Travel is one of life’s greatest luxuries. While it can be nice to treat ourselves to an annual or semi-annual retreat, by saving a few extra bucks here and there you can make sure that there’s less time that passes between this vacation and your next. Thanks to online booking sites, many of us don’t seek the expertise of a travel agent, instead relying on the recommendations of a friend or Trip Advisor reviews, and for the most part this has helped make travel a little more accessible for all of us, but there are still ways we can make it even cheaper.
We all know that the cost of travel goes beyond the price of a flight, or even the cost of our hotel room. It’s all the little details and add ons that can come back and bite us the following month when our credit card bill comes in and our bank account balances are drained. Much like the Scouting Motto, “Always be prepared” (and that includes reading the fine print), vacationing on a budget is about smart strategies and doesn’t need to be a lengthy or time-consuming task. By incorporating just a few of these lesser known ways of saving money, and nipping travel money wasting in the bud, maybe your next vacation will come in under budget.
25 Waste of money: Eating On The Main Drag
Tourist hotspots know that they have people who are looking for something convenient and near all the local attractions, and they set their rates accordingly. If you're eating next door to a famous museum or Times Square, you’re going to pay for it. Try using crowdsourcing websites to find high quality, highly rated restaurants, that will appeal to your taste buds, and your budget.
If you run into a local, instead of asking them where you should eat (because they’ll likely list off some of the biggest tourist restaurants) ask them their favourite places to dine.
24 Waste of money: Relying On Roaming
While UK locals were recently freed of roaming charges wherever they travel in the European Union, the rest of us aren’t so lucky. Before you go on the road, contact your mobile provider to work out the best rate options for your needs while away, and also make sure you take the few minutes to hook into the free Wi-fi provided wherever you go.
Taking a few minutes to tap into the Wi-fi at Starbucks or your hotel will save you tens if not hundreds of dollars during your trip. Other people find simply bringing a small Wi-Fi device, like an iPad to hook into their hotel’s internet each night is all they need, giving them a much-needed break from their email and other distractions on vacation.
23 Waste Of Money: Taxi rip offs
Many major cities offer Uber and other ride sharing programs, which can save you money, since you know what your trip will cost you in advance. Many tourists are (and should be) wary of taxi services, since many are known for taking tourists for the ‘scenic route’ to their hotel and costing them more money. Using maps on your phone can be a great way to help your cab navigate, or sites like World Taximeter will provide you with information on how much your trip should cost.
Other cheap ways to travel and really experience the place around you include by foot or public transit.
22 Waste of money: Parking Premiums
A great hotel rate is one thing, but if you’re paying through the nose to park your car, the discount isn’t real. A simple call to the hotel in advance (before you book) to find out about whether parking is included in the cost of your stay can save you tens to hundreds of dollars from your vacation budget.
If a hotel is charging a sizable amount for parking onsite, consider a little online research to find a nearby parking facility at a lower cost, or move along to another accommodation with lower or no parking fees.
21 Waste of money: Weekend Travel Warrior
People want to maximize their vacation days and provide a buffer to get over jet lag when heading away, which is why Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the most expensive days to both fly or rent a car.
An article published in USA Today revealed that US domestic flights are cheapest on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and it’s generally cheapest to fly to and from Europe during the week, compared to heading to the other side of the pond on the weekend. The same article suggested playing with different departure and return dates to find combinations that offer the best possible rates.
20 Waste of money: Uneducated Currency Exchange
Doing math on vacation isn’t fun, but neither is getting ripped off on that souvenir or by waiting until the last minute and exchanging your cash for foreign funds at the airport. Airports are among the most expensive places to change your money, usually charging exorbitant commission rates, so search for other options, and even research what a current standard exchange rate is in the country you’re visiting.
If you need to keep a cheat sheet of the money conversion in your wallet to help you keep track of your home cash spending equivalent, it will likely help you make better decisions on everything from ordering food at that cute restaurant, or if that bargain beach towel really is a steal.
19 Waste of money: Hidden Travel Bank Fees
It’s convenient to use our debit and credit card on vacation, but it’s also easier to spend because the money we’re dishing out doesn’t feel physically real.
A study published on Value Penguin revealed, “The increased spending when credit cards are used over cash also extends to tipping at restaurants. With credit cards, customers have been shown to leave tips that are 13% larger than their counterparts who paid with cash.” On top of this many credit card companies charge around two and a half percent on spending that occurs outside of your home country.
