It’s vacation time and you’ve picked Greece; if you’ve ever seen any pictures from the islands, it’s a no-brainer on how you arrived at that decision. But if you’ve done any bit of internet research then you know the hotspots, like Athens, Mykonos and Santorini are must-see’s for many travellers, and they can get to be pretty pricey.
But when you’re booking location isn’t only key to consider, but also how you go about planning your vacation, and if you take these tips to heart, you can save a bundle and feel a little less guilty about heading off into the Great Blue.
1. Try a hospitality exchange
Most people’s number 1 option for going cheap while travelling is to stay in hostels where applicable or trying out Airbnb for the first time, but it’s certainly not the only way to save a buck or two and it’s certainly not the cheapest option. For those of you not comfortable with Couchsurfing (add me to this list) but still interested in the same price tag, I suggest trying a hospitality exchange. HomeExchange.com is a great place to hunt for great houses and families to switch up with, so before you book your flight, check out the availability. Accommodation and lodging is usually the first or second big expense, so if it’s at $0 it means you’ve already won.
2. Book a package deal
If you’re going to a remote place where a home exchange won’t work, the next best thing is to book your deals altogether. Flight, car, and hotel, like with Kayak or Vayama will save you hundreds when you book them together. It takes a little freedom out of your itinerary, it’s true, but all in all, if relaxing is your favorite way to spend vacation, then as soon as you click “continue” and enter your credit card info, the hard part is over. Just be at your first flight on time, and the rest is cake.
3. Don’t eat in the tourist areas
It’s a widely known phenomenon that staying, playing, and eating where the other tourists are is a sign that your price tag is at least triple what you should actually be paying. When it comes to Greece, this means anywhere near the Pantheon is completely off limits, same for beachfront restaurants in Mykonos, which is full of people unconcerned with dropping 40 euros on a basic meal. If you’re planning on spending a nice night out, do your research beforehand and only do it once or twice; the street food in Greece (from gyros to falafel) will keep you more than full and it won’t break the bank.
4. Take a water bottle
It’s a no-brainer, but how often do we forget to bring our own little oasis for those times we really need to quench our thirst? My suggestion is to get really attached to a favorite water bottle (not just the plastic ones at the grocery store, word has it those can be harmful to reuse) and learn to not live without it; it’ll be the easiest way to keep track of it. I suggest a Camelbak or Nalgene, or even a hydration pack from Platypus—if you’re one for hiking, it’s a really great buy.
5. Trade your global roaming plan for a local SIM card
Ditching your international plan for a local prepaid SIM card is how you stop all the money you’ve saved booking your vacation from flying right back out of the window. With companies like OneSimCard, you can get free incoming calls and texts from Greece and some surrounding countries, and it’s 39 cents for outgoing calls. For anyone staying a week or more, the SIM card approach is really much more cost effective than anything you’re going to configure with your home country cell plan. All you have to do is a little prep work, including unlocking your phone, and then you’re ready to pop in the SIM. It’s definitely easier than writing a check for that fortune of a global plan you were thinking about getting.
6. Get a credit card that doesn’t charge per swipe
A great way to rack up your bill is by paying per swipe, and it’s just not worth it to carry around all of your cash because that’s how you get swindled by a pickpocket. Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One both have great sign-on bonuses and allow you to bypass the international transaction fees. For a card that lets you draw out from the ATM without an exorbitant charge, try Discover Bank—it will give you the flexibility to carry as little cash as you want and no penalty for drawing out more. What more can you ask?
7. Cook one meal a day
If there’s one thing the Greeks know how to do better than a lot of other people, it’s cooking. And not wanting to miss out on those experiences while you’re in Greece is a real dilemma when you’re trying to save money, but the thing is, you don’t have to skimp on tastings while keeping a close eye on your wallet. The thing to do is cook one meal a day, and head to the Laiki markets to do it. The Laiki markets are farmer’s markets, and they house the freshest seafood, olives, and fruits and vegetables that the islands have to offer—and it’s worth it to wander between the stalls checking out the goods. Take an empty stomach, basket, and a roll of film because it’s exactly the kind of adventure that doesn’t feel like saving money, but feels like making memories.
If you stick to these tips on the front end and stay smart, you’ll feel better about getting home and reading your credit card statement. Or even if you’re closely monitoring while you’re abroad, it’ll still feel good to see less of your money flying out of your checking account. And hey, with all that money you saved maybe you can buy a timeshare—it’s a possibility, right?
I’m Claire – a self-confessed travel nut. I’ve been travelling around the world since my mum farewelled me in a teary goodbye and I haven’t looked back since. You can read all about my adventures through 48 cities in 26 countries on 4 continents on my blog Traveltio.com.