HOW TO CUT THE COST OF TRAVEL - PART TWO: DURING YOUR TRIP
Last week I spilled all the details about how I personally save money before going on a trip. And by now you’ve applied for your travel reward credit cards, been using my resources to research your flights and hotels, setting up deal alerts, and all the jazz the goes with it.
So this week, I’m going to spill the beans on how I save money during a trip. Because, believe it or not, saving money doesn’t stop once you board the plane. Which is info that might make you feel better just in case you didn’t snag the cheap flight or hotel you wanted… you can still make up for that … Score!
And once again, you can download a cheat sheet of my tips. Just to make it handy dandy for you later on.
That’s how I like to roll.
Getting from Point A to Point B when you’re in a new place can be overwhelming to some. I get it. There’s just so much newness. Unknown newness everywhere you look.
And because of that, a lot of people choose to do what’s most convenient and/or most familiar, which is hail a cab or rent a car. And that, my friends, is that last thing I would recommend you do!
(Sure, there are instances where you have no other choice. It happens. I’ve been there myself. But for the purpose of this post, I’m speaking in general here.)
What’s wrong with cabs? They’re expensive. And you may not get the most trust-worthy cabbie.
I had a cab driver in New York City insist that going over the Queensboro Bridge would be gridlock, that we needed to go another way (a.k.a. a longer more expensive way). I knew better because I had been tipped off about that scam by a friend. I told him I didn’t care and insisted right back that he take the Queensboro Bridge.
His fake surprise when we ended up sailing right over the bridge with no traffic in sight could have won him an Oscar.
Unfortunately, most tourists don’t know these types of scams and end up paying way more than they should.
Not to say all cab drivers are dishonest, but you never know. Even the honest cab rides are expensive. There are better, cheaper options.
What’s wrong with renting a car? On top of the rental fee, there’s the money for fuel, parking fees, toll fees, and what if something should damage the car? Yeah… see what I mean? It’s starting to snowball. Again, there are just better, cheaper options.
And I can hear some of you now – what about Uber? A tad better, but definitely not my go-to.
So let me tell you what is my go-to for getting around…
Getting To/From the Airport
My recommendations – public transportation or shuttle buses, baby!
And by public transportation, I don’t mean city buses (although still totally an option). That might be more awkward with luggage than it’s worth. What I use is trams, trains, or the subway.
A lot of people in the U.S. aren’t used to these options because, if you don’t live in a major city, these aren’t the norm. Even I had a little anxiety when first learning to “navigate the rails”. But trust me, if I can do it, anybody can. And a bonus – they’re fun! An extra bonus – they’re cheap!
Apps like Citymapper make navigating them a breeze. And if the city you’re in isn’t available on Citymapper, Google Maps is just as good.
And as for shuttle buses, I use them when there isn’t a good train option for my destination. They’re much cheaper than a cab and still take you straight to the front door of your hotel.
Check to see if your particular hotel offers an airport shuttle (sometimes they’re free!). If not, just Google shuttle services for your city. I then like to check out ratings on TripAdvisor. Book it, print your ticket, and you’re ready!
Bing, bam, boom – you’re at your hotel. With some change left over in your pocket.
Getting Around Town
There’s one mode of transportation that is my absolute favorite when traveling, and it’s FREE.
Yep, again, something else a lot of people in the U.S. will scratch their head at. (You know it’s true.)
If you’ve booked a hotel close to all the action, walking will get you everywhere you need to be and save you all kinds of money at the same time. You’ll also get to experience the city in a better way than you would behind the glass of a cab.
But if you aren’t staying close to the action, combining public transportation and walking is the way to go. Or some hotels offer shuttles around town.
Again, Citymapper or Google Maps will be all the GPS you’ll need.
And if being free and experiencing the city isn’t enough to convince you to walk, think of it this way… all that vacation junk food won’t get brought home around your belly if you’re doing a lot of walking.
So grab that donut and get going.
Of course when I’m traveling, I’m sight-seeing. But one thing you won’t find me doing is joining one of those tours where you’re herded around town with 25-30 people, following a guide who’s carrying a flag or colored umbrella.
Sooo not my scene.
