I grew up an Army brat. At the time, I didn’t appreciate the perks of that, instead focusing on the challenges of always being the new kid everywhere we moved.

That realization drove an adult goal of mine: travel more, even if the destination is only an hour away. I recently visited New Orleans – one of my bucket list locales. Through research and shrewd planning, I was able to have a great time without spending a fortune.

Here are some tips on thrifty traveling.

Plan ahead.

 

Planes, trains, and automobiles.
Consider different forms of transportation. I recently taught an embroidery class and the students were talking about a particular airline that offered inexpensive flights to New Orleans. So, I researched and compared airline costs. Keep in mind, if you don’t live near the airport, you need to factor in gas costs to get there, parking fees, etc. into your final decision. You might even want to look into train or bus schedules and fees.

Search online.
Since New Orleans is a big tourist city, it was so easy to find information online about things to do. No matter where you go, you could search for free/cheap things to do in your destination, and I bet someone has written an article about it. Pinterest also is a great resource for finding guides.

Not every meal has to be gourmet.

While one of the best parts of traveling is trying new and different foods, not every single meal has to be life changing. Budget in what you want to spend on food every day. Many restaurants have their menus posted on a window or door so you can see what they offer and how much it will cost before ordering, or you can look the menus and prices up online. I’m notorious for looking at menus beforehand, mainly because it’s hard to find options to fit my needs. (I’m mostly vegetarian and very picky about the seafood I eat). The only things I really wanted to try in New Orleans were the beignets. For less than $3, I had no regrets. Delicious!

If you choose to splurge on something, make it memorable.

At the top of my New Orleans list was an airboat swamp tour to see alligators. This was the most expensive thing I did, but it was well worth it. I’m still thinking about those alligators and the beautiful scenery.

Be your own tour guide.

There were plenty of guided tours of New Orleans that would have shown off the city and given me a good look at its history; but, with a little research, I made my own tour. You can find guides online, and lots of hotels offer readily available maps and information.

Use public transportation.

In New Orleans, hands down the streetcar was the best way to get around the city. I bought a 24-hour pass for $3, which allowed me to switch streetcars and ride all day. It also provided lots of photo opportunities, especially of the houses and proved to be a great way to find “happy accidents.” We stumbled upon a public park that had plenty of free things to do. In other cities, you might want to consider public buses or subways.

Experience. Not things.

Most importantly, absorb the culture and your surroundings. I enjoy going to cities where I can simply walk around all day. In New Orleans, most streets have a history, there’s never a shortage of live music, and, if you enjoy people watching (like me), you won’t be disappointed.

How are you thrifty when traveling to a new place?