The benefits of travel cannot be understated. There’s nothing quite like visiting a new country, state, or even city to expand horizons and evolve perspectives. But it sure ain’t cheap. Even the cost of domestic travel can add up.
Here, Graham Hiemstra—a New York City-based writer, photographer, seasoned traveler, and founding editor of Field Mag—shares eight of his tried-and-true ways for maximizing every trip while minimizing spending. So read on, then get going yourself.
1. Sign up for flight-deal newsletters and book well ahead of time
Make a list of the top five destinations you’d like to visit in the next year, then keep an eye on websites like The Flight Deal and email newsletters like Scott’s Cheap Flights. If your list is serious and you’re willing to book up to six months out, you’ll be well positioned to take advantage of limited-time offers and save big time. Earlier this year I scored a $ 600 round-trip flight from NYC to Tokyo for January, and on my preferred airline too. That’s half the price I’d expect to pay if booking on a more conventional timeline.
2. Make the most of credit card benefits and mileage bonus perks
The easiest way to travel more is with a credit card that prioritizes miles accumulation and rewards that don’t expire. The Capital One® Venture® card offers an impressive 50,000 bonus miles once you’ve hit a modest spending limit and and you get unlimited 2 miles per dollar on every purchase. Best of all, Venture miles can be used on flights, hotels, and much more, so you can travel freely without being tied to a single airline service or hotel chain. It’s win-win.
3. Bring a reusable water bottle—and utensils
Bottled water is largely inexpensive and abundant, but the cost of buying multiple a day will add up, both financial and environmentally. When traveling in developed countries where tap water quality isn’t an issue, a reusable water bottle is a no brainer. A titanium spork—or chopsticks—is another great idea. It’s near weightless, further saves single-use waste from takeout meals, and is especially useful while flying and traveling by train.
4. Embrace airplane mode and free public WiFi
Buying a local SIM card is a smart, inexpensive way to avoid expensive data and messaging fees when traveling internationally. What’s even cheaper is switching your phone to airplane mode and living off free public wifi—found in many parks and plazas, and almost all restaurants and coffee shops.
Another perk to going full airplane mode is limiting your availability and access to distracting apps. In other words, you’ll be less likely to waste an hour scrolling social media, and less susceptible to overeager coworkers happy to ignore your OOO message. Also, GPS runs off satellite, so if you load a map before leaving service, you’ll still be able to track movements and see your location based on street names and local points of interest.
5. Get Global Entry and TSA PreCheck
After a lengthy international flight, the last thing you’ll want to do is wait in the customs line. Global Entry saves you from this headache. TSA PreCheck does the same for domestic travel, allowing you to go through security with your shoes on and laptop safely in your bag. The combination fee is well worth every penny. If you pay for the application with your Venture card, you will receive a statement credit of up to $ 100 to cover the cost. Can’t beat that.
6. Pack instant coffee and oatmeal or snack bars
An aeropress and hand-crank coffee grinder has long been the go-to setup for traveling coffee enthusiasts, but recent developments in instant coffee production now allow you to ditch the tools, save the luggage space, and still enjoy high quality craft coffee no matter where you are.
Voila, maker of the highest-ever scoring instant coffee, offers a 5 pack for $ 16. When paired with a packet or two of instant oatmeal, you’ve got a price conscious breakfast capable of being prepared in pretty much any hotel room, Airbnb, or campsite. And having a few Kind Bars—or whatever your preference is—on hand throughout the trip will save you from making uneducated, hangry decisions, like forking over $ 15 for a nasty airport or train station meal.
7. Leave cash at home, rely on ATMs
Never exchange money—the fees associated with the ubiquitous kiosks are never worth it—and use local ATMs instead. The trick? Before you travel, research whether your home bank has intentional partners or is part of the Global ATM Alliance, which will allow you to withdraw money at a foreign bank without being charged a fee.
Selecting a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, like the Capital One® Venture® card, will also save you time and money. While modest, the savings seriously add up in the long run.
8. Don’t be afraid to make an expensive decision to save a trip
We’ve all been there—that luxe hotel turns out to be a roach motel; surprise, your Airbnb view is a brick wall; that epic view you counted on is ruined thanks to fog and rain. Now add in travel exhaustion and general confusion from being in a foreign country, and you’ve got a moment capable of ruining a trip.
Before you let that happen, take a deep breath and remember you’re in control of turning your trip around. Don’t be afraid to make a game-time decision to catch a cab to a nicer hotel for the night, or even book a last second flight or train ticket somewhere totally new (with better weather). Peace of mind and improved moral will always be worth a few extra dollars spent.
Bonus Tips: Invest in versatile, natural fiber-based apparel, schlepp-able luggage, and solid toiletries.
A core minimalist wardrobe of comfortable basics in dark hues will fly under the radar in almost any environment while still looking sharp. Think sturdy, tech-driven pants like Futureworks from Outlier, an Icebreaker merino tee and flannel button down, and stealth sneakers like Vans or Nike Frees for those days when you’re on your feet nonstop. Plus, Merino wool is naturally anti-microbial, temperature regulating, and odor-resistant. Meaning you can go a full week without washing. Seriously.
Pack said wardrobe into a sturdy duffel bag that can be carried over the shoulder—like the classic Patagonia Black Hole Duffel, made with 100% recycled materials—will make your life on the road much easier. Why? Consider the very likely scenario of running to catch a train in a crowded metro station, or hoofing it across town on cobblestone streets. Does a roller bag still make sense? Not a chance.
Avoid extra time in security lines by switching liquid toiletries to solids—everything from sunscreen, cologne, and hair products to toothpaste, and mouthwash can be found in all-natural solid alternatives these days.
Looking for even more accessories to make your next trip easier? Pack smarter with these.
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