So what do I do instead? I do it on my own! (Because my parents say I can do anything.)
The internet is chock-full of FREE information. Guidebooks are super cheap. Many sights and landmarks you visit offer audio guides, which are either free or only cost a few bucks. You can even download audio guides from the internet and listen through your own device.
Being able to sight-see without the herd of tourists, on your own time, and on the cheap is pure gold in my book.
But one thing that does cost more money, that I absolutely recommend, is day tours. These are tours where a small group of you get on a bus and tour around outside the city for the entire day.
I took a bus tour out of Edinburgh and traveled through the highlands of Scotland, which included a boat ride across Loch Ness (Nessie was nowhere to be seen). I also took a day tour out of Reykjavik, Iceland and toured waterfalls, volcanos, glaciers, and the black sand beaches. Both of these tours I found highly rated on TripAdvisor.
And they were worth every single penny.
Like I said last week, I know food doesn't seem like a big deal when it comes to travel, but it really adds up. Think about it. How many times have you looked at your bank balance and wondered, Where did all my money go?! And your transactions show it all went to eating out. A dinner out there, a quick burger here, a night out for ice cream... you unintentionally ate your money away.
So imagine how expensive it can get when you're traveling.
Here's what I do to save money on food...
Food Tip #1: Bring your own. Remember last week when I said to be sure to pack a bunch of your favorite snacks? It will come in handy, trust me, and not just on the plane. If you have snacks available late at night when you're hungry... when you're rushing out the door the next morning after oversleeping (dang jet lag)... in your purse as you're walking around sight-seeing... you're not going to need to go looking for something else and spending money you don't have to. It's not only convenient, but cheap. Win-win.
Food Tip #2: Don't dine in tourist traps. A.k.a. if you see a Planet Hollywood - run. You're going to pay a lot more for your food, I guarantee it. Instead, head off the beaten path and search for out of the way local spots. Ask folks at your hotel if you're not sure where to go. The food will be cheaper and you will get a local experience that you just can't find in the crowded tourist trap areas.
Food Tip #3: Grocery shop. I find grocery shopping at home to be awful. But shopping someplace new, especially if it's a different country, can be an adventure. Plus it saves a lot of money compared to dining out. If you have a kitchen in an Airbnb or a mini-kitchen in a hotel room, you can cook your own meals in. Or if you run out of your pre-packed snacks, stock up locally.
I saved a crap-load of money in Iceland eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I made myself. Scenic and delicious...
Food Tip #4: Avoid hotel restaurants. Just like tourist traps, they're going to get you on price. They know they got ya where they want ya! The buffet breakfast may look tempting, but chances are there's a cafe around the corner that is even better at a much lower price. Check out your options. Your wallet will thank you.
Food Tip #5: Don't be afraid of McDonald's. A lot of people poo-poo the idea of going to McDonald's (or fast food in general) while traveling. It should be an authentic eating experience! Dumb. I disagree with that. I can get my experience elsewhere. If I'm hungry, want to save money, and want to get back to sight-seeing as quickly as possible, McDonald's is where I'm heading. Full stomach at a reasonable price and back out to get my authentic experience... boom.
Yes, you can save A TON of money by using travel points. I will sing those praises until the day I die. But this isn't about that. (Next month I'll actually start going into my strategy of how I earn points).
For this purpose, I'm talking about the fees you could be racking up on your credit cards while using them on your trip.
If you are in a different country, make sure your credit cards have a zero foreign transaction fee! If it doesn't, you could be in for a shock come statement time. A fee for each and every transaction you made will be tacked on - and those suckers will add up fast.
Also, another credit card tip, carry a couple with you when you're overseas. American credit cards and European credit cards are not always the same, and every once in a while I have run into trouble (the Metro kiosk in Paris didn't like the first card I tried, even with a zero balance). I always have another one with me just in case. I also make sure to carry a little cash with me, as Plan C. Better safe than sorry.
RELATED POST: How I Afford to Travel While Living on a Budget
Now be sure to download my tips cheat sheet... then travel wide and travel on the cheap!
P.S. WHAT TIPS CAN YOU ADD TO HELP OTHERS SAVE MONEY DURING A TRIP?