People make mistakes all the time, especially when they're out of their element in a new place. Travel mistakes can cost you big money and when you're on a budget, namely a small student's budget, that can mean cutting a trip short or living on ramen for another three months. There are ways around the mistakes and here's how to combat budget travel ignorance with budget travel genius!
1. Misjudging the hotel's location - This is easy to do, especially when you're on a budget and decided to go for a more inexpensive room a little further out from the city center. The only thing for this is to understand how much you're going to have to pay in transportation going to and from your desired scheduled attractions. You might end up paying more in transportation than what you're saving on the room.
2. Doing too much - When you're headed for a once in a lifetime trip to, say, New York City, you're going to want to do everything. Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Ellis Island, etc. But all those attractions cost money and it adds up quickly, not to mention it gets exhausting. Instead, pick a few attractions that you simply can't live without seeing up close and work those into your budget. There are ways around those expensive attractions if you're a little clever and finicky such as free museum days, city tourism cards, and free attractions that you can use to fill your itinerary.
3. Not doing what you want - Be honest with yourself and your group about where you want to go and what you want to see. If you're in a large group, chances are some of you don't want to go to a particular place or spend money on an expensive ticket on something you don't care about. In the end, maybe you dissenters could go off and do something you really want to do and save your money.
4. Sticking to tourist traps - A lot of people make this mistake and only visit the spots they have seen in tourism brochures and guides. Well, stop it. These tourist traps are so named because they trap tourists into thinking they are worth the extra high price when, in the end, many of them aren't. Instead, go off the beaten path and find out where the locals go. Those places are probably cheaper and a lot cooler than a restaurant masquerading as a jungle. Just saying.
5. Inflexible dates - Rather than going into your planning by saying, "I want to travel from this specific date to this specific date," go in saying, "I want to travel sometime around here." There is always a high, low, and shoulder season wherever you're intending to go and prices will fluctuate accordingly. If you're inflexible about your travel dates, you probably - unless you're some kind of precognitive - not going to get the best deal.
6. Not shopping around for deals/shopping too much - This is a fine line which lends back to number five. Technically, you're supposed to book flights and hotels roughly 54 days before you leave on your trip (source linked for reference). Anytime after that 54 day mark and prices start escalating because airlines can sense weakness and they're hungry for money. However, this doesn't mean you can't shop for deals. If you go through one company, say, Expedia or something similar, and don't look at another company's findings, then you have no way of knowing what kind of deals they could have made. Shopping for a deal is great, but don't shop around too much and miss out on your window of opportunity. You're never going to find the flight for free, so stop while you're ahead and get the best deal you come across.
7. Not planning a contingency budget - Things happen. You low-ball your budget but don't plan for extra fees, hidden hotel surcharges, unexpected baggage fees, parking, ATM fees, etc. and you end up a few hundred dollars over your target. You have to plan for a little leeway in your budget or else you will undoubtedly blow it to smithereens.
8. Spending at airports - This is a big no-no that people constantly do. Really, in any other circumstance you wouldn't pay $10 for a large glass bottle of water. You'd say it was a ridiculous price and that you could get a drink for free at the fountain down the hall. The same should go for the airport! Don't spend all of your travel money in airport traps. Bring a reusable water bottle and, if you have to, split a more affordable meal with a friend. Definitely stay away from the souvenir shops there too. Those are the biggest tourist traps you're likely to find anywhere.
9. Transportation - This goes for anywhere you want to travel. Public transportation is going to be your cheaper option, pretty much always. Ignore the rental cars at the airport (unless you're going off the grid someplace without bus routes), and stay away from taxis. Transportation will gut you in the budget department before you know what hit you. Instead, go for public transportation; the bus, subway, metrorail, or trolley, whatever the city has. Most if not all major cities have transportation day passes so you can hop on and off the lines at a fraction of the cost. It'll save you loads of money, even if you do think it smells weird.
10. Doing everything solo - You're going to be traveling in a group, right? So be a group! People, especially Americans, tend to like to pay for everything on their own and not share costs. However, when you're all on a budget, it's more prudent to skip those shortcomings and share the cost of meals, lodging, what have you. Instead of paying for three individual meals a day, get a free continental breakfast at the hotel, split a fancier lunch with a friend (lunch menus are generally less expensive), and grab a cheap bite to eat for dinner. When getting a hotel, too, split the cost as far as you can, cramming as many people as it's allowed into a hotel room to lower the individual price per person.