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Travel is one of the most fulfilling ways to spend your money, but it can also be expensive. You have to purchase flights, accommodation, transportation, food, drinks, tours, entertainment…it can all really add up! That’s one of the reasons that the global tourism industry was worth a staggering $1.7 trillion dollars in 2018.
But just because the travel industry is so massive doesn’t mean you can’t leverage smart ways to save yourself money. Even if you’re not a budget traveler, many of these money saving tips can also save you time and help reduce your carbon footprint.
So what are some of the best ways to save money while traveling? Since we quit our jobs to travel the world at the end of May 2019, we’ve learned quite a few tips and tricks for saving money while traveling. Here are some of our favorite ways to travel smarter and cheaper.
53 Ways To Save Money While Traveling
1. Get a LifeStraw Water Bottle
We wouldn’t dream of traveling without a LifeStraw Water Bottle. This nifty water bottle has a removable filter that filters out any of the harmful bacterias and germs that may upset your stomach. It makes it easy to drink the tap water in any country in the world! Just make sure you empty out any water in it before you go through airport security and it’s easy to travel with.
2. Book an Airbnb with a kitchen
I know, I know… Cooking dinner in your Airbnb while you are exploring an exciting new destination might sound a little boring. But think about how much healthier and cheaper it is! Use this Airbnb signup link to get $40 off your first home booking, and $15 to use toward an experience worth $50 or more!
3. Take advantage of Free Walking Tours
Free Walking Tours are the best way to learn about a new city from a knowledgable local without having to spend loads of money. Most major cities (especially in Europe) now offer these free walking tours on a daily basis.
Just google free walking tours with the name of the city that you are going to and it’s usually pretty easy to find. Free walking tours are also a great way to meet fellow travelers!
4. Use SkyScanner to monitor for cheap flights
With SkyScanner, you can monitor flights for the cheapest options. There’s also an great “everywhere” option, so you can check for cheap flights to locations around the world. It’s best to check it multiple times to ensure you’re getting the best deal. We used SkyScanner to score $231 flights from Helsinki to Bangkok! What a deal.
5. Choose less-touristy destinations
Everyone dreams of visiting Paris and Rome, but the reality is that those destinations are crowded and expensive. Instead of choosing a typical tourist destination, why not choose something a bit more off the beaten path? You’ll likely save a ton of money and have a more authentic travel experience.
6. Get an e-reader and take advantage of e-book discounts
For us, reading while traveling is a must! But carrying around heavy books in your bag sucks. That’s why we invested in an eReader–so we could carry around as many books as we want! We’ve found that the Apple Book Store always has great book sales going on, so you can get a book for as cheap as $1.99!
7. Purchase reusable bags
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve used our reusable bags when traveling. They’re great for groceries, carrying things to the beach, buying new clothes, and more. They are big money savers, especially in Europe where stores charge you for a fee for bags when you don’t bring your own. While it’s only a few cents for each bag, this adds up quickly!
We bought this 5 pack of reusable bags from Amazon and use them all the time. They have a ton of really cute prints, too!
8. Get an awesome travel credit card
There are a ton of great travel credit cards, and the right card for you really depends on how much you travel and where. Check out this great article by The Points Guy comparing the best travel credit cards of 2019.
We have the Chase Sapphire Reserve because we love the airport lounges that we get into for free with the priority pass! It also gives you 3 points for every dollar spent on travel and dining worldwide. So far the customer service has been wonderful and we highly recommend it! The Chase Sapphire Preferred is another great option since it has a lower annual fee, though you’ll miss out on the airport lounge access and earn 2 points per dollar instead.
9. Get a debit card with no ATM fees
Exchanging money is one of the quickest ways to lose money. Most exchange shops charge pretty hefty fees for you to exchange your money, so you lose money every time you need a new currency.
Instead of using exchange shops, get a debit card that has no ATM fees. This way, whenever you enter a new country you can just withdraw money from an ATM in the local currency. Voila! We ordered the Charles Schwabb debit card because it has no foreign transaction fees and it rebates you for every ATM fee that you are charged.
