Dollars and Sense for Solo Women Travelers
You may be eating out less, choosing rentals over movie theaters and forgoing our daily lattes for home brew. If you’ve had to tighten your pocketbook (or money belt) because of the economy, travel can still be in your future.
Admittedly, for solo travelers, spending less might be a bit trickier as hotels tend to charge double occupancy rates, single supplement fees apply on tours and you may not have anyone with whom to the split cost of a taxi or meal.
With that in mind, here are a few tips for saving money that may allow you to tack on a few extra days (or weeks!) to a journey.
1. When booking a hotel, first check all the major booking engines and then call or email the hotel and ask if they have a better rate. Generally, hotels will publish the “rack rate” which is rarely what a person would actually pay. Instead, it’s a starting point based on high season and how booked the hotel is. Given the low occupancy rates around the globe, chances are you can easily strike a bargain. Quote a lower rate from a competing hotel as a bargaining chip.
2. Same goes with car rentals. Check major booking engines, the rental agency’s own site and then call for the best deal. Inquire as to whether they have specials for automobile club members or holders of an Entertainment Guide. I saved over a hundred dollars on a recent trip to the Bay Area by using my Entertainment Guide for my rental car! And that was just for a four day rental.
3. When eating out, shop at grocery stores and markets rather than having a sit down meal three times a day. If you’re uncomfortable dining solo, this will help you get around the feeling of loneliness. You’re also going to save a bundle compared to a restaurant meal and you’ll probably eat healthier, too. On a recent business trip, I purchased a box of cereal when I arrived and then bought a glass of milk each morning from the local Starbucks. I enjoyed my own tea and a cup of cereal each morning in my room and avoided the bread-and-eggs breakfast that I would have otherwise been tempted to eat at the hotel’s restaurant.
4. If you are booking a tour, some operators will guarantee no single supplement fee if you book far enough in advance. Most will attempt to place you with another single traveler in these cases so be aware of this in advance. If you’re making a last minute decision on a tour, you might just be able to strike a deal! The operator may appreciate having another participant if their group is only partially full.
5. Don’t be intimated to bargain. In many countries, this is simply a part of the culture. Have fun with the process, get to know the locals and know that this back and forth is expected. It may seem odd to Westerners, but by NOT bargaining, many will see you as a sucker. In India, for example, the locals will think less of you if you simply take the first price offered. You’d be amazed at how much money you can save by spending a little time with a vendor or salesclerk to shave off some bucks.
6. Stay in hostels. Because you’ll be paying for one bed (and not the double occupancy rate), you’ll automatically be saving a heap o’ cash. Hostels will have women-only dorm rooms and many allow you to choose the number of people with whom you’re sharing. In other words, they may have rooms with anywhere from 4 to 8 bunk beds and price the bed accordingly. You’ll at least have the option for a bit more
privacy if you choose.
7. Seek out other travelers. By staying in hostels, visiting internet cafes or popular backpacker restaurants, you’ll quickly meet other travelers. Before you know it, you’ll have a built-in system for sharing accommodations, shuttles, tour costs and meals.
8. Meet the locals. Join Couchsurfing, GlobalFreeloaders or Servas. These programs are designed for you to stay with locals (for free!). More importantly, they can quickly become your best connection for deals, inside tips on what the top hidden sights are to see and how to get around on the public transportation system. I’ve couchsurfed up and down the West Coast and even in India. While I certainly appreciate saving money on my accommodations, the main thing is that I have an inside connection to the city where I’m staying. As a woman traveler, that makes me feel safer!
I could go on as there are a million ways to get beyond the excuses of why you can’t travel right NOW. Any way you can make it happen, however, I encourage you to not put off the trip you’ve been pining for.
Monk with money: Wonderlane
Other photos: Beth Whitman