go to content
Travel

38 Genius Ways To Save Money On Travel

Now you can, and will, make this your *year of adventure.*

Posted on

It actually is possible, though — you've just gotta be on your travel hustle. To help you get there, I asked some of the world's top travel writers and bloggers for their tips on how to explore on a budget.

Universal Pictures

After all, many of them actually ~live~ on the road, so they've had a fair amount of time to figure out what works.

So here are 38 tips for wandering the world when you're just a regular, hard-working person who happens to not be super loaded.

Some of the tips are for how to save money to prep for your trip, and others are about how to cut costs once you're there — but all will help you get the most out of your 2016 adventure that you possibly can.

2. Be flexible with your plans.

"If you want to travel to a certain place, be flexible about the timing. If you want to travel at a certain time, be flexible about the location. Choose one — not both."

—Tausha Cowan, The Globe Getter

3. Ask for cash or gift cards related to travel for your birthday, graduation, and each and every other holiday.

etsy.com

"People are going to be gifting something to you anyway, and everything adds up!"

—Nadine Sykora, Hey Nadine

(Pro tip: Airbnb now does gift cards. Just saying.)

4. Get an unlocked phone — or use T-Mobile.

"T-Mobile's Simple Choice plan offers its subscribers text and data in 140-plus countries at no extra charge, but if you're not a customer, there's still a way to avoid those sky-high roaming fees. Using an unlocked smartphone lets you buy and use SIM cards in each country you go to, giving you local rates that are typically a fraction of what your provider wants to charge you.

Recent Verizon iPhones have a SIM slot unlocked for international use. If that's not for you, call your cell provider and ask about getting your phone unlocked — you may be able to do it for free or a small fee, especially if you're off contract or close to it. Failing that, cheap but decent Android smartphones can be purchased unlocked for under $200 — which could easily be less than your roaming bill!"

—Dave Dean, Co-Founder, Too Many Adapters

6. Set up an automatic travel savings account at your bank.

"I keep my savings account invisible/inaccessible from my internet banking so that I never have the temptation to transfer money over and spend it. Accessing the money would mean physically going to a bank to make the transaction, and I've never been tempted enough to do that. I only use it for travel."

—Alexandra E. Petri, The Write Way Around

7. Work out a credit and debit card strategy, so you won't be charged any foreign transaction fees when you're abroad.

"When I'm traveling, I always bring my Charles Schwab debit card. Not only does Charles Schwab not charge you foreign ATM withdrawal fees, it refunds you any money that foreign ATMs charge you by depositing a lump sum into your bank account at the end of the month.

I also bring a minimum of two credit cards. I particularly like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, as it gives you double the points on food and travel, and of course doesn't charge international transaction fees."

—Ashley Fleckenstein, Ashley Abroad

8. Request your time off from work starting in the middle of the week.

big.assets.huffingtonpost.com

"That way, you can take advantage of cheaper airfares. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are often the cheapest days to fly, so you can save hundreds round trip just by hacking your vacation schedule."

—Shannon O'Donnell, A Little Adrift

9. Subscribe to email alerts for "mistake fares" and flight deals, particularly from Secret Flying and The Flight Deal.

"You can narrow down your preferences to flights departing from certain countries, and they'll send you an email when a deal pops up. Thanks to these email alerts, I got my mother a $480 round trip ticket from Vancouver to Hong Kong!"

—La Carmina, travel TV host and blogger, La Carmina

10. Try using the search engine Rome 2 Rio.

Photorevelation / Getty Images

"Possibly the best transport search engine in the world, in my opinion. They'll tell you how to get to your destination by all transport methods, and tell you straight up which is the cheapest!"

—Alice Teacake, Teacake Travels

11. Before booking a round-trip flight, look at the cost of two one-way flights. Sometimes it turns out to be cheaper!

—Tausha Cowan, The Globe Getter

12. Or try out "hidden city ticketing."

NBC

"Hidden city ticketing is based on the idea that airline fares are priced based on market demand, not distance traveled, so booking longer routes can save you money than booking direct. For example, if I wanted to fly NYC to Denver, I might book NYC -> Denver -> Calgary and just skip the last leg. If you don't want to do the research yourself, there's an app called Skiplagged that does the work for you.

Keep in mind that, to be safe, you should book two one-way tickets instead of a round-trip ticket, as most airlines will cancel your return trip if you don't complete the first."