10. Check Rome2Rio for the cheapest ground transportation
Rome2Rio is a great comparison website for ground transportation. It’ll compare prices for traveling via bus, train, ferry, car hire, etc. to wherever you’re going. We use it a ton when we are going to more unknown destinations, since many major bus companies don’t offer routes to lesser known places.
11. Download ridesharing apps to save money on cabs
We’ve found that hailing a cab is quite often the most expensive way to get from point A to point B. Instead, try using Uber, Lyft, Bolt or similar ride sharing apps. You can also rent a bike or electric scooter from apps like Bird or Lime for very cheap! Just remember to download the apps ahead of time to avoid excessive data charges.
12. Have a picnic instead of going out for dinner
It can be tempting to eat out for every meal while you’re traveling, but this adds up fast. Instead of forcing yourself to eat in, try packing yourself a picnic and heading to a pretty park! This allows you to eat out and explore while still saving money.
13. Get a local SIM Card or a cheap international phone plan
International phone charges are a drag. To avoid racking up an absurd bill, try purchasing a local SIM card when you arrive in a new country. These can usually be purchased in airports for fairly cheap.
Better yet, get a cheap international phone plan that works in every country. We use Google Fi and get very cheap prices and don’t have to buy a new SIM card in every country we visit–it works everywhere. And yes, it does work on iPhones!
14. Use AirHelp if you European Flight is Delayed or Cancelled
When our flight from Los Angeles to Stockholm was delayed and we missed our connecting flight, it completely changed our travel plans for a day. Luckily, a friend told us about AirHelp. They helped get us nearly $1,000 in damage compensation! I know, it sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. We can’t recommend this company enough!
15. Master the 5-Ingredient Recipe
Cooking in a new kitchen when you’re traveling can be hard. It’s probably not a well-stocked kitchen, and you can hardly afford to buy a bunch of spices and basic staples. That’s why we love 5-Ingredient recipes. They are delicious and simple and cheap! Check Pinterest to find some great ones, but our favorite is this 5 Ingredient Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili.
16. Download Offline Google Maps
We use the offline feature of Google Maps every single day. It allows you to download a map of the city you’re in and access directions and maps even when you’re not connected to WiFi. This can save you loads on data charges.
17. Learn to love street food
While sitting down in a nice restaurant is great, there’s an even cheaper way to try the local cuisine: by ordering street food! Street food is common in cities all over the world, and it’s often some of the most authentic cuisine you can get in each country. Plus, it saves you loads of money!
18. Book Ahead of Time
I know, booking travel can be a stressful experience, and it’s something that most people procrastinate about. But when you book your major travel expenses (flights, accommodations) ahead of time, prices are often much cheaper.
19. Take the Bus
Often the cheapest way to travel between cities if by taking the bus. It might not be the most glamorous mode of transportation, but it will save you quite a bit of money. Try checking with major bus companies like FlixBus for cheap bus tickets.
20. Learn the art of the day trip
We’ve saved lots of money by booking our accommodations for longer and just taking a day trip to nearby cities. This allows you to get discounted pricing for staying in an accommodation for longer, while still seeing plenty of the region.
21. Pack your own food on travel days
Airport and train station food is unhealthy and expensive. Try packing yourself a sandwich and a bag of chips the night before. You’ll thank yourself for having something somewhat healthy to eat without having to spend that much money.
22. Create offline playlists on Spotify
Music is a must on long travel days. But beware of listening to Spotify with no WiFi–you can really rack up those data charges quickly! Remember to create offline playlists on Spotify the night before long travel days.
23. Book overnight travel
Flying the red-eye or taking a night bus is never fun, but often the prices are much cheaper than day-time prices. Especially when you factor in one less night that you have to pay for at a hostel, Airbnb or hotel!
24. Try Couchsurfing
Couchsurfing is a platform that allows you to stay with locals around the world for free! Does it sound too good to be true? There’s no catch! Many locals just want to meet new people and are happy to host people in their homes and show them around.
25. Volunteer Abroad
It depends on the volunteer program, but many organizations will pay for volunteers’ accommodations and food when you volunteer your time for a week or more. We recently volunteered to teach English in Slovakia with Angloville.
