Nate and Danielle review their budget tips and tricks for planning a trip and saving money in the process.
This listener asks us to go into more detail about travel budgeting. They say “We love to travel and are looking for ways to cut costs so we can spread our budget out over more trips. Just as examples, can you talk about eating/dining, car rentals, air fares, entrance fees to museums and historic landmarks, hotels, etc.”
Good timing, we’re actually planning a trip right now – we’re doing Montreal and Quebec City this summer! First of all, admittedly we don’t go super cheap on trips, particularly now that we’re a bit older and have a little extra cash to spare. For instance, I’m not as concerned with going to grocery stores and make all our meals… we splurge and go out for 1-2 meals a day on vacation. We’ll also splurge and do both of those expensive museums, rather than choosing between them. I don’t however like to spend money carelessly. So, I’ll share some of the things I think about when planning a trip.
- Book flights before hotel – if you have more flexibility with your flight you can get a better deal
- Travel on Tuesday-Thursday if you’re able
- Even if you’re booking 4 flights for your whole family, search for just one seat
- I use Orbitz to search and book most flights, but I check the actual airline just to make sure I’m getting the best deal
- Check out budget airlines (WOW for Europe, Spirit, Jetblue, etc) – remember they nickel and dime you, but this can be good… you get to choose where you spend your money
- Check other airports around you or around your destination
- It’s obvious, but peak tourist season for your destination will have higher prices
- Shop around to different companies, but be sure to look at reviews and read the fine print. Also look outside of the airport.
- Don’t buy the extra insurance, just make sure you car insurance covers anything
- Try to return to the same location you picked up at
- Look for coupon codes and deals – sometimes if you add a fifth day you get a better deal than if you chose 4 days. If you have AAA or something like that you may get a deal.
- Price out the gas – it’s usually best to top it off before returning
- Do some research on any things that may have entrance fees – if you have a limited budget for this, make informed choices on which ones sound the most interesting
- A lot of big cities have passes you can buy (sometimes they include public transportation) – do the math and make sure it’s a good deal, but usually these passes will save you money
- Buy online ahead of time if you know where you’re going to be each day (you can beat the lines too)
- Speaking of public transportation, look for tourist/daily/weekly passes on the buses and subway – this way you can avoid taxis and ubers
- We do Airbnbs a lot now – they’re usually cheaper (or at least offer a wider range of price options than hotels)
- They also tend to include a kitchen – you can save money by making meals
- If you’re looking at hotels, it’s a lot like flights – search on something like Orbitz or hotels.com, but check on the actual hotel website to see where the better price is
- Also like flights, it’ll be cheaper on weekdays and off-season
- Don’t eat or drink at your hotel
- Sometimes you can stay slightly outside of the touristy area, but still on a main subway line and get a better price
- Speaking of food, we do tend to try to have at least one meal at the hotel/airbnb – almost always breakfast, and sometimes lunch
- Sometimes certain food is more expensive (or cheaper) depending on location – maybe you’re along a coast and seafood is super cheap
- Get slightly away from main tourist areas
- For food, entrance fees, souvenirs, etc, keep track of your spending with a spreadsheet or app – it can add up very quickly without you realizing
- Don’t agonize over it though – you should have some sense before you leave how much you’ll spend on these items, just treat it like you would your normal budget
- You could record as you go on your phone or keep receipts and record in the hotel room each night
- I’ll copy this straight from our other podcast: Get the foreign currency out once you get there. Use your atm card and get the amount you need for the whole trip in one visits so you’re not paying fees several times. Ask to be charged in the local currency, not your home currency. If at all possible get a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees and use that for most expenses (we have capital one).
They also asked for some sort of guide or spreadsheet to budget each day of a trip – we’ll work on this and post it on our website.