Finding the cheapest ways to travel isn’t necessarily about one big secret that everyone’s been keeping from you. Rather, it’s about making slight changes to many different areas of your current travel planning strategy to make sure you’re cutting costs where you can and spending your hard earned money on the things that matter.
I don’t personally believe in cutting corners so aggressively that by the time you get to your destination you feel like you can’t enjoy anything. I mean, what would be the point of that?
This post isn’t meant to be a must-do checklist for every time you travel, but instead a list of ideas that you can attempt to incorporate where you see fit.
Let’s face it — everyone travels differently. It’s up to YOU to decide which categories are most important to optimize your own experiences and then find the places where you can save money on travel without feeling like you’re missing out.
I hope this post provides some useful tips you can keep on hand next time you’re planning a budget trip — and even some ideas that maybe you hadn’t thought of before.
I’ve broken this guide down into categories to make it easier for you to digest depending on what phase of the travel planning you’re currently in.
Here’s a quick table of contents:
Picking a Destination: #1-6
The Planing Phase: #7-16
Activities & Tours: #88-96
Travel Gear: #97-101
So without further ado, here is my absolutely massive-to-the-point-of-ridiculousness list of 101 ways to travel cheaper on your next trip!
101 Genius Ideas for the Cheapest Ways to Travel the World
PICKING A DESTINATION
1. Skip Destinations With Expensive Visas
First thing’s first: you’ll have to decide where you want to go. Americans are lucky that our passport allows us to visit so many countries around the world with little hassle, but still there are others that require a hefty fee just to obtain a tourist visa such as Russia and Nigeria.
If you want to learn more, Matador Network did a great article on the most expensive visas for Americans in 2019. If you’re on a budget and have flexibility on where to travel, skip those locales with pricier visa and save them for another day.
2. Stick to One Region at a Time
If you’re planning long-term travel, picking destinations that are close together or within the same region will significantly cut down your costs on transportation between locations. I know it can be tempting to want to hop continents when you finally get that time off, but think about all the ways you can better use that money to have incredible experiences on the ground rather than blowing it all on air travel.
3. Go Where Your Currency is Strong
Getting more bang for your buck (literally) when traveling is one of the easiest ways to save on day to day expenses in your country of choice. So choose wisely. Pick your destination based on where your dollar (or local currency) will go furthest during the time you want to travel.
Exchange rates are obviously constantly fluctuating based on the economy, so do your research as you start deciding where you want to go. Historically for Americans, destinations like Southeast Asia, India, Central America and Eastern Europe have had better exchange rates for travelers.
4. Use the “Anywhere” Functions on Travel Search Engines to Find the Cheapest Destinations to Fly To
I love Momondo and Kayak specifically because of their awesome “Anywhere” features that allow you to search flights from your city of origin to literally everywhere in the world. You can filter by price and the sites will pull up a map that gives you a quick visual on places that are cheapest to fly to during your selected travel dates. Genius!
5. Follow Your Favorite Travel Companies on Social Media
Been dying to go on that tour-company led Cuba excursion? Or prefer to only fly United? Make sure to follow your favorite travel companies on social media and check in on them regularly to be the first to find out about giveaways, sales or special promotions that will help you get somewhere for a better deal.
6. Factor in Budget for Expenses Pre-Trip
Sometimes getting to a particular destination might be cheap, but then we realize how much gear we need for the actual activities once we’ve arrived. Make sure to factor this into your budget ahead of time so you don’t get stuck scrambling to prepare and spend a fortune on gear closer to departure. Tropical travel is always a great way to go because you don’t need to pack much!
THE PLANNING PHASE
7. Make Google Your Best Friend
Long gone are the days when buying up guidebooks before a trip is a requirement for survival on the ground. There are TONS of free blogs out there (ahem, you’re reading one right now) that offer incredible advice on destinations around the world. So skip the book store and stick to getting your tips and travel advice fo’ free.
8. Utilize a Travel Agent
Yep, travel agents are still a thing. In fact, with so much information overwhelm out there, they’re more useful than ever. Did you know that many travel agents only work on commission? That means that you can obtain their planning and booking services at no extra cost to you.
The best part is that not only do you not pay extra, you often save precious dollars on items like flights and accommodation because travel agents have access to insider deals that the average consumer can’t get.
9. Get Travel Insurance
I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t travel insurance just an extra cost I don’t need? Not so fast. It’s commonly said that if you can’t afford travel insurance, then you can’t afford to travel. We never think that accidents or the unexpected will happen to us, but when they do it can mean putting us out hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
No one wants to come down will a severe illness abroad only to have to pay tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket to be airlifted back to their home country. Err on the safe side and get travel insurance — trust me, it’s so worth the peace of mind knowing your next trip will never put you into extreme debt if something goes wrong. I personally use World Nomads and was reimbursed $1,500 within two months of leaving for my round-the-world trip.
