Have you ever dreamed of going on an international trip, but shut the idea down because you think that it’s too expensive? I mean, who wouldn’t want to visit Paris or the Mediterranean? But, honestly, where does the extra cash come from? You probably think because you have so many bills to pay every month, you’ll never be able to afford that international trip you’ve dreamed about for so long.
But it turns out that travelling internationally doesn’t have to break your bank. Just like there are surefire ways to lower the cost of a domestic vacation, the same can be true of international trips. From maximizing rewards points to timing your vacation smartly, I’ve decided to share with you four of the main hacks I use to explore the world on the cheap.
Travel Internationally Without Breaking the Bank
Maximize Your Credit Card Points
Most Americans have at least one credit card in their wallet. Take advantage of them! Some of those credit cards can give you points when you make purchases, the point system dependent on the kind of rewards you’re looking for; from cash back to charitable donations, you can find it all in the different credit card offerings.
Popular among consumers are travel rewards cards, that reward you with points to be used for paying at least a part of your flights and hotels. Credit card issuers, vying for consumers’ attention, are even offering generous sign-up bonuses of up to 100,000 points in some cases, which can go a long way to cover cheap international flights.
These card issuers will pull out all the stops to get and keep you as a customer, which means that they will have promotions and regularly run specials where you can get bonus reward points for using your credit card in certain categories such as dining, apparel, and gas. In some promotions, certain spending categories will get double or triple rewards points for a period of time. That’s the best time to spend in that category, granted you would have anyway. Some of these cards will also come with bonuses for spending a certain amount of money each quarter or year. That’s not to say that you should charge up a credit card just to get points for a trip, but if you’re already spending that money, it can be a great way to save.
Airlines also offer consumers ways to accumulate miles that can be used for flights. Many of the major airlines let consumers register credit cards and give them points when they shop on their websites or dine through their networks. As a sign of the times, users can even earn miles by liking the airline’s pages on social media or entering online contests. Downloading their apps can garner user miles which can make that expensive international trip less costly.
Off-Peak Travel Can Save You Money
Some of the biggest savings for globe-trotting travelers are visiting their chosen destination at an off-peak time. Sure, the weather may just be turning cold or warm depending on where you are going but you can save a ton of your travel budget and still have a great time. Some restaurants, hotels, and attractions may be closed but there will always be something to do. Plus there will be fewer crowds, which means shorter lines. It will require planning; you’ll want to check the websites of the places you are traveling to, ensuring that they are opened and pack appropriate clothing and equipment dependent on the local weather. You want to have the proper attire to make sure you can have a good time even if the weather is less than desirable.
Not sure where to go? There’s an off-season somewhere all the time and thinking out of the box will guide you to the right destination. Take the Caribbean for an example: Cruising the Caribbean may not seem smart during hurricane season but boats can move out of the path of a hurricane ensuring that your vacation goes on unabated. Paris in November may not seem as romantic but visiting the Eiffel Tower without long lines can be priceless.
Home Swaps and Home-Sharing Can Reduce Loading Costs
Lodging is a big expense for international travelers, especially if you want to stay for an extended period of time in a single location. A popular and cheap housing option is home-sharing and or/swaps. Thanks to the Internet, a host of websites have popped up, acting as middlemen matching travelers with empty homes and apartments to stay in. In many instances, the lodging is cheaper than staying at a high-end hotel. Even if it’s in the same price range, you’ll get more amenities for your money if you go the home sharing/swapping route.
For homeowners looking to travel abroad and save some serious cash, there’s home swapping to consider. This occurs when two people agree to trade homes for a predetermined period of time. When home exchanging, the parties involved typically stay at each other’s homes at the same time and offer free lodging or only paying for their utilities. More welcoming home-exchangers can even stay in a home as a guest while the house is occupied.
The Internet has also made it safer to engage in home swapping. Home renters are required to provide references and are vetted by the website operators. Not to mention that they too are renting out or swapping their home and will likely treat your abode in the same way they want theirs treated back home.
If you do want to stay in a hotel, there are ways to lower the cost of an international trip. When searching online, don’t limit yourself to just U.S. travel websites. International hotel search tools can yield you savings at hotels around the world. Skipping the chain hotels and going with an independent one can also lower the cost of lodging. Work for a company or know somebody who does? You can also save a decent amount if the hotel accepts a corporate rate from your company or someone you are friends with. Before you book, check with human resources at your firm, your spouse and any close friends or family to amp up the savings.
Brown Bag it For Savings
Meals can quickly add up when traveling and that can be especially true if you’re traveling abroad as a family. After all, breakfast, lunch, and dinner can easily cost more than $100 a day for a couple. Throw a family into the mix and that can quickly double. And that’s not taking into account any pricey meals which you will undoubtedly want to enjoy since you are traveling to a new place with unique food and culture.
One way to cut down on the cost of meals is to brown bag it as often as possible. Take breakfast for starters. You may be hungry upon waking up but don’t feel like getting it together to have an elaborate and costly meal. If you stock your hotel room with breakfast foods, be it cereal, fruit, or granola bars, you won’t have to rush out to curb your hunger nor will you have to open your wallet every morning you’re on vacation. The same can be applied to lunches and even dinners if you are looking to travel on a budget. You can even get groceries, water, and other staples delivered to your hotel room from third-party vendors to add up your savings. After all, that cup of coffee in the hotel cafe is going to cost a lot more than the one you brew in your room.
Traveling abroad doesn’t have to be a budget-busting, savings-breaking endeavor. While the flights may cost more than a domestic trip, there are tons of ways to globetrot without using all your money.
Taking the sights in the off-season, exchanging homes rather than booking a pricey hotel and maximizing reward points and corporate discounts can all go a long way in lowering the cost of an international vacation. Sure, it may require a change of mindset when it comes to travel but if visiting a new country and soaking in all the sights is your endgame, international traveling on the cheap may be the way to go.