When I was twenty-one I withdrew from my private women’s college to enroll directly into a Mexican University. It cost $250 for the semester for fourteen credits earned in a mere six weeks. It was another $250 for the little Bungalows Vista Alegre apartment that came with a resplendent pool in the sunshine, a little weiner dog we affectionately named Salchicha, and unbeknownst to us, a Mexican housekeeper. What else could two college girls chasing Mexican boyfriends ask for? It was travel savvy at its finest. Thousands of dollars saved and not a credit lost. Score.
Photo courtesy of Bungalows Vista Allegre
These days I have more than few measly pesos to my name, but I still love a travel bargain. There’s nothing I hate more than spending full price on a hotel and yet I prefer to stay in four star hotels. This is not an oxymoron. Believe me I do it all the time…
Here are a few of my tricks for making your international travel dreams a reality without breaking the bank:
Book the travel yourself– Cut out the middle man and arrange hotels and flights yourself. With technology and a wealth of information these days you can do it without a travel agent.
Lonely Planet is your friend. Wherever you want to go if you want to get off the beaten path and find the best places to stay and eat, you need to pick up the country guide from the Lonely Planet. These guides are also great resources for planning your itinerary. #TravelBible
Kayak.com is a great resource for scanning different flight options all at once.
Use currency exchange in your favor-Go where the dollar is strong to stretch your dollars further! Think Mexico, Central America, Southeast Asia…
Be flexible with travel dates – Flying out on January 3rd vs. December 26th gives you a savings of more than 50% for example. On the travel websites click the flexible dates calendar to see the cheapest days to depart an return.
Never pay full price for lodging. I have used the Priceline Name Your Own Price Tool even internationally, staying at 5 star hotels in Cabo, Mexico City and Panama City for under $100. This is the way to go in big cities. (Click that you want 4+ stars of course!) For the smaller towns, refer back to your Lonely Planet guide for recommendations for small boutique and local hotels.
Airbnb.com and Vrbo.com are also great resources especially if you are traveling as a family or in a group.
For restaurants-Go local every time. Ask around for recommendations when you are in country and pick a few places from your lonely planet guide or online prior to departing.
I personally love to scour Tripadvisor.com before any trip. I have found off the beaten path excursions like making chocolate in the jungles in Bocas del Toro to having lunch at an indigenous village just outside of Panama City at really great prices.
If you are nervous about going on your own, pick a tour guide that gets you on ground doing something outside of an all-inclusive or chain hotel. Friendly Planet Travel has amazing prices. I spent eight days seeing the majesty of Ecuador, stayed in local boutique hotels and ate traditional food for $1600 inclusive. I do not tell a lie. So, why not sign up for their email to stay abreast to their latest trips?
Of course sign up for weekly travel deals like Travel Zoo and Groupon Getaways have to offer. The travel bargains that hit your in box often seem too good to be true! ….Often they are not! I traveled to Costa Rica with Costa Rican Monkey Tours through a $799 Groupon and it was high class and amazing! Just be sure read the reviews before you book and you are golden.
Costa Rica Monkey Tours!
So if cost has been holding you back, fear no more… An international trip will be cheaper than Disney, I promise.
Happy affordable, luxurious, global travels!
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”