It’s 2am, you’re tossing and turning. You finally give in and grab your phone, only to tap on the Instagram app to see all the dreamy photos of people vacationing in exotic sceneries: sailing on a boat in Lake Cuomo, feeding the flamingos on Renaissance Island in Aruba, and watching the alpacas roam around quaint villages in the Swiss Alps.
You can’t fall asleep yet you’re dreaming of all the places you’d go… after you win the lottery.
Well, I’ve been there. During my beginning days working as an entertainment journalist and a TV host, I’ve had to pay for my own transportation and hotel just to cover glamorous red carpets and events all over the world. The irony of attending the world premiere of Mission Impossible in Paris, one of the most extravagant and glamorous cities in the world, just to come back to a hostel was not lost on me.
While I was living paycheck-to-paycheck, I’ve had to find creative ways to travel on a budget. I invested every dollar back into growing my own brand and I couldn’t miss out on opportunities that furthered my career.
I’ve learned great lessons along the way, so much so that now, I still challenge myself to be as frugal as possible when I’m traveling the world. Below are my top tips on traveling on a budget for the adventurous souls who believe life’s greatest wealth comes in the form of experiences!
Travel Off Season
Most people love a summer holiday, but let’s face it – why pay more for overpriced hotels and flights just to see the attracts you want to visit getting mobbed by tourists? Off season is the time of year that the least amount of tourist activity takes place in a destination, usually due to weather conditions. Low seasons can start as early as October, and end as April for many European and Asian destinations. In Mexico and the Caribbean, the off-season period begins shortly after April and lasts until the middle of December. In Hawaii, it’s April to early June and September to mid-December.
Not every destination is suited to off-season travel, but before deciding when and where you’d like to travel to, weigh out the pros and cons of traveling during the low season.
Use VPN & Private Browsing Windows
Airlines and booking agencies continuously improve their technology and algorithms to boost profits — which makes flights much more expensive. They identify the country you’re booking from then gather your personal information to cause a fluctuation in price. The quickest way to get cheaper flights is to use a VPN or a private browsing window (“incognito”). A VPN allows you to change your IP address to another location while keeping your browsing activity anonymous — this way, you can browse flight deals from around the world without booking sites tracking your data and increasing prices.
“Hidden City” Flight Itineraries
One of the greatest hacks for quick 2-3 day trips I’ve discovered is using an eight-year-old NYC-based service all the airlines love to hate – Skiplagged. Here’s how skiplagged works: let’s say you want to fly from LA to NYC, but the airfare is too high. So you check to buy a ticket from LA to Boston with a layover in NYC, because it’s cheaper than the direct LA-NYC options. You get off at the layover in NYC, leaving an unused portion of the ticket. (Airlines cannot mandate passengers to get on all/or any of the flights the passengers book.)
You won’t believe how much money you’ll save just finding these “hidden city” flight itineraries. The only catch is you won’t be able to check luggage, since your luggage will arrive at your final destination, not your layover.
Find Adventures Off the Beaten Paths
Visiting places that have yet to be affected by mass tourism is a great way to look back in time and have authentic cultural experiences, not to mention save some serious buckaroos! Finding places off of the beaten path can sometimes difficult – transportation, language barrier, etc – but if you’re able to break out of your comfort zone and completely immerse with the culture, you’ll gain so many wonderful memories! You’ll connect with the locals, witness tradition, and avoid paying the “tourist premium”!
Choose An Apartment Instead of a Hotel
What do we typically spend more than flights on a trip? That’s right – the F word. As in food. I always like to stay in an apartment or a hotel with a fridge and microwave because it is so much cheaper to eat in than rely on restaurants and room service. If you like to cook, look for condos with a sink, microwave, fridge, and a stove.