email you the best deals in the world. I wasn't even looking for a flight when One Travel sent me an email offering a $250 round-trip flight to New York City. I may not have been looking, but did I want to go? Of course! I just didn't think a deal like that existed. Thanks to a random email, I was able to afford an unforgettable trip across the country. Subscribe. It's worth it.
3. What would William Shatner do? If you find yourself looking for a last-minute flight, look no further than Priceline. Priceline.com is a commercial website that helps users find the most discounted flights and hotel stays available. Their Name Your Own Price system allows travelers to, quite literally, choose their desired ticket-price. This allows buyers to save up to 40% off of flights and 60% off of hotels. What's the catch? You can choose the dates but you cannot choose your flight times. You might also need to fly through a random airport, like Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (Florida), to get to your final destination. Not a big deal if you're able to be flexible. All around, I think this service will make you very happy.
4. Travel off-season. Traveling to a top-destination spot during peak season is not a good move, girlfriend. In order to save the most money, travel during shoulder season: the period of time right before or after peak season. For example, let's say you want to go to the Caribbean. Great choice! Plan your trip for the fall. The weather will still be fabulous and you'll score a much better deal. As a general rule of thumb: the cheapest time to travel anywhere is between holiday seasons.
5. Fly during the week. Turns out that the day you choose to fly can make a huge impact on your airfare. A flight departing on a Sunday, for example, could be $100 more than a flight departing on a Tuesday. Be informed, people. According to CheapAir.com, the cheapest days to travel are Tuesday and Wednesday while Friday and Sunday are the days you want to avoid. If you are planning to travel for a week, I've found that traveling from Wednesday to Wednesday is generally the best deal. Extra tip: Buy at least 3-4 weeks in advance for the best bargain.
6. Stay with friends. As twenty-and-thirty-somethings, most of our friends have left their hometown and moved to different parts of the world. Chances are, one of them is living somewhere that you can't wait to visit. Great! Skip the pricey hotel and crash with your friend. Ask your lovely friend if you can stay with him or her for x-number of days. If they were kind enough to say yes, please be a gracious guest. Wash the dishes. Keep your space clean and for gosh sake, don't leave your abandoned strands of hair in their shower. Speaking of the shower, do not pocket their shampoo and conditioner. You're not at The Four Seasons. Obvious-but-important note: Refrain from booking a stay with an ex-boyfriend or anyone who could possibly ruin your vacation-vibe. You're better off staying at a hotel, motel, Holiday Inn.
7. Carry-on. If people can backpack all over Europe, you can backpack to and through your destination too. No matter where you're going, unless you need extra thick layers of clothing to survive, a carry-on bag is all you need. As someone who used to pack a separate bag just for shoes, I understand those of you who are rolling your eyes. However, it's time to cut the diva-act, don't you think? By bringing a carry-on, you automatically save $25-$50. That's a decent amount of money that you can spend towards your adventure...or shoes. My suggestion: If you're going to Soho (NYC) I suggest you put that money aside for a dosa and mango lassi at Hampton Chutney Co. You're welcome.
8. Find free entertainment. Save $50 by being your own travel-guide. Do you have a camera and a fun friend? Photo shoot. Boom. Ask the locals where you can find free shows, comedy, or museums. If you're in a picturesque destination, there are plenty of hikes to discover and how great is that? Also, is there an ocean? Jump in, the water's fine...and free. However, in my opinion, people-watching with a strong cup of coffee in hand is the ultimate entertainment experience on a budget. While in New York, there were wildly talented people performing all over the city. The performer you want to see is Mathew Silver. Find him.
9. Take public transportation. If it's your first time in New York City then by all means, take the taxi. Once. Cabs are expensive and chances are that you're unlikely to hail down Ben Bailey's Cash Cab. Rather than navigate through the city in the back of a yellow taxi, act like a local and take advantage of public transportation. Take the subway, rent a bike, or walk, skip, and jump. Not only will you save money but you will learn how to navigate through a foreign city by yourself. Not to mention, you're about to get one hell of a workout. Start walking. Adventure awaits!
10. Eat on a budget. Whenever I'm on vacation, I allow myself to splurge on food. Well, I wouldn't normally eat this entire pizza, but I'm on vacation. I know I'm not the only one. It gets expensive, right? Well, it doesn't have to be. If you're staying at a hotel, do they have complimentary breakfast? Find out. Also, just because you're in a strange new town, don't be afraid of the grocery store. Cooking your meals is fun, healthy, and will save you some money. If you do plan on going out to eat everyday, stuff your face at lunch instead. Fancy lunches are always cheaper than anything on the dinner menu. Bon appetit.
Whoever said "travel ain't cheap!" was ill-informed. With timely planning and awareness of travel options, it is possible to travel comfortably without breaking the bank. One more tip? Travel with your best friend or babe. You're going to want to share this experience with someone you love. Have fun!