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4 Frugal Ways to Enrich Your Travel Experiences

frugal travelingAs I’ve grown older my travel tastes have changed. My idea of a perfect trip used to be visiting somewhere exotic with my husband, the two of us enjoying time on a beach, and what it cost to do that really didn’t matter. We didn’t get to know local people and experience authentic culture in the places we visited. We had no idea what we were missing traveling the way we did!

Then things at home changed, we had our son, switched jobs, and the family budget got a whole lot tighter. Still wanting to vacation as a family, we realized there were many ways we could travel well and save a lot of money.

More and more travelers want to visit specific destinations because of the culture and the people. Sharing economy businesses make it easier for travelers to have more authentic cultural experiences. I know firsthand that using the ones listed below can make travel more meaningful and save you a lot of money at the same time.

Here are four frugal ways to enrich your future travel experiences.

1. Make friends and get cheap or free accommodations

Accommodation costs take a large chunk of any travel budget. This is the first area we looked at to shave our expenses and we were stunned at how much better the accommodations were when using the sharing economy compared to hotels! This was in both, price and amenities.

Renting apartments with Airbnb and staying free with house-sitting has saved us thousands of dollars on vacations. Meeting hosts with Airbnb and homeowners on house-sitting assignments has made our travel experiences more memorable. We have absolutely saved money. And thanks to our hosts we have experienced so many wonderful things that we would likely have never heard of without them.

When we house-sit we care for homes and pets while the homeowners take their vacation. We get to stay in their residence for free. We have spent months in Panama, Spain, Turkey, Ireland, and England all with free accommodation thanks to this option. This is definitely our favorite way to stay.

Alternatively, having a house-sitter come and care for your own home and pets while you vacation is another way to enjoy a worry-free trip and save money on extra insurance and kennel fees.

Here are a few of our top tips for house-sitting.

  • Sign up on a few different house-sitting sites. A great one for new house sitters is HouseSit Match. The personal service available on their site is head and shoulders above the rest in our opinion. This makes learning the ins and outs of getting started as a house sitter easier.
  • Build a compelling profile. There are a lot of house sitters out there so you really want your profile to stand out. I wrote a post with tips on how to put together an appealing profile.
  • Be clear on what you need to enjoy your travels. It is very important to make sure any assignment you apply for includes things you feel are a priority (eg. Wi-Fi, convenient location, and responsibilities that suit your physical abilities).

When we can’t find a house-sit opportunity in a place we want to visit we use Airbnb. We usually rent whole apartments with Airbnb, but also have enjoyed staying in private room rentals. Choosing an entire place rental gives you lots of space, privacy and access to a kitchen to cook a few meals and save money. Staying in a private room in a host’s home gives you a chance to befriend a local right at the beginning of your trip.

Here are our top tips for renting with Airbnb.

  • Choose rentals with lots of great reviews. The more there are the better chance at ensuring a great experience.
  • Use Google Maps street view to have a look around the neighborhood where the rental is located. You never get the address for any Airbnb listing until you book a rental. The site will show the area of town where the rental is located. We use Google street view to see if transit, shops, and attractions are all convenient.
  • If you are looking to stay a month or more, look for Airbnb sublets. Prices get even better when you book for a longer period of time.

2. Socialize and save on car rentals

Renting a car can be expensive. Most times we opt to walk or take public transit, but sometimes a car is simply the best option. BlaBlaCar is a site that connects drivers and passengers to share a ride. This site is brilliant. You can book trips in destinations all over the world! Trusted ride-sharing is safe and easy. Search your trip, book your reservation online, and meet your driver for great conversation and an affordable trip. Make the most of the opportunity to learn the best things about the place you’re visiting. Odds are you’ll make a local friend in the process.

Here are some tips for using BlaBlaCar.

  • Never try to renegotiate the originally agreed upon price.
  • Be on time for pickup and avoid canceling last minute.
  • Remember, the driver is not a chauffeur or a taxi so don’t treat them as such. Ride-sharing is an exchange between two people so proper polite etiquette applies.

3. Invite yourself to dinner and enjoy authentic regional cuisine

enjoy dinner with your new local friends

Eating in restaurants that cater to tourists can be expensive. And honestly? They’re a bit of a crap shoot when it comes to quality and authenticity. Local markets and street food tend to be more our travel style. We think that anyplace locals congregate is a sign the fare is good. There are times when we like to eat somewhere special and learn about local culture. A great way to do that is a peer-to-peer dining experience. Meal sharing sites help local chefs and travelers connect to share delicious homemade dishes. Many friendships are forged in the process.

Here some great peer to peer dining sites.

  • EatWith– A marketplace of authentic and exotic dining choices in homes around the world. This site offers high-quality experiences and eating with one of their hosts will be cheaper than a fancy restaurant and a lot more fun as well.
  • Traveling Spoon– A site that offers travelers authentic local meals off the beaten path. Customized dining experiences ensure travelers receive a healthy dose of real local culture.
  • Meal Sharing– If you’re looking for a no-frills option this site has got you covered. Meal Sharing connects travelers and home cooks in 450 cities around the world.

4. Connect with experts and learn cheap ways to enrich travel

Take a walking tour early in your trip. Doing so is a terrific way to get recommendations from local experts that you can apply to the rest of your time in a destination. Most destinations offer free and paid walking tours. Check TripAdvisor for ratings to choose from customer approved businesses.

Another affordable way to go is connecting with a greeter when you arrive at your destination. You can get a warm welcome and a free tour of the best a city has to offer with The Global Greeter Network. Greeters are volunteers that love their city. They want to share their favorites and “must see” things about their hometown with visitors.

Recommendations from locals are invaluable while on vacation. Using the methods listed above we’ve met amazing people and learned so much about the places we’ve visited. We’ve also saved scads of money avoiding hotels, car rentals, and touristy restaurants.

I hope some of these tips can make your next trip more meaningful and affordable. Do you know any cheap ways to enrich travel that wasn’t mentioned here? If so, please share them in the comments below.

Tracey Tullis

Tracey Tullis is a professional house sitter that has been traveling continuously with her husband and young son since April 2014. They explore the world looking for amazing low-cost destinations where they can live well for less. She loves to share affordable ways for families to travel more on their blog, the Expat Experiment.

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Cathy Lawdanski

Thursday 12th of May 2016

Did not know about so many of these suggestions! Great post. Sharing!

Tracey Tullis

Thursday 12th of May 2016

I'm glad you enjoyed the tips Cathy! I hope you can use some on your next trip.

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