10. Get in on Facebook Groups
Sometimes the best tips and tricks for saving money in your destination can be found through a community of people that have been there before you. Trust me, travelers on Facebook looove sharing their tips. So get into the right group for your country of choice and start asking questions about the best cheap coffee shops, hostels and deals in your destination.
11. Research Prices for Everything Beforehand to Avoid Getting Scammed
How often do you hear stories about people that showed up in their destination unprepared and got scammed by a cab driver right off the bat? I swear that happens every minute, 24 hours a day. Remember, knowledge is power. Talk to friends who’ve been before you or do your research online to find out how much things like taxis from the airport should cost so you don’t get caught overpaying.
12. Plan Your Itinerary by Neighborhood
Want to save money on transportation? My ultimate hack is to plan out your itinerary by neighborhood (my favorite tool for this is Google Maps). Basically what I do is research everything I want to accomplish and see during my trip and then create a new Google Map, plugging in everything including restaurants, museums, hikes, cafes, etc.
Once you’ve got it all inputted on the map, you can plan out each of your days by grouping the items that are close together in proximity so that you don’t spend your entire trip criss-crossing your destination. I love this tool so much that I wrote a whole blog guide on it. Read more on how I use Google Maps as a trip planner here.
13. Travel in Shoulder or Low Season
It’s a known fact that flight and hotel prices increase with the demand during a destination’s peak season. If you want the lowest prices on your trip, then opt to visit during low season or shoulder season (aka the timeframe in between low and high season), when crowds start to increase but destinations aren’t yet at max capacity.
14. Make a List of Priorities Before You Go
If you need to stick to a particular budget, then it’s important to make a list of priorities for your trip BEFORE you depart. Do you have a strong desire to eat at great restaurants on your trip but couldn’t care less about booking private tour experiences? Write it down!
This will help you identify where you need to stay frugal during your vacation, while helping you keep your eye on the prize — aka the things that will really make your trip special.
15. Be Flexible With Your Timing
When great deals come up, we often can’t utilize them because the timing doesn’t work with our schedule. Try to be more flexible this year by booking a trip based on the deals that you find rather than being set on a particular timeframe.
I always use Google Flights’ calendar function in my search process as they make it insanely easy to view which days are cheapest to fly so that I know I’m getting the best price possible.
16. Check Tipping Guidelines
Different countries have various expectations when it comes to tipping, so do your research ahead of time to make sure you’re not over-paying on tips or worse — tipping at all in places where it can actually be considered rude.
17. Set a Budget and Track Expenses with Trail Wallet
If you don’t go into a trip without a set budget, how are you going to monitor your daily spending to make sure you don’t overdo it? I recommend getting the big costs out of the way like flights and accommodation and then taking a realistic look at what you can spend each day in the more flexible categories like food, tours and shopping. Keeping this number constantly in mind while on your trip will help you make smarter choices on the ground.
My favorite way to budget on to the go is with Trail Wallet, an app that I have been using religiously for over three years. I love it so much that I even use it at home when I’m not traveling. It’s been super helpful for me as a tool to quickly track my daily expenses and categorize them so I can get a clear picture of where my money is going. Check out this detailed post I wrote on how to use Trail Wallet.
18. Use a Credit Card With No Foreign Transaction Fees
Swiping your way around the world is a surefire way to get charged an arm and a leg for foreign transaction fees. You can avoid all this by opening up a credit card (or just checking the ones you already have to see if they apply) without foreign transaction fees. I’m personally a big fan of Chase cards, and you can see a full list of their no foreign transaction fee cards here.
19. Use Charles Schwab Banking for Reimbursed ATM Fees
Let me let you in on a little secret: you can stop paying ATM fees around the world, and it’s all thanks to my friend Charles Schwab. With their high yield investor checking account (which took me about 1 hour to open walking into my local branch), you get unlimited ATM fee rebates worldwide which will give you so much peace of mind next time you go to take cash out.
20. Withdraw Money Rather Than Exchanging
If you’ve followed the advice above, then you shouldn’t have to worry about ATM fees racking up, which is why it’s much better to withdraw from the ATM in your destination than exchanging money.
Money exchangers always have a fee associated with their service, or they’re giving you a poor exchange rate, so I always hit up the ATM first thing when I land with my Charles Schwab debit card and get my local currency that way.
21. Use Don’t Pay Full to Find Deals on Travel
Want to get the best prices on the travel vendors you use? Check out Don’t Pay Full, a coupon site that features deals on tons of different travel companies and experiences. With a quick “travel” search, I found deals for amazing companies like Emirates, Expedia, Airbnb and Alamo car rental to name a few.
