It’s no secret that travelling across the globe can get expensive. From the planning process to sparing expenses while on the road, the key to successful travel is being smart with your money. For matters this important, it is best to turn to the travel experts, as there are proven ways to keep costs down and maximise a budget. In order to help travellers fulfill all their travel dreams, HotelsCombined interviewed over 50 of the top travel bloggers around the world to discover some of their best money saving tips.
One of my best money saving tips is very simple. I cut down on unnecessary expenses and living within my means. This means living a lifestyle that I can sustain. I refrain from spending on gadgets, nightlife, over-priced coffee, shopping new clothes, etc. The only luxury that I have are my travels. I’d rather save my money for my next adventure than to spend it on ‘unnecessary’ things. Knowing where to spend your hard-earned money and planning your spending definitely allows you to avoid spending money on things you don’t really need, thus, having more money to spend on things that matter most.
If you love to travel, work in the travel industry! Whether you choose to work for an airline, run your own travel blog, or work for a top hotel chain, you can enjoy many savings or even be paid to travel simply by working in the industry. Airline staff past and present, and often their families, can sometimes enjoy huge savings on air travel. Likewise, hotel staff are often offered substantial discounts when staying in hotels belonging to the chain they work for. Better still, run a truly successful travel blog (it’s harder than it might sound!) and you can find yourself being paid to travel the world.
There are so many ways to save money when travelling. In fact, we write about this in a weekly series called Travel Money Tuesdays on Solo Traveler. Some top tips that apply whether you’re a budget traveler or a luxury traveler: carry a credit card with no foreign transaction fees and save up to 3% on all credit card purchases; given the option at checkout, always pay in the local currency; choose a bank that is part of the Global ATM Alliance and save up to $5 per withdrawal overseas; never get foreign currency at an exchange booth, use an ATM; save on roaming charges on your phone by using free public WiFi but when you do always use a VPN.
Organise your spendings and daily payments writing them down on paper. Yes, paper! Get yourself a small notebook and start tracking the money you spend. Few people do this daily since it requires some dedication, but it’s the easiest and most effective way to save money to travel. Write your expenditure items by line with columns referring to the date, item, category, and cost. Writing down absolutely everything, even the casual coffee morning break, will give you a global view of your monthly consumption. This method will show you where you can perform some ‘budget’ cuts. You may find that the inoffensive Caffè Latte or Vanilla Latte you take three times a week at the local café while returning from work actually costs more than 50 euros per month. Over 12 months, it cost 600 euros, the price of an airline ticket.
The easiest way to save money is to be honest with yourself about the costs your trip will entail—and budget for them from the get-go. Whether it’s Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe or Cuba, many travellers embark on trips to ‘cheap’ destinations planning to spend a certain amount per day, only to be shocked when other expenditures come up during the trip. Don’t plan your trip minute-by-minute, but do some preliminary research so you’re 100% clear about how much hotels, transport, food and activities will cost.
Our best tip for saving money on travel is to work as you travel. It’s a strategy that has helped us travel the world for nearly 20 years. We’ve worked multiple jobs in five different countries and now have our own online business so continue to earn money while we travel. The best way to do it is to work in those countries that are more expensive to travel in so you can spend local currency and explore it as a local, and then travel more long-term in the cheaper countries. You don’t have to save as much money to begin with either.
Pick the right destinations to start with. This choice will have a far greater impact than anything else like what you eat, where you sleep, or what activities you do. What you’ll spend for two weeks in Hungary will be one third what you spend in neighboring Austria. What you spend in Malaysia will be half or less what you spend in neighboring Singapore. Argentina is usually half the price of its neighbors Chile and Brazil and your budget for Mexico can be one third your budget for the USA. It gets even more extreme when you head to the real bottom bargains such as Nepal, Cambodia, or Nicaragua. Go where your money goes far and you’ll spend less time worrying about how to stretch your budget.
Tracking our spending enabled us to save up for travel and stay on budget on the road. By knowing exactly what you are spending your money on, you can take control and cut back on areas where you are wasting money and put that towards your travel fund instead. We used to use notebooks and complicated spreadsheets to track our spending while travelling until we created the Trail Wallet iPhone app especially for travellers. It allows you to set a budget in your home currency, enter expenses in your local currency and see exactly how much you are spending in different categories.
