How to Save Money on Travel

Most people don’t get a lot of time off and when they do, they tend not to go away. I always ask my friends and former co-workers why they this is and, almost uniformly, they always say it’s because they simply can’t afford to do so. Like most people, they see images of vacations on TV and internalize the commercials to believe that travel must be like it is on TV and therefore must be expensive. The only alternative is backpacking around in twenty bed hostels with shared showers and eating pasta.

But that is not really true. Travel can be very cheap. You can easily travel far and wide without breaking the bank.

Here are some times on how to get travel cheaply:

Airfare:

Since flying constitutes one of the largest portions of someone’s budget, it’s important to find ways to fly cheap. Most cities have a smaller airport with lower landing fees. This savings is usually passed onto you and why budget airlines don’t fly into major airports. Moreover, book your flight 6-8 weeks in advance or look for last minute special deals. Buying your flight 6-8 weeks ensures that airlines don’t have you over a barrel. If you book your flight too soon, then airlines know you need it. If you book to early, airlines hedge their bet against rising costs and keep prices high.

Accommodation:

I never stay in hotels unless Priceline can get me a rock bottom price. Why? They are never the cheapest (and sometimes the cleanest) option. Hostels cater to all ranges of travelers and are not simply for backpackers in 20 bed dorm rooms. Don’t over look them if you can’t find a hotel deal. You can find hostels with private rooms, free Wi-Fi, free breakfast, showers, and TV for cheaper. In NYC, a private room in Times Square is $90 per night. The cheapest one star hotel without Wi-Fi or breakfast? $110 per night. And who really wants to stay at a place like that!

Sightseeing:

It’s important to do lots of research and visit the local tourist office. Don’t use a guidebook. Guidebook information is outdated and doesn’t give you any tips on current deals. I go to travel blogs, city tourism websites, Yelp, and Tripadvisor. These sites have the current information on what is good, bad, and on sale. Additionally, tourist offices also know the latest special events and usually have a few discounts available for visitors.

Eating:

Eating out every meal is expensive. One way to save money is to eat out at big restaurants during lunch time as lunch specials offer a much better value than dinner. It’s nice to have a fancy dinner but a fancy lunch is just as good and much cheaper. Moreover, you can head to the supermarket and pick up some sandwiches. Supermarkets are a great way to find out what the local diet is about. What kind of meats do they like? Fish? Junk food? It’s amazing the variety of foods you can see on shelves that you don’t have back at home.

Saving money while you travel just requires you break out of the “travel is expensive” mindset. Locals don’t live for hundreds of dollars per day and you don’t have to either. Simply live like a local and you’ll be able to save yourself a lot of money when you travel.

Matthew Kepnes has been traveling around the world on a budget for over three years. He’s been to Europe, Asia, Australia, and Central America. You can find out more at his website, Nomadic Matt.  If you want more travel tips, photos, and stories from his upcoming 3 month trip to Europe, you can also subscribe to his RSS feed.

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Anthony
8 years ago

I’ve spent a few nights sleeping on a bus station floor – that saved a bit of money! ;P

Mike
8 years ago

Here’s one tip: Buy an entertainment book or get groupons of the city you are going to travel to.

Gerard
9 years ago

More cheap travel tips, some more extreme-frugal than others…
1. Many hostels have (shared) kitchens. Combine that with a trip to the market (especially somewhere like Barcelona) and you’ve got truly great food and a place to sleep for under $50 a night.
2. Before you go, check online for free or discounted days at museums and galleries.
3. Use local transit. Meet people. Take longer, but have fun. Many cities now have excellent cheap public transportation to/from the airport, and almost all have good websites where you can research trips (and day pass options) before you go. (Brilliant bus ride: the 534 Malibu in LA!)
4. Check out universities. Cheap summer accommodation (often apartment-style), fun pubs and concerts, usually a cheap/ethnic restaurant/brewpub neighbourhood nearby.
5. Most cities have one or more free newsweeklies. Check out their websites (or the paper when you get there) for cool concerts, festivals, and clubs.
6. You don’t have to have the Authentic Traditional Experience every second of the day. Go to a Vietnamese restaurant in Paris, or a Turkish one in Germany.
7. Consider trains or buses for shorter-distance travel. Trains are so civilized.
8. Ask your more experienced air traveller friends to explain “hidden city ticketing” and “fuel dump” to you.
9. Read between the lines on negative hotel reviews. Many middle-class Americans freak out at hotels near working-class or ethnic neighbourhoods. Many South Americans find typical North American service industry behaviour “rude”. Many, many travellers give negative reviews to hotels that charge for parking, or those whose cheapest rooms involve shared bathrooms. If you’re not those people, why let them stop you from picking up a travel bargain?
10. Don’t assume these kinds of tips don’t apply to you just because you’re not “backpacker age”. I do all these things, and I’m 52! And I’ve done many of them with kids…

BC Traveller
11 years ago

I agree with your airfare tip. I find that it’s smart to book airfare in advance if one is travelling in next 3-6 months but if I am taking a shorter trip, say flying from Vancouver to Kelowna then I usually wait for seat sales. West Jet and Air Canada often compete to get their seats booked last minute.

: Love your tips.

@Nomadic Matt: I beg to differ on your loyalty program view. I’ve seen that if one is not a frequent traveller then these won’t be beneficial + you’ll be tempted to stay at the same place which might inhibit you from exploring other options (which might actually be cheaper)

Check out few more tips:
http://www.britishcolumbiatours.com/2009/09/how-to-save-money-on-your-next-bc-trip/

jassica masson
11 years ago

hi:)
i hope that you will all be all rute anyways
how to save money is one the most frequenlty self asked question by every one in this world
so in view point one should spent the money wether he is in travel or not where its need is the most and their is no other way except to spend the money
and try to be live in natural not to be very lexurious while travelling eat healthy food but in limit
in that’s all and spend less and save more

Save Money Hound
11 years ago

Good tips. Agree that hostels are great for a variety of travellers. If you are going to book a hotel, try booking the night before using one of the last minute accommodation websites, if you don’t mind leaving it late. Some great discounts to be had as by that time the hotels are usually wanting to get rid of their remaining vacant rooms at a discounted price.

mattyfu
11 years ago

A few things.
If you do a lot of traveling or know which airline you’re booking with you can find gift certificates/credits for sale on ebay at a fraction of the actual value.

The going to the market (especially if it’s an outdoor farmers market) tip is an awesome one because it really gives you a chance to see the local culture.

Depending on the place the price of all inclusive vs non may be worth looking at, when we were in mexico the only meal we typically ate at the resort was the breakfast and sure we drank and drank but if we could have stayed at a nicer hotel for $50 a night less it would have evened out.

Lots of cruise lines have a cola card that you have to buy and they are really expensive that let you have unlimited pop, me and my sister got sent on a cruise as a graduation present and we were both really broke at the time so we spent a couple days making our own iced tea for mix until we got to a port that had a Wal-Mart right across the street, have you ever seen 2L bottles of pop go through a scanner? I have :-)

If your in a cab you might as well ask them about the area/events going on.

Kevin
11 years ago

Some more tips for saving money while travelling:
http://kevinvisser.com/1779/how-to-save-money-while-travelling/

traveling always
11 years ago

Must read article for those who loves traveling.

phi
11 years ago

I think the “live locally” mentality is especially useful! I’ve never even thought about that before. Going to Vegas quite often, I’ve never noticed anyone in the nearby convenience stores except for tourists. They must have a secret place where they can get things for much cheaper!