Mar 18 2013

23 quick tips to cut international travel costs

CFCA scholars in Bolivia

Alison, a CFCA sponsored youth, and Felix, brother of a CFCA sponsored child, perform a dance to welcome sponsors on a CFCA awareness trip to Bolivia.

Interested in traveling internationally, but unsure how much it will cost? With a little planning and budgeting, the costs may not be as formidable as you think.

CFCA’s awareness trip coordinators Karen Allemang, Stacy King and Erika McDonnell provide 23 helpful tips for reducing overall travel costs:

Disclaimer: Saving a few dollars here and there is not worth risking your personal safety. Please use common sense when planning personal travel and make safe choices.

Research lodging options

  • Look into whether it is less expensive to join a package tour, stay at an all-inclusive resort, or plan your own adventure (reserving your own transportation to your destination, in-country transportation, lodging and activities). You might be surprised at the price difference, depending on the type of trip you are considering.
  • Consider staying at a local bed and breakfast, hostel or small family-run hotel. They are usually less expensive and will give you a local taste of the country plus recommendations on what to do in the area.
  • Explore affordable entertainment options and activities.
  • †Borrow travel books from the library about your destination. A lot of museums offer free entry once a month. Take these days into consideration while planning.
  • If you qualify for a student or senior discount, make the best use of it! Many hotels, parks, museums and transportation services offer these types of discounts.

  • Take advantage of the Internet in your preparation. (Travelers provide feedback and recommendations at, and Wikipedia just launched its new free online travel guide at You can often get an idea of meal prices, transportation costs and travel advice from people who have gone before. This helps create a daily budget and estimate the real cost of your trip.

Select travel dates and times

  • Consider scheduling your arrival and departure flights for a Tuesday or a Wednesday. Flights during the middle of the week are not very popular travel days, which can result in a lower fare.
  • Sometimes the day of the week you make your ticket purchase will affect the fare. Consider purchasing your ticket during the week. The closer you are to the weekend, Friday or Saturday, the more likely flights will rise in cost as other people finalize plans and book tickets.
  • Most travel websites have a “compare surrounding airports” box as a search option. Click it, as this will take into consideration other nearby airports in your search. You may find another airport nearby with a lower fare.
  • If you want to travel during a holiday, consider traveling on the holiday. Often people don’t want to travel on the actual holiday, so the price may be better than the day before or after the holiday.
  • Use your frequent flier miles or credit card points. Investigate ways to start saving now for a trip in the future.
Masai on CFCA awareness trip to Kenya

Masai women wear their traditional clothing and greet travelers on a CFCA awareness trip to Kenya.

Prepare for the trip

  • In order to use your debit or credit card, you need to notify your bank or credit card company of your travel dates and destinations. Using your debit or credit card overseas without notifying them can flag your accounts and freeze your funds.
  • Sometimes it can be costly, distracting and time consuming to expect daily communication with family and friends at home. Give your family and friends reasonable expectations for how often they will hear from you. Many cell phone carriers offer global text plans and global data plans, but make sure to research rates and options before you depart. Internet cafes and lodging with WiFi have become much more common.
  • Consider purchasing travel health and accident insurance. The minimal cost of purchasing the insurance could save you a bundle if something happens on your trip. Be aware that Medicare is not accepted outside of the U.S.

On the trip: Experience the local culture as much as possible

  • Talk to hotel staffers. Ask them about their favorite places to visit, favorite restaurants, etc. This is yet another way to find local food at a local price. Sometimes they can recommend free places to visit (parks, beaches, neighborhoods, museums and the local market).
  • Chat with local residents. Not only can they offer firsthand knowledge of their experiences (food, daily routine, clothing, language, weather), but they can also recommend low-cost options, keeping you out of “tourist traps.” Tour companies often offer packages to see a ton of places in one day. These tours can help you find your bearings in a new place. But remember the goals of your visit. Do you want to see the big sites or meet the people? Do you want to travel with a group on a schedule or travel more independently? Maybe you want a little of both!
  • When shopping, know when to barter. Sometimes people may try to take advantage of tourists. But be fair. If it costs 50 cents for someone to make it, sometimes it feels good to pay a little more knowing it will give the person extra income and support the local economy. Also know when and where bartering is inappropriate.Try asking someone from the area or learn more through research.
  • Familiarize yourself with a city map before you leave home (or while on the plane!). Using public transportation is another cost-effective, adventurous way to get around, assuming it is a safe option.
  • Another option is to walk! Bring the right shoes, and you will have great adventures.
CFCA-El Salvador awareness trip

Kieran meets Jenny, a CFCA sponsored child, at a 2012 CFCA awareness trip in El Salvador. Kieran’s family is friends with the family who sponsors Jenny.

On the trip: Save on food purchases

  • Find out if your lodging includes breakfast.
  • Eat local food! Eating authentic food from the region is part of the experience, and it is often cheaper.
  • Bring snacks for your flight and pack some in your checked luggage. This is handy in case of delays or when the meal on the plane isn’t enough or doesn’t suit your taste. Know what is restricted by the airline. For example, a jar of peanut butter in your carry-on will be tossed out. Also know what restrictions are in place for going through customs in your destination country. (They might require food in its original packaging or have strict restrictions. For example, nuts brought into Chile have to be salted!) Once at your destination, those granola bars, tuna or crackers are lifesavers when you can’t read the packaging or you are stuck on a long train, bus or taxi ride when you arrive.
  • Don’t be afraid to go into a grocery store. It can be very cost effective to purchase a picnic lunch from the store rather than go out to eat every day. Additionally, taking time to roam the store can be a fun activity!

Interested in traveling with CFCA?

We provide CFCA awareness trips, which are in-depth immersion experiences, to meet the families we serve and learn about their heroic efforts to build a path out of poverty.

If you already sponsor a child or aging friend through CFCA, these trips allow you to strengthen your friendship and see how your contributions are used to support and empower families.

Awareness trips are cost-effective and affordable. Trip costs, not including airfare, range from $500 to $800 depending on the length of the trip and the location. Your food, lodging and most in-country transportation are included in the cost range of $500 to $800.

CFCA staff members will meet you at the airport and be your hosts as you travel to communities served by CFCA. You will be welcomed into the homes of families and have the opportunity to talk with them about their daily lives.

Learn more about CFCA awareness trips

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We reserve the right to approve or reject any comment. We do this manually, so you will not see your comment immediately after posting. Read our full comment policy.