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Budget Travel

Top Tips for Stress-Free Christmas Travel

The holidays are fast approaching, and we’re sure that by now, most people are already preparing for their out-of-town holiday and Christmas travel.

Your head may already be spinning with the number of things that need to get done before you head out to parts unknown.

So to help you out, we’ve come up with a list of things that you should keep in mind if you’re traveling during this Christmas season so that you can have a stress-free travel experience.

1) Ship Christmas presents ahead

The first thing to make it on our list is to ship those Christmas presents ahead of you.

It would be ideal to send them out about a week ahead of time to avoid the hassle of bringing them with you to the airport and having to unwrap those gifts in front of the TSA or – even worse – not being able to take them on board. It’s better to avoid the hassle altogether and simply send any gifts beforehand.

While it will cost you some money, it’ll be one less thing for you to worry about.

2) Travel light

Packing everything into just a carry-on bag would ideal, since you won’t have to line up to have any luggage checked in. But if you think that what you’ve packed in your carry-on bag won’t be enough, you again may opt to send some of those things that you will need along with the presents that you will be giving away.

Plus, you will eliminate the chance of having your luggage lost along the way.

3) Avoid booking flights to/from the busiest airports

It saves you the hassle of working your way through the crowds of people in the airport. Plus, it’s cheaper if you’re traveling out of secondary airports. You’re killing two birds with one stone, so to speak; you get to avoid large, crowded airports while also saving on airfare.

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4) Choose a flight that is early in the day or late in the evening

It is always best to get a good head start when you travel because, aside from being able to arrive at your destination early, it also allows you to relax earlier and maximizes your time with family and friends.

Or if you’re traveling late in the evening, it gives you ample time to wrap things up before you leave and check on things that you may otherwise overlook, especially when you are in a hurry to get to the airport.

5) The best time to travel (land or air) is during off-peak days

Why? Because roads are not yet congested with holiday travelers, it makes it more pleasant to take in the sights if you’re driving, and you won’t have to leave early to beat the traffic.

The same goes for air travel; since there are still not many travelers in the airport, you won’t be stressed with the number of people inside the airport. Use Google’s new flight search to aid in your search.

This is especially nice for claustrophobic people.

6) Don’t forget to bring an extra charging device

This is especially advisable for those who need to be connected all the time. It saves you the hassle of trying to find an outlet inside the airport.

Chances are that almost everyone will be looking for an outlet, especially if their electronic device is already running low on power. So to avoid that hassle altogether, make sure you have an extra battery pack or charging kit stashed in your carry-on bag.

7) Bring light snacks

Don’t rely on airplane food – especially if your stomach is already grumbling and you still have a ways to go before you reach your destination.

Better yet, if you are not the type to bring light snacks, make sure that you grab a bite before heading to the airport. If you’re too hungry, you may not be able to think straight or overreact to a minor mishap.

So fuel up your body with enough food, and make sure to stay hydrated too.

8) Find out where and how you can get help

This is especially helpful if, for some reason, your flight gets canceled due to unforeseen events. It’s always good to have the number of your airline handy so that you can make a call if something happens.

It’s also advisable to know the phone numbers and information for other airlines that are leaving for the same destination ahead of time so that you can buy a one-way ticket from them and get to your destination ASAP.

9) Make use of social media

Nowadays, it’s so easy to access information. So since you’re traveling, make the most of your social media to find out if there are roads that are inaccessible, airline flights that have been canceled, which airports are open, cheap deals on hotel accommodation, amenities within the airport, etc.

Who knows, you might also be of help to other travelers in need of information.

PS. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

10) Bring headphones or earplugs

This works if you just want to tune out the noise and people around you and concentrate on enjoying the scenery.

Nice and relaxing music helps you to doze off, especially after a very long, tiring journey. A few minutes or even hours to yourself always feels good.

11) Relax and just breathe

With everything that happens around the Christmas season and the number of things that you want to accomplish to avoid the frenzy, you sometimes forget to just take a load off and breathe.

Remember the reason for the season.

Take the time to just appreciate everybody around you, all the people you’re with, and just savor that moment with them. Breathe. Relax. Smile.

Don’t get swept up in the hustle and bustle. Don’t let the stress get to you. It’s the very reason why you’re traveling to celebrate the holidays with family and friends – to relax and enjoy the good cheer.

Piggybank
Budget Travel

15 Useful Budget Travel Tips and Tricks

For whatever reason, one of the prevailing, persistent misconceptions about traveling is that it’s expensive. While money is an important necessary ingredient in the equation, you don’t need as much as you might think. Many people feel that travel is financially out of their reach because they believe that the best way (or even the only way) to travel is by sparing no expense: flying first-class, staying in luxury resorts, eating in fancy restaurants, and shelling out big bucks for the all-inclusive package.

