10 Tips to Save Money on Travel
I’ve made my fair share of financial mistakes while traveling for the past three years, probably equating to hundreds of lost dollars. However, at the end of the day, I don’t regret making them, because I can now share with you guys so you don’t make the same mistakes! Here are ten tips that I’ve learned along the way that now save me a ton of money when I travel.
Head to the Grocery Stores
Going out to eat at local restaurants is one of the best parts of traveling in my opinion so it shouldn’t be avoided completely. That being said, if you go out to restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner, no matter how affordable, it’s going to add up pretty quickly. Instead, I’ve had the best luck heading to local grocery stores and even convenience stores all over the world to purchase necessities and even some meals. My go-to travel eating schedule is to purchase light snacks and meals at grocery stores for breakfast and lunch and then “splurge” on a meal out for dinner. However, you can adjust this according to your budget, either eating out for all of your meals or only getting, for instance, breakfast at a grocery store.
At the end of the day, it’s all about your perspective and mentality. If you go into a trip with the mindset that you want to always be out on the town, then you won’t enjoy the idea of staying in at your Airbnb or hotel and not eating out. However, if you leave for your trip with the mindset that you’re going to do what it takes to not break the bank while traveling, you’ll not be swayed to spend more money than you were planning!
If you’re going on a long trip, you can easily be susceptible to overpacking, thinking that you need at least ten bikinis and “what if the weather in this country that’s never cold goes through a freak storm?”. At the end of the day, you can end up overstuffing a suitcase and have it weigh in at well over 50 pounds. I’ve personally learned my lesson more than once when it comes to this. Heading to the airport with bells on, excited for my upcoming trip, only to be stopped at the check-in counter and told I either have to lose 15 pounds off my suitcase or pay an extra $5 per pound— not fun. The last thing you want to do is get slapped with an unexpected overweight charge or be faced with the prospect of throwing away some of your valuable vacation clothes.
Avoid this mess by underpacking and even leaving extra room in your suitcase. You never know what sort of things you’ll pick up on your travels that you’ll have to add to your suitcase. Additionally, try to avoid bringing along an extra suitcase, especially on a long trip with multiple legs. Airlines charge a huge range for checking in an extra bag from free to over $60 per check-in, which really will add up!
Walk or Take Public Transportation
It can be oh so easy to get into the habit of Ubering or taking a taking a taxi everywhere. After all, it’s definitely a time-saver and super convenient to just call an Uber and get to exactly where you want to go. However, this will put a drain your bank account super quickly. If you’re not in a huge rush then strive to take public transport or even get some exercise and walk! My go-to is to download the local public transportation app or use Rome2Rio, which is a great way to find all the options from getting from point A to B, including public transportation and its prices. I also set a general rule that as long as it’s not freezing and I’m not carrying around luggage, if the walk is 30 minutes or less, I’ll choose the walk. Not only do I get that extra exercise, but I save the $2.50 - $5 of public transportation.
Use Skyscanner to Find the Cheapest Flights
Skyscanner is my absolute favorite website when it comes to finding the cheapest flights. It’s a comparison website that shows you all of the available flights on one page. Make sure that you make Skyscanner work for you! How? Well if your not happy with the available price for your end destination, don’t be afraid to do some investigation on your own. For example, when I was traveling to Portugal the flight between Denver and Portugal was about $600, even on Skyscanner. However, I noticed that London only cost $240 and a connection flight between London and Lisbon was only $120 so a total of $360 compared to $600! Not bad at all!
Finding Cheap Accomodations
Accomodations arguably are the most expensive part of traveling, especially in a more expensive part of the world like Europe. In some cities, you can easily be looking at a minimum of $100 a night, even at a hostel, which definitely adds up! The good news, is there is a way to counteract a super pricey destination. The first is to check AirBnB! There are many cities that would be unaffordable if it wasn’t for this amazing website. As you probably know, AirBnB allows you to rent out someone’s house or apartment or stay with them, which typically will be a lot cheaper than getting a hotel. That being said, you should check out TripAdvisor, as well since the price difference between AirBnB and hotels vary by location.
Create a Budget Before You Travel
This arguably is the key to saving money when you travel! Don’t get on the airplane with no budget, because you’ll easily lose track of the money your spending. Take the time to sit down and decide how much you want to spend for the duration of the trip including flights, accommodation, food, going out and souvenirs. To do this, start with flights and accomodations. Look at the average price for accomodations in the places your visiting and multiply that by the number of days. Additionally, look at the prices of flights even if you haven’t booked them yet and add them together. After that, create a goal for how much you want to spend in terms of food, activities and transportation per day, taking into consideration the cost of living of where you’re traveling. For instance, I can easily get by with $25-30 in Bali, but likely will end up spending $50-75 in London. Multiple that to the number of days your traveling, flights and accommodation and there you go!
For example, let’s say you are going on a two week trip to Bali, which definitely is a cheaper country once you’re there, but usually is pretty expensive to get to from the States.
Flights = $850 round trip
Accomodations = $30/day = $420
Food, drinks, activities, transport = $30/day = $420
Extras (sunset cruise, tours, etc) = $250
= $1940 total
That number isn’t too bad respectively for a two week trip, but it can easily be way higher if your not aware of your spending. It’s important to be realistic as well, if you know that you’re going out quite a bit then realistically it’ll be difficult to spend $20 a day. Make sure that you give yourself enough wiggle room so that overall, you can stick to your budget. Even if you have a goal amount of money you want to spend per day in your head, it’ll save you from overspending completely for the duration of your trip.
Keep Track of Your Spending
In connection to the previous tip, I would consider keeping track of your spending on a daily basis. Of course you don’t want to take away from your experience while traveling. However, if you can manage to jot down your daily spending in the note section of your phone, it’ll keep you accountable. At the end of the day, you can see whether or not you met your budget!
Limit Partying and Going Out
If the main reason you want to travel is to go out clubbing and partying in another country, then that needs to be taken into consideration when determining your budget. Between drink costs, cover charges, etc, you can easily spend $100 on a night out. If you get in the habit of going out every night, then you’ll easily break your budget and spend way more than you were hoping. There’s nothing wrong with having a few nights in when traveling.
Pick Your Credit Cards Wisely
If you’re going to be using a credit card during your trip, then you may want to consider opening a travel specific one. For example, Capital One has a travel-specific card that will give you $500 free when you spend a certain amount in travel expenses. Make sure that you pay off these credit cards fully as soon as you can, because the interest will negate the free $500 pretty quickly.
Exchange Money Beforehand
You should be careful about carrying a bunch of cash around, but if you feel comfortable storing cash, I’d consider taking the amount you think you’ll need and exchanging it in your home city. The reason being that withdrawing cash from an ATM abroad will cost you about $10 USD each time -- $5 in the ATM fee and then $5 in withdrawal fee from your bank. To top that off, most ATM’s cap the amount you can take out of their machine to $180-250 so it can easily add up, especially in countries that take mostly cash. You also have the option of bringing your own currency into the country your traveling in and then exchanging there. If you go with this option, however, do not exchange your money at the airport. They will not give you a fair rate and you can end up losing a ton of money that way. Instead, find a local currency exchange close to your hotel or AirBnB and consider asking your host or hotel which they think will be best.
I hope these tips were helpful! If you have any others make sure to comment below!