As a personal finance blogger and business coach, I often find myself asking people why they want money. And most of the time, they say, "I want to travel more, and travel is expensive."
The bad news is, yes, travel will cost you money. The good news is travel doesn't have to be as expensive as you think. Here are some of the ways you can actually make travel less expensive:
1. Choose spots that don't attract the most tourists.
When I went to Mexico earlier this year to visit a friend, I spent a couple of days in Cancun in between flights. While I was in Cancun, I noticed something interesting. While I was excited to get on a regional flight and explore a small town in the south of Mexico, many of the people in the hotel weren't planning on actually leaving the hotel. They went from the beach, to the bar, and back to their room.
Granted, it was an all inclusive resort and those tend to be pricey, but I ended up spending a fraction of the amount of money they did because I went to a non-touristy area for most of my trip. To give you an idea, two days and three nights in Cancun cost me over $1,000. Five days in San Cristobal de las Casas with my friend cost me around $300.
I remember doing one tour where I saw two waterfalls and the Mayan ruins at Palenque for $25 and that included two meals! They were charging way more than that in Cancun for tours. Additionally, I actually got to see Mexico and experience the culture.
I should note that I was in a 20-person van for five and a half hours to get to those ruins. I was also staying in a small town in the mountains where you couldn't drink the tap water. These are inconveniences some people don't want to deal with while traveling, but they sure do end up saving you a lot of money while giving you an incredible experience.
2. Start learning how to use points.
I'm a huge fan of credit card points to earn discounted travel options. By learning how to work them, I've been able to get over 10 free flights just from one airline.
The way I see it, if you're going to be spending money to pay your bills anyway, you might as well get some bang for your buck by racking up those airline miles.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you learn how use travel points:
The fastest way to rack up points is to use the branded credit cards. I pay for everything with credit cards and then pay off the balance in full each month. You'll rarely ever see me use a debit card.
Not all rewards programs are created equal. Figure out where you want to go first, then find the airline that can help get you there the easiest.
The key to cheap reward travel (and arguably cheap travel period) is to have flexible dates.
3. Look for deals.
If credit card points aren't your thing, you still have options for less expensive travel. Namely, you can research discount travel on booking sites like Expedia and Kayak. They key is to really do some digging because it is unlikely that the first deal you find is the best one available.
You may also want to learn about some tricks of the trade. For example, flights may be cheaper on Tuesdays because airlines are happy with all the money they made over the weekend. Additionally, if you've been looking for a flight on the same browser for a while, try using another browser or clearing your cookies and you may find some better deals.
While travel can be expensive, it really doesn't have to be. If you're willing to be flexible while learning the tricks of the trade, you'll be surprised at just how little you can spend on travel.