When you are planning a trip abroad or in your own country, each step is important to make sure you save the most amount of money. Once you’re on the road it doesn’t become a free for all; you still have to manage your expenses so you don’t end up going home earlier than you want to.
13 Tips on how to Save Money While Traveling
1. Take Longer Trips
The best way to save money while traveling is to take longer trips less often rather than many short trips. The longer your trip, the more time you have to take slower transportation.Obviously you save on taking less flights. Instead of paying 200 bucks for a short flight, you can take that 6 hour bus. (read more for tips on domestic flights in India)
2. Track Your Spending
While traveling I don’t write down everything I spent on, but I do jot down every time I go to the ATM. I tend to take out about 200 bucks at a time while I’m backpacking, especially in India in case I end up somewhere with all the ATM’s empty, which happens quite often to me! If you write it down you’ll see how often you pull out money and think ahead asking yourself, “if I continue pulling out 200 bucks a week and I going to have enough money to complete this trip?” If not, you need to cut back.
TIP: There are apps to help you track spending like Trail Wallet and Mint although I haven’t tried them I hear good things.
3. Travel Off Season
I’ve written a whole post on this topic (linked above) because it’s such a huge component of my travels. India is not the only seasonal place; even the Greek islands have an off-season. Do some research and see when the best time to go is- it’ll be the month before or after tourist season kicks off. Usually WAY off-season is either scorching hot or monsoon in many places so not always a good choice. Those times are fun to travel too though.
4. Don’t Shop Near Tourist Attractions
This should go without saying, but I see people shopping near them all the time so it must not be well known enough. These prices are usually much higher and instead you should look for a local market to shop. For example in Goa, anything you pick up at a stall in Anjuna Beach is much cheaper in the local Mapusa market where less tourists go.
5. Careful on Food and Drink Spending
I’m pretty bad about this as I am the biggest eater ever. I just live to eat. My budget is usually over 50% on food and drinks.
- Try not to eat at the tourist “international” joints where the menu has a little bit of everything.
- Try not to eat right on the beach in expensive places.
- Do take away when you can as some places charge service fees, luxury fees, and seating fees.
- If you’re in hostels or have your own kitchen in a condo, cook sometimes.
- Try to stay somewhere that offers free breakfast. In Asia, you can usually negotiate a free breakfast into your stay- you almost always can in India.
- When it comes to drinking, if your plan is to get pretty drunk then you should have a few at home before you go out.
6. Avoid ATM Fees
I bank with Charles Schwab. Other than occasional card blockages to “prevent fraud”, I am a huge fan and actually have gotten so many people to switch to banking with them! I have NO ATM fees via the bank or currency change fees. They do come out when you swipe the card but at the end of each month they are refunded to your account. This is great because in more dangerous places you can take out smaller amounts of money.
7. Pack Appropriately
If you pack what you need, you’ll prevent buying it on the road. In countries which are cheaper this isn’t as important, but in expensive cities or even islands with high prices like Ko Phi Phi, sunscreen can set you back $15 USD. Check my travel packing list to see what I recommend. Research your destination. For example, as an American with no health insurance, I don’t take any medicine to India. I buy what I need cheap in India as I go. As an Indian traveling to America, you’re better off stocking up on anything you may need.
8. Pick Up Work While You’re Abroad
You can pass out fliers while you’re on the Thai islands, take some farm work, or bartend at a hostel. You can work on a yacht for the summer, teach English as a second language, or even be a parade girl in Ibiza! There are options out there and bloggers write about ways they work abroad quite often like Alex in Wanderland’s Series Earning Abroad. I became a Thai masseuse and because that doesn’t need a massage table (it’s done on a yoga mat), I can do that anywhere I move or travel to just by putting up fliers. You can find work on Fiverr, I hire people on there all the time.
9. Make Your Flight Bookings Smart
You really need to do research. It might be cheaper to fly into a nearby airport and take a train onward to your destination. I use multiple sites to look for flights. I have all of this written about in my travel resources.
10. Take Advantage or Discounts and Freebies
- Google “free things to do in _____” and see what comes up. Usually there are walking tours, museums, and neat local markets to visit.
- Let hotels know if it’s your birthday or anniversary- you might get a bottle of wine!
- If you’re a student, see if a tourist attraction gives a student discount and show them your student ID. Booking sites like cheapoair offer discount codes to students, military, and senior citizens.
- Before you book on any site do some research and see what discount you can get. I do this with shopping too. For example the same way you can google “[store name] discount code”, you can search your booking engine, like [expedia discount code] and see what pops up. I always find at least 200 rs off my makemytrip bookings.
- Another thing that is helpful is to sign up for e-mail alerts, or if you hate getting spam, you can “like” your favorite booking sites FB page so you’ll see any new deals they have running.
