You might be surprised to know that it’s entirely possible to take a vacation in a foreign destination as cheaply as it is to take one here in the U.S., that is, if you are willing to be flexible and spend time doing the research on your own. With the availability of discount online travel resources at your fingertips, travel agents are no longer those to look to for budget travel planning. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find many willing to book budget vacations for leisure travelers. However, if you’re looking for the vacation of your dreams and you’re not counting your dollars, expert travel guru Judy Martinez is who you want to call.
Jim’s Travel Link
911 Lake Carolyn
Irving, TX 75039
Her clients refer to her as the goddess of travel because Judy Martinez, vice president of leisure travel for Jim’s Travel Link, is very good at what she does, especially after working in the industry for 34 years. Martinez specializes in both corporate and leisure travel, offering clients unrivaled personalized service. While Martinez says that she does not book the budget stuff, she certainly knows how to play the system, and has graciously agreed to share her tips for planning an awesome budget-friendly trip.
Not only will you find lower prices on air travel during the off season, but you will also find a wider choice of accommodations at lower prices. Yapta.com and Momondo.com are good places to track and monitor prices. Sure there’s a trade-off, the weather may not be ideal and some venues may be closed for the season, but the price and crowds will be much lower.
Related: Best Budget Vacation Destinations
Want to travel by sea? Instead of cruise lines, take a freighter (travltips.com) for around $100 per day, per person. You won’t find casinos and round-the-clock activities, but you will find spacious staterooms, and enjoy intimate dinners with a small gathering of fellow passengers and the ship’s officers.
Also look out for new airline routes. When airlines launch new cities, they tend to offer low introductory fares to attract more passengers. Additionally, traveling to alternative, nearby destinations can save up to half price on airfare. Then take either a smaller air carrier, train or rent a car to travel on to your original destination.
Bad news like strikes and natural disasters can damage a brand or destination’s reputation, causing travelers to avoid it like the plague. However, it can also be a great time to take advantage of amazing sales on everything from airfare to hotels and events since many places will be trying to recoup their losses.
Smaller cities may not have the large tourism infrastructure that larger ones do, but food, lodging and sights will usually be less expensive. Also consider destinations where your money will go further, such as Peru, Morocco, Thailand, Estonia and Croatia.
Instead of searching for hotels, try searching for vacation rentals on sites like Airbnb, Home Away and Flipkey that offer fully furnished accommodations for as little as $50-$90 a night— even in cities like Paris. Home exchange programs, hostels and couchsurfing.org are also great options.
Collecting travel awards or points has helped many people travel the world on a shoestring budget. However, Martinez advises to take time to learn the rules of your program so to not overspend your points. If you want to learn more about collecting points and which credit cards will get you the best benefits, the FrugalTravelGuy.com.offers a wealth of information on the subject.
Forget about travelers checks, many places don’t even take them. Instead, purchase a prepaid debit card (travelx.com) loaded in a foreign currency to avoid foreign exchange fees. Or use a credit card like the Capital One Reward card that allows you to bypass foreign transactions fees while earning points redeemable for travel expenses.
Don’t be fooled by an all-inclusive resort. If you enjoy exploring an area and eating like the locals, reserve a hotel and eat out on your own for much less than you’ll wind up paying for an all-inclusive plan.
For more ways to find out where your budget will take you, check out kayak.com/explore, and keep abreast of good deals using the hashtag #traveldeals on Twitter.
Related: Best Train Trips In The USA