For a lot of individuals, travel is high on their priority list. Escaping from reality and jetting off to a new destination is probably on your mind at some point in the workday (at least it is for me).
But let’s face it, none of us are millionaires (and if you are, teach us your ways). The good news is, there are so many simple ways that you can save money while travelling, without sacrificing all of the amazing things the destination has to offer.
So, what’s the secret?
The answer is, there isn’t one. All it takes is making smart choices and having your priorities in check by being selective with what is important to you while travelling. Also, being proactive in seeking out deals and not just booking the first thing that you see is worth the extra research. There are a ton of deals out there if you take the time to look. At the end of the day, it’s all about not paying more when you don’t have to.
So, get yo’ travel hustle on and get planning for your next vacay! Listed below are 19 sure-fire ways to save money on the road. Your credit card is already thanking you.
19 Cook your own meals
One of the biggest expenses while travelling, without a doubt, is paying for meals. If you eat every meal at a fancy restaurant (or even a non-fancy one), your budget it going to skyrocket dramatically compared to if you cooked for yourself. For example, say the average cost of a meal per person is $30. With three meals a day, that’s already $90 of your budget gone, and all you did was get some food in your belly.
Booking a hostel with a reliable kitchen or an apartment where you are equipped with your own, you can save a huge amount of money by cooking your own meals. Even if you eat out once a day, you are still saving a ton. This is especially true if you have a group of people, since splitting the cost of a meal with all the fixings (depending on where you are) could be under $10 per person.
Visit the local market in your destination, where you can not only get a bunch of fresh and local produce, but also support the community in which you are visiting (win, win). Local markets usually occur on the weekend, so make sure you plan ahead to assure you don't miss it!
18 Talk to the experts: the locals
While you are travelling, a lot of people generally go to the most touristy spots for food and drinks, activities, and everything in between. The problem with highly-populated touristy areas is that they not only drive up the prices, they also don’t generally give you the ‘local feel’ that you are looking for.
Think of the most touristy spot in your hometown. Now think, would you ever choose to go there on your day off? Probably not. 100% of the time, the locals know best, since they live there year-round and know all the hot spots away from the flocks of tour buses.
Organised tours can be extremely pricey, and you can pretty much always do the exact same thing on your own. So, instead of opting for the expensive cookie-cutter experience, create your own adventure! By making an effort to chat to a local, you will probably receive a solid recommendation for their favourite burger joint a few blocks away, or a hidden waterfall that is not shown on a map.
If you are looking for a truly authentic and local experience (which you should be), then don’t be afraid to ask your waitress or a local on the street for a recommendation. I can guarantee their suggestion will be the 'creme de la creme', and will beat doing an over-priced tour.
Live like the locals do, as they say!
17 Stay in places longer
Staying in a hostel, hotel, or Airbnb for longer than one night will generally give you a better deal compared to if you only stayed for a night or two. A lot of places offer weekly rates or discounts on amenities if you book more than a certain amount of days.
Another thing that’s great about staying longer in a destination, is that you are also saving a ton of money on transportation costs from one place to another. Trying to fit a bunch of different stops into a holiday may not work in your favour budget wise, with costs such as flights, buses, and taxis as a result. Your holiday will be a heck of a lot more relaxing if you just chill out and enjoy where you are, instead of rushing from one place to another. Sit back, relax, and stay a while!
16 Live as the locals do with Couchsurfing
Who likes spending money on accommodation? Absolutely no one. It’s always a hard pill to swallow when you have to fork out all that cash for a room that you barely spend any time in. Luckily, there is actually a way where you can get free accommodation while travelling through Couchsurfing.
Couchsurfing is not only an awesome way to save on accommodation, but also an outlet to meet locals in the area you are visiting. Staying with a local in their household, cooking authentic meals, and chatting about life gives you a completely unique experience that you wouldn’t get with a hotel room. I guarantee you will meet amazing people and build relationships that will last a lifetime. Hosts are generally either travellers themselves who value the concept of saving money and meeting likeminded individuals.
