The thought of travel is typically dismissed as something only middle-class people from rich families is able to do, making up excuses as to why they can't travel somewhere.
When it comes to travel people usually think it's the money that's holding them back. They aren't able to travel somewhere nice because they don't have the funding in their bank account, or have too much debt to consider it.
But people seem to forget that getting away doesn't have to be on some fancy cruise to the Bahamas or travelling all over the European continent. It could be hopping on a bus from Toronto to Chicago for a few days to explore the windy city, or going to Montreal for the weekend.
There is inarguably some monetary requirement to travel, since there's only so many airline points and free flights you can earn, which are hard to do in the long-run. There's certain circumstances, like health, visa applications and debt that keep people from exploring the world.
When you do a little planning, traveling somewhere can get a lot more affordable than it seems. There’s lots of little tricks you can follow that all add up to make quite a bit of saving, and here’s a few things you might not have thought of to get you one step closer to your destination.
Find the cheapest way to get there
Many people automatically go to an airline’s website when they’re travelling somewhere, but getting somewhere by train or bus can sometimes be a lot cheaper, especially if you book a couple weeks in advance.
Most national transportation systems, as well as local ones, offer some sort of period pass that can result in quite a bit of savings over renting a car or buying tickets individually. For example with Amtrak travel, you can purchase eight trips spread over 15 days for $459 USD (they also offer 12 and 18 trip passes) or a California-only pass for $159. In Canada, Via Rail offers a country-wide pass for $692 CAD, lasting seven trips and up to 60 days, or a 10 trip pass for $890. There’s much cheaper passes available if you’re looking to travel just between Windsor and Quebec City (you could see Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec City for less than $300).
For people who are comfortable sleeping on a bus or train, use it to your advantage. By taking an overnight bus, when you arrive in your destination you’ll be all rested up and ready to explore.
The easiest way to see all the different ways to get to your destination is to use Google Maps, which will tell you the easiest and most direct route available. From there, you can compare them to see which is cheaper or more convenient for you.
Make your own meals
It’s always a lot cheaper to purchase food from a grocery store and prepare it yourself. That’s not to say you can't go out to a nice meal while out, but creating a meal outline, like purchasing cereal and bread for breakfasts and then bringing some snacks during the day can save you a bit of cash.
Using an app like OpenTable to earn some points towards free food is a good idea and by checking Groupon and doing a quick internet search, you could find some good deals at restaurants in the city.
Use a tourist card
In many large cities, there’s tourist passes that will let you see a large number of attractions with significant savings. The CityPass is available in New York City, Seattle, San Francisco and a handful of more cities. Smart Destinations’ offerings are available in a variety of domestic cities, including Boston, Chicago, Miami and San Diego, as well as international destinations like Dubai and Sydney. A quick web search should turn up results for the same sort of thing in your destination city.
These cards are usually accepted at a wide range of attractions so it's smart to try and plan out where you want to go and what time the place is open until. Though you might not be able to go to all the attractions the pass is valid at, you might at least be able to visit all the ones that sound most interesting to you.
Take advantage of discount programs
There’s loads of discounts available to students including for bus and train travel, but not usually for airlines. The general rule is the earlier you book, the cheaper a fare you’ll get, but plane tickets can be unpredictable which is why you should use an app like Google Flights or Hopper.
In many countries throughout the world if you show your student identification, you're usually able to score at least a small discount. These discounts can sometimes be hard to find but its worth asking about any discounts available to you when booking your tickets. Via Rail, for instance, offers a discount on ticket to all people aged 25 or below.
With Amtrak anybody can save up to 30 percent off with the SmartFares program and up to 20 percent off for booking two weeks in advance, and they offer routes all over the U.S. from Seattle to New York City and Chicago to Miami. Via Rail offers discount Tuesdays and though you only typically end up scoring a couple dollars off here and there, it’s better than nothing.
Rent out an apartment or house
Travelling with someone else is generally cheaper when it comes to accommodations, because you’re dividing the cost by the amount of people staying there.
Websites like Airbnb are usually cheaper than renting out a hotel room, and you tend to get more space and amenities for less cost. For people who are comfortable with it, more money can be saved if you’re comfortable only renting out a bedroom and not a whole apartment or house. But for the majority of people, like me, who aren’t that comfortable with strangers, stick with the latter option.
There are, of course, some exceptions to this generalization and in some cities it could in fact be cheaper to rent out a hotel room. Taking a peek at multiple websites to compare your best option, including a website like Booking.com that compares the prices from a bunch of different hotel chains, is always a good idea.
Set a budget and stick to it
Once you're all done purchasing your accommodation and tickets to get there, set a budget for yourself and make sure you stick with it. The most effective thing you can do is move all your money, minus your budget, to a different account so you're not tempted to touch it. It'll still be available for you in case an emergency happens, but since it'll be harder to tap into, it might keep yourself from spending it.
The other thing you can do is get a pre-paid travel debit card with the option to store multiple currencies on it. There's one available from Air Canada which could come in handy for Canadians going across the border for a few days. When you're spending money using the currency of the country you're in (as opposed to using your credit card in the U.S.) you have a better understanding of how much you've spent and how much money you have left to use.