—Jessie Festa, Jessie on a Journey

13. Or a "free extended stopover."

"If you like to get creative when booking your flights, research multi-leg flights to see where you can go without having to pay extra. For example, a round-trip flight from L.A. to Cancun might have a one-hour layover in Miami as part of the trip. Try searching for a multi-leg flight, flying from L.A. into Miami, then a few days later flying from Miami to Cancun. Then, instead of returning directly to L.A., you can try adding a leg from Cancun to Mexico City, then Mexico City to L.A..

This strategy works all over the world, and often, you won't have to pay any difference in fare since those stops are considered layovers. I've been able to book month-long trips with multiple destinations using this method."

—Kiersten Rich, The Blonde Abroad

14. Travel during "shoulder periods."

Annie Daly

"There are times in the travel industry called 'shoulder periods,' which are basically off-peak times. Like, when kids go back to school (September), after New Year's (early January), and just after Spring Break (April). Airlines and hotels often give big discounts on airplane seats and hotel rooms during this time, since it's not a popular period to go.

Shoulder periods change in different parts of the world, so choose your destination by watching for online deals, and following hotels and airlines on Twitter, where they also release last-minute deals."

—Stefanie Michaels, CEO of Adventure Girl

15. Use Facebook in a big way.

"Remember, friends of friends are often people who will warmly open their door to you — so get connected with people from your past and present, and cut out all that expensive accommodation. Yeah, it might cost you a dinner and a few beers, but how good is that! Plus, since you're living local, you won't feel like just another tourist — and you'll make and keep friends for life."

—Dan Akmens, Dear Mum

16. If you're a big reader, buy a Kindle.

Flickr: needoptic

"It's worth investing in one so you never have to pay a premium for English-language novels."

—Stephanie Yoder, Twenty-Something Travel

(Bonus: You save room in your suitcase, since you're not packing any physical books, except, most likely, your journal.)

17. Bring your own airport snacks.

"This takes some at-home prep time, but packing your own smoosh-resistant food for the airport/flight before heading out the door will save you significant bucks — especially because, once you pass through security, food prices can more than double."

Check out these 25 make-ahead snacks that are perfect for traveling for all the munchie ideas you need.

Emma Yardley, freelance travel writer

18. Or invest in a Priority Pass for the airport.

"The pass gets you into 850-plus airport lounges around the world, with the base tier being $99 for the year and $27 per lounge visit, and the top tier being $399 for the year all inclusive. Bringing a guest for all tiers is always $27 per person. When you think about how much food, booze, and Wi-Fi cost at airports anyway, you're paying a very similar price but getting luxe amenities and comfortable spaces on top of it."

—Jessie Festa, Jessie on a Journey

19. Research museum pricing policies and free nights.

Luciano Mortula / Getty Images

"Many museums around the world — especially in Europe — not only offer free or discounted student pricing, but also cheaper tickets for young adults (usually up to 25 years old) as a way to encourage interest in the arts. In France, you can even get cheaper movie tickets since it's a 'cultural' experience! Other cultural institutions have a policy of 'suggested donations,' although it can be misinterpreted as the ticket price.

For example, you can get into the Metropolitan Museum of Art for only a $1 donation. And many museums also offer a free night once a month; find out if your visit overlaps. If there's a language barrier, do some research on the website (hooray for Google Translate!) before you arrive."

—Christine Amorose, C'est Christine

20. Do as the locals do, and catch public transportation everywhere you go.

"Buses, minivans, crappy trains, 17 people in a tuk-tuk ... whatever it takes to get around. Not only is it a great way to save money, but it's the best way to see a country and get up close and personal with its people. Remember: No epic cultural interactions ever happened getting chaperoned in a private taxi."

—Jarryd Salem, Nomadasaurus

21. And take overnight trains and busses when you can.

"You'll get where you need to go, and save money on a night's worth of accommodation."

—Tommy Walker, The Wandering Walker

22. Follow the so-called "six-block rule."

i.imgur.com

"That is, never eat within six blocks of a major tourist sight. The food is double the price and half as good. Walk far away from the people and get much better food at a better price. Sites like Yelp!, Openrice, and Foursquare can help you find restaurants!"

—Matt Kepnes, Nomadic Matt

23. Don't overorder when you eat out.

"When I travel, my motto is always, 'It comes with bread.' It's a good reminder that not overordering = saving money!"

—Alicia Cooperman, traveling Ph.D. student at Columbia

24. Have a picnic in the park.

"Just pick up a variety of fruits, veggies, meats, cheeses or other local specialties from a farmers market in the city you're visiting. It's so much cheaper than a restaurant, and just as fun! Plus, the food can be absolutely delicious — not to mention traditional."