22. Don’t Forget to Claim Your VAT Refund
Doing some shopping overseas? Don’t leave money on the table by failing to claim your VAT refund. VAT is the value-added tax that consumers pay on goods in a given country. However as a tourist, you are not required to pay the VAT like residents and are thus eligible for a refund in most cases. This is a great guide on how to claim your VAT refund and when it’s worth it.
Hint: This is usually done at the airport as you’re exiting the country, so leave a little extra time before your flight if you want to follow this protocol.
23. Open a Travel Rewards Card with a Big Bonus
There are tons of travel rewards credit cards that offer incredible points bonuses at different times of year and this is one of the biggest hacks for earning free flights. If you know you’ll be traveling in the near future, open a new card with a great bonus (I prefer bonuses of over 50,000 points) and make sure you can meet the minimum spend in the allotted timeframe.
But wait — it’s not just good enough to start earning miles with a travel rewards card — you actually need to use them! Get savvy with how to redeem your points for the best value (The Points Guy is a great resource), so that you can feel confident about getting those points out of your miles account and making your next dream trip a reality.
As most deadlines to hit the bonus are within 3 months, you’ll want to open a card around 4-6 months out before your trip to make sure you have time to wait for the points to hit your account and then utilize them for a free or discounted flight!
24. Use Your Rewards Credit Card to Maximize Your Points
In addition to the points (no pun intended) above, you want to make sure that you’re maximizing every single dollar you spend with your travel credit card.
For example, some business cards offer 2x or 3x points on things like office supplies or gas, while other cards may offer the same points amount for other categories like dining. Know your spending habits and make sure you’re using your card on the right purchases to get the most benefit. Remember, more points means more free flights!
25. Compare Flight Prices on Sites Like Skyscanner
Skyscanner is one of my favorite flight search engines because I consistently find cheaper flights there than anywhere else. Next time you need to book a flight, don’t press purchase until you’ve checked the prices on Skyscanner first!
26. Study the Data to Book at the Best Times
Data on when to book the cheapest flights always seems to be changing, but according to Skyscanner’s latest 2019 study, there are some patterns you might want to pay attention to.
Their latest findings? Booking on Tuesdays for domestic flights and Wednesdays for international flights will get you the best deals. The cheapest overall months to book flights are January, February and August, and waking up at 5 AM to purchase those airline tickets will apparently help you see the most savings. Start setting that alarm!
27. Sign Up for Scott’s Cheap Flights Emails
This genius email service features both a free and paid version and sends daily flight deals straight to your inbox. The team at Scott’s Cheap Flights literally searches flight deals all day so you don’t have to, and they’ll give you exact directions on how to book!
28. Try Switching Up Your Airports
Getting creative with your flight path and switching up your airport of origin or in your destination can sometimes end up being a cheaper way to travel. This will depend on how far away you are to secondary airport options and what the cost of transport will be from your home or to your accommodation on the other end.
I find it’s always fun to play around with my options and be flexible — it’s always worth a slightly extra hassle if there are deals to be had!
29. Clear Your Cookies
Some proclaim myth and others swear by it, but it’s not a stretch to say that websites are watching and tracking your search patterns and acting accordingly. To be safe and ensure you’re getting the best flight prices possible, clear your cookies and browsing data before making any final flight purchases to make sure you haven’t fallen victim to dynamic pricing.
30. Book Your Flight with That Airline’s Credit Card
If free baggage isn’t already included in my flight ticket, I’ll make sure to book the flight with the airline’s credit card (if I have it), which often rewards me with 1 free checked bag for my loyalty.
This isn’t always a perk of every card, but Delta for example offers this 1st checked bag free perk for their old Delta SkyMiles Credit Card members.
31. Hunt For Mistake Fares on Secretflying.com
Not familiar with mistake fares? These are basically exactly what they sound like. On occasion (and often by human error), incorrect flight prices will get entered into an airline system reflecting a price much cheaper than the route typically goes for. Secretflying.com is a great site that posts about these mistake fares to readers so they can jump on the deal.
Here’s the catch: It’s not 100% guaranteed that you’ll get the flight, but often the airlines will honor the price due to their own error. It’s definitely worth trying!
32. Be Willing to Be Uncomfortable
Sure, business class is the dream, but if you want to fly on the cheap you need to be ok with being uncomfortable. Taking the cheap seats and unfavorable flight times like early AM departures or red-eyes will often be your best best if you want to save the big bucks.
33. Take Advantage of Work Travel
If you get flown anywhere on your company’s dime, make sure each of those flights is getting booked with your frequent flier number in the system. That way, you’ll start racking up points to fly free while your company is doing all the heavy lifting.
Even better, extend a work trip a few days so you can bake in your own travel experiences into a trip that’s already being booked by your employer.
