16 Ways to Cut Costs (Not Corners) When Traveling Abroad

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DeathtoStock_NotStock7 As years go by, the price for flying to a foreign country seems to only rise consistently, despite the price of jet fuel falling quite a bit.

Hotels are often shabby and quite pricey. And then you add the bill for crappy tourist restaurants, you're cooked.

Your phone bill runs up crazy roaming charges. WiFi's quite awful in your hotel lobby. $20 a day, for this?!

And then, you get back home, exhausted and you notice all the bank fees, bizarre charges you can't trace. You see a deal next day at work exactly for your trip - HALF PRICE, next month!

You suddenly have had it up to HERE. Where's your vacation from vacation, right?

I've been there many times myself, both as a student and adult, a single young professional and lately, as a parent.

When on my own, I often didn't plan things very well. How many times did I become frustrated when a package deal turned out not to include a vital need? How often did I kick myself for failing to adjust my phone plan and to call my credit card before? You live and learn - and pick up a few tricks along the way.

A friend and I toured Italy 12 years ago, in college. To think, we took hotels right on the fly, just off the train, ate sandwiches on fountain steps and wandered to our heart's content through many piazzas and museums - and of course, pasticcherie. That was before the days of cellphones and WiFi in every pore.

Then, there was Italy 3 years ago together with my wife on honeymoon. Completely different experience.

Since then, there was Morocco, Israel and France together with our daughter in the last two years. For Labor Day this year, we did an all-inclusive trip down to the Riviera Maya.

Each place has charm and its own character and rules. However (thanks, globalization), there are many hacks to make the trip enjoyable - and often much more inexpensive.

Next time you plan to travel, be well armed.

Here are some proven tips My wife and I have used to lower costs when traveling abroad, regardless of which country:

1) Consider renting a room on AirBnb where you're going, ideally with a kitchen where you can cook. While you're away, also consider being a host on AirBnB. You can make back a big part (if not all) of your vacation expenses back by letting someone stay at your place while you're away. Win, win!

2) Take cash directly from the ATM when abroad. This is almost always the best exchange rate you can get and certainly much better than those airport money changers or exchanges in tourist areas.

3) Find local grocery stores and purchase food for breakfast and even to cook at your rental, if the owner and kitchen utensils permit. Save only a few special dinner meals for eating out in fancy restaurants popular with locals.

4) Check with your credit card about automatic insurance coverage for your car rental while abroad. You may not need to buy extra insurance if already covered (Amex is generally great for this).

5) Use credit card points as much as possible to buy flight tickets, hotel room nights, car rentals and any other add-on services. These also have expiration dates and prevent you from overspending out of necessity. They also protect you from fraud when traveling abroad.

***Remember to let your credit card company know when and where you'll be traveling ahead of time, so they can make sure not to block your card.***

6) Always ask a local for advice. Even better, learn the local language(s) where you're going, even if just a few phrases.

When you show a willingness to not be an obnoxious tourist and actually try your best to adapt, locals will generally be more amenable to help you out with guidance and good advice about places to see, where to eat and how much things should actually cost, you not what tourists are generally charged for locals.

7) Always negotiate and bargain hard. Barter, if you have to. You'll be surprised how fun and productive it can be. What do you have to lose, even if the seller says no?

In many places like Morocco and Israel, there is a custom for vendors to name a crazy price up front (overcharging by a large multiple) based on where they see the tourist comes from. Bargaining is expected and encouraged, but as amways, it's most effective when you know the real (at coat) price of something and what is reasonable markup.

8) Crowdsource places to visit and stay and where to eat through your social networks. Often, the best (and least expensive) experience can be had through friendly locals you're connected to or know well.

9) Consider renting a car instead of taking taxis, buses or trains. Taxi fares can run up very quickly. The flexibility may also be more than worth it. Most countries have rental cars with stick shifts, so learn this before you go.

10) Consider taking a local cell phone with your SIM card (if compatible) or with another one that works locally.

Otherwise, take an international calling and/or data plan based on your calling and/or data needs abroad. Be very careful to turn off data roaming abroad unless covered by your international plans.

11) Drive down your travel costs by purchasing an all-inclusive deal for wherever you're going. If single, find a travel buddy to go with you. It's almost always worth it.

12) Go off-season, if possible. All-inclusive deals can be insanely convincing off-season, if you can go then. The savings are well worth it.

13) Look into local budget airlines to get between destinations while abroad and between the two main flights there and back.

***Always compare prices and reliability and travel times with other methods of transport like buses and shared car rides before presuming anything.***

14) Travel light. Avoid bag fees and weigh your bags before leaving the house.

15) Research what necessities are more expensive at your destination and consider taking them with you from home.

16) Get invited by locals! Make new friends and let them show you the town on the cheap - and GOOD.

Now go enjoy the planning and the trip itself, of course!

Have any other budget travel tips you want to share with us and other readers? Please leave us a comment below!

We'll be rooting for your good time - and on the cheap!

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**Check out other Personal Finance Posts on Blueprint to Thrive**:

New Parents' Guide to Finance

The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Business TODAY for (Almost) Nothing

12 Steps to a Comprehensive Financial Strategy

 

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Yuri Kruman is a Healthcare Product Manager, published author, contributing writer at Money Magazine, blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com and health tech entrepreneur based in New York.

*The views expressed herein are his own*