Reduction Rebels, how are you thinking about using your tax return money. Don’t answer that. But seriously, have you noticed this time of year every sales pitch from home improvement to car dealerships is trying to get their hands on your money. So, just in case you’re thinking about a special vacation, I wanted to pass along these frugal tips so that you can get the most for your money.
Best International Flight Deals
1. Carol Margolis of Smart Women Travelers recommends when searching for international flights, check both the airline you want to fly and any US-based codeshare airline. For example, when flying from Orlando to Paris, check both Air France and Delta. You’ll be booked on the same flight, but one airline may offer a much less fare. Carol found a fare $500 less on KLM than on Delta for the exact same flight!
2. Corporate travel advisor Suz Garber shared that you also get free beer/wine and more elaborate meals on all international flights on non-American airlines which could be a modest savings for some.
3. “Save money on any travel, even international, through credit cards” suggests Ariana Arghandewal, from Point Chaser. Many credit cards offer sign-up bonuses that are enough for a round-trip ticket. For example, the Citi American Airlines card has a 50,000 point sign-up bonus after $3,000 spent within three months. For just 40,000 miles round-trip, you can fly to Europe in economy class between October 15-May 15. Those who have this card get 10% of their miles back, brining the grand total to 36,000 miles for a ticket to Europe.
4. Vago Damitio from Vagobond offered Eve his best international travel advice…”the biggest money saver in Europe is planning ahead and using RyanAir. I’ve flown all over Europe for anywhere for $1-$100 per flight.”
5. Be Frugal founder Jon Lal has this advice to save money when traveling internationally: you may be planning an extended trip requiring more clothes, which means your luggage will weigh more and take up more space. Avoid paying extra by complying with the baggage limitations for size, weight and amount of bags by reading up on airline fees. Airlines outside USA are very strict about 30 lbs check-in baggage and 16lbs cabin luggage, warns Jeetu Melwani from Slashview.
6. Fly to a major city, then use a local airport to get to your remote destination. International traveler, Jonathan Farley stated, “I could have saved hundreds of dollars by flying to Istanbul (obviously a major destination) and then using a local airline to fly from Istanbul to the small airport in Alanya (it would have cost about $40 US).”
7. World-traveling entrepreneur, Gigi Griffis advises to be flexible about your exact destination and use sites like Adioso to search for cheap plane tickets to a region (Europe, Central America, etc.). “You might find that tickets to a Portuguese beach town are half of what tickets to a similar Spanish beach town are.”
The 411 on Passports
8.When it costs $105 for a passport, why not save yourself the extra $10 – $15 and take your own passport photo for 20¢. Instructions for DIY passport photos are right on the passport application.
9. Pack extra passport photos and copies of identification. International travel advisor, Suz Garber gave the heads-up that some countries require 1 or 2 photos for your visa application before you arrive in country. Other places like Cambodia or Bolivia require your application upon arrival–photos needed.
10. Suz Garber also directs not to go to a ticketing agency to obtain your visa. Most foreign embassies have smaller consulate offices likely in a city near you. You can pull up their information online to download forms that aren’t that complicated to fill out. Instead of paying an agency $50 to process the visa for you, you can DIY for only the cost of the visa–usually half what an agency charges.
How to Recover Lost Items When Traveling Abroad
11. Okoban® tracker tags from My Stuff Lost and Found connects finders with owners quickly, securely and privately, anywhere in the world. Finders simply enter the item’s tracker tag’s Unique Identification (UID) code and the recovery location on the Okoban website. The system then immediately notifies the owner with a secure email, text message and Facebook post of the found valuable and its recovery location. Okoban is part of a global lost and found service that is free (no annual fees) and serves 400+ airline companies in more than 2,200+ airports and travel industry “frequent finders”, institutional lost and founds including TSA, rail, maritime, coach, rental car and hotel companies.
Where to Stay for Cheap When Traveling Internationally
12. Travis Levius, travel writer and photographer suggests Couchsurfing. It is the gold standard in free home-stays all over the world. “While the majority of the accommodation offers are actual couches, you might actually luck up with a host providing your own bedroom. It is safe, friendly (it’s one big community) and suitable for all ages; create a profile, search for willing hosts, and join in on the budget travel movement” says Levius.
