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When planning any trip, long or short, the amount of funds available can seem like the most vital element to consider, but it is more about the value for money you get with each dollar you spend that makes all the difference in your travels. Research, planning, and a willingness to be self-reliant will all come in very useful. Here are ten tips for quality travel experiences.
1. Picking the right time to travel
Traveling out of school holidays is an obvious tip but, more than that, look for the times of year with no special festivals, sporting events or bank holidays at your chosen destination. Special events will always mean an increase in prices.
2. Spotting a bargain
Up and coming destinations are often much cheaper than those that have already ‘arrived’! Resorts or countries still having to attract first-time visitors will nearly always offer much better deals than those which don’t have to make the same effort and can merely rely on repeat business.
3. Book accommodation online in advance
When traveling in North America and Europe, booking online in advance is nearly always going to get you the best rates. Take the time to do the research and you might also find good special deals as well. This advice is different when traveling through part of Asia or Latin America, for example, where we often just show up to hotels and hostels and negotiate a price.
4. Know when to use cash vs credit cards
While using credit cards can be more convenient, you might end up paying extra charges on your purchases. Instead, bring a few hundred dollars in cash – either US dollars or local currency and then use ATMs in the local countries to get out cash as you need it. This way you don’t have to worry about sorting our conversion rates and you aren’t traveling with loads of cash in case you get robbed. In the U.S. banks like Charles Schwab reimburse all your ATM fees from abroad, so you can just get out a couple hundred dollars at a time without worry about exorbitant ATM fees.
5. Decide if all-inclusive is really for you
Where food and drink are concerned, all-inclusive holidays may exclude certain things, like alcohol or branded soft drinks and any adventure activities, so tacking those on at the end significantly adds to the cost of your trip. However, often times an all-inclusive escape is much more expensive than booking in to a quality hotel and choosing your own restaurants and beaches each day.
6. Bags or no bags
For a short trip you can trying doing carry-on only, but cramming all your stuff into a small suitcase might not be for you. Baggeage fees are very difficult to avoid, but you can start by becoming a frequent flyer member with your favorite airlines, especially if they are part of an alliance like One World. Often times you get the first checked bag free for you and anyone else in your party. Low-cost, no-frills airline are actually the worst for baggage fees, so if you are flying with one of those, then we’d recommend at least attempting the carry-on bag only route.
7. Exploring on your own
Guided tours are great if what you are visiting offers an opportunity to learn a lot of background knowledge. However, booking guided tours, especially in advance, can add up. There are plenty of free city guides in major cities around the world; these guides work on a tips-only basis and usually give great tours. But instead, why not download some apps, a few maps and do some research and then head out on your own?
8. Avoid phone charges
Avid travelers could easily ask why hotels even have phones in the rooms anymore anyway, what with free Skype calls easily made using the wi-fi pretty much anywhere around the world. The key to reducing all phone call rates while abroad is to shut off your 3-G cell connection on your smarphone and connect to the wireless for all your Skype call needs. Many smaller hotels and B&Bs offer free international calls as well, but the big box hotels still charge an arm and a leg for calls, so try to avoid any phone calls while a guest at hotels.
9. Avoid airport transfers
Even when taxis in town are inexpensive, a short trip to the airport is always a wallet buster. After working so hard to get less expensive flights and avoid baggage fees, why throw it all away on airport taxis or expensive transfers? Shared transportation is always less expensive, so even a shared transfer will be less than a cab, but why not opt to use public transportation like buses or subways. After all, almost anywhere around the world, locals need to get to the airport, too, and not just those who fly – those who work there, too. They need to get to the airport as well, so there will be alternatives to queueing up for that taxi.
10. Find online discounts
There are actually loads of discounts to be had on many travel related goods and services, if you just know where to look. There are dozens of websites which offer loads of different categories, including travel. We have found great deals and saved a good chunk of cash by using vouchers while we travel.