34. Read the Fine Print
If there’s a chance your flight schedule might need to change, then make sure you read the fine print before confirming a booking. Sneaky Basic Economy fares are certainly tempting in price, but they come at a cost. They are typically super restrictive and won’t let buyers make any changes to their original ticket.
So if for some reason you had to make a change to your schedule, in most cases your only option would be to buy an entirely new flight and that’s not saving anyone money.
35. Try Booking Two One Ways
Getting creative with your flight bookings can sometimes lead to savings depending on the destination. If you’re trying to cut costs on a flight, try searching for two one way tickets instead of a single round-trip fare to see if you can save be separating out the legs.
36. Always Complain to the Airline After Things Go Wrong
Ok, I hate to be that person that complains about every little thing that goes wrong on a flight, but trust me when I say it can pay off big time. If you experience lost luggage, a flight cancellation or even just a long flight delay, call the airline to see what they can do or use a service like Airhelp. Often you can receive a reimbursement for a portion of your flight cost or get your miles account padded.
37. Opt to Get Bumped From Your Flight
I’m still kicking myself for the day when I declined to be bumped from my Atlanta to Los Angeles Delta flight — they were offering a $900 flight voucher!
If you fly through super busy airports that see overbooked flights, be open to getting bumped and even talk to the desk agents to let them know you’ll volunteer yourself if need be. This is a fast way to rack up free flights if you’re willing to get to your destination a bit later than originally planned.
38. Fly Budget Airlines…But Also Beware of Them
Flying on budget airlines can be a great way to save money on flights, but know what you’re getting into before you depart. Many airlines like Icelandair for example don’t offer any free meal service even for an overnight flight, so you have to pay a premium if you want any food on board.
Furthermore, baggage is rarely (if ever) included in budget airline fares, so check their price structure first before booking to make sure you’re actually saving when you factor in other things you’ll be paying for out of pocket.
39. Fly Carry-On Only
The cheapest way to travel to your destination is to go carry-on only. This way you never have to worry about extra baggage charges, which can add up fast.
40. Utilize Free Stopovers
If you plan on traveling to a destination that requires a layover in a desirable destination, call the airline to inquire if you can get a free stopover. I used this method to check out Abu Dhabi on my way to South Africa last spring and with Etihad’s free stopover program, I got to see the UAE without adding any additional charges to my ticket price. Not every airline offers this, but when you find one that does it feels like you hit the jackpot!
41. Always Check Baggage Allowances
Carry-on sized luggage in the US and in Europe are not created equal, so make sure you don’t get caught paying for checked baggage when you prepared for carry-on only. Always read the baggage allowances of your airline before your flight and don’t forget to measure that suitcase to make sure you’ll be up to regulation!
42. Pay for Anything Additional BEFORE the Airport
If you absolutely need to check a bag, then make sure you add it to your reservation online BEFORE you get to the airport. Airlines (especially the budget ones) often charge a higher fee to check a bag when it’s added at the airline’s counter, so save yourself the unnecessary charges and take a few extra minutes to do this at home.
43. Get Holistic About Your Hotel Bookings
When it comes to hotels, it’s easy to get caught up in price comparisons and just book the cheapest thing you can find. But there’s so much more to think about that can affect your budget.
For starters, make sure to take a look at a map and get a sense of where you’ll be spending most of your time while not at your accommodation. Will you be in walking distance to attractions? Will you need to take a cab? Transportation can add up and end up offsetting your savings on the hotel you booked, so make sure to factor this into your choice.
Other things to consider:
- Does the hotel include any meals or tours?
- Are drinks all-inclusive?
- Is there a kitchen where you can cook?
- Is breakfast included?
- Do they offer free wifi?
- Complimentary airport transfers?
- What about free bike rentals?
All of these are important factors in deciding what the actual cost will be to you for booking that particular hotel.
44. Try Booking Accommodation in Person
In some destinations, it can benefit you to price shop and book accommodation in person rather than online (not to mention, some places in more remote locations aren’t necessarily available online at all).
In destinations like Cuba and Bali, I’ve had success finding super cheap accommodation by visiting local homestays to negotiate prices in person, because I had the leverage of confirming them a client that night.
45. Use the Service App
Service is an app that detects flight delays and hotel price drops automatically based on your inbox reservations and works to get you lower rates or refunds so you don’t have to go through the hassle. For frequent travelers, this app is a must.
46. Visit Friends
Do you have a friend in another country or someone you know who is studying abroad? Take advantage of the free accommodation and local tour guide by going to visit them! I’ve used this strategy to go on epic adventures to places like South Africa, Iceland and Australia and it saved me so much money on each trip.
