Many of us think that traveling requires a lot of money, different countries may cost more than others…the time of year on when you travel will factor in on the cost too. If you stay at a motel, 5 star hotel, or my personal favorite with a host via Airbnb. All of this factors into your overall travel budget. Here’s some tips from my most recent experience…
This past January I traveled to Havana, Cuba from Honolulu, HI. I set a goal not to spend more than $1200 within my 4 night stay (that’s with airfare, food, place to stay, site visits, taxi, souvenirs to bring back home, visa, passport). Here’s how I did it.
Buy airfare at the right time
Once I made up my mind that I was going to pursue this photographic journey to Cuba (and approval from the wife) I checked the prices on the flights via google flights everyday. I also read the conspiracy that tickets were cheaper during the middle of the week, Tuesdays-Wednesday. Airfare prices would fluctuate more or less $50. One week it went up $100, more than what I’ve been looking at and I panicked. I waited and with a little bit of luck the following week the prices dropped back down to what it was normally going for. I jumped on it and bought my ticket (there’s no direct flight from Hawaii to Cuba…HI to SF, SF to FL, FL to Cuba) for $720.
As of now HNL to HAV is $920…
Airfare – $720
Visa – $50
I have $430 left to spend.
If you have a friend or former colleague in the area you’re traveling to, I’d suggest you reach out to them and ask if you can crash at their place for a few nights in exchange for dinner and a few drinks. If that doesn’t work, look for a place to stay on airbnb. Airbnb is the best thing around, I have used airbnb 3 times and will not go back to spending a dollar at a hotel.
Why airbnb over hotels? You can narrow down your search from private rooms, an entire home, shared room, pricing, locations, and you can contact the host before committing. One thing I hate about hotels is the check in. Sometimes the lines and wait can take forever. With airbnb there’s no line, no check in, communicate upon arrival and let them know when you’re anticipated to fly in and why you’re traveling to their city/country.
Hotels feel cold, with airbnb you feel like your at home which I rather prefer. Plus, when I would stay at a hotel I wouldn’t want to go out and stay out as long. I would do one activity and go back to the hotel and just sit in bed. With airbnb, because it’s someone’s house, it forces me to start my day early and end my night late. I get out of the house between 9am-10am and won’t head back until 9pm-10pm. A full 12 hour day. Which makes me explore more and cover more ground. If I were to just stay in the airbnb house for most of the day it’ll be too similar as being at home on the weekend, so this forces me to get up and get out.
My airbnb stay in a havana (shared apt, private room) was $12 a day. Much cheaper than staying in a government run hotel in Havana for an average of $150 a night. Which brings me to my next point.
I rather support a fellow brother or sister by staying at their home than to give my money and get ripped off by big private corporations or in Havana, government. Airbnb gives additional income for homeowners to help pay their mortgage.
I could have stayed right in the heart of Old Havana for $50 a night (where I ended up spending most of my time shooting) but instead my airbnb stay was near the Jose Marti Monument ($12 a night). Taking the taxi (10-15 minute drive, depends if your cab driver knew his way around it was a hit or miss for me LMAO good times) $20-25 round trip. Still cheaper than if I had stayed at the airbnb location in Old Havana for $50 a night.
Airbnb Stay – $12 a night w/$10 airbnb fee = $58!!!
Airfare + Visa + Airbnb = $828
Eat, enjoy, try new dishes but you must budget. If you ate at a highend restaurant one day, eat cheap and find a hole in the wall bar/restaurant the next day. Instead of eating 3 meals a day, eat 2 meals or 1. Eat where you have enough fuel to carry yourself throughout the day, don’t over eat and stuff yourself. You’ll end up spending more and feeling gross and tired after every meal and you’ll just want to head back to your stay and take a nap.
My first night in Havana I spent quite a lot on food and beverages (a bottle of beer is cheaper than a bottle of water). I ate 2 meals at a pretty fancy restaurants with an average bill of $20 a piece. Equaling $40. The remainder of my stay I budget $20 or less for food, often drinking coffee and a sandwich for breakfast, a decent priced meal for lunch usually fish and rice, and a sandwich through a cheap street vendor.
Food – $80 for 4 nights
Airfare + Visa + Airbnb + Food = $908
Do your research if it’s cheaper to rent a car (always got to think about parking and the cost of it) bus, train, uber, or taxi. The most convenient transportation in Cuba was local taxi cabs. One of the most joyful experiences is just sitting in the cab and taking in the view of Havana. There’s no google maps, so some of the cab drivers had difficulty finding my airbnb stay. It didn’t bother me because I enjoyed the sight seeing and they do not charge by the minute. Before you enter the car you always ask how much from here to there and they’ll give you a price and live by their word. It’s awesome! And the locals were always willing to help with directions, who needs google maps…
Airport to Jose Marti Monument (airbnb area) = $30 x 2 = $60
Usage of taxi round trip = $25 x 4 days = $100
Total transportation cost = $160
Trip total thus far = $908 + $160 = $1128
One souvenir to bring back home are CUBAN CIGARS! They are crazy expensive (the good quality ones at least) Luckily my airbnb host had a friend who sold them to me at a discounted price. I bought 2 boxes of cigars (each box had 25 cigars in them) for the price of $100. I seen a few street vendors and government run cigar stores that were selling them for $150 plus.
This brings my total to $1168. I barely beat my $1200 travel budget.
Set a realistic budget for your next travel adventure. Do all the research ahead of time (I had to because of Cuba’s internet situation). Research when’s the best time to go to your destination and when’s the cheapest time to buy the airfare.
Don’t pack too much clothes and other stuff, travel light, have as little stress possible when you’re on vacation. Set a daily spending cap and stick to it. Research free things to do before paying for those bus tours. Substitute a vehicle and walk. Burn some calories while on vacation and plus you’re in a new scene so where where you go, every corner you turn, it’s something new and exciting.
Book an airbnb instead of a hotel/motel. SAVE SAVE SAVE! And help the common man.
Learn the language, minimum to get around is more than enough, I made a word doc and printed mines out (Where is this? How much is this? How far? How many minutes? How are you? Thank you).
Be discipline with your $ and have fun.
Thanks for reading, keep shooting,