How to save money on travel is one of the most common questions we get asked.
It’s a great question. Luckily for us, and you, we have some suggestions.
Like us, most people we know include travel high on their priority list each year, as they want to get away from life’s routines and create precious memories. But most people don’t have money trees growing in their back yards – if you do, what’s your address??
The other common question that comes up a lot is how do we get out of debt so we can travel more? Unfortunately, we’ve been there too, and it’s not a nice place to be. Thanks to our friend Jeremy Branham that challenge was discussed here with some great insights.
Whilst increased competition between airlines and the ever growing accommodation options has helped lower travel costs, more and more people are finding themselves with less disposable income to play with each year.
Where’s the fun in that?
We have a motto – Travel more. Create better memories – it’s something we are very passionate about and have been following that travel motto for the past 15 years, first solo, then as a couple, and now as a traveling family.
Some people honestly think we are millionaires being able to travel as much as we do, if only.
But it’s mostly been about making smart choices, having different priorities, and using certain strategies to save money as we go.
As they say, a dollar saved is a dollar earned and it’s better off in your pocket than theirs. Why pay more when you don’t have to!
These 52 ideas to save money on travel will be obvious to some of you, but if you’re new to travel and new to our site, I’m sure you will appreciate the heads up on a few strategies to help you save money on the road.
How to Save Money on Travel
1. Use the Free Days
Such a simple tip I know but simple is always good. Visit museums or tourist sites on free days or when they are discounted. Before you go anywhere, make sure you look on their website to find out if they offer free visiting hours or discounts.
2. Talk to the Locals
This is how we travel. We love getting insider tips from locals. It can go a long way to good advice, a friendship and even a discount. A good ice-breaker is to ask for directions or simple advice (“where’s a good restaurant?”).
3. Spend More Time in Fewer Places
We LOVE slow travel. Instead of racing from one end of a country to another, or tearing through 6 countries in 6 weeks, get to know a region well. Undertaking too many flights, bus trips, train journeys and driving long distances can really eat into your budget. So slow down, take more in, and discover all the cool free stuff. (It’s also one of our travel manifesto must.)
4. Be Flexible with Your Flight Dates
If possible, give yourself the best chance to capture any of the cheap flights when the prices fluctuate by searching a couple of days, or even weeks, either side of your preferred departure date. A few booking engines we like using include:
- Skyscanner – provides instant comparison on flight prices for over 600,000 routes.
- Kayak – another meta search site that compares hundreds of sites at once.
- Vayama – specialises in cheap international flights.
5. Adjust Your Times for Flying
Flying at unpopular hours, such as the red-eye or early in the AM increases your chance of getting discounted flights.
6. Fly on a Midweek Day
Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually the cheapest times, and try and avoid holiday periods.
7. Go Directly to the Airline Website
Once you have looked at all the flight search websites and found the cheapest price, as a LAST resort go direct to that airlines own website. Many of the airlines have lower fares that you can only get when you book online at their site, or buy an e-ticket.
8. Join a Frequent Flyer Program
Earn points towards cheaper fares, upgrades, and free companion tickets. It may take a while to accumulate points, but they CAN pay off big time. I once used my points to fly round trip from the United States to South Africa.
9. Use Your Age
Ask about student discounts at STA Travel. (if only to be young again!)
10. Stay More Than 1 Night
Many hotels, hostels and certainly apartments provide their best deals when you stay over more than one night. A few sites we like to search on include:
- Booking.com – is our first choice for accommodation. They have over 800,000 properties world wide including hotels, apartments and hostels. You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best price guarantee.
11. Call the Hotel Directly
A last minute phone call directly to a hotel, or hostel, asking about cheap rooms can prove fruitful. They don’t like having empty rooms so will discount.
12. Stay over Sunday
Many hotels receive Friday-Saturday night bookings from leisure travelers and Monday-Friday bookings from business travelers, so there can be a void on Sunday nights and again they may discount.
13. Sign Up for e-Mail Notifications
The best airfare and hotel sales can go largely unannounced. Sign up for your favourite travel brands e-Newsletters. Special promotion codes can save you money and you can also be notified of last minute deals in this way.
14. Follow on Social Media
Go and “like” your favorite travel sites on facebook and “follow” them on twitter. It’s getting more common for travel companies to release hot deals directly through their social media channels.
