Tadlo lodge - Salavan, Loas
Tadlo lodge – Salavan, Loas

I am definitely not a penny-pincher since I believe you get what you pay for, but in a time when travelers are getting nickel and dimed to death, it is smart to try and get the most for every dollar.

Here are 5 ways to get the most bang for your buck when traveling:

1. Pick destinations where your dollar goes far. Let’s face it, there are A LOT of great places to visit, so unless you are dead set on a particular destination, keep your options open. Make a list of your top picks then do a little research and find which ones provide the best value for your money. Be sure to add “getting there” into the equation as many inexpensive countries will kill you in airline costs just to travel there. Bolivia, Nicaragua, Hungary, Nepal and Cambodia are all economically great deals. On the other hand, Japan, Switzerland, Australia, Brazil and Singapore top the list for the most expensive countries to visit.

Anietra fishing for Giant Mekong Catfish in Thailand
Anietra fishing for Giant Mekong Catfish in Thailand

2. Prioritize your spending. Is a luxury hotel room important to you? A private guide? Visiting many tourist sites? Or, is a  special excursion a top priority? While visiting Thailand, extreme fishing for the Giant Mekong Catfish was a top priority. Decide on a couple of splurges and economize on the things that don’t mean as much to you.

3. Get a grip on your communication plan. It used to be commonplace to swap out the SIM card in your cell phone at your destination to save money on phone calls. Thank goodness for progress and good phone plans. Most carriers now offer some type of international calling plan with varying levels of voice and data packages. CAREFULLY review the plan and make sure you understand the potential charges. Overlooking even the smallest detail could end up costing you huge.  If SKYPE is an option for you, use it.

4. Get old-school. Booking things on-line sure is convenient, but sometimes old-school, human to human communication can get you discounts that you cannot find on-line. Gasp! The nerve of me to suggest you actually pick up the phone and have a one-on-one conversation with the B&B operator, the tour company or transportation agent. There’s a lot of fine print on-line and promotions are standardized. Making a human connection will sometimes net you extra discounts, special offers, extended stays or free meals. It has worked for me many times.

City street in Lisbon, Portugal
City street in Lisbon, Portugal


5. Scale down your trip. This doesn’t mean skimp. It means, instead of trotting off to four cities on your two week vacation, scale it back to three and stay longer at each location. You will reduce transportation costs and you will likely find package deals that give a you a discount or free night with a longer stay. This also allows you see each location at a leisurely pace. Take it from someone who recently hit four countries in 3.5 weeks, this tip is a good one for your financial and mental peace of mind!

While frugal planning ruins the splurge of a vacation, smart planning makes your dollar go farther and may even free up enough cash for a fun souvenir to remember your trip.