How to save money on travel – 40 tips & tricks

In this article you will find a top 40 tips and tricks list about how to save money on travel by categories: planning, flying, accommodations, eating, transports and at your destination.

Planning

1. Decide what you plan

Not to have a plan could be the best plan. You can decide on that. But make a decision after getting the information. Besides the experience and speaking only about money, let me say that there are many countries where you can easily go with the flow and safe a lot of money. For instance, in Asia is usually cheaper not to book upfront on Internet since you can get nice discounts bargaining at the place. However, there some paradise islands in Indonesia were the accommodations are very few and you can pay double on arrival is no have no reservation. In Nordic countries like Iceland not to book in advance could cost more than 100 euros difference per night. You choose, in fact should be your conscious decision.

2. Make your own budget and follow it

You plan, you decide. Your budget is what you have decided was reasonable to spend. If you have checked some information just plan your trip accordingly. Think about if you really need a SUV to go Canary Island instead a regular small car or if makes sense to pay 20% more for your flight just not to wake up two hours earlier. At your destination, you must have in mind what is the average per day you can spend and fix a limit per day over it in order not to destroy the average of a whole week in only one crazy night.

3. Use brokers to compare prices

For flight tickets, accommodations, car rentals or even for insurances. Check always different options and use websites or apps that compares the prices in between all the options available. If you want to book with them you will pay a commission, if you don’t want to book with them you already will have the information. For car rentals check our article about tricks and solutions to deal with car rental companies.

4. Be flexible with dates and destinations

If you look for a concrete departure day or destination you will get less options. If you want both, concrete day and destination even worse. Probably you will pay much more comparing with if you could be flexible and have more options to choose. Open your mind, there are many places in the world where you can achieve the same travel experience you are looking for in the concrete place you have in mind.

5. Choose and compare by experience

When the traveller is looking forward to go to a destination usually is because expects a kind of experience. Meaning rich culture and nice food or perfect diving spots, for instance. Check the places in the world matching with the criteria you want and compare. There are amazing beaches on the French Côte d’Azur but Southern Spain is same quality level and cheaper.     

6. Travel off-season

If you have a concrete destination check which is it’s the less demanded season to go. In Europe, for instance, we use to have vacations in our summer meaning July or August but in Argentina or Chile those months are their winter. Travel off season is always cheaper since this world is ruled by offering and demand. Besides the money, visiting places off season is very worth because of the more real local experiences you get.

7. Use travel friendly banks

It is very annoying to pay commissions to get cash from ATM’s. Even worse if you are in a country where commissions are really high, like Argentina or some other countries in South America. In some locations, you can only withdraw a limited small amount of cash per transaction. If you want more cash you will need to pay double. It can be painful also to discover that your bank is charging for transfers if you need one. Not to mention if by any of its non-demanded security policies they decide that you cannot operate from your location when you really need your money. There are many options of travel friendly banking to cut down your expenses. Check here some of those.

8. Choose places where your currency is an asset

Obviously is not the same in terms of money to travel to Norway than to Indonesia. Establish your priorities first. If you want to enjoy extraordinary landscapes, choose Kyrgyzstan instead of New Zealand if you want to save money. There countries that can offer the same you are looking for and much cheaper. Investigate, compare and decide.

Flying

9. Consider secondary airports

Low cost flights made a revolution that included secondary airports in the spotlight of travellers. Milano via Bergamo or Rome via Ciampino crashed down the prices of the connexions between many European countries and Italy. Flying to London is clearly cheaper if you skip Heathrow.  

10. Stop hating stopovers

Transoceanic direct flights are nice but can be overpriced. It is possible to find cheaper options to any destination with one stopover. If you go very far away makes sense to get off the plane and get out of the airport, even for some days, and take the chance of visiting something new, probably very different from your final destination.

11. Forget about your car to go to the airport    

To ask a friend for the favour, to catch a bus, even a taxi or going by motorbike if it is possible to park it there for free. Any option is cheaper than to park your own car at the airport.  

12. Check if your luggage fits the airline policy

Many airlines apply extra fees if you show up at the boarding gate with more weight or bigger size than allowed. Many times you will see they are flexible, but some others they won’t be. And nobody warns upfront about what will be the procedure that day.  

13. Follow airlines discounts

You can easily receive the airlines offers by mail. You can even subscribe to get them. Take a look always, there will some that will match with your interests. There days were it is cheaper to book and there are worth promotions. Be quick and ready for when an airline decide to promote a new route. If an airline decides to start with a route already covered by another they usually fight with prices to get the clients and be hegemonic on that route. That will be your moment, just take it.

