How to Plan Your Trip in Order to Save Money, Stay Safe, and Have a Good Time
31 July, 2017
Have you ever wanted to start travelling but didn’t know where to start? Or are you already a regular traveller but curious about better ways to plan your trip? If you answered “Yes” to either question, then this post is for you.
Probably the most important part of your trip planning is figuring out how much you can afford to spend on your trip, and doing your utmost to stick to that budget.
The most expensive parts of your trip will consistently be your transportation, lodging, and meal costs––there’s just no getting around a way to move around, a place to sleep, and food to eat; everything else you do is optional. So figuring out how to minimize these costs as much as possible is the key to smart budgeting.
Here are some resources and tips to help you find the most cost-effective transportation, lodging, and meal options.
Transportation––this is the heavyweight champion of all your trip expenses:
- Skyscanner: https://www.skyscanner.com/
- Kayak: https://www.kayak.com/
- Travelocity: https://www.travelocity.com/
- Expedia: https://www.expedia.com/
Lodging––remember to read as many reviews as possible before you book, it’s the best way to know what the place is REALLY like:
- Booking.com: http://www.booking.com/
- Trip Advisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/
- Hostel Bookers: http://www.hostelbookers.com/
- Hostel World: http://www.hostelworld.com/
- Hostelling International: https://www.hihostels.com/
- Bonwi: https://www.bonwi.com/
- Airbnb: https://www.airbnb.com/
Meals––to accrue big savings on meal costs, follow these tips:
- Avoid restaurants
- Find the closest grocery store at each destination, and shop there for ingredients to make quick, nutritious, yet cheap meals
- Eat street food; they are usually cheaper than restaurant food, and typically delicious; just be sure they are prepared with gloves or cooked properly to minimize your risk of food-borne illness
- Book lodging that includes free breakfast––that will start you off on the right foot and energize you for your day as well as give you one less meal to worry about
Be sure to review the vaccination requirements for your travel destination(s), and get all your travel vaccinations done at least 6 weeks before your trip. You can look up your the vaccination requirements of your destination(s) here: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list.htm
Make sure you buy travel insurance! There is no excuse not to. Remember that the whole point of any insurance is to protect you against major expenses from accidents and incidents when you are LEAST expecting them. Companies such as World Nomads (https://www.worldnomads.com/), Allianz (https://www.allianztravelinsurance.com/), or other partnerships through your bank’s credit card services can help you find the best travel insurance for you. You also have the option of buying travel insurance as an add-on when you are purchasing your plane ticket. I recommend purchasing both trip (baggage loss/damage, flight delay/cancellation, trip cancellation) and medical insurance in your travel insurance package.
Having Fun––Let the Good Times Roll
Planning Activities: you don’t necessarily have to plan your activities. Some people prefer to just show up and wander around, and that’s cool too. But if you want to make more efficient use of your time, and especially if you want to stay on budget with cost-effective choices, then it will be to your benefit to have a plan once you arrive at your destination.
- My number one tip on how to plan your activities is something I personally do: interview your friends! Before any trip, I sit down with all my friends who are from that city or have lived in that city, and I ask them for their top recommendations on what to do (and why, so that I can evaluate whether I would get as much enjoyment out of it as them)
- You can also plan your activities by reading travel blogs. There are a TON of them out there. Flip through my Twitter Following list to get started or check out my favourite blogs on Bloglovin’
- If, after all that, you still need activity recommendations, there is the time-tested, traditional, and ever-reliable world of travel guides. Purchase or borrow at your local library a guide from Lonely Planet, Let’s Go, National Geographic, Le Routard, Frommer’s, Rough Guides, or travel-blogger-produced guides like Nomadic Matt’s Guide To
Staying within budget: for major savings on activities at your destination, follow these tips:
- Find free walking tours––not all cities have them, but if yours does, book it! They are fun, a great way to meet other travellers, educational, and are by-donation only
- Research which day of the week or month museums are free––never pay full price if you don’t have to
- Find coupons through resources such as Groupon or Ebates (both are very popular in North America)
- Use Couchsurfing or Travel Chum to meet locals and benefit from their knowledge of the city, its attractions, and the good but cheap places to eat; Couchsurfing is not very active in certain cities, but it is HUGE in Italy and Spain; if you post a message about your trip on the local page, you are sure to receive DOZENS of offers to meet up and/or show you around the city
- Travel guides like Lonely Planet or Let’s Go or Le Routard can help you with other destination-specific cost-saving tips
Communication: Phones and WiFi
Throughout your trip, you might want to stay in touch with friends and family, or to communicate with your travel companion(s) or friends you meet during your trip. You’ll therefore need to think ahead about the most cost-effective way to stay in touch with those around you.
The first thing you need to do is to anticipate how often and with whom you’ll need to stay in touch. For example, if your need is sporadic, then using the WiFi back at your lodging at night might be sufficient for you. In which case you’ll just need to make sure you book places that have free WiFi, and you won’t need to make any additional expenditure.
The next thing is to figure out if you need to purchase a travel plan/data add-on through your local phone company prior to travelling, or whether it will be more cost effective to rent WiFi service (eg, Skyroam) or to take an unlocked phone card with you on your trip and purchase a local SIM card. For example if anticipate having a constant need for communication with others, you might want to rent portable Skyroam WiFi (you get to keep the same phone number), to purchase a local phone and SIM card (your contact number will change), or to unlock your personal phone and purchase a local SIM card at each of your destinations (your phone number stays the same, but you must pay for the cost of unlocking your phone in addition to the cost of local SIM cards).
Finally, whichever option you choose, make sure to let your contacts know which phone number they can reach you at during your travels, or whether they must exclusively contact you via WiFi-dependent services such as Whatsapp, Viber, Skype, FaceTime, IMO, or Google’s Duo. Or, for that matter, whether they should not contact you at all.