By Gloria Atanmo for the CheapTickets Blog
1. Combine multiple modes of transportation.
If time permits, try flying into smaller cities or smaller airports and then taking a bus from there to your final destination. Chances are, the total cost will be less than a direct flight into your destination, especially if it's a popular city and during high tourist season. Not to mention, you might discover a beautiful hidden village or city on the way there!
2. Don't pay for tours.
Don't get me wrong, there are some amazing tours and companies out there with information you'd only learn by talking to a local or someone who's lived there all of their life; but unless your Google is down and you can't find the basic fun facts on your own, skip out on the tours and go get lost in the city and explore it for yourself. Meet a local, grab drinks, ask them what they love about their city, and let them take you on a walk through their favorite district. The average local would be honored to show off their city, and you know that their genuine excitement comes from their pride for their home and not a paycheck at the end of the day.
3. Try Couchsurfing.
Couch surfing is a network of travelers and hosts who share a passion for travel and want to experience a city in a unique way. Locals open up their homes to travelers and travelers open up their hearts to locals. You share stories, you share drinks, and the good karma multiplies. It's a free service that pays in good karma, because should a former host choose to visit your city, you'd offer that same hospitality to them that they offered to you. People who travel want to see as much as they can and save as much as possible, so this free network allows travelers and locals to connect in the purest way possible.
4. Avoid restaurants near tourist attractions or on big streets.
Why is it that a restaurant right next to an historic cathedral can get away with charging 50% more on a standard dish? Easy. When tourists just finish wandering a church for a couple hours, they're probably starving after, and will walk into the first bar or restaurant they see nearby, out of convenience. These places know that, and purposely hike up their prices. Walk just a couple blocks inward and find hole-in-the-wall eateries for half the price.
5. Travel during the middle of the week.
It's convenient, and therefore common, for people to getaway on weekends, but if you can somehow tweak your work schedule to travel on a Tuesday or Wednesday (the cheapest travel days of the week), do it! Not only will tourist attractions be so much less crowded, but you can enjoy a transportation rate of up to 30% cheaper on most airlines and trains.
6. Search for free attractions on certain days and times.
Most attractions have at least one day of the week where they offer discounted or free entrance to the public. In Barcelona, for instance, the iconic Park Güell is free to the public before 8 a.m. and after 9:30 p.m. Not only is it free, but it's less crowded and you're able to capture those perfect selfies that you came there for in the first place.
7. Have a daily budget and stick to it.
It's easy to accidentally spend a few dollars here and a few dollars there if you're not keeping track of what's going out of your wallet. Set a strict daily budget, and jot a quick note in your phone of every time you make a purchase. By the end of the day, you're able to calculate how well you've done, how much you have left, and make a budget-conscious decision on what your nighttime activity will be. There's nothing scarier than coming back from a vacation and looking at your bank account for the first time since you left. That type of travel is for the rookies (looking at my 2012 study abroad self) and part of smart traveling is maintaining financial responsibility.
8. Eat your biggest meal in the afternoon.
I never knew that coffee had the power to transform itself into a meal right in front of my eyes. It's amazing. That, and the fact that because of time zone changes, I wouldn't feel my appetite kick in until around the afternoon anyway. So saving my largest meal of the day towards the middle of the day kind of covers 2 meals. It serves as a late breakfast, a lunch, and perhaps a snack before dinner.
9. Pre-game before going to the bars or clubs.
Sorry, Mom. Skip over this one. So it's obvious that bars and nightclubs cash in big by overcharging their drinks and under-pouring their alcohol. Criminal, I know. If you were ever a college student you probably know how to beat the system by pre-gaming before the bars with a bottle of (insert drink of choice here) and some friends. Show up to the bar with a good little buzz, and buy maybe one drink all night. You still want to look and be social with everyone else, but try and make that drink stretch. Especially if you've already reached your premium buzz level!
10. Be flexible!
One thing I try to preach is that traveling is only expensive when it's as convenient as possible. If you try to squeeze a perfect itinerary down to the very second of how and when you'd like to arrive, then you're going to pay an extra price. Want a non-stop flight? More expensive. Want an all-inclusive cruise? More expensive. Have a specific time you MUST arrive to your destination on a Friday night or Saturday morning? EXPENSIVE! Being flexible is one of the best qualities you can possess as a traveler or tourist and you'll come to learn that flexible people also make the best travel companions because they're easy-going and hardly ever stressed. It's a vacation for crying out loud! Relax, enjoy yourself, and go with the flow! ;)