Many of us dream about traveling to exotic places but give up because it’s just too expensive.
Outside of all-inclusive vacations, travel deals don’t really exist. What you should be looking for is ways to minimize costs or ways to stretch your dollar.
Your dream vacation can still be a reality, all you need is information.
Set a budget and stick to it. I find that having a budget in place makes planning easier; I look at all my options and try my hardest to make the numbers work, if they don’t add up I abandon that idea.
Related: The Many Hidden Costs Of Travel
With a budget in place vacations become stress free, there is no worry about how you’re going to pay it off.
Visit friends and family abroad
This should be obvious; if you have friends or family living abroad and they have offered to host you for free, start packing!
Who knows how long they’ll be abroad so make it a priority to go visit them. You want to take advantage of these situations but be sure not to abuse their generosity.
Generally speaking flights are your biggest expense, finding a deal is rare but there are a few ways to maximize your dollar.
Free Stopovers – Many destinations have natural stopovers you can book at no extra charge.
Let’s say you’re interested in Hong Kong, with Air Canada you can choose to fly direct or take a stopover at Tokyo. This means when I book my ticket, I can choose to stopover in Tokyo for a few days before continuing to Hong Kong.
Related: Aeroplan, Avion, Avios Adios
By taking advantage of natural stopovers you can visit another destination without having to book an extra flight.
Google Flights is a great way to reference what flight paths are available.
Book a Multi-Destination Ticket – You can book your ticket so you fly into one city and out of another. This allows you explore more cities/countries and it’s actually quite easy to get around these days (see below).
Multi-Destination tickets can save you money sometimes if you’re flexible with where you fly in/out of. Avoiding flying into popular tourist cities could mean lower airport taxes.
Newsletters/Social Media – Sign up for every major airlines mailing list; sales, promotions and contests are always sent out via e-blast first so this is a great way to monitor prices. Or if social media is your thing, the same deals are always posted to their Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Specific sites operated by Chris Myden I should note are worth monitoring:
Standby tickets no longer exist and waiting until the last minute will almost guarantee you’ll pay a premium. If you’re looking for a deal for a specific location at a specific time it’s probably not going to happen.
Round round get around, I Get Around
Okay so you’ve booked your flights but how are you now going to get between your destinations? This is one area that can make your trip affordable, especially in Europe.
Skyscanner.ca is the main site I use when searching for cheap flights between cities. They list all carriers including budget airlines which normally don’t show up on sites such as Expedia and Kayak.
Speaking of budget airlines, don’t be afraid of them. I once flew from Barcelona to Dublin for $45 Canadian, that’s cheaper than my cab ride home from the airport in Toronto.
Ryanair, easyJet and airBaltic are the most popular budget airlines in Europe.
The key is to understand what they charge for, which is everything; priority boarding, checked luggage, food/drink, using a non-partner credit card. Despite what you may have read, they will not charge you to use the bathroom.
Within Asia you don’t even need to use budget airlines, the regular price on all airlines is quite cheap already. Again, Skyscanner.ca is your best friend.
Budget airlines are perfectly safe and make travel affordable, just take a look at some of their flight routes.
When I went to Egypt last year I decided to fly to London from Luxor via easyJet before heading home to Toronto. Doing this saved me $600 a person and I was able to visit friends and family in London.
Train tickets can be tricky especially when travelling across multiple countries, but to get a quick cost and time breakdown use Rick Steve’s Europe Map.
Rail passes are of great value, you just need to check to see if the amount of times you use it will be worthwhile. Don’t forget train stations are always right in the middle of the city so no long treks from the airport.
If time is not a factor for you consider taking a bus. It will take longer but it will almost always be the cheapest option. In some countries their bus network is actually quite good, in others it might be your only option.
Last week, Andrew from She Thinks I’m Cheap talked about 3 Value Destinations Explored. Let’s take this a step further, consider visiting countries with Political Unrest.
I’m serious, I mentioned above that I visited Egypt a year ago; people thought I was crazy to go after seeing the protests on the news.
If you pay attention you’ll notice that all the protests took place around Tahrir Square. The Egyptian Pyramids were not on fire and no one was looting The Valley of the Kings. Outside of the protest area life went on.
Think of this as an opportunity, during these times tourism goes down so that means hotels will reduce their prices. The people who work in tourism will treat you better because they want you to return home and tell people how great their country is.
With Tripadvisor.ca it’s easy to get the real story from locals and you can ask questions if you’re concerned. I trust people on the ground more than what I see on TV.
The Canadian Travel Advisory is also pretty accurate with what’s really going on and lists any warnings for all countries.
Turkey, Israel, and Lebanon are worth looking into. Jordan also offers great value, it has amazing sites and friendly people but because they share a border with Iraq and Syria tourism has been down.
Pay attention to what’s going on with currencies in the world. Most recently the Japanese Yen has taken a 15% dive.
There are even more ways to save when on the ground but that’s a post for another day.
So forget about all-inclusive and cruise vacations, as you can see with the right information you can travel anywhere on a budget.
Barry Choi is a DIY Investor with no formal training. During the day he is a Director for CityTV Toronto, and dreams about his next travel adventure. You can follow him on Twitter @BarryChoi