8 Tips for Being Frugal (or Super Frugal!) on Summer Vacation

Summer’s the perfect time to get away – especially somewhere far, far away. And traveling abroad is more affordable than ever, even in the high seasons.  If you’re trying to be frugal (or super frugal), you have to be willing to put in the time to explore a few mobile apps and websites to get you squared away for your trip. You’ll also have to reel back a few expectations and figure out what you really want. For example, if you don’t care for luxurious hotels but love food, your travel budget should reflect that.  Here are some frugal and super frugal ideas to help you stay within your travel budget.

Getting there

The only people that pay over $1,000 for round trip overseas airfare are people that did not plan ahead. Luckily, there are several helpful tools to make sure you pay the least amount possible for your flight.  

If you want to be frugal

If you have a destination and solid date in mind, the first thing you should do is create a Google Flights price alert. Go to the Google Flights webpage, type in your home and destination airport and your desired dates. There should be an option to input your email and set up an alert. Don’t know where or when you want to go? It’s okay – you can set up multiple alerts to be sent to your inbox. Google Flights will email you when flight prices change.

If you can be flexible with your travel dates and destination, consider subscribing to an email newsletter like Scott’s Cheap Flights. The company scans all airports and airline companies for the best possible deals and sends them directly to your inbox. You can customize your home airport and destination preferences, so you don’t get inundated with emails. They routinely send deals for Europe, Asia, and South America for less than $700 round trip. I think the free version works just fine, but a paid version is available as well.

If you want to be super frugal

You can use budget airlines – like Ryanair, Wow air, and Spirit – to get there. These airlines are usually hundreds of dollars less than their counterparts. But, there are tradeoffs. They’ll usually have smaller seats and less leg room. Food, drinks, or luggage normally aren’t included in the price and often come at a premium. So if you plan on bringing bags, make sure the ticket savings aren’t overshadowed by the luggage fees.

Sleeping there

If you’re frugal

Everyone knows about Airbnb. Using Airbnb is usually significantly cheaper than a traditional hotel room. But, some people are afraid to use the “Private Room” option over booking an entire apartment or home. In my experience, booking private rooms is not only much cheaper but also a better experience. Hosts are protected by Airbnb’s terms, home insurance, and customer service, so there are plenty of listings to choose from.

If you book a private room, it means you’ll be sharing a home with the host, but have your own sleeping quarters and, sometimes, your own bathroom. And, you’ll be able to hang out with the host. Some of the best experiences are from getting recommendations from locals, hearing their stories, and experiencing their neighborhoods.

Hostels also provide a frugal experience. They’re perfect for the young, experienced traveler who wants to socialize with others. You’ll share a room and bathroom with strangers, but most hostels offer private rooms for a higher rate as well.

But, sometimes, you just want to experience a nice hotel with some privacy. Google Hotels is a pretty solid source for the best prices, but also do a quick Google search of secret and last-minute hotel bookings with your destination name.

If you’re super frugal

Willing to put in some work? You can house sit and stay somewhere for free. I recommend these two options.

Check out some house and pet sitting websites, like Nomador, Trusted Housesitters, or Mind My House. All you have to do is make an account and search for opportunities by your destination. Of course, it may be hard to land your first gig – you won’t have any reviews or credibility – so make sure to complete your profile as much as possible and have a little patience. And, proceed with caution. If someone or a situation even seems a little suspect, back away and alert customer service.

If you like farming, the environment, and free housing and meals, you can WWOOF, which stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. You’ll work a certain amount of hours on the farm in exchange for a free place to stay and food.

Eating there

For some, traveling is all about the food. I wouldn’t disagree. Here are some tips to save a little money on food while you’re away.

If you’re frugal

Avoid eating in tourist districts at all costs. That cafe right next to Trevi Fountain? It’s going to cost you a lot more than a restaurant a few blocks away. Use tools like Tripadvisor, Yelp, or Google Reviews to search for restaurants by price ($-$$$$) and rank.

You might also want to avoid taking recommendations from locals near the largest tourist destinations. Oftentimes, they’ll walk you a restaurant and they charge the owner a fee based on the number of customers they bring in. It may seem like they’re being nice, but in reality, they’re just making money and you pay more for your meal.

If you’re super frugal

If you’re staying at an Airbnb or doing a homestay, make it a point to cook at home for a meal or go to grocery stores and have a couple of picnics. It’ll allow you to spend more on a meal at a restaurant.

Having fun there

Some people get so wrapped up in saving money that they forget to have fun. Don’t let that be you.

If you’re frugal

It’s always helpful to check out what’s going on ahead of time. I found that the most useful tool is checking out the city on Reddit. If you haven’t used Reddit before, you can find the city’s subreddit by searching “city name subreddit.” You’ll find a message board with a treasure trove of information. Use the search bar to look up certain topics or events you’re curious about, or create an account and ask the city’s denizens for advice.

If you’re super frugal

Even if you’re not staying at a hostel, they’ll often have community rooms or bars that visitors can check out. Other than cheap drinks, you should find a board with free or low-cost events around the city. Hostels will also host their own cheap events too – bar crawls, karaoke nights, and the like. Take a few pictures of what’s going on while you’re there and save them for later.

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