Long gone are the days of carrying American Express Travelers Cheques when travelling to foreign countries. These days, it’s a breeze to get foreign currency using a debit card in a foreign ATM machine. Just slide it in, enter your pin, select an amount, and local currency pops out. There’s no standing in line at a currency exchange window, no need to carry masses of cash from your home country, and your bank back home will give you a better exchange rate than any currency exchange office. Even better, in the European Union, it’s against the law for banks to charge a fee to use the ATM! Sounds great, right? Well, the banks don’t think so. As always, they’ve come up with a way to gouge the unsuspecting visitor, and I’m seeing it on more and more ATM’s. Once your transaction is approved, a screen pops up, offering to post the transaction in either your home currency or the foreign currency. As an example, let me use a withdrawal of 100 Euros for a customer who lives in the USA. You will be asked to choose between a ‘guaranteed amount of $113 US dollars to be debited to your account’ or a debit in the foreign currency of 100 Euros. The wording is very clever and very confusing. Most who read it assume it means that the $113 is a better deal, but that is not the case. The exchange rate between the dollar and the Euro is currently at about 1.1, meaning that it will cost $110 dollars to buy 100 Euros. Do you see what’s happening here? ATM’s are using the naiveté of travellers to rake in an extra three dollars from every customer. The exchange rate provided by your bank back home will always be better than what the ATM’s offer. NEVER, NEVER accept the dollar amount at a foreign ATM. Always choose the foreign currency and let your bank handle the exchange rate.
Over four years of nearly constant travel which took me to more than fifty countries, all but one state in the USA, and most of the Canadian provinces – I discovered one money saving travel tip that saved me tens of thousands of dollars, and funny enough, is the simplest tip in the world. Ask for a discount. I’ve been given discounts on airfare, hotels, rental cars, tours, meals, and more which I wouldn’t have gotten if I hadn’t of asked with a friendly smile. There is no better travel tip.
One of the best ways to save money while travelling is to make sure you have a bank account and credit card that works for you instead of against you. Withdrawing money in another country means paying both the ATM and the foreign transaction fees. These fees are anywhere from $3-$7 dollars every time you withdrawal money! These fees add up quickly and most people never calculate them when making a budget. Luckily, certain banks like Charles Schwab reimburse the fees at the end of the month. This alone has saved me hundreds of dollars while travelling the world. Another perk of this is that I don’t have to withdraw large amounts at once. Credit cards also have high fees when you use them abroad. Get a travel card like the Chase Sapphire or Visa Signature. These cards don’t have any foreign transaction fees.
Pack your own lunch. Packed lunch may sound like a kill-joy idea, but on a budget holiday there is no faster gobbler of cash than the ‘I’m starving’ lunch. You’re bound to be caught by tourist-centric restaurants and end up eating something you don’t really want. Save your cash for choice restaurants only.
Eat where the locals eat. When visiting a city, ask local people for advice on where to eat. You often find the best food served in authentic, family-owned restaurants outside the main tourist areas. Usually, the prices are a lot lower too. This is the best way to discover traditional recipes often passed down the generations, lively and welcoming atmospheres, and places where you’ll be happy to settle in for the evening and recommend to friends. If you want to eat well and save money, it’s definitely worth getting to know the locals, and being prepared to walk a little further for your meal.
On top of really immersing yourself in the lifestyle, eating culture and insider spots of the city you’re in, eating local cuisine is the best way to save on food costs. Having lived in Asia for five years, I found the local cuisine to always be way cheaper than Western Food and often tastier. In Malaysia especially, Western food was not made nearly as well as their Malay, Chinese and Indian dishes, so best eat local and save for more travel experiences whilst in the city.
Our best travel budget tip is to eat like the locals. When you’re travelling the cheapest places to eat are at markets, family-run restaurants and street food vendors. Keep an eye out for a place that has a lot of locals moving in and out (sign of good quality food) and jump in line. We’ve always found the best food in these places. And for the price of one meal in a tourist restaurant you can eat three local meals!
