Exploring another nation’s food, music, art, architecture and culture creates unbelievable memories, but it can also put a big dent in your budget if you’re not careful. Fortunately, traveling abroad doesn’t necessarily have to be a budget killer or something that’s completely out of your reach. Get creative as you plan and while on your trip, and you can satisfy your wanderlust for far-flung destinations without going broke.
1. Plan around airline deals.
Typically, we plan our vacations for specific times of the year, such as around holidays and over the summer. The downside to having fixed dates is often higher priced airfare. For example, Kayak notes that the best month to find a deal to Paris is at the height of the offseason in January, versus the more popular and expensive summer months. And Expedia says that being flexible about which days of the week you depart and return can help you find better ticket deals.
Just like dates, letting airline deals determine your destination can be another money saver, with the added bonus that you might discover an incredible place to visit that you never considered before. By creating an account on sites that compare ticket prices, such as Kayak, Scott’s Cheap Flights or Skyscanner, you can sign up to receive flight deal alerts. You can also check for deals on Google Flights.
2. Pick less popular destinations.
Even if you can’t find a spectacular deal on flights, altering your destination within a country can help you save money while you’re there. For instance, instead of visiting the ever-popular Paris or Prague, how about exploring the French countryside or smaller cities in the Czech Republic. Not only are these places typically less crowded, they’re generally cheaper to visit.
3. Use your credit card rewards.
If you know you want to take a trip across the pond, start saving up miles and points on your travel reward credit card to help pay for all or part of your international airfare or hotel. Just make sure you understand exactly how your card earns rewards and how and when you can redeem them.
Even a credit card with a cash-back option can help subsidize your trip since you earn money on everyday purchases. Hold off on redeeming your cash rewards until you’re ready to take your trip and then use them for travel-related expenses.
No matter which type of credit card you plan to use to build up rewards, only charge purchases you can pay off at the end of the billing cycle. Otherwise, you’re getting yourself in more credit card debt, which defeats the purpose of trying to travel in a budget-friendly way.
4. Act like a local.
Spend some time researching your destination before you go. Specifically, look for recommendations from travel writers and local bloggers about where to eat and drink while there. Upon arrival, also ask your hotel concierge, host or another trusted contact about which cafes, restaurants, pubs or clubs the locals prefer and why. You’ll get to really taste the local cuisine and meet area residents while avoiding tourist traps that eat up your money without giving you a real sense of the place you’re visiting.
5. Consider the exchange rate.
When you travel internationally, the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar (USD) and the currency of the nation you’re traveling to can impact your trip’s budget. Choosing a destination that favors the USD means you’ll get more for your money there. For example, if the Canadian exchange rate is 1.25 that means that for every $1 USD, you’ll get 1.25 in Canadian dollars when you exchange it.
Over the last 10 years, the Euro has been stronger than the dollar, meaning you get less for every dollar you exchange for a Euro. But as this historical chart shows, it fluctuates. So, if you want to travel to Germany, Italy or another country that uses the Euro, timing your trip when the dollar is trending closer to it will help your money go farther.
6. Choose free entertainment.
Many museums and some tourist attractions in foreign cities are free or only ask for a small donation to visit. You can also enjoy street festivals and outdoor markets without spending much except for maybe a local pastry or small souvenir. Filling your itinerary with activities like these will leave you money to splurge on one or two special events or sites that you know you don’t want to miss but that carry a cost.
7. Use public transportation.
Picking cities that have ample and easy-to-use public transportation systems and pedestrian friendly sidewalks and streets is another way to save money that you otherwise would spend on cab fares or rideshares to get around every day.
8. Invest in travel insurance.
When you finally do book your dream vacation to a faraway land, protect your investment by getting travel insurance. That way, if some unforeseen event cancels or disrupts your trip, all your money isn’t lost.
Editor’s note: Quorum is not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in this article and derives no benefit from these businesses for placement in this article.