The following is a guest post from personal finance and travel writer Jason Steele.
I am both a travel writer and a personal finance writer, but when people ask me how those two relate to each other, I simply ask them if they have an unlimited travel budget. Everyone who doesn’t is probably interested in learning how to travel more for less. For better or worse, I have always been obsessed with both traveling as much as possible and saving money. So let me boil it down to my best tips:
1. Take loyalty programs seriously. Do you know how many frequent flier and hotel loyalty programs you belong to? Do you know what their balances are and when your points expire? If not, you simply aren’t leveraging these deals. These programs can offer serious value, but only if you take them seriously. That means keeping track of all the info, registering for any promotions, and planning trips around available airline awards and free hotels. It takes a little work, but it is worth it.
2. Choose your destinations wisely. Yes, I could find ways to save money in expensive cities like Paris, but my first tip would be go to Prague instead. The fact is that choosing the right destination is an important step when saving money on travel. For example, a trip to Hawaii or the U.S. Virgin Islands will have far fewer taxes and fees than a vacation in Mexico or the British Virgin Islands, and you don’t even need a passport. In addition, travel to South America, Eastern Europe, or Southeast Asia offers much better exchange rates than Northern Asia, Western Europe, or Australia.
3. Hold the right credit card. The right card will offer you generous frequent flier miles as a sign-up bonus and for your day to day spending without charging you outrageous foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards charge a 3% fee on all charges processed outside the United States, while many are now waving this charge.
(Note from Jeffrey: I have big news about credit cards and redeeming frequent flier miles, so stay tuned for a post later this week)
4. Use your ATM card overseas for cash. I avoid carrying cash, but it can be a necessity. While you should never get a cash advance from your credit card (the interest and fees are outrageous), your ATM card will offer you the best exchange rate with the fewest fees.
5. Longer trips are cheaper than shorter ones. How can this be true? Well, imagine you have only 10 days of vacation each year. If you were to take five long weekends, you would be looking at five airfares, airport transfers, and other travel expenses. If you take a single two week trip, you spend less of your time and money traveling and more time enjoying your vacation.
By looking closely at the overall cost of your vacation, and taking steps to reduce your travel expenses, you can explore your world without exploding your budget.
Jason Steele is an expert in travel and credit cards. He is a freelance writer for many the top personal finance sites on the Internet including Smart Balance Transfers.