Cooking your own meals while travelling can be one of the best ways to save money while on the road. Not only that, but it can be a really fun way to get some local insight into a new country. Source out the local markets, find all the exotic fruits and vegetables on offer and have a go at cooking a local dish. You’ll save money from having to eat out, see how local life operates outside the tourist side and also beef up your international cooking repertoire.
My biggest money saving travel tip is when travelling to countries where eating out is expensive to consider self-contained accommodation. Even if it costs more up front, it can often save you money overall by having the option to self-cater. We also often travel with plastic bowls and cutlery so we can at least make our own breakfast in a hotel room and save money on that meal.
If you’re on a tight budget when travelling, always make sure you choose a restaurant, cafe, or bar away from the tourist hotspots! On your trip you’ll be amazed how just walking a few blocks away from the all the ‘action’ will mean much cheaper prices in restaurants, hotels, and bars. This is especially true in European cities. Also if you steer clear of the touristy areas, not only will you save money but you’ll also get to meet more locals and sample a much more authentic way of life.
When you’re hungry and you’re visiting a place that’s even slightly popular with tourists, it’s best to leave the big squares and main streets for what they are and walk toward an area where the percentage of locals is higher than that of tourists. Or duck into a little alley and use your ears to find a spot where you mostly only hear the local language. If you’re going for lunch or dinner where the locals go, chances are much higher that you’ll get a good meal for a reasonable price.
Food and drink are usually the biggest expenses on holiday so here are three things to save money.
1) Ask locals about the best places to eat and drink. Tourist restaurants are often more expensive with mediocre food. The locals know the best places and don’t want to spend too much.
2) Keep an eye open for ‘happy hours’ and special Offers. You’ll often get leaflets offering you a discount on drinks or meals. Try not to be tempted to stay once the offer/time has passed as they may sting you for drinks then!
3) Check out lunch-time menus, especially if you are staying in a Mediterranean country. Locals often traditionally eat out and restaurants have really good midday ‘specials’ that often include 2-3 courses and a glass of wine or soft drink.
Our best money saving travel tip is to try not to eat at the touristic places all the time which are always much more expensive. Instead, walk at least half a kilometre away to find the local places, which are usually much cheaper or find street food. These places usually give the best local experiences as well. Food is a huge travel expense and it can add up very quickly, especially if you’re always choosing the touristy places. Also, bring a water bottle and filter to save money on buying water which is both only environmentally and wallet-friendly. Buying water is a small expense but adds up when you’re buying multiple bottles every day.
One of our favourite money saving tips is using the multi-city tab on flight booking engines. Many travellers don’t realise just how much money that one button can save you if your trip involves flying to multiple cities. For example, we recently booked a journey from Grenada to Medellin, Colombia, and then onwards to Buenos Aires in Argentina using the multi-city tab and the total cost was $950 per person. If we had booked each of those flights separately on the same dates, using the same booking engine, we would have paid $1,224. That’s a savings of over $270 per person! Thus, always consider using the multi-city tab to save big money on onward flights and multi-flight journeys.
I particularly like choosing cost saving measures that also make the trip more enjoyable. For me, that means walking rather than catching public transport. Several hours of walking around a new city is a great way to get a real feel for a place and allows you to notice things that you just wouldn’t if you were catching public transport. For really cheap longer distance trips in places like Europe, getting on a bicycle is a great option and will allow much closer contact to the landscape you’re passing through. You’ll have the ability to get to some really nice small towns at a price that just can’t be beaten.
A lot of budget travellers are usually first time travellers, which means they probably want to see as much as possible. But changing locations every few days is a killer on the budget because trains and planes are expensive. That’s why I suggest staying longer in fewer locations. This also gives you the opportunity to get to know each location better and you’ll feel a deeper connection to the destination. Furthermore, if you stay long enough, you can sometimes negotiate better deals on accommodation, so that’s another bonus.
When it comes to taxis in other countries, don’t be afraid to ask locals around you what your upcoming taxi journey should approximately cost. Too many people pay double, triple, quadruple prices from the bus station and airports to their hotels, only to discover it should be a fraction of that. If you ask others around you for a ballpark figure, you’ll never be caught like that again!
