Do you want to know the best thing about graduating college? The feeling of independence that washes over you when everything is done; while you may not have walked across the stage just yet, all of your work over the past four (or five) years has led up to this moment.
For the first time, you can go anywhere and do anything. If you want to take a vacation and visit that place you never got to study abroad, the time is now. You’re at a crossroads in your life, making it the perfect time to travel before you begin the next phase. Here are six tips to help you make the most of your trip without depleting your life savings.
1. The Magic Number: 49
While I agree that it’s fun to pack up and go at a moment’s notice, this is a good way to lose a lot of money. If you’re unemployed or earning an entry-level salary, now is the time for penny-pinching. Plan ahead and save money by purchasing airfare seven weeks (49 days) before your trip—this is the best time to find cheap flights.
2. Consider Flying into Another City
According to Hopper, a travel-based research website, the most popular European cities that Americans travel to are London, Paris and Rome. Unfortunately, this popularity makes them quite expensive to fly into. Flying to a less popular city can save you a pretty good chunk of change!
A round-trip ticket from Detroit to London Heathrow for a stay from Wednesday, June 24 to Wednesday, July 1, is at best just over $1,600 (with two layovers along the way). Compare that to a round-trip ticket from Detroit to UK Birmingham, about two hours away from London by train, at $1,130.
3. Connect, Connect, Connect
Taking connecting flights may seem like a waste of time, but they actually save you money in the long run! Time efficiency is expensive, and right now you’re at a point where you have all the time in the world. Take those layovers and run to the gate of your connecting flight. Waste some time and save some money.
4. If Possible, Travel at Night
You don’t want to waste valuable daylight traveling when you could be exploring your new favorite city! Try to book overnight flights instead. If you’re traveling between cities in two different countries—for example, from Prague to Vienna, a six-hour train ride at its shortest—try to get a train that’s late or early enough that you can catch up on some sleep while en route.
5. Put One Foot in Front of the Other
You will save yourself a lot of money if you walk to your destinations rather than taking a bus, subway or cab. You’ll probably see a lot more, too. Don’t be embarrassed to look like a tourist by whipping out a map or asking for directions. Fortunately, walking is good for both your wallet and your physical health. Walk off all the bread and cheese you ate in Italy and save some Euros for your next adventure!
6. Four Words: Value Added Tax Refunds
When leaving the country, you can’t not love the words “duty-free.” But there are other ways to save some spending money when abroad! Where VAT is concerned, I had no idea you could get your sales tax refunded the two times I traveled out of the country. Here are the basics: you fill out a form, bring your documents (in this case, passport and proof that you are a visitor) and get back any money you spent on sales tax at that store. Not all countries use this system, but if you’re making a big purchase, you could end up saving a lot.
Are you traveling abroad this summer? Share your money savings tips in the comments below!