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6 Money Saving Tips For Traveling on a Budget

Taxi driving by a church in LATAM

Travel is often seen as a luxury and inaccessible. While not everyone has expendable income to travel, others, like myself, make it a priority and have found a way to adjust their lifestyles to make it possible.

I started backpacking when I was twenty years old. I was a sophomore in college and my parents could barely help me pay for college tuition. I covered my first study trip abroad with a combination of scholarships, financial aid, and odd jobs. After that trip, I caught the travel bug, and immediately started saving up for the next one.

Since then, I worked really hard to have a career in tech that allowed me the flexibility of time and the income to travel. Along the way, I backpacked through 18 countries on a budget. I still try to save as much as possible and travel like a backpacker, aka cheap AF.  My go-to for keeping it affordable is to leverage technology in order to balance saving on my day to day. I have found that by doing this I don’t have to fully deprive myself of my everyday life just to save for the next trip. I hope this will help you find balance as well.

Here are some tips I’ve learned both from being a broke girl with wanderlust and now a (semi)adult with bills and responsibilities.  

1. Automating multiple saving streams.

I have found that automating my savings is the best strategy. Since I am an out of sight out of mind person, stashing my money away for that vacation incrementally, works. In addition, it’s crucial to set up more than one savings method and/or account. Diversify, boo!

Ideally, you set up an automatic transfer to your savings. First, decide how much you want to set aside that you can do without ie: $5, $100, $1500. Then, establish a recurring transfer, so that once or twice a month the money moves to a savings account that has a high yield interest. I prefer, Ally Bank, they offer one of the highest savings rates at almost 2%. I also have apps that save up for different goals, my favorite being Digit.co, which will set aside small amounts to hit your goal by your target date.

2. Track your spending.

Tracking what you’re buying everyday will help you notice your spending patterns. Do you need an iced coffee from Starbucks every morning? (Yes, the answer is yes if you work in NYC and commute 1.5 hours each day #guilty.) It’s okay to have things you can’t live without, but you may notice that there are some things you never actually use, i.e, my Amazon Prime account #guiltyagain. Two apps that I use are Clarity Money and Mint.com. These apps will track your spending pattern, and suggest changes. Clarity Money even shows you recurrent spending to help you cancel subscriptions you aren’t using.

3. Check your online banking.

Set up a reminder to check this at least once a week, but let’s be real, ideally you’re checking it everyday. Your bank likely has an app to track your account balances, send money, and authorize transfers. Or you can do it the old fashion way to make sure it’s accurate! Sometimes pending transactions are not reflected in your daily balance, and you have less money than you think so this is very important. The key is to make sure there aren’t any fraudulent charges so that you know how much money you have at all times.

4. Cop those flight deals, flyer miles, and points.

Take advantage of the free frequent mile clubs, and email notifications to get the best deals on flights. Lots of search engines have deals with only certain airlines. You will want to mix it up to get a better overall picture. Be sure to sign up for several, such as alerts via Google Flights and Expedia, which also include the budget airlines like SouthWest and JetBlue. They will send you emails on flight deals first before it ends up going viral and sold out.

Personally, I enjoy using Southwest because they let you cancel flights as well. If you are impulsive, don’t worry, you can switch flights at no cost up to 48 hours prior to departure. I loved them so much I got their credit card through Chase and took full advantage. Remember not to spend more on your card than you can afford and to pay off the full balance. This way you can maximize the points you accrue. I’ve scored four round-trip flights with my points so far and earn a new round trip about every four months. You can also get deals for extra points on restaurants, and book car rentals.

Be sure to do your research before signing up. An additional bonus when you sign up for the frequent flyer mile clubs, is that they are free and you can collect points! So, pick your favorite airline and sign up for their card and rewards programs.

5. Do a quick search for promos and events.

The best thing to do is a quick search to see if there are any promotions for places you travel to. Deals can also include group discounts. Be sure to check for discounts on yelp, promos on Groupon.com, and key an eye out for discounts to museums and other popular attractions. Another sure-fire tool at your disposal is airbnb experiences, where you can book an experience for your length of stay, and make new friends!

If you travel alone, you can make some new friends by using MeetUp.com to expand your social circle while traveling. You can even go in together for tours and excursions in order to lower the cost of the trip for everyone. There are a lot of events curated via the MeetUp site, and you get make friends with fellow travelers, find classes, and maybe even try something new.

Another great tool is Instagram. Yes, the ‘gram. Search by location and hashtags to see pictures of the places that other people have been and map out where you want to go and read through captions. Travel bloggers and influencers love to give tips and hacks on where they’ve been.

Last but not least: Google. The behemoth search engine is an always reliable source. Simply type the “location” and “promo” in the search bar. You can even sub out promo for “free hours” or “discounts”, and this will load links to any ads and promotional offers there might be, including Yelp check-ins and groups. Talk about making your life easier.

6. Negotiate.

Everything is up for negotiation, this is my rule for life. Travel and tourism relies on the money and that means it’s business. This also means: hustling. One of my favorite things about traveling is being able to barter. Even if you are not in places where you can easily bargain you can always try to sweeten the pot even in your everyday. I shamelessly ask waiters for any specials or promotions they have or if they’re offering any discounts at the time. You have nothing to lose because prices can only go down.

For tours and souvenirs try to haggle down when you buy in bulk or multiple items. The more people you bring or are buying for, the more likely they will lower the deal. Be shameless. I know it’s scary to ask straight up, but you’ll never now unless you try.

On a final note. Don’t forget that your US dollar will go a long way, so be fair to local artisans and craft makers. Be mindful of prices and be aware that for some, the wares they make are their entire livelihood. A good rule of thumb is to always bee reasonable and pay a fair price.

These are just some of the tips that I have used to get me through 27 countries in the last 7 years, do you have any other tips you’d add?

Joy Valerie

Joy Valerie Carrera is a contributor to LatinX.com. She is a digital operations strategist, the host of Basic Brown Nerds podcast, and has been to 26 countries so far. As a lover of all things tech, travel, and social impact business - she aims to leverage technology to empower our communities. You can follow her journey on Instagram

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