I’m definitely a traveling writer.
I do a lot of traveling and think all writers can benefit from travel.
But I am also aware travel can be expensive. So I wrote out some quick tips for traveling on a budget.
There are a million different ways to travel.
I’ve done the quick weekend getaways where you see only the highlights.
I’ve done the museums and tours tripping, and I’ve done the “go for work and get involved” kind.
My favorite is when I stay for a while, get to know some people and become immersed in culture.
But either way I go, I really love to travel under budget. Generally the most expensive thing about my trips is the airline ticket.
Every now and again, my husband and I splurge but that’s usually after a long work separation or right before a move.
Mostly, we like to stay in Airbnbs, hotels with deals, and drive ourselves or use public transportation.
Just be prepared to do some research to find the best deals:
Travel in the Off-Season
- The more you can travel to a place outside the off-season, the cheaper you can make it.
- We actually got a $900/night villa in Bali for the price of the regular room because the hotel wasn’t full.
- In Vietnam, we had the beaches and other sites to ourselves because it was the off-season.
- If you sign up for email lists from the major airlines, they’ll offer cheap deals at weird times of year. Take advantage.
- I’m a lodging snob. Nasty bathrooms is not something I’m going to come back to at the end of the day.
- So, this is where we spend the most money outside of the plane tickets.
- Look for hotels away from tourist areas.
- For example, if you’re near the beach, look for a room two streets over rather than right on the beach.
- If you’re headed to Europe, stay away from major landmarks like the Lourve, Piccadilly Square and the Vatican.
- You can find cheaper rates further away, and just grab an Uber, taxi or take public transportation.
- Make sure you are a member of Hilton Honors and other hotel memberships (SPG, IHG, Marriott, etc.).
- I can generally get a night or two free using points.
- For longer trips, a week or more, I like AirBnB. We found a great one in Costa Rica for under $200/night.
- If you’re super adventurous, hostels are an outstandingly inexpensive way to go.
- Track hotel rates on Google Travel, Kayak, Travelocity and Orbitz.
- We are airline miles members on three different airlines and these are great for the perks, which includes seat upgrades.
- Fly on Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday or the actual holiday day for best rates.
- Check tickets on a Tuesday, that’s when the prices change.
- If you fly budget airlines, you can get some great deals (but be prepared to be nickle and dimed a bit on food, seats and bags. Double check the difference with other airlines. Sometimes budgets are cheaper, sometimes not).
- Sign up for email news from Secret Flying and The Flight Deal.
- Be flexible with your days and you can really get some good prices.
- Last thing, do not book airline tickets months in advance. The sweet spot is 4-6 weeks out.
- Because we like AirBnb, we save money by eating breakfast and lunch from the house.
- We pack our lunches to take on excursions or out to the beach.
- Dinner out is where we spend money.
- This has saved us tons over time.
- Another to save is to eat street food for lunch.
- Ban Mi sandwiches on the street in Vietnam are less than a dollar
- Food stands are a cultural icon in Seoul.
- It’s also a great way to meet some locals and experience “real local food.”
- On one trip to Alaska, the Avis Rental Car guy quoted us $3000 for three weeks and my husband laughed out loud.
- Instead, we found a local Russian used car dealer who rented used cars for less than half that price.
- We also rented from a local in Central America and hired a local drive in Indonesia.
- The point here is to shop around.
- While American rental car companies are easy because you recognize them and know how they work, generally the locals will offer a better price.
- Get a metro card too. Learn to use the local bus and subway systems.
- Taxis in Singapore were like tour guides. The three we had knew everything about everything.
- The train system in Europe is super simple and easy to use (same in Korea and Japan)
- For traveling writers in Indochina (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar) or just abot anywhere in Central America and a lot of South America and even Africa, the most expensive thing about the trip will be the plane ticket.
- Lodging is dirt cheap in these places.
- We found bed and breakfast in Cambodia for $35/night for an entire family in a nice 3-star hotel. Same in Ghana and same in Costa Rica.
- If you have a weak stomach, be careful when you eat local fare. Take pepto with you just in case.
If you’re doing Europe, China, Brazil or anything considered the “Developed World,” I recommend bed-and-breakfasts, hostels or points-hotels. I’m not a huge fan of staying in chains but when you can earn or use points and stay in Paris for less than $200/night, it’s completely worth it. Bed and breakfast in Ireland costs us between $35 – $50/night.
Let’s be real about the reviews on Trip Advisor. A lot of them are fake or from mills. Be very careful and read them before you decide to use a hotel or transportation service. All over Da Nang, Vietnam, are Trip Advisor #1 rating signs in windows. Take them with a grain of salt. The discussion boards are really what’s great about TA. You can find a lot of information on them.
- A lot of the “developing world” still uses travel agencies very effectively.
- Indochina Pioneer was a godsend for us when we did Vietnam and Cambodia. $450 each and we had flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh, three nights in 3-star hotels with breakfast and a tour guide. Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!
- You can find them with a Google search or any number of Facebook Groups that discuss travel.
My traveling writer countdown for a trip:
- A year out – for a long trip, I start saving and start researching to include visa requirements
- Four months out – for a shorter trip, I start saving or counting points and researching to include visa requirements
- June – for a Christmas trip, I book accommodations (hotel or Airbnb) six months out
- Three months out – set a travel alert on Google Flights and Kayak to monitor flight prices
- 4-6 weeks out – buy plane tickets and request visas
- A month out – book the driver or rental car; create list of activities and “must see” places
- Two weeks out – check weather and plan wardrobe; narrow down our activities list to the top three
- A week out – doublecheck lodging, plane tickets and transportation
- Two days out – pack bags. Take out 1/3 of what you pack. You won’t need it. (Admit it, you always over pack!)
In discussions with friends and colleagues about international travel, I’ve found a lot of the anxiety is the assumption of the expense.
It’s almost never as expensive as you think it is.
But it does require some research and patience.
You can find the best and cheaper way of doing things wherever you want to go.
Now book the tickets, go and have a blast!