For the cost of a small application fee, we were given accommodations in a beautiful hotel for a week plus three meals a day. In return, we mentored people learning English which was both fun and fulfilling.
26. Don’t buy alcohol at restaurants
There’s nothing we love more than a glass of wine with dinner, but this gets expensive very fast. Instead, buy a bottle of wine from the grocery store and help yourself to a glass of wine at home. It’s just as delicious and only a fraction of the price.
27. Invest in squeezable toiletry containers
Reusable toiletry containers are a must when traveling. But don’t buy the hard ones that always end up having stuff stuck at the bottom. Squeezable toiletry containers are a bit more expensive, but it’s a sound investment because they allow you to get every last drop! Plus, they’re leak proof so you won’t have any messes in your luggage.
28. Don’t check your bag
Whenever possible, bring a bag that is small enough to be a carry-on. Fees for checking bags can be hefty, and you also don’t have to deal with the possibility that your luggage gets lost.
29. Use WhatsApp, Viber, or similar free messaging apps
Free messaging apps are your best friend when you’re traveling. Simply connect to WiFi and you’re able to message anyone in the world for free. Use these to your benefit so you don’t rack up crazy phone bills.
30. Download a currency exchange app
It can be tricky to convert a foreign currency on the spot, especially if the conversion rate is way different from your home country. To avoid being ripped off, download a good currency exchange app that allows you to convert currency on the fly. We use Xe and love it.
31. List your house/apartment on Airbnb while you travel
If your apartment or house is going to be empty anyways while you travel, why not make a little money off it? Sign up to be a host on Airbnb!
32. Buy an RFID-blocking wallet
Nowadays, it’s really scary how easy technology makes it to hack into your bank accounts. People can walk by you on the street and only bump into you for a split second and have your debit card or credit card information by using radio-frequency identification (RFID). Get an RFID-blocking wallet to prevent this from happening to you.
33. Pick a destination with a favorable exchange rate
If you live in the U.S., traveling to the UK or western European country might not be the most favorable exchange rate. Traveling to Mexico, Canada, Eastern Europe or Asia will end up being much cheaper due to the exchange rate.
34. Book directly with the hotel or hostel
Many times, hotels and hostels can offer you better deals when you book with them directly. Try calling or emailing them ahead of time–you’ll often be surprised with the deals that they can offer when you cut out the middle man.
35. Fly midweek or on major holidays
Everybody wants to fly on weekends, so flying midweek is often much cheaper since many seats go unfilled. The same is true on major holidays–the day before Christmas airports can be a zoo, but on Christmas day they’re usually deserted!
36. Bring your own meal on flights
It’s becoming more and more common for airlines to charge for meals on long flights, especially if you are flying on a discount airline. Instead of purchasing their expensive and lackluster meals, bring your own meal! We recommend bringing and instant cup of ramen noodles, because they will give you hot water for free. It’s not the healthiest meal, but it’s nice to have something warm on a long flight.
37. Walk as much as you can
This one might seem like a gimme, but it can be a big money saver. Instead of taking a cab somewhere, consider walking! It’s better for your health, the environment, and your wallet.
38. Go Camping!
Camping isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it can be a great way to save money while traveling. Campgrounds are often very inexpensive, and most come equipped with bathrooms and showers. All you really need is a tent, sleeping bag, water and food!
39. Invest in a universal power adapter
A universal power adapter is a must if you plan on traveling to other continents. Not only are the plug styles different, the voltages and frequencies are different too! We use the Foval Travel Adapter Set, which has four USB ports and two standard plugs. Just make sure to not use your hairdryer or straightening iron with it, as most adapters are not desired for anything over 200 watts.
40. Use Packing Cubes
Packing cubes are essential for packing efficiently and saving yourself from needing extra baggage. We recommended a set that has multiple sizes, such as this 5-Piece Set from TravelWise. The packing cubes make it easy to keep your clothes organized while traveling, plus it makes packing and unpacking a breeze.
41. Take advantage of Free Museum Days
Depending on the museum, there may be a free admission day anywhere from once per week to once per month. Check the websites of the museums you plan to visit to see if they offer a free museum day or any special discounts.