You really can't put a price on authenticity. And luckily with Couchsurfing, you don't have to!
15 Be flexible with flights
This is a big one. If you are not flexible with dates while booking a holiday, you might be forced to fork out a ton of money just to merely get to your destination. Flights can be dramatically cheaper from one week to the next, even from one day to the next. I once saved a few hundred dollars on a flight to Australia from travelling a day after the date I had originally planned.
If you can get away from your 9-5 workweek for a few days, avoid booking flights on weekends, as they are generally always pricier. Flights from Friday to Sunday are especially expensive as this is the most popular schedule to fly. Instead, try booking a Thursday night red eye and a Monday morning return. Check out sites such as SkyScanner and Kayak, where the web searches through different flight companies to get the absolute best deal for you. You can also sign up for email alerts, so you can see if your flight is going up or down in price, and when they recommend you should book. If you aren't picky with where you want to go either, these sites can email you deals for various different flights, hotels, car rentals, and other travel-related deals.
14 Avoid high season
If you can avoid the hustle and bustle of high season, then you will also avoid paying high prices for flights, hotels, and activities. The time in which high season occurs will vary depending on the location (i.e. flights to tropical destinations like Mexico will be cheaper in the summer months rather than the winter, since most people like to get away from the cold in the North American area). This also includes public holidays, Christmas holidays, and spring vacation for students, when a majority of people choose to travel.
If you are able to travel during off season, you will save a ton of money on pretty much everything. From flights to hotel rooms to activities, and everything in between, you will spend a considerably less amount than you would travelling in high season.
And saving money isn't the only benefit of travelling during low season. Less people means that popular tourist spots will be less crowded and therefore, more enjoyable. After all, we go on a holiday to get away from the craziness of our own lives, and we don’t want to feel that way once we get there. The best part is, you can get that perfect insta shot without a million people crowded around you (I know you were thinking it too). As I always say, do it for the gram.
13 Choose activities that are free
Wanting to do a lot of activities doesn’t necessarily mean you have to break out the wallet for everything. Research free things to do in your destination of choice, and I guarantee a ton of options will pop up.
Outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, waterfall hunting, and (my personal favourite) lying on the beach, are all activities to fill your day that don't cost a dime. Spending as much time as you can outdoors and taking in the surroundings of your destination is the only way to spend a vacation. The great thing about mother nature is that she provides her beautifulness for free.
Other activities include free-entry museums, exploring the monuments of the city, and strolling the streets by foot. You can witness so many things that a city has to offer without breaking out the piggy bank.
12 Two words: free amenities
What do we want? FREE STUFF! When do we want it? NOW!
Your hostel or hotel will likely offer various free amenities such as free surfboard and bike hire, complimentary breakfast, or shuttle services. And of course, if you ‘forget’ your toothbrush or toothpaste, make sure you ask the hotel for those items instead of forking out the cash for them. Many travellers don’t even bother packing certain toiletries if they know they are staying at a hotel that will provide them. Some hotels have upped their game by lending items such as hair straighteners, travel adapters, workout clothing, and phone chargers.
If your hotel offers free breakfast, make sure you take advantage. I mean, it's free food. At the very least, they will probably offer free coffee. Almost every hostel I have stayed in has offered complimentary coffee for guests, so there is no excuse that you are not staying in a fancy hotel.
Make sure you do your research before hand to find out what the hotel offers you, and don’t ever be afraid to ask the employees for anything you may need. It’s all built into the cost of the room, right? Yep, it actually is.
Many people don’t realise that these free services and amenities are part of the price that you are paying nightly. So, why wouldn’t you take advantage of the things you have technically already paid for?
11 Work on an organic farm in exchange for accommodation
WOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a great way to earn free accommodation—but you’ll have to work for it! If you’re willing to get your hands a little dirty, there are a ton of WOOFing opportunities in pretty much every country.
