Do you daydream about traveling the world? Or maybe just fantasizing about a vacation to the destination of your dreams? Well, the good news is you don’t need to have a money tree growing in your backyard, but you do need to get creative when it comes to managing your finances and working with what you got. Sure, that sounds easy but how do you actually do it? How to save money when traveling abroad and not go broke? This is one of the most common questions people ask me and here I’ll share a few tips I learned throughout my journeys. Let’s start!
Get a credit card that won’t charge any fees abroad
Getting a credit/debit card that won’t be charged every time you make a transaction abroad isn’t that difficult as many people think. For some reason, these cards aren’t heavily advertised by banks and hence, a lot of people don’t even know that they exist. Some popular credit card affiliate programs include the Fingerhut credit card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, and the Charles Schwab debit card. The last one even refunds you in a case if a foreign ATM charges your account by depositing a sum into your account at the end of the month.
Set up a travel savings account
And keep it inaccessible from your internet banking so you don’t get tempted to spend the money you’ve been saving for traveling. Make sure that the only way to access the money by personally visiting the bank. You’d be surprised by just how effective this simple strategy is. I do it all the time and it works great for me.
Book Your Stay Smartly
Finding the right accommodation for your trip isn’t always easy and there isn’t a one-size-fits-them-all solution. If you’re a young solo traveler, hostels are a great fit. If you’re traveling with a family, apartments are the best option most of the time. Personally, I always try to find accommodation with either complimentary breakfast or a small kitchen, as this enables me to shave off some of my food costs. Finally, don’t forget to research the location of the neighborhood your hotel/apartment is located in. Transportation costs can also pile up rather quickly if you don’t take this into consideration. Finally, don’t forget that a lot of hotels offer reward programs that can get you some perks like a couple of nights of complimentary stay or a room upgrade. Hotels Combined is one of them and it gives you one night of complimentary stay for every 10 bookings.
However, these aren’t the only accommodation tips I have to give you. If you want to save even more on accommodation…
Utilize the benefits of WWOOF
The World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is a worldwide network that links volunteers with organic farmers. In return for their assistance, the volunteers usually get free accommodation, free meals, and of course, an opportunity to learn more about all the activities related to organic farming. Another interesting alternative that’s becoming more popular is.
Doing a home exchange
Swapping your home with other holidaymakers that are looking for accommodation abroad is a great strategy for people that want to go on a vacation and not pay a dime for hotels or apartments. A lot of people still aren’t aware that this option exists or are aware but are skeptical about letting a stranger stay in their home. And these doubts are completely justified, but if you’re looking to save a lot of money on your next vacation, home swapping is a great option. Another great budget alternative is…
Vacation Rentals By Owner is a website where owners rent their second homes. These vacation rentals can oftentimes provide a lot of privacy, space, and most importantly value for money. On this website, you can find more than 150,000 rentals in over 100 different countries. Last but not least, I can’t talk about budget accommodation if I don’t mention…
Camping in caravans
If you don’t mind sacrificing some of the amenities hotels provide, camping in caravans is probably the cheapest alternative you can find. The best part is that even if you don’t have a caravan, you can always rent one. There are hundreds of websites online where you can do this. However, don’t just expect that this will ALWAYS be the cheaper option. The overnight parking fee some national parks charge can sometimes be even more expensive than staying in a hotel when you combine all costs together. Keep that in mind!
Always Bring the Essentials
Always bring the things you’ll be needing with you, especially the ones that get depleted and need replenishing. For example, always have a good travel bottle or tumbler, especially when trekking. Buying multiple water bottles while traveling is an unnecessary cost. Bring a toiletry kit with you for hygienic purposes wherever you will be going. Don’t assume you’ll have unlimited toiletry supplies in the hotel you’ll be staying in. The costs of necessities in other countries can be pricey especially for tourists.
Do things locals do
This is my favorite way of traveling. Wherever I go, I always try to mingle with locals and get some insider tips from them. I learn about the best places to eat, the hidden gems of the city, the quickest way to get places, and a lot of other useful information. Not only does this approach help me when exploring a new city but I also get to make some new friends.