18 Waste of money: Vacationing On A Loan
Particularly this time of year, with the holidays coming and the cold weather upon us, travel sites offer minimal down vacation deals where you pay later, often at an interest rate. It’s easy to put down the payment for a flight or an all-inclusive on your credit card and let it ride a while, but those high interest rates add up quickly.
Consider setting aside fifty, one hundred, or more dollars each month to go into a separate savings account so when vacation time comes you have the money ready to go, not debt accruing.
17 Waste of money: Rental Car Add Ons
The cost advertised to rent a car isn’t the cost that most people end up paying. Travelling with kids? You may want to bring your own car seats, as most rental agencies charge at least 20 bucks a day to use their seat. It also helps to call your insurance and credit card provider to check in on your coverage for car rentals. A lot of the time people end up paying the rental agency for coverage they already have.
Plan on adding another driver to the car rental? It might be more prudent to hire a cab for the night to give the driver a break as it often costs at least another 10 to 20 dollars each day for each additional driver added to the rental.
16 Waste of Money: Not Cashing In Travel Miles
Most people collect travel miles but give them no extra thought. Take a few minutes to understand how your credit card or travel rewards cards work. Sometimes miles expire, but can be used towards other items, like vouchers for car rentals, local sports tickets, or gift cards. Set a calendar alert to look in at your travel rewards available every three months or at the very least when you’re planning your next trip to see if there’s anything, you’re able to cash in towards your vacation.
15 Waste of money: Skipping Travel Insurance
Insurance is something we never hope we need, and sometimes begrudge paying, but it really is better to be safe than sorry. The good news is travel insurance isn’t as expensive as you might think, and some providers literally only cost a few dollars a day, which really isn’t much when you think of the alternative, huge hospital bills thanks to a ski jump gone wrong, or car accident while travelling.
Getting injured on a vacation is a real bummer but getting hurt and then spending the next six months to year paying off hospital bills is worse.
14 Waste of money: Regular Admission for Hot Spots
It’s simple math, if you want to go and check out specific landmarks while travelling, complete a little research on the admission costs and see what they add up to. Providers like City Pass offer admission to top attractions at 12 US cities and one Canadian city, and often provide front of the line perks that will let you see more and spend less time waiting.
Consider a guided tour in big cities that includes everything to help keep the planning to a minimum, so you can really experience what a specific city has to offer; often it will end up saving you money.
13 Waste of money: Not Using A Cash Back Site
Research your rewards and you could end up earning more towards your next trip.
Travel Blogger James Cave told Business Insider, “Most people could be saving between 4% and 12% on the cost of their hotels simply by using a cashback website. Hotel booking websites like Expedia pay other websites a commission for customers that they send their way. Rather than keep the commission, cashback websites like eBates and Topcashback give the cash back to you in the form of Amazon vouchers or good old-fashioned cash. It’s so easy you’ll wish you had been doing this all along.”
12 Waste of Money: No Hotel Brand Loyalty
While we’ve been programmed to believe that price comparison hotel booking sites are the cheapest way to travel, it can often be cheaper to go directly to the horses, or hotel’s mouth – particularly if they have vacancies.
Travel Blogger Veronica Hanson says, “Hotels should always be booked through the hotel website directly. Prices are almost always cheaper when booking through the hotel.” Other travel blog sites remind customers to seek out rewards with particular hotel group to enjoy points towards free or discounted accommodations, free meals, and more.
11 Waste of Money: Only Checking For Domestic Discounts
Most domestic travel discounts (Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak) we’re talking about you, are a wonderful way to book travel, but they may not be getting you the best prices available. Sure, you search, find what you want, pay and then are done, but since their search web is limited the odds of you getting the absolute best price aren’t great.
Don’t ignore those sites, simply expand where you look and consider doing a quick search on international discount providers like Skyscanner, Momondo, Holiday Pirates, or Agoda to get a better idea of what prices are out there before you book.
Also, don’t be afraid to call a hotel to see if they’ll price match a deal you find online, it’s worth a shot.
10 Stretch The Dollar: Hostel Recommended Budget Activities
Hostels aren’t just for twenty-somethings backpacking through Europe, they are a fun, thrifty, social way for everyone to travel, and don’t worry, they have private rooms as well, so you aren’t going to be sharing a bunk bed with a 19-year-old student unless that’s part of the experience you’re looking for.
Many hostel staff are employed to help provide guests with access to cheap and fun budget-friendly activities. Ask them if they have any discount codes or coupons they can hand out, or recommendations on great walkable places to eat. You might be surprised at the wonderful suggestions you get.