47. Swap Houses
If you don’t have friends who live in other countries or desirable destinations you could visit, maybe some of your friends do. Put the call out on Facebook to announce you’re doing a house swap and want to see if anyone knows an interested party. You might be surprised where you land!
48. Get $40 Off Your First Airbnb Booking
Airbnb is an incredible resource for finding affordable accommodation all over the world and has been so helpful for me in affording my travels over the last few years. If you haven’t tried Airbnb before, you can get even more savings by using my unique link to get $40 off your very first Airbnb booking!
49. Haggle with Airbnb Owners
If you’re booking accommodation a bit last minute, this is a genius strategy that is very under-utilized amongst Airbnb customers. I find that the renter is always in a more favorable position when booking last minute, so it never hurts to ask if the home owner would be willing to cut the cost, in exchange for knowing they they’ll have the nights filled.
I’ve used this method on several occasions, and while you will receive a lot of No’s, haggling your way to that Yes feels awesome. You do have to get a little last minute with this one, but it’s worth it if you can cut your costs by 40%!
50. Offer Your Skills in Exchange for Accommodation
Are you a graphic designer? A web developer? A PR guru? Pitch lending your expertise to a hotel in exchange for a free stay to forge a symbiotic relationship that’s a win win for all parties involved.
51. Travel With Friends or a Partner
I love traveling solo, but it’s not always the most cost effective when it comes to paying for accommodation. Sharing expenses on hotels and homestays with friends or a partner will help you cut down on costs significantly, especially if you don’t mind sharing a bed!
52. Use Wikibuy to Apply Coupons on Travel
Wikibuy is a site that automatically applies coupon codes at checkout for your purchases, which is great in general for all kinds of categories, but I particularly love their travel deals page. You can find coupon codes for hotels, car rentals, airlines and even travel maps.
53. Try the Hotel Tonight App
Hotel Tonight is an app that curates hotel rates at the lowest current prices for a property at any given time. Their prices often get slashed for day-of bookings, and the app even features green “Geo Rate” tags for when room rates are especially low. For last minute bookings, this is a great place to check prices before your stay to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
54. Research Retreat Companies That Might Need an Extra Hand
It seems that global retreat companies are blowing up these days, and what better way to get free room, board and work experience than by offering your skills to an incredible retreat company.
This is such a great way to make money while you travel, work abroad and get tapped into an immediate community of like-minded travelers. I personally did this two years ago in Bali when I worked for the Institute of Code in Canggu and it’s still one of my most fun travel experiences to date!
55. Become a House Sitter
Trustedhousesitters.com is a site that connects home owners and house sitters so that when people go out of town they can find someone to care for their home, pets or plants. Become a member of the site as a house sitter to start gaining access to free accommodation around the world.
56. Utilize Hotel Rewards Programs
If you know that you’re someone that books a lot of hotel stays, looking at a rewards program such as the one on offer by Hotels.com is a great option to maximize your money. For every 10 nights you book through their website, you’ll receive a credit for one free night that’s equal to the value of the average price per night of the rooms you previously paid for.
57. Book on Hostelworld.com
Hotels not quite in your budget? Then hostels are the way to go. Don’t scoff so fast. I’ve found plenty of hostels around the world that are clean, well designed and offer a great opportunity to meet other travelers. My go-to place to check availability for hostels in my destination is Hostel World which is hands down the most comprehensive site for hostel bookings and has a great interface that makes it easy to sift through photos and guest ratings.
58. Book Accommodation With a Kitchen
For non-foodies who could care less about trying all the local cuisine, booking accommodation with a kitchen is a great way to save on your trip. Bonus — If you meet locals in your destination, invite them over for a dinner party and ask them to bring a local dish of their own so you can still feel social while saving on huge restaurant bills.
59. Be Open to Unusual Accommodation Types
While not always cheaper than a traditional hotel or Airbnb, there are so many unique ways to stay in a destination these days that can often help cut costs. I like to use Glamping Hub to check for yurts, airstreams, glamping tents, cabins and other interesting set-ups that will be cheaper and also provide a cool experience that you can’t get at a traditional hotel. Even better, if you have your own camping gear, set up a tent!
60. Rent an Apartment Abroad
If you’re planning on staying in one location for more than a month, then renting an apartment is definitely the cheapest way to travel to your destination. Sites like Airbnb, Home Away and VRBO are all great for searching for longer term rentals, but it’s also helpful to ask around in Facebook groups, as finding local listings can sometimes be challenging.
For example, in Canggu Bali, the Canggu Community Facebook group is the ideal place to ask around for rental advice and is great for finding roommates as well. Try typing in “Your Destination” + “Community” OR “Your Destination” + “Housing” for groups that apply to your locale of choice.