14. Open your eyes to disaster opportunities

When something wrong happens in a country, uninformed tourists got immediately afraid and the bookings decrease dramatically. An earthquake, a terrorist attack in a remote area, can have a big impact on the tourism since people associate the whole country with a sometimes non-existent general problem. Get the correct information and if an earthquake happens in a country once a decade probably, it will not happen again in a month. We do not wish a disaster to no one, but if happens you will not be doing nothing wrong to choose a cheaper ticket to go there and spend your money in the local businesses.

Accommodations

15. Think you what you really need

Are you going to be sightseeing all the day long and you will probably arrive to your room exhausted and ready to fall asleep? Why to pay then for a gym, a Japanese garden and a Finnish sauna? That makes sense if you want a relaxing vacation in which you plan to be out of the hotel just a couple of hours per day.  

16. Negotiate discounts

In many countries, especially Asia and Africa, is possible to ask for a discount on the official price. Make sure it makes no sense to book in advance and just go there and try. Off season and in areas with a lot of accommodations they know that if the neighbour offers a better deal you will stay there and they room is empty. If you shall stay for some nights, ash first how much is the place per night and ask for a better price if you stay longer.

17. Use ‘stay for free’ options

There are plenty of options to stay for the night for free. Such as Couchsurfing or any kind of paying with work accommodations. You can take a look on Google and decide. Just mind that all these options are not free hotels, you have to do your part of the deal respectfully.

18. Swap your own house

Swapping houses is a very convenient option for some families. You can use some providers of this service on Internet. It works with a profile that you need to create and fill for yourself and your property. Later on you will be able to send and receive requests for swapping.

19. Try hostels

Hostels are perfect for backpackers. You share and you join. For sure you can make friends, get information, some help if you need it and fun. They are usually cheaper than other kind of accommodations and they have all what the traveller needs to go further at that point. Information, tickets, contacts. Especially in Asia are really worth since you will find there real authentic specimens of your species for a budget.

Eating

20. Eat local

Food is part of the experience. Who is not into enjoying a good meal? Since locals choose a concrete dish is because makes sense to choose it. If not, they had been eating something different, right? Take the advantage of their local knowledge and just eat what locals eat and do what locals do. Ask them for local dishes or restaurants, observe where they go, which places are popular and enjoy. Ah! By the way, local food uses to be cheaper than pizza.

21. Big lunch and skip dinners

Lunches are easier to digest and provides energy for all the rest of the day. Usually a lunch is cheaper than dinners and with a great lunch who needs a proper dinner.

22. Enjoy great included breakfasts

Sometimes buffet breakfast are so good. Make sure that it makes sense to include breakfast in your booking (sometimes it is cheaper to have breakfast anywhere else outside). If you decide to include it enjoy it and you will spear one of your day meals.

23. Carry with some food

In some countries it makes sense to carry your own stuff. Some snacks for long bus journeys, some tea in a thermos in a rented car, a sandwich for the airport. Just figure out what is worth to carry, you don’t need to fight for every cent to the detriment of your whole experience.   

Transports

24. Travel during the night

Nigh trains are romantic. Night buses… well, they try to be. When to go from location A to location B in your trip is just a something you must do., travel during the night saves money and spare time. You would not pay for the accommodation and you will arrive to your destination while sleeping. There many options of night transports everywhere. Just decide if you want to enjoy the journey during the day or it is much worthy just to arrive to your destination directly.

25. Walk a lot

Walking is the best way to discover any place. You won’t regret the experience if you include a lot of walking in it. Since you walk you don’t pay any transport and you will get very fit. Not to mention that during your stroll you will be able to discover additional new places and get the local vibe.

26. Take local buses from the airport to city center

There is usually a local way to reach the city center everywhere. The airport workers and regular local people normally use this transportation. It is often a bit more hidden than the touristic ways of arriving to the center but you can always ask and figure out where to catch it. The price of these local services, commonly buses, makes a big difference comparing with private shuttles or taxis.

27. Check Uber instead of taxis

In some countries, Uber is very effective and very cheap. Check Uber app to figure out the price of a route and decide by yourself if that makes sense for you. For instance in Warsaw makes no sense at all to use any other transport but Uber.

28. Taximeter or fixed price upfront

You should never get into a taxi without knowing how much it will be if you are not sure that taximeters are trustworthy. Taxi drivers’ tricks are legendary almost everywhere. There are exceptions, of course, like in Iran where they are honest for real. However, there are cases like Turkey where even with a taximeter you will need to argue hard just to take a small scam instead of a big one. This rule applies for Asian tuk-tuks, especially in Thailand, and African minivans.