13. Paige Conner Totaro from All Over the Map recommends using Airbnb or HomeAway to find apartments and sometimes houses to rent for much less than the cost of a hotel. Added bonus: most have kitchens so you can self-cater meals, saving money over expensive restaurants.
14. Jeetu Melwani from Slashview says, “if you are traveling solo try to stay at hostels. They are clean, reliable and great place to meet friendly people. HostelBookers.com or airbnb.com are great resources to find the best rated properties.”
Don’t Get Ripped Off Exchanging Money
15. Travis Levius also warns, “Say “NO” to Currency Exchange Booths. Take out all the cash you need in the foreign currency at an ATM; there is usually a fee anytime you use your credit/debit card for purchases overseas, so the one-withdrawal cash-only method will save you lots. Do research before the trip and check for which ATM branches might be a part of a “global alliance/partnership” to avoid higher transaction fees. One of the largest is the “Global ATM Network,” which includes Bank of America for U.S. customers.”
16. If a store or restaurant offers to ring your credit card transaction up in US$ vs local currency, say NO! Their exchange rate is higher than having the credit card company use their current exchange rate, warns Carol Margolis.
17. Paige Conner Totaro from All Over the Map says to be sure to have debit and credit cards that do not charge an international transaction fee, or cash advance fees, or currency conversion fees. These can really add up the longer you’re away. We used Charles Schwab for a debit card, and Capital One for a credit card. And we earned travel rewards as we traveled!
Transport Like a Local
18. Don’t take taxis. I’ve heard this from numerous sources!
19. Travel industry veteran and hospitality consultant Dave Dudar shared the following money saving tip. “Choose mass transit from airport to hotel, or even transit pass purchase. In a city like Berlin, you can buy a week’s long transit pass at airport, use it for your trip into the city, then have transit access for the remainder of your trip as well. . .All for what a taxi ride from LGA to Midtown would run.”
DIY Laundry On-The-Go
20. The cost of laundry while traveling internationally is often ignored when budgeting for a trip. However, with European Laundromats and hostels often charging around $10.00 per load. Yikes! Enter the Scrubba wash bag – a 6 oz. washing machine that folds to a pocket-size. Recently a winner of Gear Junkie’s “Best in Show” from Outdoor Retailer. To wash clothes, simply add cleaning liquid and 0.5-1 gal of water, seal the bag, expel the air and rub for as little as 30 seconds (3 minutes provides a machine quality wash).
When in Roam, Save on Cell Phone Costs
21. Check out GigSky, a universal data SIM card and app that allows users to buy local data in over 100 countries at affordable, predictable prices (rates start at just 5¢/mb in 7 high-traffic countries with 10¢/mb in most others). Users simply create an account, insert the SIM in to an unlocked mobile device or MiFi, purchase a data plan via the GigSky app or website and are ready to go.
22. Download the award-winning global mobile app, UppTalk, a cloud-based communications App that offers users free calling and messaging within the United States, Canada, and Mexico. o call other countries requires a small payment, but it is even less than Skype’s 6 cents/minute. Currently available for iPhones and Androids. And don’t worry, you can talk with and send messages to others who don’t have the app.
Shop Smart When You Travel
23. True Currency is the only global product comparison tool that helps consumers save money by calculating the best value when buying consumer products abroad. The site collects and analyzes global pricing for in-demand items such as electronics, handbags, watches, perfume, sunglasses and more. Here’s a help tip from True Currency: Burberry items are actually more expensive in the UK than in France, US or Germany.
24. Eat a prix fixe lunch rather than dinner for a great meal for a fraction of the price. Particularly a good option on a rainy day, says Dave Dudar.
25. Don’t eat or buy anything, if you can help it, near tourist traps. Whatever you get is not necessarily better, but it is more expensive.
The debut DIY home decor ebook Rooms Repurposed: A Purposeful Home, A Purposeful Life