9 Stretch The Dollar: Hiring A Driver
Taking cabs various places can add up quickly. Consider hiring a driver for the day, which can be quite reasonable. For example, there are services in Cuba that can offer you a taxi driver dedicated to you, starting as low as around $170 USD per day.
Such services are available all over the world, with many offering small vans and buses so you can save even more money when you coordinate this travel with friends and family you are touring with to bring the cost down significantly per person.
8 Stretch The Dollar: Research Discount Travel Insurance Card
No one wants to think about getting sick or hurt when they travel, but there are ways you can save money should you find yourself experiencing some bad luck while travelling. explore what is already covered via your AAA card or credit card, as you may already have some medical insurance that you aren’t even aware you’re paying for, that you can apply on the road.
Anyone from a European Economic Area Member State or Switzerland can get this free card to allow them to receive discounted and sometimes cost-free medical care while they travel.
7 Stretch The Dollar: The Photographer Tour Guide
Anyone who works in the arts often has a side hustle. Photographers who are locals, with access to a car, may offer both driving for tourists to everywhere you want to see, and they know their way around.
Hiring a photographer who can drive you is a fantastic way to ensure you’re seeing the sights through your actual eyes and not the lens of your camera or eye-phone, all while getting fantastic quality group shots of your vacation. This makeshift tour guide will provide the ultimate souvenir: wonderful candid photos of your vacation.
6 Stretch The Dollar: Data-Free Mobile Maps
For anyone who is worried about data coverage while travelling, look no further than maps.me, which doesn’t need data to direct you to all the attractions that you can pin to your personalized travel itinerary before you leave home.
By looking at your must-sees on this map, you can plan the best possible routes, and make informed decisions on whether you walk or drive to various locations, and if you have time to return to your hotel or not for a dinner out after your day of sightseeing.
5 Stretch The Dollar: Getting Local Tour Rates
Whether you’re returning to a city you love, or want to cater your trip to personal preferences, you don’t need to see all the big attractions a city is known for and learn a lot. Look for local tour operators online and book via email. Often, you’ll pay local rates when you arrive at the tour and enjoy a different type of tour.
Get access to wineries, breweries, or walking ghost tours that will teach you about the city around you, and its history without paying the tourist premium, and experience something a little unusual.
4 Stretch The Dollar: Look For Local Bank Partners
Some banks have sister bank partners in other countries that are worth looking up. By checking out where these branches are in relation to your hotel, sightseeing and more, you can save a lot of money on service charges and currency exchange without having to carry more cash than you’re comfortable with, while travelling.
Stop into your bank before you leave home to find out a listing of their charges for anything from debit purchases to cash out of an ATM where you’re travelling so you can make frugal choices that are best for your bottom line.
3 Stretch The Dollar: Visit The Tourism Board
One of your first stops when you arrive somewhere new should be to the Tourism Board. They have their finger on the pulse of the city when it comes to festivals, hotspot closures, or seasonal hours of everywhere you want to visit. Staffed by locals who know what’s going on around them you’re bound to get better advice than you’re able to find in any tour book on the market.
They can also give you maps, brochures based on your interest, and even coupons to give you discounts on admission to various places.
2 Stretch The Dollar: Enjoying Extended Stay Rewards
It never hurts to ask! A lot of hotels or shorter-term rentals offer a discount for those staying for a longer stint, or can provide you with a room with a small kitchenette, allowing you to eat out less and save even more money, and may even give you access to laundry facilities. In town visiting sick relatives? Many hotels offer compassion rates for those visiting family in the hospital.
Vacationing for an anniversary, birthday, or your honeymoon? Many hotels will offer discounts or special bonus offers to those celebrating a milestone at their accommodation.
1 Stretch the Dollar: Befriending A Local
Not only can a local tell you all about the ‘secret’ discount hotspots and interesting places to visit on a dime, they can also offer up a couch or spare room to sleep in, or amazing travel tips. Going to Europe, look up that pen pal from middle school that you’re still social media friends with. Another popular way to save money on trips is checking out travel home swap sites that allow you to lend your home out to someone travelling while you’re away in exchange for using their regular digs as your home base.
With the advent of the sharing economy (although these types of services have been around for ages) people can offer up their home online to other prospective people looking to trade accommodations. Be sure to complete your research to make sure you’re working with a reputable site, and protect any valuables or antiques before you head out of town.