Usually hosts ask for 4-6 hours of work in exchange for a bed and food, and they are often quite keen to teach you new skills and share their lifestyle. The goal for hosts is to provide the opportunity to learn more about organic/biological growing and farming, therefore spreading awareness of sustainable ways of living.
Some hosts may make a living off their land, and some are even communities and eco-villages that consider this lifestyle a way of life.
The site makes it very easy to search for hosts based on your destination and dates, and the length of your stay at the farm is negotiated directly between you and your host. It can be as short as two days or as long as two weeks. Some long-term travellers even stay for months at a time as a way to stay in a destination for longer without hurting the wallet.
From working on a rice and coconut farm in Thailand, to a small beach-front farm in Costa Rica where you can work on your Spanish, the options are limitless!
10 Exchange your services on Workaway
Similar to WOOFing, Workaway is a way in which you can exchange your services for food, accommodation, and a cultural experience. There are endless volunteer opportunities all over the world, depending on your interests and experience.
From yoga retreats in Mexico, sustainable farming and vegan cooking classes in Australia, teaching english in Vietnam, to vineyard work in rural southern Italy—there is literally something for everyone and anyone.
Volunteer for a husky tour company in Norway, where you can help guests with the expeditions and, most importantly, play with the adorable 4 legged members. This is just one of the many unique experiences that you can be apart of, and you don't have to have any crazy talents or experience to participate.
Workaway is not merely volunteer work, it is a way in which you can fully immerse yourself in the way of living and learn new skills to take with you for the rest of your life. You are getting so much more out of the experience than just the free food and stay. But hey, it’s a bonus. What better way to save money AND get an authentic experience where you are staying? Win, win!
9 Take care of some furry friends
You’re on vacation. You miss your pets terribly. You aren’t sure how you are going to cope with being away from them. Cue the separation anxiety.
While I don’t have a magical solution for you to be able to bring your pets abroad with you, I can tell you about a vacation-scenario where you can stay in someone else’s house while taking care of their furry friend. AND for free. Yes, this exists.
There are actually people that will let you stay in their house while they are away on holiday in exchange for you taking care of their cat, dog, farm animals, and probably every other animal you can think of (I'm sure someone has an emu as a pet).
If you’re an animal lover, this is an absolute dream come true. If you think about it, by getting free accommodation, you're essentially being paid to hang out with some furry pals. You’re welcome.
8 Camp under the stars
Calling all nature lovers! If you enjoy roughing it and don’t mind the lack of Wi-Fi connection (which to be fair, we all could use), camping is a great way to save money while travelling. From beachside to mountain peak campsites, if you do your research you will likely find a ton of options in your destination of choice. Who doesn’t love waking up to nature, with the sound of birds chirping and a friendly monkey coming up to your tent to say good morning? Well, hopefully friendly.
Camping will provide you with an experience that no hotel can, and will without a doubt give you a totally unique experience. No explanation necessary. Make sure you do your research in advance to make sure you are safe and up to date with all of the camping regulations, and be sure to have a backup in case the weather turns sour. We’ve all been stunk in rainy camping weather and we’ve all been scarred for life from it.
Regardless, if you have the option to sleep in a tent or camper van, take advantage!
7 Walk, walk, and walk some more
Instead of opting for a taxi or bus, try to walk everywhere that you can. You will not only walk off all of that bread and pizza you are eating in Italy (because you WILL have an all carb diet), but you will save those few extra dollars that tend to add up over a holiday. At the time, it never seems like you are spending money on Uber when its through an app, until you look at your credit card statement and somehow those rides have racked up to hundreds of dollars over time. We've all been there.
Walking everywhere also allows you to take in all of the sites and visit all of the little hidden gems you come across while exploring the streets and hidden alleyways. Take your time and absorb all that your surroundings have to offer. You're on vacation, so why are you in a rush?
6 Bargain and barter while shopping
In many countries, especially areas like South-East Asia, bartering your way through your shopping trip is a must. If a local gets the sense that you are a foreigner (which it’s probably pretty obvious that you are), they will almost always skyrocket the price, because they know a lot of people will be willing to pay for it and not bother to bargain.
