More than anything I want everyone especially black women to experience the joys of traveling far and wide!  Before I actually started traveling, I had misconceptions on the actual costs involved.  Once I stepped into the reality of my own budget, I found that the vacations that I dreamed of were within reach.  I am a firm believer in sharing the wealth, so I drafted a LONG list of tips on cutting costs while traveling.   Get into this “How to Travel for the Low” post now and be sure to comment with your own tips!

Flight Deals

If I could scream this from the mountain tops I would.  The days of paying $1,000 to traverse across the pond are over people!  Many European discount airlines are expanding to the United States offering us dirt cheap fares to travel abroad and our own airlines are competing as well.  For more details on how to do this, check out my How to Score a European Flight Deal  post.  These tips work everywhere.

  • Also, if you are traveling with a group of more than 10 from the same airport some airlines offer group discounts.  On top of the discounts, you can also utilize payment plans.

Bottom Line: Flight Deals abroad run around $200-600 (Europe, the Caribbean and South America deals are usually within this range. Some places are more rare than others)   Anything higher is not a deal in my opinion.  I have also seen good domestic flight deals for under $100 to top tourist spots like Vegas.

Accommodations

Next to flights, your next biggest expense is accommodations.  Here are some things to consider to stay within budget!

  • AirBnbs are everyone’s new favorite way to save coins these days.  I will be honest though, as of late my AirBnb searches have returned prices that are comparable to hotels.   I say consider an AirBnb when your group would not fit in a traditional hotel room that sleeps four.  Do not forget to check other websites like VRBO, Homeaway and Innclusive.
  • I am a recent hostel convert guys.  (Check out my experience here).  You can go the super cheap route which includes shared bathrooms and dorms.  Or if you are like me opt for the private spaces which are still MUCH cheaper than hotels.  Our Rome hostel offers rates as low as $60/night and provides accommodations in line with hotels double that price.
  • For the brave folks among us, you can literally CouchSurf around the world for free.   There are quite a few websites that connect travelers with local hosts who are willing to offer up their couches for free or a small fee.   This would be a NO for me, but others see it like staying with a host family.
  • Traveling with a group is another way to cut accommodation costs.  Yes, you have to deal with more opinions and attitudes, but splitting that hotel four ways versus two is a win.
  • Going for 4-5 days versus 7 is another way to cut costs.

Bottom Line: Accommodations is kind of pick your own adventure with so many variables at play.  This can be as low as free or upwards of $300-600 dollars for a well budgeted trip.

Activities

This is another great area to cut some costs, but do not miss out on seeing the city because of budget!  Here are my tips in this area.

  • Look for free activities.  Every city has them! Search Pinterest and google until you have a good list before you head out.  Also prioritize your must sees.  For example, just seeing the Colosseum was enough for me.  I did not need to pay to go inside.
  • I discovered free walking tours in Rome and it is literally the best thing ever.  Pretty much every touristy city offers them even here in the states.  They do request tips afterwards, but you tip based on your experience.   Check the reviews beforehand and note some charge small booking fees.
  • Look for city passes that offer you deals or discounts.  (Ex: the Roma Pass in Rome offers access to sites and museums)
  • Tours can be pricy, but know the prices vary.  Check Expedia, Trip Advisor and the tour operators own website to see which is cheaper before booking.
    • Also! Expedia offers their members cheaper prices.  Literally all you have to do is sign in and the prices drop!
    • There are also a lot of coupon codes for tours.  Google, Ebates, Groupon and Honey are your friends.
    • AirBnb Experiences is a new resource offering great prices.  Here is one I did for $44 in Rome!

Bottom line: This can be completely free and you still will walk away with great experiences.  Another option is to decide one good reasonably priced experience like a cooking class and spend between $40-100.

Food

This one is tough because I have a fear of running out of food so I overcompensate here.  Prices vary so much in this area depending on the city that once again it’s important to do your research.  You can find great breakdowns of “cost to eat per day” and these posts usually give you the low end budget and the middle of the road.  Also pick destinations that have cheaper eats.  For example Rome is much cheaper than Paris for the food.

  • Find accommodations that offer breakfast and load up before heading out for the day.  That way you can make it on just a snack and dinner.
  • This may be hard for some of you, but you may have to forgo the wine/beer at some meals to cut down costs.
  • If you are in a hostel or Airbnb, cook a few meals in the kitchen to save some funds.
  • Every city has good quality cheap eats.  Make a list beforehand and be sure to stick to those.

Bottom line:  This varies and maybe you aren’t a food blogger like me and can skip out on a whole lot of food.  Do what works for you.

Exchange Rates

Whew, I am going to keep this brief because it involves math and I went to law school to avoid that stuff.  In short, you lose SO much money when you exchange American Dollars for currency like Euros.  In addition to the exchange rate not being in our favor, you have to pay the people who exchange the money for you.  Here are some tips to save in this area.

  • Pick countries where the dollar is stronger and you gain in the exchange.
  • Check with your credit cards and see which ones have lower foreign transaction fees.  Stick to the card with the best rate.
  • Avoid exchanging money at the airport if you can because they charge more.

Bottom Line:  Be ready to hand over money and literally get less back for nothing.  It’s the WORST, but a necessary evil when traveling abroad.

Transportation

Do not leave this to chance.  Before booking your hotel research what your transportation options are in the city and how your hotel connects to those.  If you are trying to cut costs then having access to the cheapest modes of transportation is essential.  Your two feet is the cheapest, but that often puts in pricer accommodations if things are walkable.  Find a good balance though! For us, in Rome that meant riding the subway.  A week pass was only €24 which was much cheaper than taxis or ubers.

Bottom line:  If you plan this right, you could spend $100 max in this area, not including airport transfers.

Sneaky Expensive Costs

  • Your passport. If you do not have one, I would recommend getting it ASAP.  The idea here is you do not have to get ready if you STAY ready.  Having a passport at the ready means less costs for upcoming trips and ensures you will not have to pay rush fees.
    • Some places require Visas and that is an additional fee. Be aware and plan ahead.
  • PACK LESS- I will expand on this later, but these discount airlines now charge baggage fees even for international flights. Norwegian for example is $45 EACH way.  By packing less and carrying on, you save.
  • Souvenirs- Everyone does not need a souvenir including YOU.  Your biggest souvenir will be your memories.  Save your coins here.
  • Transportation to and from the Airport- Even in America, this is a necessary evil.  Check before you go! Does you hotel offer free airport transfers?  Does the city’s mass transportation service the airport? Is this a cost that can be split among the group?
  • You always need to buy more toiletries, new shoes etc before a trip.  Make a list far in advance and slowly buy these items  that way you are not making midnight Target runs the night before your trip and spending your trip money.
  • Tourist Taxes- In Rome, on arrival to our hostel we had to pay €40 each in occupancy taxes upon arrival.  We were aware of this cost and prepared though.

Bottom Line: Appropriate planning minimizes costs in these areas.

The Takeaway

There are a million and one ways to cut your costs and stay within your own budget.  The thing I hope you get from this is your dream trip is possible without breaking the bank!  Be sure to add you comments below!