How to Travel More and Spend Less for Filipinos and Everyone Else

The travel bug bit me hard and tough. Vacations for me are like a big project and I plan them how I plan my career choices. There are so many things to see out there, the culture, the people, the food, the attractions but most of all the thrill of knowing that the world is a big place with plenty of things to learn.

Filipinos, being social animals, love to travel. For the last three years that I have been working, I have developed some routines for my travel whether on a tight budget or not. Majority of people will agree that when there is a budget set for a trip, it is usually not strictly followed. Here are some of my personal tips while doing an ‘excursion’ (as my Lola would say):

Know Your Destination and Companions

What province or country do you want to visit? And who are you going with? For me, it’s all about the vision, always. A year before I graduated from college I knew that I wanted to go to Ilocos with my barkada. After all, one of my friends owns a house there and it would be a waste if we didn’t take advantage of it, right? Of course, we got her permission to abuse that privilege. When you travel, you’d want to have a good time and you surely don’t want to be disappointed with the place and the people you are with.

Travel Fund Goal

Have a rough estimate of the expenses you will incur when you travel so that you can know how much you should save per payday. Right after I got my first job, one thing I tried to set-up is a travel fund (besides funds for savings and life insurance). Being able to stick to that goal whatever it takes is crucial.
"What if I really wanted to go abroad and I already booked the ticket but even if I starved myself for one month, the money I will earn will still not suffice?"
My answer to this is - if you really want to go, get some extra source of income. I remember taking a freelance job just to have enough money for a recent trip. If you really want it bad, there are so many things you can do! And when you do not have a travel location in mind, still make contributions to the fund so that saving for another trip will be a lot easier.

Watch out for Seat Sales

Ah! If you traveling by plane, most airlines are doing seat sales and if you haven’t heard of them yet, I will ask you – “Are you sure?” Kidding aside, never underestimate the savings that you can get by booking in these seat sales. I booked a 2-way trip to Cebu for only P400 which normally costs P4,000 minimum. Imagine 90% savings! What a steal! I can add the difference to my accommodation and food expenses!

Be aware of your destination’s scheduled holidays. These days, in most places, entail more cost because of higher demand. Quick tip: Always have you credit card ready (or your friend’s, with permission of course) for booking flights. Seats are sold quite fast, but you may book your flights at midnight when there is less competition. Seat sales usually start at midnight, so get your hands dirty and book that seat!

Plan your itinerary

Now that you have your flight schedule, you may Google the places you intend to visit. Try to know more about transportation modes and how much money you need to spend. Take advantage of the itineraries and contact numbers that bloggers post on their websites. These are very useful for people who are on a particular place for the first time. You may already have a favorite blogger in mind. You can even completely follow his or her itinerary.

Look for places where you don’t have to spend money at all. There are a lot of attractions that are maintained by governments and they are usually free. And yes, it is true even here in the Philippines. Luneta Park and Intramuros are just two examples.

Try to be organized as much as possible when doing this since a lot of information will be needed while planning your trip. Make sure that you have an outline of your vacation and do careful research.  Try to avoid getting confused with all that’s happening. Make sure that you plan for incidentals too such as allowing time in between trips so that you will not find yourself in too much of a hurry.

Accommodation Hunting

This is probably the least important part for many of us since accommodation is just a place to sleep and take a bath. But planning for your accommodation is really important because it will serve as your home base. It is essential that it be nearby all the attractions and is within budget.

Consider comparing accommodations based on prices and accessibility. There are a lot of websites out there offering a wide range of accommodation from a simple bed and breakfast room to high-end hotels. Make sure you book ahead especially during the holidays.
Quick tip: Sometimes the rate in the hotel's website is actually cheaper than what is stated on websites comparing hotel prices.

Plan for Incidentals

While travelling, make sure you have your credit card with you for emergency use. You might miss your flight or may need some money while touring. Try to save for an emergency fund. For first time travelers, do you know that you have to pay a boarding fee and travel tax of P1, 620 when going overseas? Take these into account when planning your budget so you won’t be surprised with extra expenses at the airport.

Re-asses your budget

Before finally going ahead with your vacation, it may be good to revisit your itinerary first. If you estimate going over your budget, I suggest you cut down some activities. If you predict having extra money, add some more activities that you think you can enjoy. If you plan to do the latter, try to find out how you can save while doing these activities on the internet.

These are very easy to do if you are a hardcore planner and want the most out of your money. Budgeting for a trip and building your itinerary can be a lot of work. They may require patience and painful research to get to where you want to be. But hey, the next time you do it, it will be a lot easier and you’d probably enjoy doing it. Or if you can't do it yourself, might as well book a travel package! HAHA!

It is often said that traveling is an investment. The process of learning different cultures and gaining more experiences is a way of investing in yourself. My travels have opened my eyes to many new ideas. Planning for them is just the start of a long process and they wouldn't be as fulfilling if I didn't have fun along the way!

About the Author:
Sil Silvestre is iMoney Philippines' Product Development Executive. He loves to travel and eat. His mission is to spread Financial literacy one Pinoy at a time.