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Travel Tips

Budget Travel Tips You Need to Know

Since we work in the industry, we know that budget travel isn't easy. The most epic trips come with epic price tags. But with some smart penny-pinching, we've learned how to capitalize on experience without pushing our banks to the brink. From using deal sites to save loads on flights, to skipping pricey hotels for affordable stays, here are our best budget travel tips for saving on your next vacay.

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Be Your Own Chauffeur

When traveling I always rent a car. This may seem like a splurge, but it's a surprisingly smart budget travel tip. You can drive along the Amalfi Coast at your own pace, drinking in the winding Tuscan roads and super narrow village streets, and make pit-stops for local honey along the side of the road in the south of France....the possibilities are endless. You can smell the air and blast your music, plus you don't need to be slave to the train or bus schedule. By saving on transportation, I can splurge on any spot I encounter along the way. Oh, and a word to the wise – know how to drive a stick, it's even cheaper.

- April Ellis, Senior Photo Editor

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Go for Five-Star Stays...in Moderation

Whenever I go on a vacation, I always splurge on a one-night stay at a super ritzy resort – just to get a taste of that high-flyin’ lifestyle – then I opt to stay at a budget hotel for the rest of my trip. The last time I was in Palm Springs, I started by checking into the ultra swanky L’Horizon for one night to take advantage of its amenities (think: pool, spa, fancy bar and restaurant). Then, the rest of my trip, I went for a more affordable option and stayed at the $150/night Alcazar Palm Springs.

- Siobhan Reid, Staff Writer

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Adventure Where the Dollar Goes Far

For me, one of the easiest ways to vacation on a budget is to choose a destination where the dollar goes far. This past year I spent a few weeks in Morocco where you can eat well, stay in a beautiful riad, shop the local markets, and visit stunning gardens and museums without blowing your budget. Another great vacation experience that's easy to do on the cheap is road trips. You get to experience something different every day, and if you’re okay with camping, you can often find a prime spot in a national or state park for less than $15! Sleeping in nature can be an amazing experience, and after a couple nights of that I don’t feel guilty about splurging on a luxurious hotel.

- Gretchen Moosbrugger, Photo Editor

RELATED: 15 Places Where You Can Sleep in Nature

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Scour Deal Sites for Discounts

Travel has always been a priority for me (I do work for Jetsetter, after all!), so I’m more than willing to spend my savings on an awesome trip. But, who doesn’t like a good deal? I pinch pennies on plane tickets by scouring sites like Airfarewatchdog, The Flight Deal and Hopper to find bargain-bin prices (yes, even if that means a dreaded middle seat in economy). With all the cash I save on transportation, I go all in on restaurants. As a huge foodie, I’m all for trying the best-of-the-best cuisine, from award-winning fine-dining (ahem, Mexico City’s Pujol) to hip new eateries like Miss Paradis in Soho, New York.

- Chelsea Bengier, Editorial Assistant

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Travel Like a Local – via Public Transportation

Living in New York, I’m used to walking everywhere or commuting via subway and public bus. When I’m traveling, I try to do the same so that rather than doling out $20 or more on a single taxi ride – even if it’s a long trip – I get to commute like a local and spend only $2 or $3. In Paris, I ride the Metro and purchase money-saving carnets (packs of 10 rides), in Boston I ride the T and use a CharlieCard (as opposed to a CharlieTicket) so my rides cost 50 cents less each, and in London I opt for the Tube and unlimited day passes rather than pay-as-you-go tickets. This saved money allows me to shop the adorable boutiques on Paris’ Rue Mouffetard (in the 5th arrondissement), indulge in some pastries in Boston’s North End, and dine on delicious meals in London’s Latin Quarter.

- Chelsea Stuart, Writer

RELATED: How to Pad Your Travel Fund

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Curb the Shopping Sprees and Starbucks Runs

I’ll admit I enjoy the finer things in life: expensive meals, fancy cocktails, a five-star hotel room, far-off places. So when I realized I wanted to prioritize travel in my life, I made a point of deprioritizing my everyday spending habits. Now, I rarely buy clothes more than once or twice a year, usually opt for the least-expensive dinner entrée, stopped my gym membership, and seriously cut back on Starbucks and take-out (my weaknesses). I also use an app called Qapital which helps siphon those extra savings into an account I don’t have regular access to, so when I’m ready to hit the road—oftentimes last-minute, because I am the QUEEN of procrastination—I can splurge on whatever is necessary without draining my checking account. I got to visit my brother in Sydney with two weeks’ notice, spontaneously indulged on a gourmet meal in Amsterdam, and dropped some serious cash on a professional camera after finding out I was headed to South Africa. Oh, and I never buy souvenirs. A picture is worth a thousand tchotchkes—and takes up way less space in my apartment.

- Lindsey Olander, Editor

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Pack Your Own (Delicious and Healthy) Snacks

My rule of thumb when it comes to splurging or saving: enjoy the finer things and flex my Martha Stewart muscles on the rest. I’ll happily splurge on a nice hotel room or a great meal, but rest stop food or mediocre lunches? No thanks! Packed away in my car you’ll find a cooler full of nutritious homemade goodies instead. On my annual North Fork getaway last summer, I stayed at the luxe Jedediah Hawkins Inn and had a few swanky seafood dinners at Soundview Restaurant and American Beech – things I could afford because I otherwise packed my own farm fresh fruit, veggies, and homemade meals (think: pasta primavera, beachside grilled fish, and salads). Skipping roadside junk food meant long days spent moseying around the countryside, a happy tummy, great ‘grams, and a chubby wallet. But in a more holistic sense – I always choose to spend on experiences and memories, keeping in mind that saving doesn’t necessarily mean a subpar return. Cook your own food, curate your own itinerary, and make sure you’re with good company.

- Rebecca Enis, Photo Editor Intern

RELATED: 8 Awesome Apps for Your Next Road Trip

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Embrace Experiences, Nix Poolside Cocktails

My tactic? I save on things like hotels (I try to find the best deals, waaaay ahead of time) and food (I try to eat local, as opposed to racking up the bill at resort restaurants). My splurging goes to things like activities. In Puerto Vallarta, I skipped fancy meals and cocktail after cocktail at the pool and used the money to go zip lining through the Sierra Madres (which was accessible by boat, then ATV, then donkey). I then went on a tour of San Sebastian, which included agave fields and tequila tasting, a local coffee shop (where you’re greeted by an adorable black lab before tasting VERY strong espresso), a tour of the village (including local shops and old churches), and an impromptu purchase of a hand-woven basket. The woman made it right in front of me, with so many colors! Way better than sipping poolside – experiences are always worth way more.

- Lauren Dishinger, Associate Photo Editor

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Think Ahead (With Your Stomach in Mind)

Restaurants are a huge thing for me – because of this, I research the hell out of my options and secure reservations way, way in advance. Since I square away all of my meals ahead of time, when it comes to planning the knitty-gritty of my trip, I'm able to work the anticipated costs right into my budget. Since I know I'm inclined to splurge on trendy tables, I'm willing to sacrifice when it comes to pricey hotel rooms and flights. What can I say? I like to eat well!

- Clara Sedlak, Executive Editor

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