Think you don’t have enough money to pull off your dream vacation? The truth is that even people working on a tight budget can free up enough cash to fund an amazing trip. According to budget travel expert Barry Choi of Moneywehave.com, a little know-how can go a long way.
5 money-saving travel hacks
Here are some of Choi’s favorite tips for traveling on a dime.
Choose a multi-destination flight
Anyone planning a vacation to a European hotspot knows that flights from the U.S. aren’t cheap. Taking a multi-destination route (aka flying into one city and out of another) is a great way to save.
“Flying into Brussels is a lot cheaper than flying into London, yet it’s only a two-hour train ride away,” says Choi. “Flying into lesser known airports also works for low-cost carriers, so look for the smaller airports near major destinations.”
Translation: try flying into Pisa instead of Florence, or Eindhoven instead of Amsterdam.
Choi adds that flights are usually cheap once you’re in Europe, so it really doesn’t matter where you fly into. He recommends checking out skyscanner.com to find a discount carrier for your route.
Steer clear of pricy hotels
This is an obvious one, but still definitely worth mentioning. Airbnb is a goodie because, in addition to being cheaper, it also provides travelers with a more local experience.
“Prices vary, but generally speaking, a private apartment will be cheaper than a hotel room,” Choi says. “Airbnb is a great solution for families or large groups of travelers who’re looking to save.”
He adds that solo travelers can also stretch out their travel dollars by using private or shared rooms via Airbnb.
While Airbnb has indeed exploded in recent years, don’t overlook hostels. According to Choi, the ones in Europe still offer incredible value. “Many hostels have private rooms with private washrooms at a reasonable cost,” he says.
Another trend picking up steam is the poshtel—upscale, boutique hostels that still tout reasonable prices. Choi says they’re perfect for people who’ve graduated from hostels and don’t mind spending a little more for unique accommodations.
Barter your skills for free lodging
Got skills to pay the bills? It turns out you might be able to use them to help fund your vacation. Choi says that if you have a real skill to offer, bartering might be worth your trouble.
“Photographers could easily take new professional photographs in exchange for free lodging,” he says. “Web developers could also target resorts that could use a website update.”
But Choi cautions that the bartering approach usually only works with independent hotels. If a chain hotel is on your radar, it’s probably not worth the effort.
Understand the currency
Getting slammed with foreign exchange fees is a surefire way to break your budget. When you charge a foreign currency to your credit card, for example, Choi says that you’ll be charged an additional 2.5 percent.
“It may not sound like a lot, but it does add up over the course of your trip,” he warns. “To avoid this fee, simply sign up for a foreign exchange free credit card in advance before you leave.”
If you’re overseas and need to get your hands on some local currency, Choi says local ATMs are almost always the cheapest option. (Most home banks and foreign exchange offices charge an additional 10 percent.)
On a side note, he adds that the U.S. dollar is currently up 20 percent over the euro, making it a great time to visit Europe.
Take advantage of credit card points
Since some reward cards can seriously reduce your travel bill, signing up for one isn’t a bad idea—if you do your homework.
“Before you apply, do the calculations to see how much those reward points are worth in real dollars to see if it’s worth your while,” says Choi. “Keep in mind that your credit score will take a hit every time you sign up for a new card, so don’t apply for too many at the same time.”
He also stresses the advice that traveling should never, ever be done on credit. It’s one thing to charge your vacation, then pay it off when you get home. It’s quite another to just make the minimum payments for an extended period of time. (The interest alone will be a killer.)
“If you need to put your entire vacation on credit, it just means you can’t afford to travel,” says Choi.