15. e-Newsletter Deals
We are subscribed to a few e-newsletter’s that produce a list of current deals available on the net for any given time period.
- Travel Zoo– Subscribe to their weekly FREE newsletter of their Top 20 deals – editions for different countries.
- Deal Base – Sign up for there free deal alerts. They have deals of unadvertised sales and offers you won’t find anywhere else.
16. Rent an Apartment
Apartments are the BOMB for families or those looking for extra living space and a kitchen so you can save on food. AirBnB is a good way to get low-cost vacation rentals and sublets from locals in 180 countries.
Booking.com also has a large selection of apartments.
17. Use Hotel Reward Programs
Many brands have them and you can get perks like free nights or room upgrades. The Hotels.com welcome rewards program gives you one free night for every 10 booked through them.
18. Check for Family Deals
Always ask about discounted rates, free meals for children, and an upgrade at check in – they can only say no.
19. Use Coupons
Do your research to find travel discounts and coupons for the areas you are visiting. Check out the brochure shelf in the lobby of your hotel.Visit the local tourist information offices for free maps and ideas.
Use the following:
- Tourist booklets and brochures.
- Back of supermarket receipts.
- Websites (local tourist boards and businesses and coupon sites).
20. Use Credit Card Reward Points
Check the program and benefits for your particular credit card, you might be able to use your points for accommodation costs and frequent flyer points. We currently have an AMEX card that gives us three Qantas points for every dollar spent.
To become a pro and get a deep understanding of how to accumulate and use points for flights, go and learn from these guys :
21. Stay in Hostels and Guesthouses
A great option for budget accommodation but they are not for everyone, and we have written a post about our tips for staying in hostels. Hostels are usually well located allowing you to walk and save on transport.
- In Australia consider a YHA Membership and get 10% discounts.
- Search hostels worldwide at Hostel Zoo – a free hostel comparison site.
22. Couch Surf
A great way to meet locals for a drink, a tour, and accommodation is by Couchsurfing. It connects travelers with local people in various cities that offer members a place to sleep.
WWOOF or WWOOFING stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It is a world wide network of organisations and they link volunteers with organic farmers. In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles. Learn more here.
24. House Sitting
Make yourself at home with a spot of house-sitting. House sitters provide their pet and house sitting services for free in exchange for the privilege of accommodation in the owner’s home. What a great way to save money on travel! Read more tips on housesitting here.
25. Do a Home Exchange
The home exchange strategy is possibly best for families or retired people who are looking to base themselves in another country or state for an agreed period of time. Just like the name suggests, you stay in their house whilst they stay in yours.
26. VRBO – Vacation Rentals By Owner
Vacation Rentals By Owner was founded by owners who self-manage their second homes. Vacation rentals can sometimes offer more value, space and privacy to hotels. VRBO provide an online space for homeowners to advertise their vacation properties – 130,000+ rentals in over 100 countries worldwide.
27. Go Camping
Camp in a National Park, a caravan park, or on the beach. You’ve got to be prepared for roughing it a little, but hey camping is probably your cheapest option. We have also camped cheaply in the grounds of hostels, and for free in out-of-town family and friends backyards.
28. Sleep While Traveling
When travelling by plane, train, or bus, try and time it so you are traveling at night. That way, you don’t have to pay for a night’s accommodation.
Not our favourite strategy – these can be aggressive sale pitches of 90 minutes or more, but just say no at the end and thank you for the free accommodation for your troubles. Over the years we have had free accommodation in Turkey, Daytona Beach, Orlando, and Key West.
30. Walk as Much as You Can Walk.
Get active and see things at a slower pace – walking is FREE. You can experience more just by wandering around a city and getting lost, talking with locals, and people watching. Explore local markets, wander and take photos, or even hike to the top of a hill for an awesome view.
31. Rent a Bike
Cheap price, more comfy than a bus, slightly faster pace than walking..
32. Travel Like the Locals
Use public transport where possible. You get great knowledge and insight by hanging with the locals, it costs you less, and is a more authentic travelling experience. We have done this extensively in Africa and Asia.
When you do travel by other means, try and share a car with another traveller. Also, sharing a Taxi, mini-van, and tours etc are all more cost-effective when there’s a group of travelers to split the costs.
