Originally published at KSL.com
Though there are many reasons why most Americans never travel outside of the country, one of the most commonly cited is the cost of international travel. There’s no denying that a trip abroad will take a certain amount of cash, but the actual costs can be dramatically lower than you think.
Here are five ways to make an exciting foreign adventure a possibility.
Use local travel websites instead of American ones
When planning their overseas vacations, most Americans use large, well-known booking sites like Travelocity or Expedia to book flights, hotels and rental cars. But travel experts know that the secret to a low-cost trip is finding the sites the locals use. For example, when booking a hotel in Beijing using Orbitz, you can spend upwards of $150 a night for the exact same room that will cost you less that $50 using the Chinese booking site Ctrip.com. Similar savings can be found using local sites to book flights and rental cars (even when renting from major carriers). While the results are not always this dramatic, savvy travelers can save huge amounts of money with just a little online research into regional travel sites.
Read the Tripadvisor Forums
While many people know about the reviews and booking tools on Tripadvisor, users often miss the goldmine of information that can be found on the site’s forums. You can find answers to other travelers’ real-life questions, suggestions from helpful and informed locals and travel professionals. It also contains trip reports, suggested itineraries and cost-saving tips.
Planning a recent trip to the United Kingdom, for example, our family learned that we could save nearly $80 using a local’s hint about 2-for-1 ticket offers on products in British grocery stores. Don’t neglect this source of help and advice.
Try holiday rental and apartment listings instead of hotels
Especially for those traveling with kids — but a cost saving measure for almost everyone — finding a house to stay in can save you money, time and stress. Having privacy and room to stretch out, and sometimes even a private garden or pool, can add a whole new level of relaxation and enjoyment to a vacation. It can also add to the cultural value of your experience, as staying in real neighborhoods gives you additional insight into the lifestyle of local residents.
There are new options for rentals appearing every day, but our general favorites are AirBnB and the vacation rentals section on Tripadvisor. Both offer secure payment options, real reviews and verified photos to make the process safer and less stressful. But don’t limit yourself to these sites. Do your research and find out what sites are most popular in the area you are visiting. In the UK, for example, Holiday Lettings is the most useful resource for finding great places to stay, and throughout Europe VRBO has lots of wonderful options.
Weigh the cost of restaurant meals over cooking at home
When we travel, we are big fans of having a kitchen. Multiple food allergies make restaurant meals tricky and even more expensive, so we are always thrilled when we find a vacation rental that gives us a functional kitchen. Many beginner travelers scrimp and save on hotel rooms, then spend hundreds of dollars on eating out.
Though there are some countries where the food is an important part of the experience (Italy, Greece), and places where groceries are more expensive than prepared meals (Hawaii, China) you can usually create simple meals in your rental that more than make up for the cost of more expensive accommodations.
Even if you want to eat dinner out, having access to a kitchen for quick breakfasts and lunches can balance your costs considerably. Do the math and decide what’s going to work for you.
Fly international airlines
Though it’s easy to fly the same airlines you would use to go from Salt Lake to Boston, flying lesser-known and international airlines can give you big savings. Flying to Rome on a Finnish airline and back on a Spanish one might seem counter-intuitive, but those kinds of tricks can save you hundreds of dollars. When planning one vacation a few years ago, we discovered that flying from Beijing to Athens on the Russian carrier Aeroflot got us there for half the price of other airlines.
Check out sites like Vayama.com that help you create your itinerary by mixing and matching legs to create the cheapest flights from different worldwide carriers. A few minutes of searching can yield big results.
With a few simple tricks from the experts, you can make your dream of an international vacation a reality. Don’t let fear of the costs prevent you from taking those first exciting steps out into the world.
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