42. Bring Travel Laundry Detergent
If you’re staying in an Airbnb, it’s easy to filter by stays that have a washing machine. However, even if the washing machine is included, the hosts won’t always supply detergent. You can get Tide Travel Sink Packets to wash your clothes in a sink, or Tide Travel 1-Load Packets which have enough powdered detergent to to one laundry cycle.
43. Purchase a reversible jacket
A jacket takes up lots of valuable room in a suitcase, so it’s best to get one that’s reversible so you can switch up your style as desired. This one from Columbia is a great option because it comes with a hood. Alternatively, you can get one that is fleeced lined, like this one from North Face.
44. Bring a mini sewing kit
A mini sewing kit is an essential travel item. Traveling increases the everyday wear and tear that your clothes will experience, and nobody wants to leave a favorite outfit behind just because a button popped off.
We carry this little kit from Singer since it has different color threads. For only a few dollars more, this larger kit comes with scissors, thimbles, and more. Remember, if you’re traveling with only carry-on bags, make sure to leave those scissors behind.
45. Turn data off for Instagram and other apps
The easiest way to avoid data charges is to turn data off to select apps! On an iPhone, go to Settings > Cellular and then under the Cellular Data section, you can disable data to apps of your choosing. It’s easy to rack up a big data charge while mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or Reddit so it’s best to turn off data to all but your essential apps.
46. Buy it there!
When in doubt, don’t pack it! If there is anything you absolutely and truly need, you can always buy it at your destination. You’ll save yourself from the extra baggage fees at the airport and you won’t have to lug around a bag that’s way too heavy.
47. Get an expandable suitcase
Often times, you can end up coming home with more things that you originally brought. When this is the case, it’s super helpful to have an expandable suitcase. This way, you can avoid additional baggage fees by simply extending your suitcase. This tip works best when you don’t try not to use the extension while packing for the trip 🙂
48. Make sure your suitcase has a TSA-approved lock
Piggybacking on the last point, make sure your suitcase also has a TSA-approved lock. There’s nothing worse than having your stuff stolen, and this prevents that from happening. We love this stylish expandable suitcase that also has a TSA-approved lock.
49. Take advantage of continental breakfasts
If you’re booking a hotel or hostel, make sure you take note if a free continental breakfast is ordered. This can be a huge selling point, because it’s one less meal per day that you have to pay for. Plus, who doesn’t love fresh waffles?
50. Eat vegetarian.
One of the most expensive foods–regardless of which country you’re in–is typically meat. You can save a lot of money by eating vegetarian when you travel. Plus, it can help you stay healthier–especially when you replace your meat intake with veggies.
Also, quality meat isn’t always available. After we started noticing poor meat qualities in certain countries, we felt even more strongly about eating less meat. We still aren’t completely vegetarian, but we’re definitely eating less and less.
51. Take care of yourself.
When you’re traveling, one of the worst things can could happen is getting sick. It might cause expensive medical costs, or could even make you cut your trip short. Take care of yourself by eating healthy and getting a little mini exercise session in every day. That way, you’ll look good and feel food.
We each have an exercise band in our suitcase so that we can work out no matter where in the world we are. They’re great because they take up almost no room at all!
52. Drink instant coffee.
Buying a cup of coffee every morning at the cute cafe down the street might sound glamorous, but it’s also expensive. Buy a jar of instant coffee so that you can easily get your caffeine fix in the morning–all you need is hot water!
53. Put together a flying kit.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is put together a flying kit with everything you think you might want on a long flight. That way, you don’t feel tempted to buy things at the airport that cost a fortune. Chap stick, face wipes, hand sanitizer, cough drops, mints, sanitizing wipes, lotion, a travel toothbrush…anything you might want on a long flight.
Travel can easily become very expensive if you’re not careful. In our experience, eating out at expensive restaurants and moving around too quickly are the more surefire ways to spend more than you have to.
We hope that these 53 ways to save money while traveling help you keep to your budget for your next trip! Let us know what your money saving travel hacks are in the comments below 🙂