One of the biggest benefits that I have ever gained from getting myself out of debt is to have the financial means to travel internationally. Of course it is a matter of personal taste, but if my choices are driving a brand new sports car or taking several trips to foreign countries, it’s an easy decision. Buy the latest flat screen TV or take a sightseeing trip through Europe? It’s a no brainer. There is nothing as fulfilling to me as being able to experience a new part of the world.
I have had the pleasure of traveling internationally six times now in my life, three times in the last three years. Am I rich? Not by any stretch of the imagination. But I have uncovered some awesome methods that will help you save some serious money the next time you travel internationally:
1. Consider a Travel Agent
One would think that using a travel agent would do nothing more than add an unneeded expense to your trip. After all, with the Internet, you’d think you should be able to find the cheapest air fares just as easily as any travel agent could, right? Well, actually, travel agents have access to a ton of resources and unadvertised fares that we can’t access. Moreover, the online resources that are used in other countries for finding cheap flights and hotels are different than those we use in the US. There are some websites we haven’t even heard of. Lastly, travel agents simply have way more knowledge than us because they have so much more experience. For example, you can’t expect a first-time international traveler to know that Ryanair and easyJet are the two leading discount airlines in Europe. You can’t expect a first-time traveler to know whether it makes sense to travel by rail or air in a certain country or continent. Someone visiting a country for the first time wouldn’t know his left foot from his right when it comes to choosing the best hotel that will offer the top deal.
The long and short of it is that I would definitely consider using a travel agent, especially if you’re traveling internationally for the first time. When I traveled internationally for the first time, I was pretty nervous, especially with two layovers in countries where I did not speak the language. My travel agent was able to provide me with tips and strategies for navigating these foreign airports with little to no obstacle. The agent also helped me find a great hotel deal and recommended the best way to travel within the country that I was visiting.
Rather than scouring the internet for cheap and affordable hotel accommodations, you can save yourself a bundle by renting an apartment during your stay. They are pretty easy to find, believe it or not. The rental fees are unbelievably reasonable, and I think it also lends an air of creativity to your trip. I rented apartments in Kiev, St. Petersburg, and Paris, and had great experiences in each of these places. You not only save a ton of money and live in huge places, but you also get to see how the “locals” live. Living so culturally also will help you gain the best experience while you’re there. For example, I could go to my landlord to find good local dinner spots, the best museums to visit, and the “can’t miss” spots in the city. I also was able to find a few “diamonds in the rough” regarding entertainment options that I never would have found anywhere else.
I would seriously recommend this option, for both financial reasons and to improve the quality of your excursion. You’ll come back with so many awesome stories that are a direct result of renting an apartment.
3. Sightseeing Tips
Regarding your sightseeing, I would do your cursory research on the internet, but I would also invest in a guidebook. The Lonely Planet series turned out to be great for me, and Fodor’s also has a series of travel books.
Having a guidebook actually in your hands can be quite a lifesaver. It certainly was for me. I used it to get “un-lost” a few times, and it helped me find some of the best tourist spots that I might have missed otherwise. Check into buying used guidebooks as well since you’ll probably only be using them one time. The prices for these guidebooks can actually be quite reasonable. Ultimately, not only will they drastically enhance your experience, but they will also provide you with some great money-saving tips.
4. Eating Out
The topic of eating out, to me, kind of goes hand in hand with your lodging choice. Usually, I opted for renting a place. Therefore, I always made sure that I had a kitchen where I was staying, and was able to save quite a bit by simply doing a little grocery shopping and eating some meals in my room. You may think this would take away from your overall experience, but it never really did for me. For example, if you visit a few local coffeehouses the first few mornings of your stay, is it really necessary to take your breakfast at these places every morning for the rest of your trip? I never felt so, and decided on some home-cooked meals instead. The savings can be substantial should you go this route.
It also gives your vacation an added touch in my opinion and gives you a taste of the “local” life once again. Additionally, it can be a time saver, too. Running late for some type of performance? Try getting in and out of a restaurant in a large international tourist destination in a short period of time. It’s just not going to happen. However, if you have food at home, you can whip up something quick and be on your way.
If you have the disposable income, I would highly recommend visiting another country. My visits overseas have given me memories that will last a lifetime. Also, you can do it without breaking the bank. Do your research and follow some of the tips I have listed above and you might be surprised at how reasonable international travel can be.
What are you money-saving tips when it comes to international travel?
(photo credit: uggboy)