A Millennial's Guide to Lowering the Costs of International Travel
The costs associated with traveling can be intimidating and perceived as downright unattainable if you have bills, student loan debt and are trying to "adult" by actually saving money.
With the poor state of our generation’s finances, one would think none of us has “extra money” to spend on traveling. Yet, our eyes continue to glaze over at our phones swiping up to endless photos of our peers in exotic destinations. It’s clear… Almost everyone is taking trips left and right!
Millennials, roughly persons who are 18 – 35 years of age, are traveling at record rates.
Topdeck.com surveyed 31,000 people, 94 percent of them between the ages of 18 and 30. They found 88 percent of our generational cohort traveled overseas 1 to 3 times in 2016. Simultaneously, the average Millennial also has $30,000 worth of student loan debt. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Over the past two years I've enjoyed several international and domestic vacations. I planned a surprise trip to London and Paris for my parents and was one of the hundreds lucky enough to snag the infamous flight deal to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. I also spent a week in my dream destination, Santorini, Greece. Others on my list include Costa Rica, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Rico and trips to some of my favorite U.S. cities – San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami.
But like most Millennial college graduates, I also have student loan debt, rent and many other bills and expenses. Should adult financial responsibilities keep us from the enriching life-lessons and sometimes life-altering experience that can be had with travel?
With proper planning, these strategies will keep more money in your pockets to “adult” while having your next vacation on the tarmac ready for take off!
1. Travel with friends – Simple. Splitting costs is one of the easiest ways to travel on a budget. Split lodging, transportation, food and excursion costs. Many countries offer huge portions for food so order a few dishes and split them amongst friends, smorgasbord style.
2. Consider alternative, less expensive lodging options - Airbnb, couchsurfing, bed and breakfasts, hostels, etc. Compare hotel prices on discount search engines such as Hotels.com, Expedia or Kayak and be sure to take some time to read the reviews to avoid an undesirable experience.
3. All Inclusive – Please don’t roll your eyes! I'm never too good for an all-inclusive. For a long weekend getaway, all-inclusive vacations can get you the best bang for your buck, decreasing variables in spending. Great for first time travelers, couples and for those who have little to no tolerance for unexpected costs.
4. Cruises – A way to see multiple destinations in one pass, cruises roll the cost of most dining, activities and lodging into one price. Cruises aren’t everyone's cup of tea, but can be valuable for someone who wants to tackle multiple islands on a budget. Cruises are not just for the Caribbean islands – My girlfriend and her husband enjoyed a week in Italy prior to a week-long Grecian cruise! The cruise did all the hard work for them, allowing them to see and explore several of the Greek islands without the headache and hassle of figuring out transfers, flights, schedules, lodging etc.
5. Groupon – Many forget this option when planning a trip but it’s definitely one you want to consider. While I’ve never booked a vacation through a discounted website, I have booked excursions. While in Dubai, my friends and I went on an 8-hour safari day for $40 thanks to a Groupon we all purchased prior to the trip – a $200 value.
6. Old fashioned financial planning – Space… Your... Spending. Your entire trip cost shouldn't come out of one paycheck. Book your flight 6 – 9 months out, lodging 5 months out, excursions up against the trip or when you arrive. Remember, in some countries bargaining for a great deal works best in person.
7. Do your research – Know the going rate for transportation, food and activities so you don't get swindled. We took the London’s public transportation system to our hotel for about $5 USD instead of a cab ride that would have cost us about $70. I’d previously researched and mapped out some of our routes and learned about the Oyster Cards, Hop on/Hop off buses and other means of transportation around the city. The train was HOT AND CROWDED and I thought my mom was going to kill me (she was NOT feeling the public transportation experience) but the money saved she happily spent inside of the famous London shopping sanctuary – Harrods.
8. Incorporate free activities – Museums, beaches, city walks, outdoor concerts, hikes, sunset gazing, hotel pool parties etc. There are so many incredible sites to see for free. Everyday should not be a big spending day.
9. Travel OFF-SEASON – We stayed at the beautiful Kasimatis Suites in Santorini (which I’d highly recommend) and saved almost $2,000 by traveling the first week of May vs. the middle/end of summer during the Grecian Summer high-season. Popular times for travel come with higher price tags for airfare, lodging, food and excursions. Off-season travel is less expensive and depending on planning, just as nice weather wise.
10. Consider a different departure city – Flights are usually the biggest travel expense and greatest deterrent to booking a trip. If you’re not far from a big city, compare prices to see if flying out of a nearby airport would be cheaper. NJ and NYC generally have incredible flight prices and deals. Recently my husband and I saved our household $1,000 by flying out of Newark, NJ instead of Washington, DC for an international flight.