The Budget Traveler in the U.S.

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The typical downfall of being a wanderluster is finding and managing your money on trips that are sporadic or semi-planned. No one wants to spend a fortune on a hotel that they are only sleeping at or choose a flight where if they had waited one day the price would have been half. Here are a few simple tips and things to think about when traveling.

First, you need to ask yourself these simple questions and be honest.

  1. Am I going to eat out and drink? This is realistic but will easily put a deficit on your budget. Most hostels and hotels will offer free breakfast which is an easy and convenient money saver. I plan on drinking every trip quite frankly, it’s who I am, but I stick to drinking during meals or late at night when everything else is closed. Day raging, albeit on vacation, is pointless – why do something on your trip that you can do at home and miss out on opportunities to meet new people and see new things? On top of this who wants to nurse a hangover and miss time to explore?
  2. Do I care about privacy? Staying in a hostel is much cheaper than a hotel but you will be woken up in a hostel and you will be with typically three to eleven other roommates in mixed dorms. This is definitely a consideration for the lone, female traveler both in safety and conformability.
  3. Am I going to stick with my budget and itinerary? My simple idea is to make a list of attractions I intend to go and do whichever two or three I can based off location. Choose a museum district or midtown and go from there essentially.

 

Road Trip versus Cheap Flight

Road Trip Pros:

-More control over time and destinations

-Cheaper than flying

-No taxi or Uber fees

-Random pit stops

-No limits on luggage

Road Trip Cons:

-Parking fees

-Significant wear and tear on your car

-Out of state accident risks

-Drinking and driving temptation

Cheap Flight Pros:

-Faster, much faster

-Forces structured planning

Cheap Flight Cons:

-Baggage fees for checked and carry-on bags

-Cannot bring personal protection in personal or carry-on bag

-Buying travel size toiletries if not checking bags

-Risk of missing flights

-Parking your car at the airport or buying transportation to and from

-Typically uncomfortable seating for budget airlines

-Jetlag

 

Major things to consider for planning:

  1. Power passes, city passes, and go passes – whatever they are called, depending on what city you’re looking into, consider purchasing them ahead of time for the city you plan to go to as they normally offer a set of attractions at a discounted price and some you can choose your combination or are given options in the selection.
  2. Google flights can explore different airlines such as Frontier in combination with filters such as price range or non-stop flights. Being able to play with dates and use price graphs to see what weeks and seasons are the cheapest to go.
  3. USA News is an easy option to explore hotels and things to do as well as maps out your activities and location so an itinerary is easier to create.
  4. Hostels, occasionally a cheap hotel or a Groupon discount can be found, but these are rare and can sometimes be in distant and unsafe locations hence the lower pricing. More often than not a hostel is the cheapest alternative and provides the same general needs: wi-fi, meals, linens, bathroom, bed. Generally a hotel room will cost you upwards of $70+ a night while a dorm will be more in the range of $20-$35. Keep in mind reservation fees, occupancy tax, and rules of hostels such as if they are 24/7, smoking and drinking rules, and mixed rooms.
  5. Planning your trips to museums and attractions can pay off in the long run in many ways. Several are closed at night or during slow days such as Monday and moreover discounts can often be found by going on a certain day or eating at a museum café beforehand.

 

Here is an example of a basic budget for a trip I am planning to New Orleans next month:

-Flight: Frontier Airlines: $98 from Orlando to New Orleans. Round Trip March 6th-10th (Sun-Thur) +$25 for seat selection, no checked or carry on. ($123)

Hostel: $112 ($28 per night)

-Food & Drinks: $250

-Attractions: $64.50

French Quarter (Free)

Frenchman Street (Free)

Garden District (Free)

St. Louis Cathedral (Free)

National D-Day Museum ($14.50 for Student Discount)

Museum of Art (Free on Wednesdays)

The Cabildo ($5 for Student Discount)

Audubon Nature Institute ($45 Audubon Experience)

-Travel (Uber): $60

= $625 total costs

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