Traveling can be a relaxing or cultural experience, but if you’re not careful, costs can add up quickly. The answer isn’t to just have a “staycation” at home – it’s to find smart ways to travel and save money along the way. Packing these seven things can collectively save you hundreds on trips without sacrificing any of the fun of travel.
1. A reusable water bottle. Bottled water is a gigantic waste of money. It can be tempting when traveling to just grab bottled water for ease or safety. Instead, take a reusable water bottle on your trip, and fill that up whenever you’re thirsty. If you’re traveling to a destination where you’re worried about the water quality, there are several portable water filters and purifiers created with travelers in mind. An outdoor store like REI is a great place to look.
2. Snacks. One of the great joys of travel is sampling local cuisine, but that doesn’t extend to grabbing a power bar from the gas station when you need a between-meal pick-me-up. Instead, bring high-energy, easy-to-pack snacks like trail mix. Another great way to save money while traveling is to rent a house or apartment through a site like Airbnb or VRBO, so you can plan a combination of cooking some meals and dining out for others.
3. A limited amount of cash or travelers cheques. This doesn’t mean that you take only $20 and then pay for everything with your card. It means that you take all your discretionary spending money as cash or travelers cheques, and you don’t let yourself touch your credit or debit cards. This variation of the envelope system will keep you firmly in budget – once your money runs out, you’re done spending. To make sure you don’t blow all your cash at the beginning of your trip, try setting a cash budget for each day.
4. Good walking shoes. Walking is a great way to explore a new location. Many cities offer free, self-guided walking tours, which can be a lot cheaper than paying for a guided tour bus or van. By walking, you’ll explore the city more slowly, allowing you to discover small or out-of-the-way places you might not see otherwise. And, of course, walking is healthy, which means you don’t have to feel so guilty about indulging on some local dishes – however calorie-filled they may be.
5. Advance deals or tickets. You can often pay less for activities or events if you purchase tickets in advance, either by buying early online or scouring Groupon and LivingSocial for the area you’re traveling to. But use this technique sparingly – you don’t want to end up with pre-purchased activities for every day of your trip and, upon arrival, realize that you mostly want to spend time relaxing on the beach.
6. A camera. Do you really need another tchotchke for your mantle? Probably not. Instead, let pictures be your souvenirs. They’ll serve as a better reminder of your trip, and you can always print those and put them on your mantle.
The right cellphone. Roaming charges for calls and data can
leave you with an astronomical bill,
especially if you’re traveling internationally. If you travel frequently, you
can purchase an unlocked phone and use a local or international SIM card for
your new location. And if you do take your regular cellphone, try to connect
with Wi-Fi as much as possible instead of using the cellphone’s data network.
Alternatively, you can use an app like Skype to make calls.