Do you want to travel internationally? Do you want to save money doing so? Would you like to see a photo of a windmill? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this post is for you!
I seem to be on a “writing about our hobbies” kick, so I thought I’d continue in this vein by delving into how Mr. Frugalwoods and I manage to travel internationally on our frugal weirdos budget. First of all, why travel? It’s expensive, it’s not revenue generating, and you might have to eat this:
Well, Mr. Frugalwoods and I are certified victims of wanderlust. We crave new experiences and enjoy immersing ourselves in other cultures. Exploring the world is one of our great loves and our largest discretionary expense. Plus, how else would we replenish our stockpile of hotel shampoo and air sickness bags?
Mr. FW and I would both rather traverse the streets of Paris than buy a new car or eat at restaurants every week.
We have wonderful memories of our travels and we learn so much about ourselves and the world every time we set foot off US soil. Apologies in advance to our non-American readers, I realize this is heavily USA focused, but I hope you’ll share your frugal travel hacks with us!
Are you ready for the #1, top, absolute best way to save money on international travel?! YES? OK, here it is!:
Be flexible and non-traditional in selecting travel dates and destinations
You guys, I am not kidding. I realize this might sound overly simplistic, but it’s the honest-to-Frugalwoods truth.
Since it’s pretty easy to be frugal once you’re at your destination (post on that forthcoming), our biggest expense–and yours too if you’re doing it right–is getting there. In other words, plane tickets!
Solution: travel only at off-peak times. For example, flying anywhere the week of Christmas is always going to be extraordinarily expensive. Our solution? Stay home for Christmas and visit family in mid-January instead. Hint: no one flies in mid-January because everyone just spent three times the price to fly the week of Christmas! And if you’re going abroad, choose a time when no one else is.
Additionally, choose a destination no one else is. If you can avoid trying to book flights to say Berlin and rather check for flights to Western Europe generally, you’re guaranteed to snag a better deal. Mr. FW and I actually design our itineraries around inexpensive flights deals.
And now, for the first ever Frugalwoods quiz!
1) At what time is no one in the USA flying to another country?
B) The second week of August
D) Groundhog Day
2) What type of animal is Frugal Hound?
And the correct answers are….#1: C, #2: B! If you answered correctly, let us know in the comments section and Frugal Hound will personally congratulate you.
Thanksgiving, a uniquely American holiday, is not a time when typical Americans think, oh hey, let’s go to another country that doesn’t celebrate this uniquely American holiday! Unless of course, they are frugal travel mavens. We’ve found that the week of Thanksgiving is by far the cheapest week for travel from the US to a foreign locale.
While everyone else eats turkey, you can go to Turkey. Yes, yes, you’ll miss cranberry sauce at home, but we’ve had glorious Thanksgivings in England, France, The Netherlands, Slovakia, Poland, Croatia…
Bonus of Thanksgiving travel? There are no other Americans traveling and actually very few tourists in general. Since it’s early winter, school groups aren’t terrorizing museums and the fannypack brigade isn’t descending upon every stop of the Rick Steves walking tour you photocopied from a library travel book.
Plus, since Christmas is right around the corner, many European cities have an outdoor Christmas market/fest set-up for the season replete with: wonderful people watching, free music and dancing (by yourself and others), and cheap street food. One of the best ways to feel like a local is blending into these delightful festivals. Mr. Frugalwoods and I became regulars (for the week) at Zagreb, Croatia’s “Christmas Wine & Culture” tent. Think Croatian folk music, meat of indeterminate origin in what looked like a really long corndog bun? (unsure to this day), and mulled wine. Oh the mulled wine. All in all, it’s a good time of the year to be a tourist.