At your destination

29. Know where to get trustworthy information on the go

No matters what kind of trip you are doing or what your destination is. Neither which is your usual way of getting updated: blogs, travel book guides, etc. You should know on the go how to check your information sources. Disinformation means expensive while you are travelling. Especially backpacking you will have many situations that were not on your plan: non-working transports, accommodations cancelled, emergencies. You will have to take your decisions then, don’t let all in luck’s hands.

30. Never change money at the first contact points

Anytime you cross a border you will catch up with official exchanging bureaus, unofficial money changers, ATMs or even random persons who offer the best deal for you. Don’t trust none of them. Just go some kilometres away to the first town or get out of the airport and the deal will be much better. If you need some cash just change the less you can at the Airport or check the ATM’s commission before withdrawal. About airports I have only seen in country among the more of eighty I have visited in which was the cheapest to exchange at the airport: Iran.

31. Bargain hard   

Respectfully but hard. In the countries where bargain is a tradition nobody will be offended if you try. The other way round, if you don’t try they won’t regret (there are always laudable exceptions) to make you pay double since they consider us richer. In those countries, sellers or tuk-tuk drivers usually say at least 30% more, at the first try, from the final price they expect to get. There are some cultures and individual persons everywhere who tell even three times more. A good technic that works is not to buy or accept the service of anyone till you know what the lowest price for a concrete thing is. To get this information bargain till the seller is giving up and go. If the seller or taxi driver is not coming after you with more offerings you have rich the limit. Do that two or three times and you will know what the real price is for something.  

32. An app for every need

Nowadays we can find an app for everything. Just use technology to get information on the go, to be updated about prices, to get discounts or compare services. Using some free apps you won’t need to buy books and you will get updated about every topic you may need.

33. Go to Museums in the free days

Check the Museums website to figure out which are the free or reduced fee days or hours. For instance in Barcelona all the public museums and many private ones are free the first Sunday of every month and many of them also some afternoons. You will find this pattern on different days or hours in many cities.

34. Look for free activities

Free tours, free entry festivals, local celebrations and a lot more. Check the official websites of you destinations. Usually the town hall official sites have an agenda on their homepages where you can find some of these activities. Spectacular sunrises, viewing points, parks, markets, beaches or volcanos.  With a bit of imagination you can figure out how to spend good time for free.

35. Never pay for souvenirs

The best souvenir is what will remind you later on about your nice experience. A black rock of an Icelandic beach, a label of a bottle of wine or even, a Jewish kippa provided by an old man at the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem. Anything but to a buy an I love London mug.  

36. Bring your discount provider cards

In many tourist spots, museums, archaeological settlements, etc. they accepted id cards from some professional groups or similar to provide reduced ticket fares. Journalists, students, professors or even unemployed persons. I have received a discount in Ethiopia with my library ID card from Barcelona. Just bring every card might work and ask at the place.

37. Don’t trust random information or offers

Always remember that you have a plan. If you have double-checked the information you had don’t trust who is nicely approaching to you to gently inform about something. In morocco they will constantly say to you that this or that  street is dead end, in Egypt that your taxi driver is very dangerous or in India that your hotel is close because a random natural disaster. Immediately after someone will offer to you a magic solution for your non-existent problems for money.

38. Stay away from being cheated

As a tourist, you can be a target of very imaginative tricks. There are many and too diverse to summarise them on this post. However, there is a rule to avoid mainly all. The rule of who approached to whom. That rule works this way, 95% of the population of everywhere is good and trustworthy, so if you need information or a service and you go to them to ask probably you will catch up with a good person who is not interested on cheating you. Otherwise, the 5% of the bad people they might want something from you, mainly your money, and those are who approach to you pretending to help on something. So, interact as much as you want and enjoy that but better choose with whom and put an eye on those ones that offer something in the very convenient moment.

39. Ask locals where to do everything

Locals aret he best information source and the most updated one. Ask them and take the avantatge of their knowledge about what makes sense or not on the go. They can inform you about transports, food, local history, traditions, what to do or the best ways of enjoying anything.

40. Sharing is a good idea

You can join other travellers to share some costs like taxis or rented cars. Even to cook together and save some money on food. In hostels, you can find ways of sharing costs about what it makes sense at the area. Be open minded and friendly, sharing is not only good, is also fun.

4 Replies to “How to save money on travel – 40 tips & tricks”

  1. Excellent! And very useful too!

    If I had known earlier, I would have saved quite a bit of money, especially in currency exchange fees. Your list of options is very complete. Just add that, in many countries, eating at local markets is a good way to save money, learn about local customs, and perhaps meet people. Another good option, especially in expensive countries, is to go to university canteens. True: the food is usually not really good, but the prices are very affordable and, in addition, students can provide us useful information about the place we are visiting… including which are the best ways to save money.

    Una abraçada!

    Lluís

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