Rent a Bike!
Some people search for airfare deals and hotel sales, make their reservations and then assume they have done all they can to save on their trip and then plan the rest of their trip with no regard for budget. Many who have limited expendable income tell me they only take day trips or staycations these days, because traveling with their family is too expensive. When I point out that they can save money in many ways and still have a real vacation and go further than the beach or nearby campsite they are skeptical, so I show them through travel tips and website recommendations. Most are shocked that they could have been traveling to great destinations on their budget all along and get excited to start taking their kids to fun places.
One of the things that regular travelers don’t really think about is saving on transportation. Once you get to your destination, you can still save a bundle on things. A lot of us don’t try to think out of our “travel box” and continue to waste money on things we feel are a part of vacationing, like taxis or rental cars, but there are other ways of getting around that can cut back on expenses and be even more fun for everyone. Instead of leaving the airport and heading straight for the taxi stand line or hailing a cab on the street to get to your dinner reservation, here are some alternatives to getting around town.
Airport shuttles – You can reserve a seat on a shuttle almost anywhere you travel. Not only do they run on your schedule, they offer more room than a taxi and the price is fixed. You don’t have to ever worry if you have enough cash. I always start to panic a bit as I see the fare rate ticking away in a cab. Already, my trip isn’t that enjoyable. While I’m riding along in the shuttle to get to my hotel or back to the airport, I can relax knowing that everything has already been paid for and have fun watching the sights out the window and chat with the driver or other passengers. Often, you can get a discounted rate for a round-trip ride and also for booking ahead. It’s always a good idea to price compare online, too, because sometimes there are significant rate differences. In Hawaii, we booked a shuttle service that included a lei greeting for less than what other companies were charging for just pick up and drop off.
Public transportation – If you’re visiting any big city (and even plenty of small cities), chances are that public transportation is easily accessible and affordable. Generally, I suggest getting a multi-day pass or packet as it’s much cheaper to buy a book of 10 passes or a transport pass than to pay for each ride separately, especially if you’ll be spending several days exploring the city. Transport passes usually are valid on all transport within your destination, so if it offers the bus, a subway and a streetcar, you should be able to use it for each of these services. Think of public transportation as like a free city tour. You don’t have to pay attention to all the rules of the road, because you aren’t driving, and it gives you the opportunity to talk to locals or see neighborhoods you may have missed had you driven or taken a cab.
Rent a bike – More and more cities are offering bike rentals and bike share programs. If your main objective is to get out and see the city, then look for a deal on bicycle rentals for you and your travel party. You may find that it’s cheaper than a car rental for the day (or even free) and you’ll be able to go more places than you could with a car. Plus, kids love bikes and it’ll be familiar to them.
Walk – It’s so simple, but I find that there are many tourists who are afraid of new environments and aren’t willing to walk a bit out of their way to get to a tourist attraction or restaurant. You see so much more when you walk, plus you get exercise and fresh air. Even if you take public transportation, you have to walk to get to the bus stop or subway station. If it seems like an attainable destination by foot, than go for it. You’ll see the city like a local, walking past new plants, maybe seeing different and interesting types of birds, catching a glimpse of a tucked-away restaurant or shop you’ll want to come back to and so much more.
Need help getting around without a map? Use a phone app! GPSMyCity has quite a selection of walking tours that range from free to $4.99 each. You get a city map and tours, so you can be your own tour guide and save even more. Or use an app like Google Maps that shows you the nearest subway and bus stops, directions from your current location, it has the ability to save searches to use again, and more useful and fun features!
If you have kids with you, this is the perfect time to teach them about maps and transportation. You can even have them navigate the family from Point A to Point B. So, as you can see, you can make saving money fun, educational and healthy! You’ll see the city you travel in from a whole different perspective than those that choose to spend money on a cab from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to everywhere else they visit. You’ll save a bundle that you can then either save for your next trip or spend on doing enjoyable things while on your current vacation, whether it’s a tourist attraction you were dying to see or dinner out at a nice restaurant. By doing things just a bit differently, you can minimize credit card dependency and not find yourself still paying off this year’s vacation next year when you start planning.
My name is Shereen Rayle and I like to call myself a budget travel enthusiast. I’m not a travel professional, getting paid to travel the world and sleep in the swankiest hotels, so saving money is seriously important when I plan my vacations. My husband and I like to get the most for our money, but still be comfortable and do as much as possible. With this in mind, I am constantly looking for ways to save on every aspect of a trip. Finding that so many others around me were also on a budget and didn’t even know where to start when planning an affordable vacation, I set out to write a book, with a corresponding blog, to help friends, family and all the other budget travelers out there take better vacations with the money they had. Readers can see some of the great current tips, as well as ask me questions via my page on Facebook or my Twitter feed.
photo: leah jones