Posted by Sashee Chandran

Springtime is upon on and with the warm weather comes the natural human desire to stretch our legs, enjoy the sunshine, and venture outdoors after a long winter. As you prep for spring break trips, camping expeditions, or journeys both near and far, we are here to provide some helpful tips on how you can make the most of your travel budget.

Make a list: As with all aspects of our financial life, we can really check ourselves and gain an element of control simply by making a thorough list of the things we want/expect to spend money on. Figure out where you’d like to spend your money (food vs. activities, for instance) and budget accordingly. Keep your list handy as you travel so that you remember to stay grounded and within your planned means. That way, you’re less likely to be maxing out your resources on the road.

Make an itinerary: This might seem obvious, but be strategic here. Make a list of the places you’d like to see on your trip and then schedule your sight-seeing as you research fares and travel deals that will make your travel wishlist a reality. There are lots of sites that offer adventurers great discounts. It may mean spending some time in a forgotten town or an off-beat location (as deal sites are some of the ways little-known gems promote themselves), but you have only everything to gain here—you save money and you may discover something wonderful you would have missed otherwise.

Master the art of haggling: While traveling, many people (myself included), found it daunting to delve into the act of haggling. I was terrified of offending and so I would just pay whatever the going price was, but that was before I adjusted to the fact that this back-and-forth is quite the norm; and many times expected! Indeed, in many countries around the world, negotiating and trading is a social activity. It can’t hurt to offer a lower price for that deep-sea scuba diving afternoon. The best that can happen is you can reallocate some funds for an additional stop along the way.

Live like a local. This is my favorite budget-friendly travel philosophy! Ducking into small family-owned cafes instead of opting for brand-name restaurants is just one of the ways you can travel without going broke. Plus, you will truly get a taste for the flavor of the place you are visiting (no pun intended). Some of my most treasured places and memories from my time abroad are of tiny, little-known corners of well-known cities, pubs and parks that the locals love but a “tourist” often misses. Also, look up the free and local festivals that are happening when you travel—it’s a great way to enjoy some culture and have a ton of fun without spending serious cash. On a related note, picnicking with your travel buddies (or even solo) is a great way to enjoy a meal and take pause in the middle of the hustle-and-bustle of a trip. Shop local and enjoy a great impromptu spread--the memories will be unbeatable!

Bank wisely. You seldom get a great deal when you exchange currency at the airport. However, if you check with local currency exchanges at your destination or even find a bank that is offering a competitive rate, you can be sure your money will go as far as possible. Additionally, obtain a bank account that offers withdrawals without a transaction fee—those $3-5 charges will really add up!

Four is the magic number. Traveling in groups gives you the chance to bond with old friends and forge new friendships. In fact, I have many friends who maintain incredibly close relationships with those they've met and traveled with on the road--it's a very special connection you'll share. Additionally, traveling in numbers (especially four) enables you to snag group deals on accommodations, food, activities, and transportation. Whether you're doubling up on rooms or buying in bulk, sharing is caring.

Get App-y. In today's digital age, we have a wealth of wonderful resources at our fingertips, many of which are perfect for the thrifty traveler. For instance, if you find yourself in need of accommodation at the last minute, the app Hotel Tonight tracks down undersold hotel rooms in the area and delivers you the greatest rate. 

Join the club. Everything from AAA to your university (if you're a student) can offer you a wide array of deals and discounts. AAA is well-worth the investment and for a minimal fee, your savings will be returned ten-fold.

Travel Off-season. This one is simple: booking trips from October-April will get you great rates in the off-season. Plus, you may avoid some of the tourist-heavy crowds. 

Most of all, make memories and have a wonderful time. Try to not stress (and I know that even for the most seasoned traveler hopping on planes and making it onto buses can be stressful). Everything is part of your journey and your experience, even the complications and imperfections. Take the time to relish the moment because when it’s over and you’re back home, you’re going to dream of going back. You are going to see beautiful things and experience extraordinary events. You’ll meet incredible people and learn something about the world and even more about yourself. Life bravely and adventure freely this spring!


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