61. Look Into Co-Living Homes like ROAM, Common and Outsite
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the costs associated with moving abroad, joining a co-living house can be a great way to go. There are TONS of co-living companies that have popped up over the last couple of years and these can be streamlined ways to find longer-term housing in a vetted place with a lot of amenities already included in the rental price.
No, it’s probably not as cheap as staying in a dingy hostel, but depending on your needs it can be a more affordable way to live in a beautiful home around the world. Most co-living homes offer private rooms with shared communal space and things like fast Wifi are included. Check out ROAM, Common and Outsite to learn more.
62. Volunteer in Exchange for Accommodation
WorkAway is an incredible site that connects travelers with local hosts in need of a certain skill. There are tons of different opportunities to sift through on the site — everything from farm stays, sailing crews, pet sitting, volunteering in local schools and even offering a helping hand in construction work is included. In exchange for providing a helping hand, travelers get free food and accommodation and the chance to interact with local hosts.
63. Use Booking.com’s Price Matching Feature
I love booking hotels with Booking.com for many reasons (their filtering system is BOMB), but they also ensure you’re getting the best rate with their price matching promise. If you spot your hotel at a lower price more than 24 hours before your stay, Booking.com will refund you for the difference!
64. Book Hotels That Include Breakfast
Ton of hotels these days all over the world include breakfast, so there’s no reason to book one that doesn’t if your budget is tight. I love searching for hotels on Booking.com because their search filters make it super easy to narrow down your options to hotels with this specific feature.
65. Pack Healthy Snacks
One thing that comes on every single trip with me no matter where I’m headed is a stash of RXBars. These gluten-free protein bars are the only ones I’ve found that actually taste good and also keep me full for a solid two hours. They’re not dirt cheap, but eating one of these is a heck of a lot less expensive than paying for an entire meal at a restaurant abroad.
Pick and choose your own snacks you love and pack some in your purse for those low-blood-sugar moments when you’re ready to reach for anything unhealthy — and expensive.
66. Find Out Where the Locals Eat
Unless you’re traveling to a very rich country, chances are the locals go where the food is good — and cheap! These aren’t always places that you can find on a “Top 10” list and they’ll be some of the best prices in your destination. Added bonus: You’ll get a better feel for the local culture and what it feels like to actually live in the place you’re visiting.
67. Bring a Re-Fillable Water Bottle Everywhere
Not only is this better for the environment, but constantly buying water bottles day in and day out can add up big time. I have recently been using the Larq self-cleaning water bottle that gets rid of 99% of bacteria with its UV-C LED light, which means you can fill up with the tap and still have safe (and free!) drinking water all day.
68. Eat Street Food
One of my favorite things about traveling to Asia is all the street food markets with tons of different dishes you can try for super cheap. Get over your fear of street food and try some of the local cuisine. You’ll be shocked to find that in certain parts of the world you can fill up a heaping plate of delicious local staples for a whopping $2.
69. Use Priority Pass to Get Free Food at Airport Lounges
If you’re someone that travels often in your business, utilizing a Priority Pass membership could end up saving you money on airport food and alcohol over time. However, you really need to weigh how often you’ll be utilizing the service as annual memberships that include free unlimited lounge access cost a whopping $399.
When you factor in that getting a meal and a coffee at any airport typically costs at least $25, it would only take you 16 visits to the lounge to break even, and that’s not taking into account for wifi and alcohol costs. But here’s the secret: if you sign up for a travel rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, they’ll give you a Priority Pass membership included as being a cardholder and to me that’s a much cheaper way to take advantage!
70. Visit the Local Grocery Store
Even if your accommodation is sans kitchen, it’s not difficult to whip up a quick sandwich in your hotel room without the use of full kitchen facilities. Just visit the local grocery store and gather your ingredients along with bags or to-go containers so you can bring your lunch along on any all-day tours you have planned.
71. Stop Drinking Alcohol
When you’re on vacation, it’s easy to drink your weight in cocktails, but the truth is, alcohol really adds up. And not just on your waistline. Maybe this isn’t the case if you’re in Indonesia drinking $2 Bintangs, but over a two week vacation? Every single drink you purchase makes an impact. Consider going sans alcohol and focusing on the real memorable experiences you’d rather be spending your money on.
72. Make Happy Hour Your Holy Time
Ok, if you must drink during your trip then at least do it during happy hour. There are great deals to be found at happy hour, even in super expensive cities like Reykjavik, Iceland.
In fact, the locals in Iceland are the biggest frequenters of happy hour because they themselves can’t even afford to drink during normal drinking hours! Take advantage of this time and your wallet will thank you.
73. Leave Your Credit Card at Home on Nights Out
It’s that simple. If you don’t want to drop all your money on booze (which somehow gets progressively easier the more drinks you have…), then just leave your credit card at home. This will remove all temptation to order another round when your judgment is more impaired than normal.
