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Changing Travel Plans a Little, to Save a Lot

Published on March 21, 2013, by in Frugal.


Traveling can be an expensive undertaking, especially when it involves an extended trip to multiple locations. Between the costs of transportation, accommodation, and then entertainment along the way, what should have been an exciting adventure can quickly become a massive financial headache for the unprepared. That being said, there are a number of ways to evaluate the trade-offs between cost, time, and luxury, to be sure that your travel budget is optimized to best meet your trip’s goals.

The first way to save on travel costs is to evaluate your ability to sacrifice time for cost. In many situations, the cheaper alternative for travel will be the slower one. That being said, we can quickly crunch the numbers on the savings to see if they are worth the time. For example, suppose a flight to our destination costs $400, and will take us 4 hours, including airport time. This is as compared to a drive to the same destination that would take us 8 hours to complete, and a full tank of gas.

The costs of the drive are a $60 tank of gas, and 8 hours of our time. If we value our time at $20/hour, we can see that the total cost of the drive is only $220, which works out to an after-cost savings of $180. If we can afford the extra 4 hours of driving time, we’ve improved our ability to afford the trip, and perhaps buy something else along the way.

Another way to compromise for savings on a trip is to look at the trade-off between luxury and cost. Think about a quick 4 hour trip that would cost $400 regularly, or $600 for business class. Is the extra amount really worth it if you’re only going to be travelling for a few hours? With an hourly rate of $50/hr, the luxury suite seems pretty expensive. Think of the economy seating as being a part time job that pays you $50/hr. At this part time job you are paid handsomely to be mildly uncomfortable for a very short period of time. That sounds like a pretty good part time job to me. That being said, on those 8 hour flights to Europe, the business class is worth it to avoid mind-numbing leg cramps.

Lastly, a traveler can save quite a bit of money by planning out their accommodations. Specifically, a traveler can save quite a bit of money by sharing their accommodations with other people. Think about a hostel with 16 people in a room as being the cheapest of venues. From there, what’s the difference in cost between the 16 person room and the 8 person room? What about the 4 person room? From there, what is the difference in total cost between a 4 person hostel room and a 2 person hotel room?

I’ve found on many occasions that it is possible to pay for all 4 beds in a hostel room, and still have cheaper accommodations than the hotel room. Granted, there is no laundry service, but for $50/night in savings, it’s not too hard to find the time to figure that out on my own.

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