Bargain; it’s actually expected in a lot of places
In a lot of places, especially in Asia, the starting price for everything you’ll find at the street market is more than double what it’s worth. This is the case probably because a lot of vendors try to profit on clueless tourists but in a lot of cases, the vendors expect that the buyer will bargain.
Don’t eat in touristy neighborhoods
In most cities I visited, walking a few blocks away from the city center can decrease the prices of restaurants significantly. This is the main reason why I always avoid eating in places close to tourist attractions. Another tip that helps is…
Not waiting until you’re hungry to search for a place to eat
If you do, it’s likely that you’ll choose the first convenient option you come across. Instead of doing this, start searching when you’re not hungry and check out all the restaurants nearby before making a decision. Alternatively, you can also save by…
Shopping at farmer’s markets
Buying fresh food from farmer markets is a cheaper and healthier alternative to packaged food. Additionally, most vendors usually lower down the prices at the end of the day. You can use this opportunity, buy some fresh ingredients and cook for yourself or…
Have picnics and eat street food
Obviously, by doing this for at least one of your meals can be a difference-maker. Try to have picnics at least for breakfast and talk to locals and ask them about their favorite street food joint. This can oftentimes lead you to some amazing (and cheap) street food. Finally, instead of trying to save on eating while traveling, try eating cheap at home and save money for your trip before departing.
Find free things to do
By doing some research, you can discover a lot of free things to do in the area. Go on a free walking tour. Learn when the museums in the city have an admission-free day or at least when they offer a discounted admission. If applicable, use students and senior citizens discounts. And again, if you can’t find answers to these questions, ask locals.
Create a budget and stick to it
I know that setting a budget and sticking to it can be difficult but it can also help you a lot. Before you start visiting places, make a plan of which places will you visit each day, and which days you will spend more and on which days you will spend less. Always try to find ways to save money but don’t forget to treat yourself. After all, you are on vacation.
Take your time
Slow travel is my favorite way of travel. Instead of running around trying to visit all places on your list, take your time and get to know the place you’re visiting. Taking a lot of buses, trains, flights (or whatever) in a short timespan can make a big hole in your pocket.
Look for Hidden Money in Your Budget
If travel is important to you, start a savings account to fund your trips. Choose a bank that offers a high- yield savings account and make a deposit each pay period. Regardless of how big or small of a deposit you make, building the habit is important, and seeing the money grow is a powerful incentive. You may think that your budget is stretched thin, but if you look objectively, you can probably find areas of your budget where you can save.
Food spending generally includes some waste that you can cut by better planning. Taking out private student loans at a favorable interest rate can free up money each month instead of looking for other avenues to fund your education. This way you can invest in yourself and repay after graduation. You can also shop around for insurance once a year to see if another company offers a better deal.
Be flexible when choosing the date
I know it’s difficult and you probably know this, but it helps a lot when your departure and arrival dates are flexible. Additionally, if you don’t mind a long layover, you can get good deals most of the time, regardless of your final destination. One thing I always do is checking out CheapOair’s best deals in my area. It always helps me save a lot and it’s available worldwide. If you want to learn some other tips and tricks I use to get cheap flights, I wrote this comprehensive guide to finding cheap flights.
Get a free extended stopover
Have you heard about multi-leg flights? A multi-leg flight is a flight that includes a long layover, which can oftentimes last for a few days. For example, you can book a flight from New York to Moscow and spend a day or two in Paris in between. The best part is that these few days in Miami are a layover when you book a multi-leg flight. Some travelers get even more creative and they add another (long) leg to their multi-leg flight, thus squeezing in another destination in their (long) vacation while paying for only one flight.
Consider city passes
If you’re planning to spend more than a few days in a city, city cards can be a good deal. They give users free entry to the top tourist attractions and museums, discounts at restaurants, and even free public transport in some cities.
