When I speak with potential clients, one of the biggest concerns that comes up has to do with budget. Many people dream of traveling to Italy or swoon over the thought of spending time in France, but think they can’t afford it. Sure, vacations can be expensive, but they don’t have to be. There are lots of ways to stretch that almighty dollar, and still have an awesome time.
Start by Traveling off-season, which will ensure you’re getting the best bang for your buck. Then follow it up with these surefire tips and you’ll be saying HELL YES to that dream vacation you’ve always wanted to take, but keep putting off because you can’t afford it.
And in case I have to remind you – you work hard and you deserve a nice vacation, don’t you? Yeah, you do.
Limit your destinations
Think twice about an itinerary that includes a world-wind tour of the entire country in ten days. It’s not only unpleasant (think packing and unpacking at each hotel) and not a good use of your time (imagine how many bottles of wine you can drink instead of the aforementioned packing and unpacking), but a good chunk of change will be spent getting from location to location.
Whether you’re buying train or airline tickets, car rental (think gas, insurance, tolls) or hiring a private driver, your budget will get eaten up faster than you can say “just throw it on the credit card!”
Instead, stay in one spot. If you’re afraid you’ll be bored – take a day trip in between to split up the time and purchase a last-minute ticket on a local train. Or just rent a car for a day.
As a bonus, you’ll get to immerse yourself in one destination and learn more of the culture, meet more of the locals, even become a regular at your neighborhood café. Double bonus – you’ll have more negotiating power when it comes to asking for a discount for a longer stay at the hotel.
Experiment with Airports
One of the largest trip expenses will be airfare, so it makes sense to save as much as you can. I’ve already shared tips for scoring deals on airfare, but you should also play with airports as well. Sometimes the difference of flying into one airport vs. another can be a few hundred dollars cheaper. One example is Rome and Milan. Both are large airports in big Italian cities. And though Rome is a great central base, flying into Milan is consistently less expensive than Rome. And though I don’t really recommend spending all of your time in Milan, you could easily get to the Italian lakes region or even Piedmont.
And though direct flights are the most convenient – you should also consider booking a connecting flight instead. Do your homework, research your options. It might just make sense to take advantage of flying into a particular airport and then decide where you’ll actually spend your vacay.
Photo Credit : Gigi62 on Flickr
Pick a different (less popular) location
Some of the most popular and heavily-touristed destinations command the highest prices. You can still have a great experience in other lesser-known destinations. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t visit the areas that I list here – almost every spot deserves a visit. But if you’re talking saving money – here are some suggestions :
- Dreaming of Tuscany, choose Umbria or even Le Marche
- Like the hustle and bustle of Paris – try lesser-known Lyon
- Rather than the Amalfi Coast, opt for Puglia
- Like the idea of lounging on the Italian Lakes, avoid Como and try pretty much any of the other four.
- Leave the glitz and glam of the French Riviera behind and head to the Atlantic side to Normandy or Brittany
You get the idea. Right?
Fill up on Free
The fact that you’re reading this means you’re not going on an overpriced luxury bus tour and you’re traveling independently. So consider yourself lucky because you’ll already be saving a
busload boatload of cash. And since your days are your own to do what you wish, just know that you don’t need to spend a ton of money filling up an itinerary, especially in Italy or France.
You could fill an entire vacation with free activities. Or things that only cost a few bucks. Obviously, you’re going to have to allow yourself a budget for activities, food and incidentals, but you can keep costs to a minimum by working these suggestions into your plans
- take walks in different neighborhoods
- window shopping
- wander around taking photos
- drive the countryside admiring the views
- take a hike
- go on a picnic
- visit churches
- hit free museums or look for reduced admission days on those that charge
- grab a bench in a local park
- arrange a free city tour (yes some locals actually do this!)
- make it a beach day
- take advantage of free concerts
You may also want to check out my tips for eating on the cheap while you’re on vacation.
And speaking of free – I’ve got some more fab ideas for things to do for free or cheap in these cities:
Now over to you. What surefire tips do you have for saving money on your vacations?
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