6 Brilliant Ways to Save Money When Traveling
So what if you can't afford a bucket-list safari? Make it a real adventure with search engines Skyscanner.com or Fareness.com: Leave the destination open and you'll see the cheapest airfares from your location. "I've explored unique places I'd never have considered," says Gloria Atanmo, creator of The Blog Abroad, "all because the ticket cost $50."
To take the sting out of lodging costs, finance expert Andrea Woroch recommends RoomerTravel.com, where you'll find accommodations booked by people who have prepaid but now want to cancel (think StubHub for hotel rooms). Can you be ready to go within the next week? Check out the deeply discounted rooms on the app HotelTonight (in some cities, you can book up to 100 days in advance). And you may want to reconsider any hostility toward hostels, some of which have private rooms: "I'm 60 and still use them," says Janice Waugh, publisher of the website Solo Traveler. "I've had fantastic conversations with the millennials I've met. We give each other fresh perspectives."
Wandering through those ephemera-stuffed booths gives you the opportunity to play archaeologist, sociologist, reporter, and connoisseur. Try on a bunch of Instagrammable feathered hats. Imagine the lives of people in sepia photos. Eavesdrop on the couple fighting about area rugs. Ask a vendor to tell you the story behind that creepy-eyed bisque-head doll. Get a bargain on a beautiful or bizarre object to bring home, so you can remember this day forever.
Somewhere in Oaxaca, there's a casa bonita that's yours for the taking—all you have to do is water the ficus. "I've house-sat in a dozen countries," says Nora Dunn, whose experiences inspired her blog, The Professional Hobo. "The places ranged from simple to posh. I once spent three months in the Caribbean on boats! Many sites that offer these gigs charge a membership fee, but a few nights' free accommodation justifies the cost." For house-sitting and home swaps, search GuestToGuest (free) or HomeExchange ($150 per year); pet-sitters can check out TrustedHousesitters ($119 per year).
Even if you have the budget for only a daytrip, you can still find exotic sights: Go to Atlas Obscura and type in your city to discover hidden gems. A search of Atlanta turned up a Noguchi-designed playground, Trader Vic's Tiki bar, the "secret gardens" at the Cator Woolford Gardens outside the city, and the shop Junkman's Daughter, where you can admire intricate murals, browse through vintage items, and adopt a kitten.
Help a handsome Hungarian hone his English. Pick raspberries in Australia. Welcome hostel guests in Ireland. If you're willing to lend a hand, you can find a free or cheap place to lay your head: Check out Workaway ($36 for yearly membership) or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (membership fee varies by country).