When we travelled overland from Europe to Asia we quickly discovered that a great way to save money is by booking overnight train travel. Not only do you get a bed to sleep on for the night but you also get to meet locals and like-minded travellers. Then you wake up in a brand new destination ready to go and explore.
One of the best ways of saving money on the road: form a group with other solo travellers or join another group, and watch your expenses go down. Most of the time, the bigger the group, the lower the tour rates go. Moreover, there are destinations that can only be reached by renting a private boat and destinations that are best explored by renting a car, which can accommodate several passengers. If you form a group, you can split the cost with them. The best part: not only do you score some savings, you get to make new friends too.
My best money saving tip is to go local. Eat what the locals eat, ask around, take local transport. If it feels like you’re paying tourist prices you probably are. The way locals do it is the cheapest it gets, plus it gives you a more authentic travel experience!
If you have made a hotel reservation in a new-to-you city and will need to travel from the airport, train station, or bus station by taxi, ask the hotel in advance how much the taxi fare should be. Additionally, ask whether taxis have meters or if you need to negotiate up front. That way you know how things ‘should’ be. Especially when you’ve just arrived in a new city (or country) this approach helps protect you from unscrupulous taxi drivers trying to rip you off because they don’t think you know anything about what fares should be.
Travel like a local, as much as you can. Eat where the locals eat, stay where the locals stay and visit places where locals hang out. Not only you save a ton money, you also get a better understanding of the culture. There are plenty of websites that connect you with locals, and also expat groups on Facebook that can help.
1) Use the sharing economy. Things like couchsurfing, hitchhiking, house-sitting, ride-shares and so on are accessible all over the world, and many of them are free! If you’re looking to extend your travels for as long as possible, cutting out transport and accommodation costs through these avenues is one of the best ways to do it. Not to mention, you’ll meet so many amazing people along the way.
2) Make sure the timing is right. Two people can go to the exact same place at different times of the year and pay double or triple for the same experience. Things like the exchange rate, whether you’re travelling in the high or low season, if there is a big event or festival on in town will affect a lot of the prices in your destination. If you can get a perfect storm – in the low or shoulder season while the exchange rate is great and flights are cheap, you can slash the price of your trip by 50% or more.
One of the easiest ways to save money while travelling, particularly in Asia, is to consider taking an overnight train to your next destination. They’re usually not the fastest or even the most comfortable train available, but it saves you the cost of a hotel for at least one night during your travels. Not only that, it’s usually an excellent way to meet some locals who can give you some free ‘insider’ travel information on the place you’re headed!
Baggage fees and restrictions have gotten out of control. Our advice: pack light so you can travel carry-on only. This not only saves a stack of money. £35 or more per person, per flight, adds up quick! But this tip also saves time, and gives you more freedom to travel carefree and spontaneously. Not only is travelling light easier on your back, but we tend to underestimate the mental burden that comes with hauling lots of gear.
My best money saving tip would be Google Flights. This relatively new booking site simplifies the whole process and the best part is that it creates a world map with round trip airline flight costs to anywhere you might want to go. What I like about it is that if you’re not sure where to go, you can find inexpensive fares and create a trip, as my daughter did when she flew to Guadeloupe for the weekend! No intention of going there but the $99 fare from JFK was irresistible. I hate giving more power to the Big G, but once again they’ve come up with an easy to use, innovative way to save real money, and it’s become my go-to booking search tool.
Our best money saving tip is to go local. For adventures, hire local guides. When you cut out the middle man you save a lot of money. You don’t need to book a tour in your home country, wait until you arrive at your destination and find a locally run business to take you out. You’ll have a better experience by getting insider information from someone who lives there and you’ll save all the fees that go to booking agents and international offices. Plus, you feel great contributing to the local economy. We’ve saved hundreds of dollars hiring outfitters once we arrive at places like Mount Kilimanjaro, Everest Base Camp, Mount Kinabalu while having the same great service as those who booked their tours at home.
