Keep Your Flight and Time Options Open

Travel is much more affordable than it used to be, but a major trip or vacation can still take a huge bite out of your bank account. Here are some smart ways to save big bucks when traveling. 

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Flight cost is a three-legged stool that depends on the interaction between your destination, dates, and price. If you have your heart set on a particular destination and your dates are limited by your vacation time, then you'll have very little control over your flight pricing. On the other hand, if you have a flight budget in mind but your destination and dates are completely flexible, you can take your pick from whatever is going on sale.

If you need an affordable flight and your vacation dates are fixed, try to open your mind about where you might go. If you are committed to visiting a specific location, you'll need to either create some flexibility in your travel dates or in your pocketbook.

Look at Lodging Alternatives

How adventurous are you? Depending on just how tight your budget is, saving on lodging could mean anything from staying in a three-star hotel to volunteering on a family farm. There's a risk-reward spectrum in travel, just like in business. The more risk you're willing to take, the more adventure you might find on a dime. Airbnb, hostels, couch surfing, and volunteering are all viable methods used by thousands of travelers, but they all carry some risk. 

Work Your Smartphone

The internet made the modern travel boom possible by letting people shop directly for flights, lodging, and tours without a travel agent. Mobile technology is carrying the industry forward at light speed. If you have a global network and a multi-purpose smartphone with long battery, life on the road can be affordable and easy.

With Google Translate, you can interact with locals without a guide. TripAdvisor helps you avoid tourist traps and evaluate tour offerings. Rome2Rio lets you instantly evaluate the cost of trains, buses, ferries, and taxicabs to move between locations. WhatsApp and Messenger let you stay in touch with family. 

Book Activities After You Arrive

Whether you want to sign up for a cooking class, wine tour, snorkeling trip, parasailing adventure, or mountain trek, you can probably do it more affordably after you arrive. Internet resellers collect a premium to list tours and activities on their websites, so they'll turn up in your U.S.-based internet searches, but you can book the same operators locally if you shop carefully and read reviews. There are some exceptions that require advance booking, like the Inka Trail to Machu Picchu, but in most tourist-friendly destinations, you can easily set up activities on the fly.

Eat Some Meals In

Eating out is a part of the fun of travel, of course, but taking all your meals in restaurants can get tiresome and expensive after a few days. If you've booked an apartment or a suite with a kitchen, you can save a bundle on meals. Put the local market on your sightseeing list and stock up on fruits, bread, cheeses, eggs, yogurt, and other easy-to-prepare foods. Having breakfast and coffee on your veranda every morning makes lovely memories, and a picnic is a wonderful way to relax in nature. 

Use Credit Wisely

If you use your credit cards wisely, you'll come out ahead instead of spending on interest charges later. Pay your expenses with a card that earns either miles or cash back bonuses, then pay off the balance before the bill is due or as quickly as possible. Sometimes you can charge major expenses on a card that earns cash back and then transfer that balance to another card that's offering a zero percent balance transfer promotion; this will buy you six or twelve months to pay off any balance. Be careful, though — sometimes those balance transfers carry a fee.

Many people live on tight budgets, and these tips can mean the difference between being able to take a trip or having to stay home. A frugal trip can still be filled with joy and new experiences; don't be afraid to cut costs where you can. 

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