The cost of life on the road can quickly add up, but a woman who has visited all 50 US states and each of the seven continents has shared her hard-earned cost-cutting measures to help other travelers save cash.
Ashley Nealy, 35, from Atlanta, finished her epic 50-state challenge in October 2022 with a visit to the snowy wilds of Alaska. On one trip alone, she ticked off six states in five days.
After traveling both domestically and internationally, the avid explorer says one of her biggest pieces of money-saving advice is to stop buying hoards of overpriced souvenirs and gifts for friends.
She told Insider that she ‘stopped shelling out cash on certain souvenirs a long time ago’ after realizing that trinkets she would buy for friends and family – such as magnets and T-shirts – were completely irrelevant as they hadn’t visited those places.
Ashley Nealy, 35, from Atlanta, spent several stints on the go and on one trip she ticked off six states in five days
Wyoming was one of her favorite states because she loved Yellowstone National Park. She finished her epic challenge in October 2022 with a trip to the snowy wilds of Alaska
She explains: ‘I now use several criteria to determine whether I should spend money on a souvenir, including its availability in other parts of the country.
‘In Vermont, I bought pure maple syrup from a local farmer. It wasn’t available online, and shipping it would’ve cost a lot more money. I also bought a special cheddar cheese that was only available at Cabot Creamery in Vermont.’
Ashley warns that souvenirs are particularly exorbitant at the airport and you are better off exploring local shops in your vacation destination to find the best value goods.
And before parting with your cash always ‘ask yourself if you have a good reason to buy it.’
Another purse-friendly tip the globetrotter serves up is to never book accommodation far away from the action.
While hotels out of the city can be slightly cheaper, in the long run she says you will spend more in transportation costs such as taxis, rental cars and parking.
Before booking a place to stay, Ashley advises researching attractions within walking distance to make sure you’re not too far from places you want to visit.
Some hotels also provide free or discounted shuttles that go around the city or to the airport, so these could be another option if there are no central locations available.
ASHLEY NEALY’S MONEY-SAVING TRAVEL TIPS Don’t buy pointless souvenirsAvoid shopping for goods at the airport and visit local storesBook centrally-located hotels so you don’t spend money traveling to where you want to goAvoid chain restaurantsTake advantage of free samples from food vendorsNever rent a car if there is public transport available Stock up on freebies from your hotel, such as coffee, tea, water and toiletriesTake snacks and extra food for the day from breakfast Carry a refillable water bottle, especially at the airport where drinks are overpriced
When it comes to eating out, the American says she tries to avoid restaurants she can find in her home city or state.
The only exception is if she is visiting a place with the chain’s biggest location or it is home to the original outpost.
She adds: ‘I’m also willing to go to a recognizable chain if it has a special menu I can’t get elsewhere [or]… trying casual chain restaurants I can’t find at home.’
At restaurants or food vendors, Ashley says she tries to opt for dishes and drinks that are unique to the place. For instance, poutine in Vermont and cheesesteaks in Philadelphia.
If you’re really looking to cut back on costs, Ashley says that many eateries offer free samples of things that might tide you over for a short while.
After traveling both domestically and internationally, the avid traveler learned a lot about cutting back on her spending
She reveals: ‘At Cabot Creamery in Vermont, the employees gave me free samples of cheese and pure maple syrup.’
However, one of the biggest things that cuts into travel costs, Ashley says, is rental cars.
While hiring a car can be expensive it can also be highly stressful trying to navigate a new destination, which might blight your experience of it.
Before shelling out on a hire car, she recommends investigating public transportation options, as trains and buses are likely to ‘get you to your destination for a fraction of the price.’
Lastly, Ashley says that stocking up on free items at hotels and airports can go a long way to saving vital dollars.
For instance, at hotels, the mini bars usually serve up complimentary water, tea, and coffee.
If breakfast is included, it’s worth taking some extra snacks, and some hotels put on evening receptions which can be worthwhile attending.
On the toiletries side of things, the adventurer recommends traveling with mini containers that you can refill from hotel supplies.
This means you don’t need to spend money on body wash, shampoo and conditioner as you travel.
Meanwhile, at airports there are usually water stations, so a refillable water bottle is one of Ashley’s essential travel items.
‘It saves me even more cash,’ she says.
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