My background is being a travel agent. So I pretty much know how to find cheap flights. My best tip is to compare prices! You can’t say where you get them in general, as this is such a huge and complicated market! There are online sites which help you to find very cheap flights and with routes you would have never have thought of. But often those are not up to date and when you try to book these, they are not available anymore. If you go to a travel agent, you have to be lucky to find one who knows how to use his booking system. If they do, they will find you a really good flight and quickly. Sometimes they can help you with consolidator tickets, which you wouldn’t find on the internet. But most of the time I found the best rates on the airlines’ website itself. So compare them all! Insider tip: Delete your browser’s cookies, as they might save important data, which might increase the ticket prices with the next search.
My top tip would be to be to compare costs for flying to nearby airports, especially in the United States. I saved about $400 per ticket on a flight to Miami recently from New Orleans (because I’d left it too late and ran into the end of a huge conference) by choosing Fort Lauderdale instead and taking an Uber from there for about $40 to South Beach!
Booking accommodations at rental homes is the way to go these days! Approximately the same low cost as a hostel, but much quieter without having roommates. For keeping sightseeing costs to a minimum, I usually book several ‘day tours’ with a local tour operator, thus cutting costs that occur with the overhead of weeklong tours.
We can’t recommend price comparison websites enough for saving money while planning a trip. From hotel rates to airfares, we always consult comparison engines that collate the best prices from different online websites to give us the cheapest option possible. That said, it’s always a great idea to plan in advance even when using comparison websites since the cheapest rates and fares get taken up real quick. The other great thing about comparison sites like HotelsCombined is that they’d give you alternative deals that may help you save even more money.
My best money saving travel tip is to stay longer! It seems counterintuitive, but often the most expensive things about travel are getting there and the accommodation. So if you’re paying for long distance flights you’ll get better value for money the longer you stay. The same is true for accommodation, with huge savings to be made if you stay a week, two weeks or a month in the same place. Not only will you save money if you stay longer but you’ll also have a better travel experience by getting to know one place in depth rather than spending your whole time travelling from one tourist hotspot to another.
When searching for flights use Skyscanner’s option ‘Flexible’/’Everywhere’. For instance, if you want to get from New York City to Paris, see what’s the cheapest place to get to in Europe. Then use the same option to find the cheapest flight to Paris from this city. This option would most likely not show up if you just searched for New York City-Paris flights. It might end up being even up to 40% cheaper.
If I had to pick only one, my best money saving travel tip would be to ensure that you sign up for websites that regularly post ‘error fares’ and flight deals. You could absolutely sign up to each and every platform out there who offer this kind of service in order to be notified of all deals possible, however, what I would highly recommend that you shouldn’t miss out on is SecretFlying.com. Not only is it always up-to-date, but it also posts deals from across all continents. Besides, it’s a known fact that flight tickets are one of the top costs that typically takes the biggest chunk from our travel fund. So it’s always best that to take advantage of any discounts or sales that you can find; surely for me, it is with Secret Flying that I have managed to save up a lot of cash. One perfect example of a crazy deal that I got? Well, I was able to book a roundtrip ticket from Europe to Japan for ONLY $200 — imagine that!
When Alan and I fly from the U.S. to an international destination, we book flights to depart and arrive from a major gateway city. We find cheaper seats and many more choices of airlines and flights using this money saving tactic. To arrive at our departure point (and also return home), we purchase domestic tickets. Combining the price of both domestic and international tickets results in a substantial savings compared to booking the entire trip from our home airport. This tip works especially well when booking business class airfare on the international portion of the trip.
When you’re looking up flights and hotels, make sure you check the websites of individual airlines in addition to search engines. I always start my search with flight search websites to get an overview of locations, availability and prices. Once I’ve pinpointed a specific hotel or flight, I head to the airline website to check their prices. Airlines sometimes have lower rates which are only bookable through their website.
My best money saving tip is to book your airfare with a flight metasearch site, that is to say a site that will search multiple sources at the same time. One good example for flights is tripadvisor.com/cheapflights. In Europe, you might want to check out skyscanner.com and momundo.com. These sites will often search sources you have never even heard of, making it more likely you will find a good deal.