74. Visit Big Cities During Restaurant Week
While restaurant week prices aren’t necessarily the cheapest meals you can find, they are often a bargain compared to the typical prices at more well-known or Michelin star restaurants.
So if you’re a foodie that knows you’re going to hit up every hot spot in NYC on your next trip to the Big Apple, you’ll probably be looking at a lot of savings by timing your trip with Restaurant Week to take advantage of the price-fixed menus.
75. Go For All You Can Eat
Let’s be honest, the last thing you want is to spend a fortune on a meal only to leave hungry. With just a quick google search in any destination, you can find great all-you-can-eat spots or special deals that allow you to eat more at a fixed price.
One of my favorite such deals is in notoriously expensive Reykjavik, Iceland at a hole-in-the-wall soup joint called Icelandic Street Food. They sell delicious fish and lamb soups in bread bowls and allow customers to get free refills!
76. Ditch the Latte
I’m so guilty of this because I just can’t bear to drink black coffee, but if you need to desperately bring your travel expenses down then make the latte the first to go. Opt for black coffee or tea on your next trip to the coffee shop and watch your daily expenses go down.
77. Avoid Restaurants Near Major Tourist Attractions
Did you know that it’s almost proven theory that restaurants near major tourist attractions always charge more (and pssst they usually have worse food, too)? They know visitors don’t want to go far from where the action is happening to get their next meal, so they jack up the prices and take full advantage. Yes there are exceptions, but if you want to save on your daily dining bill try venturing out away from big tourist sites.
78. Don’t Over Order
Again, another item I’m very guilty of, but one that has proven costly in the past. I’m willing to bet that your eyes are a lot bigger than your stomach, but I know it can be so easy to want everything on the menu, especially in a place you’ve heard raving reviews about.
Instead of limiting yourself, try spacing out your orders, starting with appetizers and then only ordering more once you’ve fully finished a dish. This will allow your stomach to catch up to you and chances are you’ll never get to that massive (not to mention expensive) main dish.
79. Change Your FOMO Mindset
When traveling, it’s so easy to get into that “I’ll never be here again” mindset. While I’m all about saying yes to incredible experiences, you don’t need to necessarily order everything from a menu to have a memorable trip. Change your mindset to one of abundance knowing that this won’t be the last time you experience a single place. Unless you’re at a 3-star Michelin restaurant….then order whatever the F you want!
80. Use Public Transportation or Walk
If you’re visiting a location with awesome public transportation, this is a great opportunity to get to know how the locals live and save some money in the process. And as for walking, that’s always free!
81. Always Leave Yourself Extra Time
When you’re rushing from one tour to the next or late for that dinner reservation, it’s so easy to make excuses and just opt for that expensive cab or Uber that will get you there faster. Don’t overpack your schedule so that you don’t make last minute decisions that cost you.
82. Take Overnight Trains to Save Money on Accommodation
Traveling from one destination to another or long distances within a country? Consider taking the overnight train in lieu of accommodation for the night. You save money and get more time exploring the next day in one fell swoop.
83. Travel by Campervan
Combining your transport with accommodation will surely save you money and the best way to do that is by traveling via campervan. Not sure where to get started? Campervanlife.com has all the info you need.
84. Compare Transportation Options with Rome2Rio
Rome2Rio is an awesome site that compares all the different ways to get from point A to B around the world. You type in your starting point and destination and it does all the rest of the work for you, searching for planes, ferries, buses and more. This helps give you a full picture of your options so you can make the most budget-friendly transport decision.
85. Take the Hop On/Hop Off Bus
Many cities around the world have Hop On/Hop Off tour buses (I’ve personally taken them in Havana, Cuba and Buenos Aires, Argentina and loved it). While they’re meant to be a great way for tourists to see the sites, they’re actually a great way to save money on transportation.
Typically these buses will take you to all the major attractions with one ticket, so if you’re willing to sit through the unnecessary stops, you can get to many places on your bucket list without paying for a million different taxis or trains.
86. Ask a Local About the Apps They Use
In destinations like Bali, for example, the locals use apps like GoJek and Bluebird to get car or scooter taxis that are super affordable. Unless you’ve done thorough research beforehand, you might not realize these services exist in your destination. Just ask a few locals what they use and you’ll get hooked up with the best resources in your area.
87. Connect with Other Travelers to Carpool
Hostels and Facebook community groups can be great resources for this. Especially if you’re traveling solo, it can get expensive taking transfers to all of the different sites you want to visit. Go a little out of your comfort zone and hop on a Facebook group to see if anyone else would be interested in visiting the same place. For women specifically, I love the We Are Travel Girls and Girls Love Travel Facebook groups to connect with other female travelers!
