As a freelance writer, I am fortunate to be able to make money anywhere I can get an internet connection—I can take a trip on a whim without worrying about gathering together a travel nest egg that must last me a certain amount of time. But, this does not mean I do not have a budget and that I can spend anything I want. Like anyone else, I must watch my cash output and stay within my means so I can meet my other financial obligations. Having spent the majority of the last three years traveling, I have learned a thing or two about getting the most out of my money. Here are some tips that I hope will help you stretch your dollars the farthest while still enjoying yourself.
Match Destination, Budget and Preferred Travel Style
If money were no object, most of us would probably opt for the most luxurious travel options. But, the reality is most of us are on a budget, and we have to give some careful thought to what is affordable and reasonable to spend. The cheaper the destination, the more you will get for your dollar, and the less you will shell out. Now, I am not advocating choosing locations solely based on their cost. Vacations are about fun and splurging after all. But, it is nice to get the most for your money, and travel in a way that is reasonably comfortable to you. Take myself for example. I do not need top-of-the-line, but I am definitely not of the bare-bones-travel-experience ilk, either. The ship of sleeping in hostels, sharing bathrooms and eating the cheapest food possible has sailed long ago. So, I would choose Thailand and its five dollar massages over glitzy, glamorous and expensive Singapore any day, given what I typically spend on a trip. There is nothing wrong with cutting corners, but be realistic how much you can cut.
Just Do Stuff You Want to Do
This is a lesson I learned slowly over time; because I was on a trip, I felt that I should constantly be doing stuff. I needed to go on all the popular tours and partake in all the signature activities, regardless of my actual level of interest. And none of it is free, so I ended up spending a lot of money that I really didn’t have to spend. Don’t miss out on cool stuff simply to save a buck, but don’t make yourself do a bunch of things you really have no interest in either. If you get sea sick, don’t make yourself go on a boat ride. If your desire to see that waterfall is lacking, don’t subject yourself to eight hours in a packed tourist van getting back and forth. So, whether you are looking at water activities in Bora Bora or walking tours of a European capital, only do what really jumps out at you.
Consider Self-Catering Houses and Apartments
Vacations are all about relaxing, and if you are stuck cooking every night, the eating-out-at-every-meal part of the trip is particularly appealing. But, if you really want to save money, consider renting a house or apartment with a kitchen rather than a hotel. This is one thing that has saved me more money than anything else I do budgeting-wise. And because I like to eat healthy, it is easier to stay on track when I am in charge of most of my meals. In most instances, these types of accommodations work out to the same, or often times, even less than hotels presenting another opportunity to trim your spending.