Globetrotting can be intimidating even when you know the major do’s and don’ts of travel. Plenty of people have no fear of going on such an adventure, but feel that time or money constraints keep them from satisfying their wanderlust. This, however, is a misperception. There are plenty of ways to travel on limited time and money. Here are a few ways to make the most of both your cash and vacation time while still traveling the world.
Save money by eating like a local.
You probably know all the best places to eat in your hometown. You know which restaurants have exorbitant prices for dinner but have wickedly cheap happy hour deals. You know which hole in the wall eateries are hidden gems and which are still open only because the health inspector is running behind schedule. You know which stores have great deals for members and which have great sales. With all this knowledge, you can make your money go a long way. In a new city or country, you have none of that local know-how. Do your best, however, to get that knowledge from those who are locals. When you are looking for a great place to eat in an unfamiliar area, ask the locals where they take their families. Do not simply ask for the best place in town. You might well be sent to a tourist trap that is twice as expensive and half as good as the little eatery tucked into a backstreet strip mall. The food will be better, more authentic and likely much cheaper since the owners rely on locals who know what their money is worth instead of oblivious tourists.
When eating like a local, be prepared to cook as well as eat out. If you are running low on funds, the grocery store is your best friend. You obviously want to enjoy the local cuisine, but you can do that without breaking the bank by making a few of your own meals. Splurge on dinner, but content yourself with a homemade sandwich for lunch, especially if you are planning to go sightseeing in the afternoon. Your meal will be cheaper and not interrupt your day. Similarly, make friends with leftovers. Many restaurants serve generous portions. Eat a bit lighter in house and save the rest for tomorrow. If where you are eating offers pre-entrée freebies such as bread, chips, fruit or sliced vegetables, fill up on those so you can save some of your main meal for later.
Do be prepared to buy all your food at your destination if you are traveling internationally. Some travel websites urge travelers to pack shelf-stable snacks, but bringing anything edible into another country has the potential to turn into a customs nightmare. You might lose time and be forced to throw it away anyway. Save yourself the headache and buy the snacks when you arrive.
Make the most of your time by combining trips or holidays.
Most Americans get very few days off when compared to their European counterparts. The average worker in the United States can expect to only have a handful of federal holidays off and limited vacation time. Many companies also combine sick leave, vacation time and personal days into one big pot. This can be helpful when you are healthy, but it infuriates many people who hate that they have to cancel summer vacations because they were the unfortunate soul who caught pneumonia in winter.
Given that you are likely working with a limited number of days to travel, you need to stretch them as far as you can. Do this by tacking your vacation days or paid time off onto trips or holidays that are already on the company calendar. If you have a business trip in an area you have always wanted to visit, use your vacation time to stay a couple extra days or arrive a couple days early. You will already be in the area for business, so you only have to worry about travel time on one side of the trip. Similarly, try to schedule vacation around federal holidays in order to make the most of your time off. If you already have Memorial Day off, you only have to take off four days to enjoy a week somewhere rather than a full five.
To save money, travel during the off season.
Everyone wants to go to the tropics or warm beaches in the summer. Resorts, restaurants and hotels all know this and raise their prices accordingly. Early September, however, is just as warm as late August and likely far, far cheaper. Similarly, the dry season is when everyone wants to visit Southeast Asia. Life for the locals, however, does not stop during the rainy season, so neither should your travel. Traveling in the off season lets you save money and avoid the crowds. Local restaurants and attractions in high-traffic tourist areas also tend to have better deals during the off season since they have to cater to the locals who are less likely to be interested in or willing to spend the same amount of money for a Friday night out as tourists on a week-long vacation. Flights, trains and buses also tend to be cheaper during the off season, so your travel money will go much farther as little as a week after the end of peak tourist season.
Set your priorities in order to make the most of limited time.
If you are planning to travel, you need to prioritize. This means you need to save your vacation time for your trips instead of taking off a random Monday or Friday so you can enjoy a longer weekend. Keep your eyes on the prize, and make yourself get out of bed each day. You will thank yourself when you are able to spend a full week exploring a new city or country instead of having to cram everything into a couple days because you indulged in a few lazy days on the couch.
Once you are in your destination, you need to make sure you continue to prioritize. What are the things you really want to see, do or experience? Make sure those are the items on your agenda that you build your schedule around for the rest of your trip. If you really want to walk the Great Wall, you need to make sure you factor in travel time to and from the Wall as well as how much time you plan to spend at the structure. This might mean planning to get up extra early one morning. Similarly, if you really want to see the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Arch de Triomphe, make sure you do not get sidetracked and spend a full day wandering the Palace of Versailles.
Deciding what you really want to see in an area can also tell you exactly how much time you need for your trip. If all you really want to see is Venice, a long weekend trip is perfect. Exploring Rome, Florence, Venice and the Italian countryside, however, would take noticeably more time. Once you know what your priorities are, you might find that a trip you expected would take a full week only requires a few days. That unused time can then be put toward another trip later.
Traveling can seem intimidating when you have a limited budget or limited time, but there is no reason to let either of these things stop you from fulfilling your dreams of being a globetrotter. You simply have to be smart about how you use both your time and money. That, however, should have been the plan already.