ACTIVITIES AND TOURS
88. Don’t Forget to Haggle
As Americans, we live in a fixed price culture and don’t often get a chance to exercise our haggling skills. But in other countries around the world, haggling is practically a professional sport. Negotiating with shop owners is perfectly acceptable — even encouraged.
Do your research beforehand to find out if haggling is accepted in your destination and then don’t feel bad about saying no to the first price on offer!
89. Save at Museums with Your Student ID + Free Tourist Days
Tons of museums around the world offer student discounts or free tourist days to attract visitors. In fact, I may be guilty of extending my student ID a little beyond its shelf life (I promise I won’t tell anybody if you do the same). All it takes is a simple google search to research what your options are in your destination.
90. Always Ask for Group Discounts
Traveling with a large group? It never hurts to ask for a discount. Companies love when you book in large numbers, so before you throw down your plastic for those hotel rooms or day tours, ask if they offer special deals for group travel.
91. Research Free Things to Do in Your Destination
Before you go tour company shopping, consider the free things to do in your destination first. Big cities often have free walking tours, or you can check out hikes or free classes on offer locally. Coffee shops with community boards or hostel common areas are often a great place to scope out these opportunities.
92. Purchase Discount Books
If you’ll be staying in one place for awhile, it may be worth it to purchase a discount book that offers you bulk deals on many restaurants and companies in your destination for one small price.
Asia Collective’s Hungry in Bali and Hungry in Singapore books for example, give you access to tons of the best restaurants with deals you can’t find anywhere else.
93. Take Advantage of First-Timer Deals at Workout Studios
Many companies that want your recurring business like workout studios often offer special deals for first-time customers. Sometimes they’ll even give you a completely free trial period. If you travel frequently within the U.S. and want to stay in shape on the road, this is the best way to score deals on classes for yoga, pilates, boxing and more. Just ask about their new member offers.
94. Get an Annual Membership for Experiences You Do Often
Are you a National Parks enthusiast or obsessed with Disney World? Don’t pay one-off prices each time you go. Depending on how often you frequent these destinations, annual memberships may often be cheaper in the long run.
For example, an America the Beautiful Pass which gets you into over 2,000 parks across the USA costs $80 a year and in many cases covers your entire vehicle’s entrance, while a single ticket to Yosemite costs $35. If you visit three or more parks a year, you’re likely already looking at savings.
95. Check Deal Sites Pre-Trip
Sites like Living Social and Groupon are great for finding deals on tours in your destination and can spark some inspiration when it comes to figuring out what activities you want to be doing during your vacation.
96. Skip the Souvenirs, Take Photos Instead
If you’ve already got a camera or an iPhone, then taking photos is the best free way to remember your trip without blowing your budget in the process. If you need to force yourself to skip the souvenirs, try loading up your luggage or flying carry-on only so that filling your suitcase with goods you’ve bought is literally not an option.
97. Buy All Your Gear During Sales
Have a big trip coming up to a place where you need a lot of gear? Plan accordingly. Black Friday is my favorite time to stock up on travel gear and clothing for trips; it’s how I basically outfitted myself for my Norway trip last December when I needed a ton of warm-weather clothes. If Black Friday doesn’t work for your timing, think about the off seasons and try to shop the sales whenever possible.
98. Pack Dr. Bronner’s So You Can Save On Laundry
Traveling for longer than two weeks? Skip the laundry charges and pack a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap instead. It comes in cute little travel-sized bottles and plenty of different scents to make doing laundry in your hotel sink super easy — and pleasant!
99. Buy Your Travel Adapter Locally Instead of the All-in-One
All-in-one universal travel adapters can be unnecessarily expensive, especially if you’re only headed to one destination abroad. I find that buying these for a few bucks once I arrive (this is especially true for cheap destinations in Asia and South America) saves me money overall and I can even buy a few for less to charge more of my gear faster.
100. Pocket the Hotel Amenities
If you know you’ll be staying at a nice hotel, don’t forget to stash the bathroom amenities in your bag before you leave. These are great to collect for future trips so you can save on travel sized bottles and toiletries at the drug store.
101. Avoid Roaming Charges with a T-Mobile Phone Plan
If you travel often between the U.S. and international destinations, switching to a T-Mobile phone plan could help you save a ton on data usage and roaming charges abroad. I switched to their international plan offers about a year and a half ago and it’s made all my subsequent trips so much easier to manage when it comes to my phone.
Planning a trip right now? These are all the websites and services I love for booking everything from flights, tours, accommodation and more:
- Booking.com for the best hotel deals
- World Nomads for travel insurance
- Airbnb for awesome home rentals
- Intrepid Travel for group travel
- Skyscanner for finding the best flight deals
- Hostelworld for budget accommodation
- Rentalcars.com for easy car rentals