Guest post by Betsy Ramser Jaime
Most of us would love to travel. However, if you’re just starting out the entire process can feel extremely overwhelming, especially when you’re on a budget. Believe me, I get it! From choosing a location, to accommodations and flights, it’s easy to go down the Google rabbit hole. Four hours later, you have even more questions than answers or concrete travel plans.
Throughout my twenties I’ve visited 30+ countries. In the process, I’ve learned a lot and made many mistakes with travel planning. Based on my experiences, here are five key tips for the millennial traveler on a budget.
Use Flight Prices to Determine Your Destination
When traveling, flights often account for the biggest portion of your budget. For example, I currently live in Florida and could fly to Spain or Portugal for $400-500 during a non peak season, whereas, to fly to Rome or Bangkok would be significantly more. The key is to consider your starting point and see what deals you can find. Google flights is a great tool and is the primary way that I find my flights. Just start searching and get a feel for what prices to different regions or countries tend to be.
Also, If you live within 1-3 hours of multiple airports, see how prices vary between airports. If you’re willing to spend an hour or two in the car you might be able to save hundreds of dollars on your flight. For example, I have 3 airports within driving distance but I find that the Orlando airport typically has the least expensive flights, at least to Europe, compared with the two other airports.
To give a specific example, if you live in California, you might be able to find some great flights to Asia. However, if you live on the East coast, Europe might be the more affordable option. Or, if you live in the Southeast, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean might have the most budget friendly flights from your starting location.
Choose Your Travel Dates Carefully
For those of us on a tight budget, the difference in price between traveling during a peak or non peak time of the year can be immense. If you have some flexibility with the months that you have to travel, this is a huge advantage in terms of price and number of tourists. For example, if you find yourself traveling to Europe in July you will find yourself paying top prices for flights and accommodations. Whereas, if you have the option to travel in September or October you will find yourself with more affordable options.
In general, the summer months, June, July, and August tend to be the most expensive because so many American and European travelers vacation during the summer. If you have the option to travel during other time periods, definitely take advantage of that.
Use your 20’s and early 30’s to Visit Less Expensive Areas
Save the trip to New Zealand or Switzerland for later on unless you have a big budget to work with. If you travel to Southeast Asia or Central America you’ll find that your money will go a lot further than it would in Western Europe or the U.S.
I’m saying this not to discourage you from visiting your ‘dream’ destination. If you have the budget for it by all means take that big trip to Copenhagen. However, in my own experience, I’ve found that if you have a small budget it can be really stressful to visit an expensive country and spend so much time worrying about overspending. In fact, it can downright distract you from the amazing experience that you should be having. Therefore, make sure that you’re clear on your budget beforehand and that the amount you’ve allotted is reasonable for the particular place that you are visiting.
In addition, if you really have your heart set on a more expensive place, try shortening the trip from 8 days to 5 or 6 days and see if that fits in your budget.
Travel With a Few Friends That You Trust
Accommodations are usually the other cost intensive factor when traveling so get a group together that you know, like, and trust and rent an Airbnb. I’ve gone both the Airbnb and hotel route and in general, I find that you get the most value and space with an Airbnb. In addition, if you’re splitting the cost 2-5 ways this will significantly cut down on your lodging costs.
Another advantage is that you’ll most likely have a kitchen space where you can cook some of your own food which leads us to our next point regarding meals.
Eat Out for Lunch and Eat In for Dinner
Lunch is usually much less expensive so if you really want to eat out do it for lunch or brunch and then cook your dinner meals back at your home. Then, head to the supermarket for pasta, sandwich materials, salad ingredients or other simple dinner meals. If you’re craving the cafe feel, check out Airbnb’s that have outdoor spaces available.
Plan ahead. If you’re planning a trip abroad, you will find that you have the most options and the best deals if you plan at least 6 months out.
Finally, if you’re feeling overwhelmed about choosing a location, here are 4 of my favorite (and affordable) locations to get you started with your search.
- Antigua, Guatemala
- Beijing, China
- San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Prague, Czech Republic
I’d love to hear from you! What is one country or city you would love to visit? And, what is holding you back from making your trip happen? Is it finances, time, lack of a plan, or something else?
Interested in collaborating or doing an interview with me? Leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!