Many of us are restless and yearning for a change in scenery after two years of postponed travel plans and working from home – the novelty Zoom backgrounds just aren't cutting it any more. Those who can now log in remotely from a different location or across the globe can make the most of their ability to work from home by traveling more, or taking a workcation. (Some nations are even joining in, providing digital nomad visas and other initiatives to assist location-independent entrepreneurs maximize their time overseas.)
It might seem like a costly proposition, but it doesn't necessarily need to be. In fact, when you travel more slowly and stay longer in one location, it's often easier to access budget travel benefits and best practices.
If you're looking to travel affordably this year, whether it be for a weekend vacation or a lengthy journey, here are seven budget travel suggestions to help you out.
1. Maximize your credit card strategy.
Not all credit cards are the same. Using a travel rewards credit card to pay for daily transactions can help you earn enough hotel points and airline miles to redeem for free flights and hotel stays. While some cards provide lucrative sign-up bonuses and the ability to transfer points to travel partners, others provide exclusive benefits based on the airline or hotel chain with which they are co-branded, granting access to benefits such as complimentary upgrades, airport lounge access, free checked bags, or late check-out, depending on the card.
So, how do you decide which one to pursue first or add to your spending arsenal? Consider what you spend the most money on, such as dining out, shopping, gas, groceries, or business costs, because certain cards will allow you to earn more points for specific spending categories. Consider whether you're comfortable sticking with a specific airline or hotel chain (or frequenting a select few and their travel partners). There's a lot of information out there, but points-and-miles specialty sites can help you sort through it all and stay up to date on credit card loyalty program trends.
2. Stay on top of travel restrictions.
Being prepared can't hurt. Having some points and miles set aside in case you suddenly need to fly home or quarantine during your vacation can be a great money and sanity saver, especially if you have to hustle at the last minute to reschedule plans.
Before you leave on an international trip — and we mean well before you leave — look up COVID-19 restrictions by country to see if you need to show proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test results (which can quickly add up if you need one quickly), and how long you'll be quarantined if you test positive for COVID-19 while there.
3. Purchase the right kind of travel insurance.
Yes, spending money in order to possibly save money is one of our budgeting ideas. Although it's usually a good idea to have travel insurance in case of emergencies, certain nations now want passengers to have enough coverage before they're even granted entry in case they test positive for COVID-19. Although the majority of travel insurance policies don't cover trip cancellations because of travel anxiety (unless they have a Cancel For Any Reason clause), you'll typically be able to make a claim if you get sick unexpectedly before or during your trip, need to get quarantined abroad, have to cut short your travels, or have to return home early.
The devil is in the details; some policies even differ depending on the country you'll be visiting. In order to avoid disappointment, make sure you read the fine print and are fully aware of what is and isn't covered before you purchase a policy.
4. Save money on car rentals.
We've all heard horror stories about price gouging or surprise charges by car rental companies. Don't worry! Check to see if your credit card covers the primary collision damage waiver so you don't have to pay extra for one through the rental car company or file claims through your own car insurance if something goes wrong during your trip. Otherwise, use websites to find deals or consider renting, booking short-term or hourly rentals through apps, or renting your neighbours' cars. Depending on your travel plans, you could also try driving for relocation rental sites to get free (or nearly free) one-way RV and car rentals.
5. Watch out for travel deals.
While travel deals and discounts aren't as plentiful as they were when travel reopened last year, there are still plenty to be found. Follow your favourite airlines, hotels, tour companies, and other travel brands on social media or subscribe to their email newsletters to receive travel deals directly in your inbox. Set up price alerts for a specific destination to keep track of when prices drop.
Being flexible with your travel dates and airports can also save you money, as lower prices may be available a few days before or after your desired flight or to airports in nearby cities. Be sure to check the fine print before booking! You don't want to be surprised with unexpected flight or baggage fees, for example, that appear right before you pay, making the so-called "deal" less appealing than other airlines' standard rates.
6. Choose alternative accommodations with more amenities.
Accommodation is one of the most expensive aspects of travelling. Cool hotels are pricey, especially when compared to your monthly rent. Traveling and staying in a place for more than a few days or a week does not feel attainable from this perspective. But this is not always the case! When travelling in a group or staying for an extended period of time, you can take advantage of a wider range of accommodation options, such as apartments, and save money per night by opting for multi-week or month-long rentals.
Living in a house or apartment gives you access to kitchens and laundries, giving you more room and allowing you to save on eating out and doing the dishes. You'll also save money on transportation if you stay in a centrally placed apartment, like at Avalon Suites, for instance, because you'll be well-positioned for both walking and public transportation.