Not only is that not an authentic way to travel, it can break the bank! How can you enjoy your trip to the fullest if you can’t stop thinking about how much you spent to make it happen? There’s gotta be a better way, folks.

Enter the world of budget travel. The Internet has made it several orders of magnitude easier to learn ways to save money on travel, whether it’s general budget travel wisdom or location-specific advice. The best advice can help anybody who travels; even casual backpackers who are likely already working with a tighter budget can stretch their dollars even further by thinking creatively and exercising self-control.

Where should we start? The most useful budget travel tips are those that focus on the four major expense categories – transportation, food, accommodation, and activities/excursions – so let’s look at those.

Transportation

Moving from one location to the next is the very essence of travel, but transportation can be a difficult category to save a few dollars in. Here are a few ideas:

1. If you’re traveling by air, flight tickets are pretty much a given when it comes to necessary travel expenses. But you can still minimize financial heartache by flying during low seasons, taking advantage of promo fares, flying on no-frills budget airlines, and utilizing travel hacks like credit card points or miles bonuses.

2. Take the scenic route! Slower transportation methods like buses and trains are not only cheaper, they can also be a great way to make new friends or, if you’re traveling overnight, save on a night’s accommodation.

3. Hitchhike. It’s definitely not for everybody, and it requires common sense (and some bravery), but hitchhiking is one of the best ways to get to your destination (or at least closer to it) for free.

Food

I don’t care how long you’ve been traveling, everybody’s gotta eat. It’s easy to go for the most convenient option, especially after an exhausting day of exploration, but a little effort can go a long way towards reducing food costs:

4. Cook your own meals at least occasionally. Eating out every time can become an expensive affair. Make a run to a nearby supermarket to pick up the necessary ingredients, then head back to the hostel kitchen or AirBnb and bring out your inner chef.

5. If you must eat out, do it during breakfast, brunch, or lunchtime, when dishes are cheaper and many places have specials.

6. Stock up on a few cheap snacks at a convenience store before starting the day’s activities so you’re not tempted to eat everything in sight come dinnertime.

7. Try looking for accommodation that offers complimentary breakfast or the like. Then knock out both lunch and dinner with a well-timed trip to a buffet. Boom.

8. Dumpster diving could be the food equivalent of hitchhiking; you rely on others’ kindness in the hope of getting something free. While actually rummaging through commercial dumpsters is cleaner than most people imagine, sometimes all you need to do is ask grocery stores or restaurants if they have any leftover unsold produce/food.

Accommodation

Pricey hotel stays are usually an unnecessary rarity in today’s budget travel realm, replaced by a host of cheap or even free alternatives. Since everybody already knows about hostels, here are a few other great ways to rest your head for free or cheap:

9. Couchsurfing

Quite possibly the biggest player in this game, Couchsurfing is built on the principle of exchanging hospitality; locals in cities across the world open their homes to travelers, where they can stay for free. It’s technically free, but nobody likes a mooch; if you’re hosted, try to give back somehow.

10. Camping

Why not take your bed with you? Bringing a tent along means that not only can you set up shelter and sleep virtually anywhere for free (or the usually cheap campsite fee), you can also wake up to some stunning views of Mother Nature.

11. Housesitting

Often considered the pinnacle of free travel accommodations by many of the travel pros, housesitting combines the appeal of a free place to stay with the comfortable, home-y vibe of an AirBnb rental. Sometimes, when homeowners travel, they ask for volunteers who can come and watch/take care of their house and/or animals while they’re gone. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship in which the homeowner has peace of mind while they’re away and the lucky housesitter gets a free nice place to stay in return.

Activities

Finally, what you do while you’re traveling in a new country also affects how much you’ll spend. Here are some suggestions:

12. Get cheap hobbies. Walking, hiking, swimming, sightseeing, and photographing are all usually free or really cheap ways to enjoy a new location.

13. You can’t do some things, like visiting North Korea, without a guided tour, but 99% of the time, you can save money by skipping the tour group and instead making the necessary preparations and going it alone.

14. Tourist traps are also a thing. You can often find alternative restaurants/attractions/excursions that are cheaper than their touristy counterparts by getting away from the crowds.

15. Other ways to save money could include: drinking in before hitting the bars, hand-washing laundry whenever possible, and using Wi-Fi instead of spending money for a SIM card.

Traveling on a budget takes a little imagination and a lot of discipline, but implementing some of these tips can be a great way to extend your time on the road and likely have more adventurous trips. What other money-saving budget travel tips can you think of?

