My husband and I have traveled a lot in our lives. We met one another in Japan; I studied abroad at Meiji Gakuin University and he was a cryptologist in the Navy stationed in Yokosuka for three years. Since meeting one another we have traveled to Austria, Alaska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Arkansas, and more. Travel is, and has always been, a priority for us. Since paying off our non-mortgage debt, we are enjoying travel more than ever. However, we are not spending any additional money that we weren’t spending before. We have just gotten skilled at enhancing our travel experiences.

Whether you are studying aboard, traveling for business or for pleasure, there are many ways to enrich your overall travel experience without adding a lot of extra expenses.

Frugal Travel Tips

  1. Watch a Locally Filmed or Placed Movie: Before Paul and I headed to Austria we watched The Sound of Music (and subsequently went on the Sound of Music tour through the Alps; can you imagine a bus full of foreigners singing “The Hills are Alive”?). I come from Lancaster, PA, and so Paul and I watched the movies Witness and Philadelphia before separate trips home. Are there films that have been taped in an area you will be visiting, or that take place there? You’d be surprised at how fun it can be to stand in the same locations as actors.
  2. Read Books About the Area: While in Japan, I read the book Embracing Defeat and attempted to read The Tale of Genji. While in Paris, I devoured The Da Vinci Code and visited the Louvre. When I visited PA, I read about the tragedy that happened at an Amish school in Nickel Mines. Reading a book about an event, either fiction or nonfiction, and then visiting that area really brings the pages and the area alive.
  3. Time Travel Around a Local, Seasonal Festival: If you time your travel right, then you can enjoy a local festival and really dive into some of the culture of an area. For instance, Japan and Washington D.C. both have events surrounding the Cherry Blossoms season. In Texas, there are festivals to commemorate the blooming of Blue Bonnets (and it is customary to get your photo taken in fields of them). There is also the annual Rodeo and Livestock show in Houston, Oktoberfest in Germany, and Christmas Markets in Austria. So many things to see and do!
  4. Pare Down Your Activities: Paul and I have found that it is far better to choose a few activities and leave open space and time to putz around rather than to schedule too many things into your travel. This allows you to dive more fully into the sites you wish to see, as well as spontaneously stumble upon things you did not even know about.
  5. Eat Locally: No matter where we travel to, we make sure to ask locals about the types of foods that they eat, and then to sample them ourselves! Finding hole-in-the-wall restaurants and markets that are outside of tourist areas is also a great way to take in an area. We have tried scrapple from Lancaster, as well as shoo fly pie, Pat’s and Geno’s Philly cheesesteaks, local wines, cheeses and meats from the Italian market in Philly, bratwursts in Austria, marcillo in Spain, etc.
  6. Window Shop: When I traveled abroad in my early teens and early 20s, I did not have much money to spare. What I found to be quite enjoyable was to randomly get off a metro or train and window shop. I would pick a station, street, or area of a map, get off the train, and literally just walk around for hours browsing both people and shops. I gained a lot of knowledge about cultures just by doing this and got some exercise in the process.
  7. Learn Something from a Local Person: Admittedly, this can be difficult to do. But it can also be the most rewarding experience of any travel. In Japan, I managed to spend a weekend in a Japanese peer’s home. There I toured his family’s tea farm, sang karaoke, and learned how to cook tempura with his mother. I also met with another Japanese friend who taught me how to make origami! I have also broken bread with several Amish families, and in the future hope to learn quilting and canning from them. In Austria, Paul went to a beer garden with his book and open mind, and ended up learning all about the Christmas traditions (hint: it involves a bull!).

In general, we like to steer away from tourist areas and really participate in any local area that we find ourselves in. Of course there are always touristy things that we wish to do, but taking this approach has led to numerous opportunities and plenty of surprises that have made each of our trips memorable.

What types of things do you do when you travel?   

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