Whenever readers ask me how they can best save money during travel, I remind them of my “big three” travel expenditures: Food, lodging and transport.
If you keep costs of these big expenditures down, you’ve got much more leftover for other things, such as excursions, tours and once-in-a-lifetime experiences, like stays at awesome lodges in Cornwall.
One thing I almost never recommend you spend money on when you travel is shopping. Although traipsing through markets and bazaars can be a fun and integral part of travel, I suggest you abstain from actually buying anything in the majority of cases — and here’s why. You don’t really need it!
Come on – how often are you really gonna wear a Carnival mask?
When I’m cleaning my apartment or helping a friend clean theirs, I ask a simple question to determine whether or not to throw something away: How many times will you use this item in the next month? If the answer doesn’t come immediately, I throw the item out.
You can ask yourself the same question when you’re faced with whether or not to purchase an item you find while traveling. If you don’t plan to use an item frequently — or, if you’re considering buying a gift for someone, can’t imagine them using it frequently — you simply don’t need it.
It’s Overpriced — and It’s Probably Crap
Have you ever wondered why you have to bargain when you shop at most markets outside the United States? It’s not because people in foreign countries like arguing– it’s because they want to get as much money out of you as possible!
The haggling system allows a seller to quickly ascertain the value you ascribe to their item, and to subsequently convince you to pay a price as far north of that value as possible. But the underlying truth is that the item’s actual value — and, consequently, its quality — is probably extremely low.
Luggage Space Is Finite
Another of my favorite money-saving travel trips is to travel light. Keeping your luggage light — and ideally, of carry-on size — saves you from having to pay prohibitive checked baggage costs, and also allows you to keep your valuable on your person at all times.
The more crap you buy when you travel, the more chance there is you’ll have to buy new luggage.
Photos Last Longer
Many people counter traditional arguments against shopping while traveling by claiming that they need to give gifts to family and friends. Sorry, but I’m calling “shenanigans” on this one!
Just as experiences and memories are more important to travel than fancy hotels, luxurious nightlife or extravagant meals, experiential souvenirs — namely photos — make a much more poignant, permanent impact on your loved ones that goods you buy and pay for.
Do you like to shop when you travel? Why or why not?
Robert Schrader is a travel writer and photographer who’s been roaming the world independently since 2005, writing for publications such as “CNNGo” and “Shanghaiist” along the way. His blog, Leave Your Daily Hell, provides a mix of travel advice, destination guides and personal essays covering the more esoteric aspects of life as a traveler.