Being smart with your money is essential to any great trip. It’s important to plan ahead and save money so you don’t have to worry about being strapped for cash while you’re traveling.
Fortunately there are several ways to be mindful with your money so you can travel and visit all the destinations on your bucket list while staying on budget.
Here are proven ways to save money while traveling!
Planning ahead is essentially the biggest way to save money while you’re traveling. It gives you better control over your flight choices (searching ahead for seat sales), hotel options (advance booking discounts), car rental prices and your vacation activities.
For more budget tips, I wrote a whole post sharing my travel planning secrets to use for your next vacation.
Setting a Budget
Whether you’re planning a month long excursion or just a weekend getaway, it’s always smart to set a budget for yourself.
First, you’ll want to determine how much money you are willing to spend on your transportation and accommodation costs. Let’s say you set a budget for $500 to cover your flights, hotel and car rental.
This can help prevent any overspending. If your flights cost $200 – that means you have $300 to split between your hotel and car rental fees.
Once you determine your transportation and accommodations costs, then you can set a budget for your daily spending during your trip. For example, you may choose to limit your daily spending to $50 to cover food, activities, shopping and entertainment.
These numbers are just an example and will be dependent on your chosen destination and budget. For more tips, I wrote a whole post to help you plan and create a foolproof budget for your trip.
Booking Your Flight
The key to getting the best price on your flight is to plan ahead. Typically the best time to book is 54 days (on average) before your departure date.
Sometimes the best price is found months in advance or at the last minute, which is why I always recommend checking prices well in advance. Here are a few tips for getting a deal on your flights:
- Check rates in the morning and evening
You’ll be surprised how rates can fluctuate during the day. What you see in the morning might increase in the afternoon. I like using Skyscanner to search for cheap flight tickets.
- Compare prices for one-way and roundtrip tickets
Sometimes airlines charge more for one-way tickets, so it’s a good idea to compare prices before booking.
- Book directly through the airline’s website
Sometimes airlines offer the best price when you book directly through them.
For more tips, I wrote a whole post sharing 23 secrets to booking the cheapest flight possible here.
Booking Your Hotel
There are several effective ways to save money on your hotel accommodations. As you get closer to your arrival date, hotel prices can increase and availability might be limited.
This is why I always recommend planning ahead to ensure you find accommodations in the area you want and at a price you can afford. Here are several other ways you can save money on hotel accommodations:
- Find a deal on booking websites such as Hotwire or Priceline
For North American hotels, I highly recommend looking for deals on Hotwire or Priceline. I’ve had great success in finding luxury hotels at deep discounts on these websites. Use my Hotwire tips to know your hotel before booking.
- Consider booking through Airbnb
Prices can be more affordable than chain hotels and it offers a more local experience. (Use this Airbnb link to save $40 CAD on your next stay).
- Stay outside of the main tourist area
Sometimes the price of hotels just outside of the city can be significantly less and offer complimentary perks, such as free parking or breakfast.
For more tips, I wrote a whole post sharing 18 ways to save money on hotel accommodation here.
Booking Your Car Rental
While not all destinations require the use of a car, sometimes renting a car is the best way to get around town. Here are a few ways to save money on your next car rental:
- Bundle your flight, hotel and car when booking
Using websites like Expedia can save you up to $300 when bundling your flight, hotel and car.
- Compare prices on Rentalcars.com
Enter your pick-up location, date and time then book a car in your budget. You don’t have to enter any payment information and cancellation is free.
- Rent a fuel efficient car
This will help you save money on gas when driving around
For more tips, I wrote a whole post sharing 12 ways to save money on rental cars here.
Using Your Phone While Traveling
Our smartphones are great for snapping photos, finding our way around town and keeping in touch with family and friends while traveling.
However, roaming charges can quickly eat up your travel budget if you’re not being mindful. For tips on how to travel abroad with your smartphone for cheap, I wrote a whole post here to help you.