Twobedsbedroom
Budget Travel

How to Save Money on Hotel Accommodation While Traveling

While not impossible, traveling for free can be an extremely difficult proposition – you sacrifice convenience and comfort. For the vast majority of us, money is a necessary ingredient if you want to travel. You need money to eat, purchase plane tickets, and get visas or enjoy certain excursions.

Often, the biggest expenses while you travel come from accommodation – finding places to stay can add up! The first choice for many people is often a hotel stay, which can quickly become expensive.

Fortunately, accommodation is also one of the easiest travel categories to save money in, with several cheaper (or even free) alternatives available! What do some of these include?

Affordable Hotel Accommodations

Short-term Rentals

We’ll start with a trend that’s picked up steam a lot in the past few years: short-term or vacation rentals. While prices on short-term rentals are usually on par with or only slightly cheaper than your typical hotel stay, short-term rentals can be a great alternative because they usually are more personalized and comfortable than a hotel room.

Airbnb is leading this charge with properties available worldwide, but other sites like VRBO, TripAdvisor, Tripping, or HomeAway also offer many short-term rental options.

Hostels

Our second item highlights the most well-known budget traveler lodging choice – the humble hostel. Hostels are often the choice of backpackers and vagabonds the world over, and for good reason. The communal nature of the dorm rooms is ideal for meeting fellow travelers and making friends from all over the world, and beds can be found in many developing countries for just a couple dollars a night.

Sites like Hostelworld list exclusively hostels, and other places like Booking.com have a wide selection of budget hostel options.

You can make a hostel stay even cheaper if you’re willing and able to work in exchange for a free bed, which we’ll look at more in the next point:

Work Exchange/Volunteer Work

Whether it’s at a hostel, on a farm, or at a resort halfway across the world, exchanging your labor for free room and board (and occasionally, meals and a small stipend) is a great way to lower your accommodation costs.

Arrangements like these are often requested and worked out in person; however, useful websites like HelpX and WorkAway offer a database of hosts looking for work that you can connect with for a low annual membership fee. Make sure you’re OK with the host’s stipulations, and always look at reviews and references to make sure you’re getting a reasonable (and legitimate) deal.

Volunteering, while similar to work exchanges in that it often includes a few hours a day of unpaid work for a place to stay in return, focuses more on the social and community benefits of said work.

A well-known example is WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), a program in which volunteers provide 4-6 hours of work per day in exchange for food and accommodation from the host. Or if you’re more into helping conservation efforts, you could even join teams that help endangered turtles.

Camping

Camping is the best option for nature lovers on a budget. It’s usually free, but there are a few instances where you may have to shell out a few dollars to rent a campsite.

Camping is a wonderful way to both save money and have the great outdoors at your doorstep, and it’s easier than ever to do nowadays with all the ultralight tents on the market that you can carry with your baggage without adding too much weight or bulk.

Couchsurfing

Since the dawn of the Internet, people across the globe are now ore connected than ever – and many use the Web as a tool to find unique accommodation opportunities. One prime example of this is Couchsurfing, one of many “hospitality exchange” websites in which locals open up their couches (or rooms, apartments, or homes) to foreign travelers.

Other examples are WarmShowers for traveling cyclists; Trustroots, which targets hitchhikers and nomads; or alternatives like BeWelcome or Staydu, which work similarly to Couchsurfing.

Not only can hospitality exchanges like these be a great way to have a free place to stay, it’s an invaluable resource for connecting to the local life and getting to know a place more authentically.

Just remember to find a way to give back or pay it forward! Free is great, but nobody likes a mooch.

House Sitting

House sitting is considered by many seasoned travelers to be the pinnacle of free accommodations while on the road. Maybe not everybody makes a life out of travel, but the vast majority of people take vacations and have to leave behind a house and perhaps some pets when they go.

That’s where you come in.

It’s common for homeowners to request a house sitter for them while they’re away, which can involve basic cleaning and maintenance work or pet care while you hold down the fort. You can find listings from hosts around the world on websites like HouseCarers, Nomador, and Mind My House, and you can apply to these listings once you’ve paid the low annual membership fee.

Anything else?

There are a few unconventional accommodation options that you may not have thought off right off the bat.

Monasteries and convents often offer shelter and basic meals for transient travelers.

If you’re a homeowner, there are home exchange programs in which you stay in someone else’s home and open up your home for them to stay in in return, all for free.

Yes, it’s possible for anybody to save a few dollars on the road and quite possibly have a more unique travel experience along with it if they’re simply willing to do a little research and perhaps some work.

What’s been the most interesting way you’ve found accommodation on the road?