The number one mistake that foreigners make is accepting the price right off the bat and not bartering for a cheaper one. If you are reasonable, the shop owner will likely accept your counter-offer.
Not only can you barter for shopping items, but for pretty much everything else. Moped rentals in Bali. Private boat tours in the Phillipines. A night's accomodation in Bangkok. If you are a solid negotiator, this is your time to shine.
5 Take advantage of free Wi-Fi
Ah yes, we all know the value of a good Wi-Fi signal. After all, how are we supposed to update the world on our fabulous life abroad in order to make our friends as jealous as possible?
The number one thing you should look for when searching for accommodation is if they offer complimentary Wi-Fi, as a lot of places will charge a daily or hourly rate for Wi-Fi use, or will only provide internet connection in hotspot locations. If this isn’t an issue for you, then you don’t have to worry. But for a lot of people, a solid Wi-Fi connection is a must, and you don't want to be plowing through your data and get stuck with roaming charges.
If you get stuck and the place you are staying at ends up charging for Wi-Fi, you can also visit a local coffee shop or library to get your internet fix. A lot of cities also offer free internet access in central locations, so there may be no need to purchase hotel Wi-Fi if you are staying in a happening spot.
4 Use your credit card points
We don’t want to endorse the use of credit cards. Okay, maybe we do. Regardless, if you have the option to use it to pay for your vacation, you have the opportunity to collect a ton of points that will then turn into money (so you can use it to travel more, of course). If you’ve been saving your points up for a considerable amount of time, you may even be able to pay off a portion of your vacation with it.
Ah, the beauty of interest. It’s like free money! And I don't know anyone that would say no to that. Enjoy that second baguette, opt for the more comfortable seat on the plane, upgrade your 10-person shared dorm room with loud snorers and flies to a private villa, or collect those delightfully tacky souvenirs for the family at home, all on someone else's money (well, sort of).
3 Take advantage of student discounts
If you are a student, you have the opportunity to save a lot of money while travelling. Most tour companies, clothing stores, or transportation outlets (and pretty much anywhere else) won't advertise student deals, but it doesn't mean they don't offer them. It never hurts to ask.
STA Travel is a great student catered company that provides affordable tours, flights, and accommodation for students. This is a great place to start if you are a student thinking of booking a vacation. Also, make sure you always have your student ID handy while abroad, as there were countless times when I could have used it but couldn't because I never thought to bring it with me. Just because you go to school in one country, doesn't mean it doesn't have value wherever you go in the world.
2 Always come prepared... with snacks of course
Who wants to pay $5 for a bottle of water? Or that $7 grande cappuccino? Spending your money on little expenses like this adds up real quick, and can be easily avoided. Most people don’t even think about these small purchases as a big deal until the majority of your debit card history is from coffee shops and convenient stores.
If you are going out for the day, pack some light snacks for the trip, and use a reusable water bottle that you can re-fill throughout the day (mother nature will thank you for saving plastic).
If you are feeling extra committed, a great option is to pack a picnic for that midday adventure break. I mean, what better way to spend your lunch break then lounging on the grass with a homemade picnic, while people watching in the park? The answer is, nothing.
1 Create a budget and stick to it!
The biggest reason why people go over budget while travelling is because is simple: they don’t have a budget. Many people go travelling with loose plans of how much they are going to spend each day, and while you should be flexible with spending, you should also be aware of how much you are forking out each day and if that amount is going to be sustainable.
Create a budget and allow yourself a little petty cash fund for when you decide you want to spend a little extra, but don’t be blind to the amount of money you are spending. I know looking at your banking app is a scary thing for many, but avoiding it isn’t making it go anywhere!
Have fun and don’t be too strict with every dollar you are spending, but have a general outline and try to stick to it. Otherwise, if you are on a long-term trip you may find yourself unexpectedly running out of money and you’ll be scrambling to find a job, or a flight home.