In over four years of non-stop travel, our family has found the single best money saving tip is making use of house sitting. You can get free accommodation in return for looking after a home owner’s pet. After flights, accommodation usually works out as the most expensive cost of a vacation, and to get a 100% discount is a pretty sweet deal. Unlike small hotel rooms, most house sitting assignments are for spacious houses or apartments. Our favourite website for finding assignments is trustedhousesitters.com as it provides a handy filter tool to find houses that are suitable for families. The secret to success is a scattergun approach – apply for multiple assignments that fit your requirements, and if you get more than one positive response, just choose the best one for your situation.
My best money saving travel tip is to get free accommodation! In my last 10 years of travelling the world, I’ve saved over $100,000 this way, and been able to travel the world, full-time, for way less than the cost of living in one place. There are a variety of ways to get free accommodation around the world, including by volunteering, house sitting hospitality exchanges, living on boats, and more. And ‘free’ doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing comfort; I’ve stayed in some palatial residences in the most idyllic spots, for months at a time – all for free!
For the best room rates, try calling the hotel directly. In the age of deeply discounted travel metasearch websites, hotels are doing everything they can to undercut their internet-based competition. Ask to speak to the manager, let them know the best rate you already found online and see if they’re willing to do better. I consistently use this trick to save up to one third off of the published rates.
My best tip is to try and connect with locals prior to arriving in your destination through different channels, such as local and expat Facebook Groups and Reddit, where you can search for specific subreddits for your destination. Simply ask questions such as,”What are the cheapest ways to move around the city?” or “What are some of the hidden gems in town when it comes to food and dining?”. With this, I’ve found Facebook Groups and Reddit to be incredible resources when trying to save money on an upcoming trip.
My best budget travel tips is pretty obvious: walk, wander and get comfortable with the idea of getting lost! A city really opens itself up for discovery when you’re wandering around on foot. And you never know what you might stumble into!
Embrace the off-season and off-hours whenever possible. Who wants to tour a place when it’s packed with tourists and prices are sky-high? Get creative in picking spots during ‘unpopular’ or ‘weird’ time periods. For example, we loved being in Ireland in February, and Martha’s Vineyard in April! Also consider ‘off-hours’ during each day for activities, in particular, meals. We love the 2pm lunch because there’s usually enough room in restaurants to fit our whole family by that point.
At first the thought of travelling during off-season might not sound very exciting. However, for a lot of destinations, the pros of visiting in the months right before or right after high season far outweigh the cons. You will avoid big crowds and will be rewarded with a more intimate understanding of the place you are visiting. Oh, and you’ll save a lot of money too! Flights are cheaper, the cost of hotels and apartment rentals are slashed by as much as 50%, and even local expenses like dining out can be less than in high season. As long as your destination is not weather related you should consider off season to save tons of money!
At Global Basecamps, we always recommend bringing a refillable insulated water bottle, not only for sustainability but also as a money saver. One of the most important things while travelling is to stay hydrated, especially at the airport. We always recommend bringing a refillable insulated water bottle. Keep it empty during any checkpoint at the airport and fill it with filtered water after the checkpoint. This allows for you stay hydrated at your own will rather than constantly asking flight attendants to fill the little cups they provide on planes. Throw in some flavor with instant coffee, tea or drink mixes.
Compromise and be flexible. You can often get good deals on airfare via flights that make multiple stops or depart during off-peak hours. Wednesday is also often the cheapest day of the week to fly. You can get cheaper rental cars outside of the airport, so grab an Uber to a rental location a few kilometres away. Homestays, hostels or vacation rentals can yield some great accommodations on the cheap.
Travel smartly without breaking the bank
We’ve listed some of the best money saving tips from top travel bloggers to help travellers maximise their time and money on holiday and as a result, further enhance their travel experiences. These travel bloggers regularly save money by choosing to eat local, travel by overnight train, search price comparison websites and simply ask for a discount. They are also doing their own research before travelling to grab the best deals and ensure the destination is right for them while finding accommodation that best suits their travel needs.
While the cost of travel can be daunting for even an expert traveller, following these tips can allow travellers to stretch their money and experience more of those once-in-a-lifetime travel adventures, without breaking the bank.
What’s your best money saving tip?