Travel Week: On Being a Thrifty Tourist
Once you’ve reached your travel destination, you’ve likely felt pang or two of worry about how much the trip has already cost you – the pricey plane ticket, the costly new suitcase, the expensive hotel booking. Fear not, though! You can experience the new city, state, or country you’ve landed in for far less than what you’ve spent on getting there.
Be Your Own Tour Guide
For most major cities, you can find free, printable walking maps with a simple Google search, or by stopping into the visitor’s bureau in the center of town. Many cities offer free walking tours with a tour guide – often tailored to a specific interest (historic walks, revisiting the footsteps of the famous, or ghost tours.)
Do a little research before you arrive to find out where your hostel or hotel is located in relation to the major sites.
Also, keep an eye out for maps posted at major intersections and don’t hesitate to pop into local shops to ask employees, or talk with your hotel staff, for directions or suggestions.
Visit Nationally-Controlled Sites
Many places that are run by the nation or the state are free or have a minimal fee for entry. Most museums in London and many in Washington D.C. are free to the public, for example, because they are national galleries. In addition, many state and national parks and beaches have areas that are free to the public.
Walk the Paths Less Traveled
It’s always a good idea to spend some time on the main streets of a city in order to take in the touristy bits, but veering away from the beaten path won’t only save you money – by helping you to avoid the more costly shops and eateries – it will also help you discover what the culture of the city is really like.
Hidden gems (restaurants, entertainment venues, and other locations) can be found with a little online research. Try investigating what the locals love to do.
Let’s Go city guides are a great resource that offer information on not only the main attractions in a city, but also its lesser-known must-sees. They can easily be found in secondhand bookshops and online for cheap – and snagging one that’s a few years old is okay, as most of the details still hold up.
Get a Discount
Your hostel or hotel booking may come along with some major perks – so be sure you ask! Many offer a free meal at a nearby restaurant, a free tour, and more.
If you’re a student, senior, or a member of the military, make sure you take your IDs with you in case it can be used to save you some money while on vacation. Discounts often apply at museums, galleries, sporting events, and on various tours.
Don’t go for a big fancy meal every time you eat out. Try splitting a meal or dining on an appetizer – you can experience major savings this way and sample more restaurants!
Ask for the daily special, look for meal deals, and inquire about samples, letting the wait-staff know that you’re from out of town and would love to try their recommendations before making a decision.
If you can, try to visit local grocery stores and farmers markets for some of your meals. You’ll get to experience how the locals shop and how they eat while saving some major cash.
Just because you’re on vacation and may only visit this destination once doesn’t mean you have to squeeze in absolutely every single attraction it’s known for. When planning your trip, decide on a top three to five things you hope to see and do, map out the cost, and go from there.
Rather than make shopping a huge part of your trip, or purchasing souveniers at every turn, focus on making and capturing memories to take home with you - you'll save money and be incredibly more fulfilled once your trip comes to an end.