—Christine Amorose, C'est Christine

25. Boycott plastic.

Xuanhuongho / Getty Images

"Buy fresh food from farmers markets and food stands, and not packaged food. It costs less and is healthier for you. Same with water: Use a filtered refillable water bottle, and skip buying plastic bottled beverages."

—Charles McCool, travel happiness advisor at McCool Travel

26. Use ride-sharing apps.

"Everyone knows about Couchsurfing, but fewer people know about ride-sharing. Transportation is a huge expense on the road. Use ride-sharing websites like BlaBlaCar, or message boards like Gumtree to find rides with locals and other travelers to save big money."

—Matt Kepnes, Nomadic Matt

27. Hit up the morning markets.

Flickr: risastla

"You can buy cheap snacks that you can enjoy as incredible fresh meals, you can get a feel for what's being sold, and/or you can actually eat food at the market itself. It's cheap, fresh (since the turnover is so high), and a wonderful way to take the pulse of a new place."

—Jodi Ettenberg, Legal Nomads

28. Or get breakfast from the grocery store.

"It's the easiest meal to do on the cheap. Consider buying a yogurt, fruit, and pastry from the grocery store or corner shop and eating it at a local park. Bonus points if you have a mini-fridge in your hotel so you can store snacks."

—Shannon O'Donnell, A Little Adrift

29. In non-English-speaking countries, offer your language services at local restaurants.

"Specifically, if you stumble into one of those restaurants with poor translations and loads of misspellings on the menu, offer to help. Many times business owners will be happy to comp a free meal in exchange for you proofreading and editing their menu."

—Jessie Festa, Jessie on a Journey

30. Eat where the locals eat.

Flickr: avlxyz

"Rather than eating at expensive 'international' restaurants in non-Western countries, follow the locals to the places they eat. Street food and small single-dish restaurants have tastier, much cheaper food — and if there's a line of locals out the door, you've much less chance of getting sick than when you're the only person in an empty hotel restaurant."

—Dave Dean, Co-Founder, Too Many Adapters

31. Use apps to call and text back home.

"You'll save even more money by making calls and sending text messages using apps rather than your carrier's service. Skype, Google Hangouts, and others let you talk and video call anyone else who uses the app, and you can call any phone number in the world at a much-reduced rate. Hangouts even lets you dial most U.S. and Canadian numbers for free! To send text messages, get your friends on WhatsApp or Viber, and message back and forth using Wi-Fi or cell data instead of paying per message."

—Dave Dean, Co-Founder, Too Many Adapters

32. Ask the locals what something should cost, and try not to pay over that for anything from transport to food to activities.

"You can get this information directly from people working at your guesthouse."

—Kristin Addis, Be My Travel Muse

33. Buy European train tickets online directly from the official national railway sites, not from third-party agencies who take a commission.

Phbcz / Getty Images

"You can buy most European high-speed train tickets up to three months in advance, and the earlier you book, the more likely you are to find great deals. These seats will almost always be cheaper than going through another website, and they'll give you access to all the same sales and upgrades that are offered to locals."

—Tom Meyers, Editor of Euro Cheapo

34. Use Trail Wallet to help you track your finances.

"It keeps tabs on every single cent you spend while traveling. You can also break it down into categories so you can see where your biggest expenses are, and if you need to cut down next trip."

—Meg Collins, Travel Freedom Network

35. Don't wait until you're hungry to start scouting for food.

zazzle.com

"If you do, you'll probably just choose the most convenient option regardless of price. Instead, give yourself some time to shop around before your stomach starts rumbling."

—Stephanie Yoder, Twenty-Something Travel

36. Always withdraw money; never exchange.

"Your bank card will carry the best currency exchange rates, so forgo bringing wads of cash and instead withdraw local currency from the ATM as needed. And be sure to travel with a bank card that reimburses all ATM fees (like Schwab)."

—Shannon O'Donnell, A Little Adrift

37. Don't try to go everywhere on your list in one trip.

etsy.com

"The biggest costs in traveling are 1) transport and 2) accommodation. By traveling slow, you lessen the need for frequent transport — and you can also negotiate with hotels/hostels etc. for a discount because you are staying longer."

—Meg Collins, Travel Freedom Network

38. Avoid booking in advance as much as possible.

Flickr: joiseyshowaa

"The more flexible your plans, the more fun you'll have — and the more money you'll save. Rather than being forced to stick around spending money somewhere you hate, or forfeiting bus/train/flight/hotel bookings to stay longer somewhere you love, avoid booking in advance as much as possible."

—Dave Dean, Co-Founder, Too Many Adapters

Every. Tasty. Video. EVER. The new Tasty app is here!

Dismiss