Ask the Experts: “Traveling on a Budget” Answers from Carol with Girl Gone Travel
Start packing your bags! Our travel expert, Carol with Girl Gone Travel, has been around the globe and answered your questions about traveling on a budget. Looking for the best app for booking? Carol recommends Expedia which provides you with information on savings in package bookings (car + flight, or flight + hotel). Keep reading for more tips and tricks!
There are so many different hotel/flight shopping websites – how do you really find the best deal?
I rely heavily on technology to help me find and lock down the best deals. I use apps like Kayak that offer price alert options to receive notification of when flights to a trip I am looking to book drop in price. I also like to use apps like Expedia, that provides me with information on savings in package bookings (car + flight, or flight + hotel). When I book my hotels, I always go directly to the hotel’s website since these often offer discounted rates not made available when booking over the phone. Finding the right travel apps and taking the time to research destinations online are often the best ways to find and lock down the best deals.
What are the best times and dates to purchase an airline ticket for family vacations?
The best days to purchase tickets are usually in the middle of the week, so late Tuesday afternoons and Wednesdays. Saturdays can also often offer a good service, if this isn’t combined with a holiday weekend. It’s important to plan ahead, but not be too quick in purchasing. Best rates are usually made available 3 months for domestic flights, and 4 months for international flights. Flexibility is always helpful, though I realize this can be a challenge when planning a trip with kids.
Are their free smartphone apps that I can use to talk or text with family and friends using local Wi-Fi?
Some of my favorite free apps for video and voice calls are Skype and Tango, the only thing with these apps is that everyone you want to connect must be a part of the community. Chat services, such as those in Facebook or Google+ are also great, but again, require that those you want to connect with are also a part of the community. A new app I just started using for free texting is the Heywire app which allows you to text for free from several countries, to anyone. It can be a bit glitchy sometimes, but for the most part it works great.
What types are bargains are available for travel to Korea by way of Istanbul. Also, what are the best sources to find great shopping bargains while traveling in the above countries?
Istanbul is known for its many high end shopping malls. Closest to the airport is the popular Galleria mall. The Grand Bazaar is an open market with lots to choose from. The telegraph recently wrote an article listing the must see shopping spots in Istanbul. Korea is another wonderful shopping destination. Take advantage of the duty-free shops, of which there are plenty. The open markets of Tongdaemun Market and Namdaemun Market offer a real Korean experience in what you find there. What these two destinations have in common when it comes to savings, is one’s ability to bargain, one’s familiarity and comfort with the local currency, and whether or not you have a local to help you navigate. Obviously, both destinations have plenty of malls, but the open markets and bazaars often offer better opportunities for a deal.
What are your tips for getting the most out of your budget when you travel?
Though we don’t often plan every single detail of our travel, we do plan and discuss what we want to do, where we plan on staying, and research eateries along the way. We don’t often shop during our travels, unless we are away from touristy areas. We also set a budget for our trips and if we want to have a generous budget, we plan far in advance. But when we have the budget we don’t stray from it. We take advantage of things such as city passes, which offer attraction admission at a discount and we take advantage of the many coupons and deals often found at the local visitor’s centers in the places we visit.
In terms of budgeting for trips, do you have recommendations on how to best save for vacations? Or, things to consider when starting to save?
One of the biggest advice I have for budgeting a vacation is to be patient. My family of 5 has gone on some pretty spectacular vacations, but we often take a year at least to plan and budget for it. This year, for example, we are taking a family trip to Scotland, during the winter holidays. We knew the airfare was going to be expensive, as well as lodging and other activities since we wanted to travel during peek season. It has taken us 2 years to save for this trip. And though we have been dying to go, we know that our patience has allowed us to save up a comfortable budget for the trip.
We researched airfares and hotels for the time we want to travel, and estimate extras like food, car rentals, activities. Then we figure out how much money we can save up without it conflicting with our everyday spending obligations. We also have set up a “travel account” where we put in what we can, whenever we can, even when we have no trip planned. And we try our hardest to not dip into that account for emergencies, but if things happen and we have no choice, we make sure to not let that deter us from our ultimate vacation goal.
It’s also important to note that just because you can save up for or afford a European vacation, for example, doesn’t mean you can’t take a vacation. When we want to get away, but don’t have a huge budget to do anything big, we will go to a nearby city or town and just do a few fun activities. The importance is not so much where you go or how much money you spend, but how you enjoy your time together.
Any tips on eating while traveling? I love to discover new restaurants and eateries, but it gets expensive after a while! Any ideas on how to make sure to try the local foods on a budget?
On any giving trip, I choose no more than two or three “must-try” restaurants. I never try to eat at all the hot spots in one trip, because it can be expensive! I also try to keep other meals light and save up for one special meal on any given day. For extra savings, I stay in a hotel that has a kitchenette and prep my food to save money for the special places I want to visit.
How do you avoid the expensive tourist traps and find the best local spots?
For the most part, local eateries tend to be less expensive that larger, tourist filled restaurants. A lot of people say, for example, that eating in NYC is expensive. And it certainly can be. But if visitors can head away from the major city attractions and find where the locals hang out, it can make all the difference. I use Yelp a lot to find out what the locals like to eat in the local neighborhoods near the destination I am visiting.
Traveling with Kids
When traveling with kids, what’s your advice on saving on food? #CricketTips
I plan ahead. I talk to the kids about what they might want to do at the destination we may be traveling to, and we choose beforehand what we will do so that the excitement of being on the trip doesn’t get the best of us. I also try to find activities that the kids enjoy, but don’t require a large fee, such as hiking, or camping, or museum visits. We do a lot of tours and take advantage of savings offered through the tourism and visitor’s sites online. We also don’t go nuts shopping or buying everything the kids ask for. We are huge fans of hotels that offer complimentary breakfasts and have kitchens in the rooms, and we take advantage of both when in one.
What are your top picks for family friendly destinations?#CricketTips
Catskills, NY for all the outdoor activities. Montreal for the European feel close to home. Washington, DC for all the free museums. New York City for all there is to see without it costing a dime to see it.
What are your favorite language translator apps to use when traveling abroad?
I love using Google translator, and use it often. iTranslate is another, through the charge a small fee for voice recognition.