By Jessica Russo
Planning a budget vacation doesn't mean you can't experience the best of the best; it just means you have to think outside the box! Here are some ways to wine, dine, and do all things fine - all while keeping your wallet happy.
Go to those fancy restaurants...for lunch
Let's face it, dinner at a fine dining restaurant will cost a pretty penny. Don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on dinner, but still want to experience a destination's most amazing restaurants? Congrats, you're just like the rest of us! There is, however, a way to experience those exclusive crème de la crème eateries: go for brunch or lunch. You'll still be able to soak up the upscale atmosphere and eat high-end cuisine, but you'll pay about half the price for eating earlier.
Check discount sites for events
The key to experiencing fun attractions is finding cheap tickets. Whether you want to go to a Broadway show, the London Eye, or the Uffizi Gallery, it's always worth it to search the web for discounted rates. Once the price is right, be sure to book tickets in advance! Even if tickets are not explicitly discounted, they may be cheaper booked far in advance. Plus, there's nothing worse than waiting until you get there to learn an event is sold out!
Use those legs!
If you ask yourself, should we just walk? Yes - yes you should. Save money on transportation so you can spend more on dining and shopping! Oftentimes, walking is the best way to truly see all the nooks and crannies of a city, anyway.
Take advantage of free attractions
Did you know many museums in Europe and the UK are free? Yup, you read that right! Stroll through cultural institutions like cathedrals, parks, galleries, and museums. Leave your wallet in your pocket and keep your camera in your hand!
Prioritize your spending
Decide on your budget before you go. If you know that you really want to go to afternoon tea at The Ritz in London, reserve the money for it. Discuss what you will spend money on, and what you will cut down on.
Choose a destination where your home currency is worth more
In some parts of the world, especially Southeast Asia, South America, and South Africa, money goes a long way. Where the exchange rate is in your favor, 5-star experiences come cheap. And trust us, Thai massages live up to the hype.
Leverage credit card perks
Do some research! Does your credit card offer in-flight perks, meal perks, or transportation perks? Before you leave for vacay, find out if your little plastic friend can help you out.
If breakfast is included, eat it
While it may not seem like much, going out to breakfast every morning can add up. Think about it this way: if an average breakfast for two at a cafe or restaurant costs $30, a week of breakfast is $210. That's enough to go to a fancy dinner, purchase event tickets, or travel around a city by car. Sure, one or two breakfasts at a cute cafe might be nice, but don't drain your wallet that early. While breakfast is the most important meal of the day, take the freebie.
Buy a city tourist card
Many tourist destinations offer city cards. These are pay-one-price passes that offer admission to various attractions in the area. While they can be useful, be careful you do not waste money on them. Meticulously read what the card includes and decide if it makes sense for you. If it only includes one attraction that you really want to see, don't buy it just because it "includes so much!" You will wind up spending more by purchasing the card plus paying more for things you truly want to see and do.
It may sound strange at first, but sometimes doing less on vacation is better. People often jam-pack their trips and fail to really be present and take sites in. By clearing your schedule, you'll carve out more time for feeling like a local. Relax at a cafe, people watch, take a walk in a park, go on a hike! By doing less, you will create memories and also save tons of money. Instead of spending money on admission to five museums in a row, spend the day at one and spend the rest of that money on a souvenir for yourself. C'mon, you deserve it.