Want to know how you can save money while traveling? Having traveled to over thirty countries as a student on a budget, I was always looking for ways to save money. There are many different ways you can be a smart traveler and avoid paying more than you have to. Even little things can add up and make a difference! In the end, I’ve included a convenient summary of all the below point into a checklist. Check out these tips on saving money while traveling. The more you save, the more you can travel!
Leading up to a trip, there are things you can do that will help you save money traveling. Being prepared and doing research can helps you avoid extra costs and find deals. As you prepare for your next trip, keep these tips in mind.
Before the Trip
Before you start traveling, check out these tips that can help you save money on your trip.
- Pack light and avoid baggage fees
Airlines love to charge you for extra baggage, especially discount airlines. Check the airline’s luggage policies before booking flights so you know how much you can bring. If you plan on traveling with a variety of airlines, then the best thing to do is remember less is more.
If you have a hard time packing light, this article on 11 Tips For Packing Light will help you.
While backpacking around Australia and New Zealand for four months, I brought nothing more than carry-on luggage. That way, I never had to worry about paying extra baggage fees. I got sick of wearing the same couple of outfits the whole trip, but I managed just fine and never had to pay for extra luggage! I also never had to worry about pulling and lifting a big bulky suitcase around.
Still not convinced of the benefits of packing light? This article on the Advantages of Packing Light is sure to change your mind!
- Check nearby airports
When looking for flights, make sure to check not only the closest airport to where you live but also the surrounding airports. Many discount airlines only leave from certain locations, usually secondary airports. Compare the flight prices of the different airports close to you where you are leaving and going. See if it’s worth it to spend a bit more time traveling.
- Find free entertainment
You don’t need to spend money to have fun. Wherever you are planning on going, there are going to be free things to do. Do some research before and see if there are any free attractions and events happening. These can include things like a free museum night or a free outdoor show. If not, go for a walk and soak up the sights. Admire the beautiful architecture of the buildings. Check out a local park. Walk through a market. Sit down on a bench with your snacks and people-watch. It’s easy to have fun and save money while traveling!
- Find free guided tours
Check and see if the places you are visiting offer free tours. Many cities offer free guided walking tours. Often they are around 3 hours long and give you the opportunity to see the city’s highlights and hear fun and interesting facts. Of course, the tour guides make their money on tips, and I wouldn’t advise running away at the end without leaving them anything. As an unemployed student, I would usually leave 5 Euros. Since you pay at the end of the tour, and the guides depend on your tips, they always make sure that the tour is entertaining and fun.
- Research public transport
There are normally a variety of ways to get around when traveling. Do some research in advance to find out which is the cheapest and best option for you. If you have a lot of time, then why not take the train instead of a plane? I did this from Vienna to Berlin and from Toulon to Florence. It was cheaper than flying, and I got to enjoy an amazing view of the countryside that I would have missed out on if I had flown.
Check the different public transport options as well. For example, at the airport in Vienna, the CAT, a public train, is advertised as the way to get to the city center. What they don’t tell you is that it’s almost 10 euros more expensive than just taking the normal public train, the OBB.
- Research the rates of taxis ahead of time
Taxi is usually the most expensive option for transportation. However, if you are traveling in a country where things are generally much cheaper, and where public transport is either limited or overwhelming, then it might be the best option.
When I arrived at the airport with a friend in Ho Ci Mihn city, we decided, since we were both tired from traveling, that we would get a taxi. Having not done research on the cost of taxis, we just took the first one we found and paid what the driver asked. I knew that we had been ripped off but only realized how badly the next day. Another friend had arrived the morning after and had also taken a taxi to the hostel. She had done research before about how much taxis should cost and ended up paying almost three times less than we had.
- Look for (Groupon) deals
Before going on a trip, try to find deals and sales. Sites like Groupon offer great deals on all types of things, from classes, sightseeing, events, spas, and food.
- Visit cheap countries
Get the most bang for your buck by visiting countries that are cheap or that have a favorable conversion rate.
- Travel on off seasons
If you can be flexible with travel dates, then look for off-season deals and bargains. Certain times of the year, such as Christmas and summer, are generally going to be much more popular times to travel. The increase in demand will cause an increase in prices. An added bonus of traveling in the off-season is that places will be less crowded.
Saving Money During the Trip
Now that you have taken steps leading up to your trip, it’s time to head to the airport! The following tips are things that I do that help me save money while traveling. Being smart about how you spend money will help you get the most bang for your buck. Travel more and travel longer.
- Cook instead of eating out
To save money while traveling, cook instead of eating out. Stay in an accommodation where a kitchen is provided, and take advantage of that kitchen! Eating out every day is a sure way to ensure that you spend a lot more than you need to.
There is nothing wrong with eating out once in a while, but limit yourself. By buying groceries and preparing your own food, you can save a lot of money. Cooking does not have to be a lot of work either; when traveling in NZ, I would eat a cup of 0.70$ just to add water instant noodles for dinner. Fast, easy, and cheap!
- Bring food with you, so you are not tempted to buy food
Don’t forget to bring snacks! One of my biggest temptations to spend extra money when I’m traveling is food. I eat, and half an hour later, I’m hungry again, which is why my bag is always filled with snacks. Avoid the temptation of buying food during the day while you are out sightseeing by making sure you always have something to eat with you.
- Avoid tourist traps
Prices are always more expensive, and experiences are usually less authentic at tourist traps. Don’t follow the tourists; find the places that locals visit. Ask locals in order to find more authentic locations and avoid paying high prices. Restaurants that cater to tourists often have lower quality food as well as are more expensive. They know that tourists will probably never be back and therefore are not too worried about what they think of the food and service. Since they are not after repeat customers, the service and quality suffer.
- Keep a bottle you can refill with water
If you are traveling to a country that has safe drinking water, then using a reusable water bottle is an easy way to save money. Instead of buying a new bottle of water every day, just refill the one you have for free!
- Avoid eating at the airport
The airports know that once inside, your only options are what the airport offers. Therefore, they can and do charge more, and you are willing to pay more than normal. By bringing your own food to the airport, you can avoid paying crazy prices. If you are traveling on a long flight, then you will get a meal on the plane so try to avoid buying food at the airport and instead eat on the plane.
- Buy a local sim card, so you don’t have to pay for roaming or Wi-Fi
One of the first things I do if I go to a new country, and plan on being there for at least two weeks, is to buy a SIM card. They are usually cheap or free, and you can then add data so that you will have internet whenever you need it. This gives me a lot of comforts when I’m traveling, knowing that if I need to look something up, I can. When I was in NZ, I did this. The SIM card was free, and I put 20$ on, which gave me more than enough data for the three weeks I was there. I was happy I did so because in the almost 20 hostels I stayed in, only 1 had free Wi-Fi. I ended up saving money by not having to pay every night for the internet.
- Work at a hostel in exchange for free accommodation
If you’re not pressed for time, ask local hostels if you can work in exchange for free accommodation. Many will offer, in exchange for a few hours of work a day, a free bed for you to stay in as well as other free things such as some free meals and the use of the laundry machine for free.
- Bargain when you can
Don’t be afraid to bargain, especially when at a market! You might feel uncomfortable about it in the beginning, but in many countries, bargaining is expected, and vendors start with a high price expecting you to offer less. When I was in Hong Kong, at the night market, I bargained for a purse and ended up getting it for 1/5 of the initial price the vendor proposed.
Below, I have taken all the above information and condensed it into a checklist. This way, saving money while traveling can be even easier!