11. Don’t Book Ahead ALL the time in Asia
When you do use Agoda to book a room, but while traveling in Thailand I can say we always got better prices just by showing up and negotiating when it comes to budget huts and guesthouses. You can’t very well do that in Paris! In India, 100% it’s better to show up and negotiate for a budget property. What I do is call first and ask how much and negotiate a little on the phone and tell them I’m coming. Call a few places and see what rate they can give. Once you have a few in mind go check them out and see in person what rate they’ll do. Booking sites are almost always higher for budget lodging, but in my experience for a 3 star or higher, you want a booking engine. They compete with each other and might be running a special so it’s worth checking around- these nice places won’t negotiate anyways so a deal online is better than full price on arrival. To sum up, it might be better to book ahead in a nice hotel in Bangkok, but not on a smaller Thai island where you can check out a few places in only 15 minutes.
12. Take Advantage of Travel Bloggers
When you find out where you’re going, Google “__[insert city]__ travel blog” and see who is a pro at the region you’re visiting. They probably have hundreds of tips on their site to help visitors save money plus can tell you the best hotels that are up to date rather than only look at what Lonely Planet is telling you. Some of my favorite restaurants that are insanely popular in Goa have never graced Lonely Planets pages. I am thinking about going to Beijing soon, so of course have to reach out to Beijing expat bloggers like Joella.
13. Make a Realistic Budget & STICK to it.
The key thing here is realistic. If you know you want to buy a necklace in each city you visit and you want to go skydiving or white-water rafting, you better think ahead and add that to your budget. If you don’t prepare for a realistic amount and find yourself overspending constantly, not only will you possibly run out of money, you’ll find yourself in a sour mood and cutting back on things you might need near the end of your trip. I see many posts that say “travel India on 10 bucks a day” and YES you can, but why would you!? You’ll be freakin’ miserable. I wrote a post on traveling India on 20 bucks a day which I think is more realistic and you’ll probably spend a little less meaning you’ll be less stressed throughout the trip & happy when you have cash at the end.
Bonus: 14 ways to EARN money while you’re traveling and 12 ways to travel the world for free!
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Great tips! For some reason I’d never thought to google ‘free’ things to do in places so will definitely be doing that in future. ATM fees can be a killer, we kiwis don’t have many options for international fee-less cards unfortunately, so I always make sure to get out the maximum every time to save on withdrawals. I use trail wallet to manage my money on the road and swear by it!
I’ve heard great things about trailwallet, maybe I should download it
I agree 110% on all of these tips ;)
Amen on low seasons! We almost travel exclusively during the low season and it’s not for the prices alone. We like peace, quiet, calm and yes, the power prices don’t hurt. I recall hotel/apartment prices in Phuket dropping by half when we visited there. Made it an easy choice, as the beach thinned out too, and unless a monster storm was coming through, the rip currents weren’t crazy and you had sun most of the day.
That’s the thing; monsoon season in much of the tropics is not too too nuts. From here in Bali to Thailand and around SE Asia, you’ll get a big storm or too, here and there, which washes out a few days, but usually you’ll have sunny days with a thunder boomer here or there for a few hours. Factor in the lower prices, and less crowded spots, and heck, how cool it is, and how nice it feels to get those rain showers, and we’re low season folks all the way.
Added bonus; if you have online businesses, you can actually build your savings, as your net worth jumps 5 folks or more in a place like Bali…depending on the strength of your currency ;)
Tweeting through Triberr!
I agree Ryan.. monsoon in Goa some days just reminds me of Spring time back in Ohio! It’s not as intense as people say, and when it is intense it’s only a few days at a time.
You’re tip about hunting out travel bloggers who focus solely on the destination is 100% on the money. Some of our best experiences have come from the advice of a blogger who lives and breathes the city every day and can easily guide you to the cream of the crop.
I wish more people knew that! I meet people all the time in Goa when they’re about to leave and they say they stayed at X ate at Y , etc and they are all the wrong places! and I think ugh if only you read my blog!
Yes I love travelling low season. I find the weather is a bit more liveable too. High season is often too hot for me!
And of course it is all about the pre drinking for cheapness!
Great post :)
I don’t drink as much as I used to at all and when I do I have only beer. It saves me SO much money!
