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.
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.