The world is your oyster. But like platters of freshly shucked Kumamotos, travelling can get expensive. So here are some tips on how to vacation without destroying your wallet.
Live Like a Local
Forget about swanky suites or even mid-range hotel rooms. It’s all about that hostel life. A bunk in a dorm room in Jasper, Alta., for example, costs around $45 a night, and gives you access to a kitchen so you can cut down on restaurant meals. Home-sharing platforms like Airbnb are another option; you can find a sofa bed for next to nothing or, if you’re traveling in a big group, splitting the cost of an entire apartment can be even cheaper than a hostel bunk. Of course, crashing with friends and family is the best option—a bottle of maple syrup and postage for a thank you card are infinitely cheaper than any bunk.
Once you arrive, stocking up on groceries and public transit tickets will also help curb your expenses. In Reykjavik, for example, you can take the bus to several major trails outside the city and skip the cost of renting a car. And in Guangzhou, the third-largest city in China, bus fare is just 2 RMB, or $0.40.
Do some research to see if there are any local versions of big tourist spots. For example, visiting the Blue Lagoon just outside of Reykjavik costs roughly $100. But almost every Icelandic neighbourhood has public baths that cost about $10. Sure, the waters won’t be quite as turquoise and Instagram-ready, but you’ll still get to soak in hot tubs and experience a Nordic sauna.
Travel During the Off Season
If you’re no longer in school and can take your vacations when you please, travel during the off-season. A round-trip flight from Toronto to London in July costs around $800, but drops to $450 in rainy November. Of course, low season changes depending on location—November to February is actually high season in many parts of Southeast Asia, and you’ll save if you travel in the hot summer months. Other than cheaper flights, traveling outside peak times means accommodation will also cost less, and museums and hiking trails will be less crowded.
Also consider traveling to off-the-beaten-path destinations. Try Croatia instead of Italy for perfect beaches; Slovenia instead of Switzerland for outdoor adventure; and Quebec City or Boston to immerse yourself in European-like charm without leaving the continent.
Use a Travel Savings Account
You want interest rates to work in your favour, so save for your trip before you leave rather than carry a balance on your credit card. Unless you’re planning a holiday a decade away, you’ll need to access your travel funds relatively soon. It makes sense to opt for conservative investments, such as a high-interest savings account. Currently, the best rates vary between 1.7% and 2.3%, which isn’t very high, but better than risking having to fast during your vacation because you played the stock market and lost.
Plus, savings accounts are highly liquid—you can withdraw your cash whenever you want. Not all conservative investments, on the other hand, offer the same degree of flexibility. There’s no guarantee an issuer will let you cash out a regular GIC before it matures. Even if it does, you may be subject to penalties. Redeemable GICs let you cash out the investments early, along with a portion of the interest. To make up for this flexibility, they typically offer lower interest rates.
Think about opening your high-interest savings account with a smaller financial institution because you’ll often get a higher rate. Or, when you pay your bills each month, transfer a set amount to your savings account. If you don’t see the funds in your daily chequing account, you won’t be as tempted to spend as much money.
What are some of your tips and tricks for travelling on a budget? Leave them in the comments below!
This post is brought to you by RateHub.ca, a website that compares mortgage rates, credit cards, deposit rates, chequing accounts, and insurance, with the goal to empower Canadians to search smarter and save money.