I agree with #12 and absolutely love that you mentioned it. My boyfriend and I are currently planning our trip to SE Asia where we’ll be traveling through Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. Anytime we start to do a bit of research on a specific area, activity, etc., we always search for the bloggers first! They have the insiders scoop that a lot of websites don’t have and the majority of us are truthful about what we write. This is one of the reasons I started my blog, Every Girl, Everywhere. To help people understand more about different countries, to inspire and to connect with other like minded people. Great post, Sally! Looking forward to your future posts. Hopefully I’ll see you in India sometime soon ;)
I am so jealous of the Charles Schwab card. Canada has terrible options for long term travel in terms of credit cards. Last year I got one that has no international fees, but the interest rate and annual fee and the way the ‘points’ rack up (i.e. terribly!) make it hardly worth it. Sigh…
Bummer! I had no idea… that’s a shame.
Such great tips! I especially agree with taking advantage of travel bloggers. During my year-long trip I stopped using my guidebook and relied solely on travel blogs. They are so much more up to date!
Exactly! I don’t use guidebooks at all anymore unless I’m going for a month or longer.
Great tips! I just opened a Charles Schwab account a couple months ago. I haven’t used it yet but will be in Europe this summer. I’m a huge fan in traveling in the shoulder or low season. I went to Belize in May last year and definitely saved a few dollars. And Mint is awesome! I’m addicted to it! Although if you pay mostly in cash for things then it’s not very useful. Since I pay almost everything on plastic (got to get those miles!) then it’s great for tracking my spending, saving, and investments.
That’s great you can get points from the plastic. In India I use almost ALL cash so I wouldn’t do well in a rewards program unless I tried to beat the system as some do, but that’s an awful lot of work.
Charles Schwab is a lifesaver!
Great tips definitely the ATM’s fees can add up quickly. I’ve got a bank that is fee free which has saved me plenty of times and don’t have to worry about carrying tons of cash.
that’s what I love, not having to carry so much cash
Great Tips Rachel!!
I will add one for item: Go Local!! Try to eat at local restaurants, sleep in small and local hotels/hostels, public transport instead of taxi… Ask what and where the buy stuff, not where they recommend to you… I learnet that everythime I ask for recommendation people tend to send me to tourist places (expensive restaurants, fany shops, etc), but if I ask where they go and what they enjoy to do, than you ill get the correct answer. What means you gonna save money e enjoy much more!
Thanks Nat, great tips. Taking local transport saves tons of money.. taxis are a budget killer!
All great tips. Travel off season is my favourite. Not only do you save money but you ted to get a better and more realistic sample of local life.
I love tip number 4, I was just on a cruise ship and I couldn’t believe all the possible prices for seasickness medicine on the ship, at ports, outside of the ports, and all of them more than at home. Your money tracking tip is also super helpful, and way more manageable than writing every little thing down.
yes, writing everything down can become very tedious.
Great tips. I always start off with a budget app but never stick to it. Still I think it puts me into good habits and I get a better idea of how much I’m spending so even when I’m no longer keeping track via the app I still feel like I know if I’m splurging a ton or doing alright!
Love these ideas! We generally try to stay in a hotel with at least a fridge if not a fully equipped kitchen to eat breakfast at home, and sometimes lunch. It’s not as glamorous as eating out for every meal but it really does add up in savings!
I agree, it’s worth it to save the extra and then you can have a few really nice dinners extra
seventh tip is very essential to save money during trips to unknown places that we visit for the first time. thanks for the wonderful tips.
Awesome tips and great share @Rachel Jones!! I love your ideas..actually, It is a given that a good amount of money is needed during any kind of trip abroad, whether for business or pleasure.
Many travellers, however, fail to realise that unexpected expenses often take up most of the budget when travelling, which is why it is always a good idea to know how to save money during your trip and you gave us nice ideas @Rachel Jones. Thanks for sharing these great tips!!
I like your tip to take longer trips. Taking a longer trip will let you actually relax during the trip, since you won’t be trying to cram as many places as you can in a short time frame. Plus, as you said, it will allow you more time for slower transportation; after all, it’s about the journey, not the destination, right? Thanks for the travel tips!
Wow! Great tips on how to save money while traveling. I’m a thrifty traveler and I agree on everything that you’ve mentioned here in your blog. Awesome!
awesome, glad to hear it!
Very nice of you for sharing it.
Travelling is a cause of spending, and its hard to save while travelling but for regular travellers it is important to save. lots of expenses are compulsary while travelling in which you can’t cut or reduce but there are also many ways by which one can save or can stay on budget.
The tips here described by you are great and meaningful and by following them one can easily save a lot on any trip. Making bookings smartly and travelling on off-season’s are the best way to save on a trip.
Thanks for posting it.
Have a nice day.
Perfect!! I loved the list and I’m sure to follow it. Will save my next trips. I love the blog and always follow the posts.
Thank you, Rahul
hey rachel, your blog is amazing. i got to know about your blog from a youtuber “ivana” she has a channel “travel vlog iv”. i want to start for my travels and i am 21 not earning though. i have got my admission in mba this year. please guide me through right steps pleasee.