Searching for Deals
Searching for deals is a great way to save money while traveling. Here are some ways I like to score deals:
- Sign up with your email address at local restaurants
I signed up online at a restaurant in Orlando and received a coupon to save $10 off any entrée.
- Search online for special restaurant promotions
Some restaurants offer specials on certain days of the week. I also recommend taking advantage of Happy Hour specials.
- Check for free museum days
Many museums offer free (or discounted) entry on certain days of the month.
- Check for tourism cards
Some cities offer special discount cards that allow you to visit a variety of museums and attracts for cheap. An example is CityPASS, which provides a significant discount to city attractions in North America.
For more budget tips, I wrote a whole post sharing 70 genius ways to save money on travel here.
Getting Around Town
If your destination offers a decent public transportation system, I highly recommend taking advantage of this instead of spending money on taxis.
Many cities also offer a public transportation pass so you can ride as much as you want for a flat rate. This can be a cost effective option if you plan on using public transportation to get around town.
I also recommend checking with your hotel to see if they offer free shuttles to some of the major tourist attractions in town. Some hotels even offer free airport shuttle service as well.
Shopping & Entertainment
Before you let yourself get carried away with shopping, I recommend making a list of items that you want to purchase, such as items you can only find at your vacation destination. This will help prevent you from buying overpriced tourist souvenirs.
Here are a few ways to save money on shopping and entertainment:
- Ask about tourist discounts while shopping
These discounts are usually available at large department stores.
- Take advantage of tax refund for tourists
This is usually claimed at the airport before your return home.
- Search for deals on discount websites such as Groupon
Here you can find a variety of deals for entertainment, attractions, shopping, restaurants and more.
- Stop paying bank fees
Check to see if your bank has a partnership with a bank at your destination. Then you can withdraw money abroad without paying any foreign transaction fees.
- Take advantage of free entertainment
Lots of major cities provide free entertainment. This may include concerts, art galleries, festivals, markets, and more.
- Go on a free walking tour
Instead of paying for guided tours, many places offer free walking tours. This can be a great way to save money while still having fun.
Food & Drink
Eating out while traveling can quickly add up, especially if you’re dining at restaurants for three meals per day.
A great way to save money on food is to eat where the locals go. Avoid eating at restaurants that are catered to tourists, since the food is usually overpriced and mediocre at best.
Do some research ahead of time to find high-rated restaurants within your budget. You might even find a hidden gem just a few blocks away from the main tourist areas.
Here are several other ways to save money on food and drink when traveling:
- Cook your own meals
Some hotels or Airbnb rentals offer access to a kitchen too cook your own meals. This can be a great way to save money and eat healthy.
- Eat a big breakfast (or lunch) and have a light dinner
The breakfast and lunch menu tends to be more affordable than the dinner menu.
- Make only one meal a day at a sit-down restaurant
Instead of eating at a restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner, make only one meal a day at a sit-down restaurant. For example, when I was traveling in Europe, I would eat a granola bar for breakfast, a take-out sandwich for lunch and relax at a sit-down restaurant for dinner.
- Carry a reusable water bottle
It’s important to stay hydrated when traveling, which is why I recommend using a reusable water bottle. It’s a great way to save money and help the environment.
For more tips, I wrote a whole post sharing 20 ways to save money when eating out here.
Embracing the Local Culture
When traveling abroad, I always recommend doing your best to embrace the local culture. Not only will your trip be more fulfilling, but it’s a great way to save money too.
For example, when I was traveling in South Korea, non-Korean restaurants were expensive and hard to find. Instead, I embraced eating Korean cuisine, which was delicious and offered the best value for my money.
When visiting a new city or country, don’t be afraid to try their local items (beer, wine, food, beauty products, etc.) — they tend to be cheaper than imported products and you might actually enjoy them!
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Over to you — how do you save money while traveling?
FREE Vacation Packing Checklist
Use this blank packing checklist printable when planning your next vacation. Enjoy it!