The sun is shining, school is coming to an end, and it's time to think about summer vacation. For those planning a trip abroad this summer, there's a lot to consider, from getting the best deal on a flight to finding a cheap place to stay. Use these tips to prepare for an international trip while keeping costs to a minimum.
11 Tips for Traveling Abroad on a Budget This Summer
If you have a flexible schedule and an adventurous spirit, you can find good travel deals by leaving your destination open. The Flight Deal lists inexpensive flights all over the world. Recent finds include a $610 round-trip flight to Beijing from Chicago and a $218 round-trip flight to Barbados from Dallas, Philadelphia, or Miami. Another site worth exploring is Adioso, which lets you search inexpensive flights organized by country, region, trip duration, and even specific activities such as surfing and museums. Last-minute travel packages that include flights and hotel rooms can also be found by checking large travel websites, airline websites, and specialty sites such as Cheap Caribbean.
Most "volunteer vacations" require you to pay your own airfare, but you can raise money from local organizations, friends, and family to cover your costs. Use Kickstarter or other crowd-funding sites to share your story and what you want to accomplish on the trip. You can also approach the Lions Club or Rotary Club for sponsorship.
Many credit cards charge an extra one to three percent on every purchase you make in a foreign currency. Avoid this surcharge by using a card with no foreign transaction fee. There are many cards to choose from, including several from Capital One and Discover that have no annual fee.
Outside the United States, budget airlines can be used to get from place to place at a steep discount. While they may charge you for everything from paying with a credit card to the weight of your bags, they are often cheaper than other means of transportation. Skyscanner and WhichBudget are two popular travel search engines that can help you find flights on budget airlines.
Homeowners who have a single destination in mind and live in a tourist destination can house swap. It can be tricky to make the exact dates work for both parties but the potential savings are tremendous. Love Home Swamp and HomeExchange help facilitate home swaps.
Popular with younger travelers, inexpensive hostels can be found in just about every major travel destination. Many hostels include breakfast or have a kitchen where you can make your own meals. Although the dorm-room setting won't appeal to everyone, it is conducive to making new friends on the road. For travelers who need their own space, private rooms are sometimes available.
All around the world there are people willing to host guests for free. Couchsurfing is the most popular online exchange for free lodging; Hospitality Club and Global Freeloaders are other options. The website Staydu offers a variation on the concept, listing lodging options that require help around the house or a small fee. To stick with the spirit of such arrangements, you should consider opening your house to guests when you return home.
Making calls or using data while overseas can get expensive quickly. Depending on where you're traveling you may be able to buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card and get cheaper local service; however, this only works if you have an unlocked GSM phone. If not, the large providers have overseas add-ons that come with reduced voice, texting, and data rates. Or, for $6.99 a month you can make unlimited calls to mobile phones and landlines in the United States, Guam, and Puerto Rico using Skype. Viber and WhatsApp also offer inexpensive connectivity over Wi-Fi.
Now is the time to act if you've been dreaming of a trip to Europe. The dollar is nearing parity with the euro, which means travel in Europe for Americans is now 20 to 30 percent cheaper than last year.