34. Eat out for Breakfast, Lunch or Brunch
Try and avoid dinner as restaurants raise prices. OR, have brunch instead of 3 meals a day. Many restaurants offer lunch specials where items on the dinner menu are offered for a fraction of the cost you’d pay in the evening.
35. Eat Away from the Tourist Streets
Just go one street or one block over and it will usually be much cheaper and more authentic!
36. Have Picnics and BBQ’s
Purchase food in a local grocery store or a market and arrange a picnic in one of the city’s parks with great views. We’ve had picnics in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens, New York’s Central Park, and BBQ’s world wide.
37. Self-Cater Where You Can
We make self-contained accommodation with kitchen facilities a priority. Purchasing your own supplies and cooking-in can save you big bucks – unless you are in Asia where eating out is incredibly cheap.
And take your own food on flights, buses and trains where practical.
38. Have Breakfast Included
When booking a hotel or hostel look for one with breakfast included.
39. Eat Street Food
The real reason you should eat street food is because it’s cheap, you help the locals, and it’s safe – you can see what is actually being cooked and is cooked fresh right in front of you. Pay attention to where the locals eat and what is popular.
40. Drink in Before Going Out
Just like eating, purchase your alcohol from a store. Then, take advantage of any happy hours and don’t drink expensive import stuff – give the local stuff a go.
41. Leave your ATM Card at Home
When out partying or out for dinner, only take a certain amount of cash, once it’s gone it’s gone. Your pocket, and your head, will thank you in the morning.
42. Bargain – it’s expected in many countries
But don’t over bargain. 50 cents is nothing to you, but may mean a days worth of meals to the person you are haggling with.
43. Pre-Paid Travel Money Cards
Using pre-paid travel money cards can save you on transaction fees and currency conversion rates (you can lock in a conversion rate) and is a safe and convenient way to carry your money.
Shop for souvenirs, clothes and food where the locals shop. Look for weekend markets and outlet stores.
Wash as much of your laundry as you can by yourself by hand, instead of pumping money through laundromats or using expensive hotel laundry services. Better still, stay in apartments that have washing machines included.
46. Free Phone Calls
Vonage Moblie has an app that allows for free talk, text, and photo sharing worldwide, available on iPhone and Android.
If you have access to the internet here are two great options:
- Skype is an internet based phone service that lets you call other skype users around the world for FREE. Just get a web cam.
- If you are on Google+ use hangouts to video call for free.
47. Internet Access
When booking accommodation one of the first things we look for is free WiFi. In cities and towns seek out free wifi spots at cafes, libraries and hot spots.
If using an internet cafe access can be painfully slow, and if you are paying by the minute it can get expensive. If you have a laptop, pre-write out all your email responses before hand.
48. How Strong is Your Currency?
Think about traveling to countries where your currency is stronger and you will get more bang-for-your-buck. For us as Australian’s Asia, the Pacific Islands, New Zealand, South Africa and currently the USA offers good value!
49. Compare Car Hire Prices
We use sites that search all the major car hire companies around the world checking which supplier is offering the best prices for the date you need it. Two sites we use include Travel Jigsaw and VrommVroomVroom.
50. Improve the Efficiency of Your Car
When taking road trips make sure your car is operating efficiently and is fully serviced. Some tips:
- Check the pressure of your car tires.
- Drive slower.
- Use the right oil to increase mile usage.
- Watch your luggage – the heavier the car the more fuel you’ll use.
- Pack inside your car not on top.
For the ultimate road trip planning guide click here.
51. Stay Local
Travelling doesn’t have to involve long flights and extensive road trips. A great way to bring more travel into your life is by exploring new areas in your local region. Climb a new mountan, visit a new cafe or market, go kayaking in a nearby river, take a day trip to a new town.
52. Do the FREE Stuff
Many things to see and do are absolutely free:
- See a street fair, concert, or cultural event.
- Catch a magnificent sunset or sunrise
- Take a walk or bike ride.
- Play in the park.
- Free movie screenings in local cafes and hostels
- Swim at the beach or lake.
- Climb a mountain.
- Visit a market.
Hit the street with your feet and get lost in a city or town. It’s amazing what you’ll discover around every corner.
53. Shop around for travel insurance
You can save a lot of money in shopping around for travel insurance. You can read how we did in this post on the best travel insurance for Australians travelling overseas.
Check out Kanetix – a website that compares travel insurance from Canada’s top providers and can save up to 66% on the travel insurance you need.