How to Travel on the Cheap When You’re Not in Your 20s Anymore
Maybe you never got to take that gap year back in the day, but now that you’ve got some life experience under your belt, you’re ready to take time off and do the whole wanderlust thing. So…how exactly do you travel without bunking in a hostel next to rowdy 18-year-old study-abroad students or blowing your savings account? Here’s everything a grown-up traveler needs to know.
Research, Research, Research
We’re not saying you need to have a complete itinerary down to the hour, but planning in advance means you can shop around for good rates, read reviews to get a sense of which places are grown-up-friendly and account for any pricier activities you might want to do (like museum admissions or an overnight boat tour).
Choose Your Destination Wisely
It may seem obvious, but figuring out where your money will go farthest is key. That’s not to say to avoid more expensive places entirely; just be conscious that the cost of two weeks in Norway might be two months in Vietnam.
Set a Budget
If you’re able to take off for more than just a week or two (lucky you), try to sketch out a rough budgeting plan: how much you can spend each day and still be comfortable. Then let that guide your priorities. You may decide that you’re willing to be thrifty on accommodations if it means staying abroad longer—or you may realize a slightly shorter trip is entirely worth it if it means a private place to sleep every night.
Bargain Like a Pro
Outside of hotels and hostels, you can usually negotiate the price of lodging—particularly during low seasons. As a responsible “older” traveler, you’ll be more appealing to hosts on Airbnb or other home-rental sites (and thus more likely to talk them into a deal).
Take the Long Way
If you’ll be moving around to multiple places, keep in mind that the slower forms of transport are usually the cheapest. But sometimes trains and buses take you through beautiful or fascinating areas you’d never otherwise see—for as low as a few bucks. (We can’t guarantee you’ll be sitting next to Ethan Hawke, though.)
Maximize Your Money
Do not, we repeat, do not get cash at those airport currency exchange kiosks—they notoriously have the worst exchange rates. Your best bet is withdrawing directly from the ATM. Better yet, get a debit card that reimburses all international ATM fees. (Side note: It’s always good to have $100 in USD socked away in case of emergency.)
Sure, bouncing from restaurant to restaurant is a pretty great way to spend a vacation, but it can add up fast. If you’re staying in one place for a few days, try to find lodging with a kitchen and aim to cook at least a few meals at home. (You will survive without a fancy breakfast, we promise.) Bonus: Hitting up the neighborhood market is a great way to get some insight into the local culture.
Don’t Fear Hostels
Yes, some of them are filled with spring breakers who haven’t stopped drinking since they left American soil. But others are filled with like-minded, sensible travelers just looking for an affordable place to sleep. A few guidelines: Seek out places with reviews from other older folks, look for rooms of four bunks or less and avoid booking the absolute cheapest option (which tends to attract the partiers).
But Know When to “Splurge”
One of the perks of being a grown-ass woman is having the means (and the sense) to prioritize your well-being. And if that means shelling out for a nicer rental for a few days—or sleeping in instead of sightseeing—go for it.