Join a local Facebook group to keep a track of good deals
And turn on the notifications so that it keeps showing in your feed. You’ll come across some really annoying posts, but you can also find some surprisingly good deals. Also, take advantage of…
Newsletter deals and coupons
Stay subscribed to a few local travel agencies or travel websites and keep a track of their offers. Also, do your research and find companies that offer discounts and coupons in the cities you’re visiting.
Take advantage of budget travel apps
Sure, booking in advance has a lot of perks, but sometimes last-minute deals on different travel apps can save you even more! So, it’s probably a good idea to scan a lot of different travel apps and compare the prices for let’s say your hotel booking or car rental. This is how I came across this discount that saved me 30% on my last car rental. It’s even better to start using this approach in the planning process because you get to track the price fluctuations and react quickly when you see a price drop or a big discount.
Follow travel bloggers
Learn from other people’s experiences. Travel bloggers are people that visited the place you’re going to before you and have a lot to share. They can tell you about the hidden gems of the city most tourists don’t know about, restaurants that aren’t mentioned on Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor, and a lot of other useful suggestions.
Sleep While Traveling
When traveling between two cities, try to take an overnight bus/train. This way you can get some rest while traveling and save on paying for a night’s accommodation.
Stay active and explore the new environment on foot. You can experience and see a lot more from a new city by exploring its street markets and getting lost on its streets. Even if you think you’re too lazy for that, at least try to…
If you’re traveling in a group, skip this tip. But if you’re not, try using local transportation options, ride-sharing apps, shared mini-vans, or take shared tours (when that’s feasible).
Make sure your phone is unlocked
Make sure you get an unlocked phone or unlock it if necessary before traveling abroad. Using an unlocked phone allows you to use SIM cards in every new country you go to and getting a local SIM card has been a lifesaver so many times (at least for me).
Don’t buy souvenirs as soon as you see them
Most of the time, I don’t buy souvenirs at all, but even when I do, I visit a lot of different places and scan their prices. Most people buy something the same moment they see it and without bargaining, getting straight-up robbed in the process. Also, try to buy your souvenirs away from the touristy areas. Just like the restaurants, the prices of souvenir shops also decrease significantly the further you get away from the city center.
Pick up some work while traveling
You can always pick up some small tasks while traveling that will earn you some pocket money or a free meal here and there. The WWOOF I mentioned above is a great example of that but there are other options too. You can do some work in hostels in exchange for a free stay, work on a yacht, teach English as a second language, find an online job, etc. You get the point.
Have A Staycation
Just because you’re staying at home, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. While living in a city, we usually don’t see our city through an average tourist’s eyes, but sometimes trying this can be equally fun as traveling, especially if you’re trying to save for your next adventure but still want to feel like you’re on a holiday. If you like the sound of that, a staycation is definitely something you should consider. Go somewhere within your area, visit a city nearby, and explore the beauty of the places around you.
Don’t fall for the ‘only here’ trap
Sure, there are certain things that can only be experienced in specific parts of the world. While traveling, this oftentimes seems like a good reason to spend a significant amount of your budget on these unique experiences. And I won’t tell you not to do these things. When you’re visiting a new country you should absolutely do and see things that can only be found there. Just know how to draw a line and steer clear of doing too many of these things. Finally, be smart with your budget, and don’t waste your time and money on things you can do at home.
Helpful resources for saving money when traveling
For saving on flights, use Air France’s Discover the World at a low price to save up to 45% on all bookings.
If you want to save on travel insurance deals, check out World Nomads.
When renting a car, use this AutoEurope coupon to save 15% on car rentals worldwide.
For accommodation, use my Booking discount code and get 15% off on all accommodation bookings wherever you go.
If you’re planning to go hiking, get some gear from Camelbak and save up to 20% on your first order.
Finally, if you’re looking to rent an RV for your next trip, get discounts on all RV rentals from Outdoorsy.
Were these tips helpful? What are your favorite tips on how to save money when traveling? Do you think I didn’t mention some tips that are worth mentioning? Let me know in the comments!
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