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43+ Expert hacks to save money on travel

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Have you ever wondered how you can save money on your vacation? Would you like to travel on a budget or as cheaply as possible? Is saving when traveling important to you? Are you looking for travel hacks to save money? 

You are not the only one. 

Our survey on solo female travel trends shows that cost is one of the main barriers to travel and this is also one of the most commonly asked questions in our solo female travelers online community.

So I asked our members and our team of experts to share their best vacation money saving tips and put together this comprehensive guide.

There’s a great travel quote that says “You don’t have to be rich to travel well” and we prove this to you with the following tips. Now you’ll be able to travel without breaking the bank.

Once you’ve saved, if you’re then looking for tips on how to save money FOR travel, check our article here.

1. Choose cheap destinations

There are countries which are considerably more expensive than others. If you’re traveling on a budget, try to choose a destination with affordable prices. 

Consider destinations which have affordable accommodation prices, where you can eat good food for a fair price and where transportation and activity tickets are inexpensive. 

For example, regions like Latin America, the Balkans or Southeast Asia are more affordable to travel to than countries in Western and Northern Europe and North America. 

The World Bank estimates that Iceland, Norway and Switzerland have the highest hotel and restaurant costs in the world. Naturally, a holiday there will be more expensive than a holiday to Egypt, Tanzania or Nepal which rank at the lower end of the table.

2. Travel in the off-season

Most destinations in the world have different seasons depending on how crowded they are with tourists. There are many factors that determine seasons in a destination, the main one being climate, but also public holidays. 

Usually, the season with the best climate is the season that most tourists visit. And extreme weather conditions such as excessive heat or cold, storms or rain become low season when just a few tourists travel.

However, there are also cases where a destination is in the low season weather-wise but is most busy because of external factors. For example, Southeast Asia is not always great during the summer months (except for Indonesia and Malaysia), but these are busy months because they are summer holidays for most.

Likewise, Christmas and New Year’s tends to be a busy season to travel anywhere, even though it is the wrong time of the year to go to places such as French Polynesia.

If you want to save on your vacation, low season prices are your best bet and in fact, we much prefer traveling in the shoulder season when popular destinations are not as busy and yet the weather still holds.

This is the case on our trips to Tanzania, which are always scheduled for the first week of the low season, and our trips to popular European destinations such as Croatia or Greece which happen at the end of May or beginning of June instead of during the peak summer months.

3. Have a Medical Transport Membership

We all know that insurance saves you money for the unexpected, but the medevac coverage on most travel insurance ONLY gets you to the “nearest acceptable” hospital. NOT home. This is why you frequently see people WITH INSURANCE stuck in foreign hospitals, and their families running GoFundMe pages trying to raise the money to air ambulance them home.

Being isolated, alone, and struggling with the language barrier in a foreign hospital is not fun. 10 million+ travelers are hospitalized abroad each year, and hospital systems during the COVID-19 pandemic have been pushed to breaking point, in every country in the world.

Membership programs like Medjet fall into the category of something you pay for now, to save yourself money (and heartache) down the road. It’s a hospital-to-hospital transport service that will get you home even if you have COVID. 

Medjet also has a security and crisis response membership, which can be especially useful for solo travelers. You (and your family, in case you just disappear…) have access to a 24/7 emergency line and in-country, boots-on-the-ground security teams if something bad happens (violent crime, terrorism, disappearance, kidnapping, a natural disaster, etc.).

So while you may have Medical Evacuation Insurance as part of your travel policy, also look at a medical transport and travel security membership if you think you’d feel more comfortable receiving treatment at home.

4. Fly on an off-peak day

Like peak seasons and low seasons throughout the year, airfares experience similar peak days and low days throughout the week. The reason is the same; higher demand equals higher prices. 

Your departure date will play a big part in how much you spend on flight tickets. According to airlines, the best days to fly are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

These are mid-week days where few people travel for business and leisure and airports are less crowded. You are unlikely to find cheap fares for flights departing on Friday or Sunday evening for the same reason.

To find the cheapest day to fly, use a search engine such as Kayak and then have a look at the calendar view to see the rates per day.

5. Sign up to a flight deals site

Because not everyone likes to spend hours on search engines and booking sites looking for the best flight deals, there are sites who do just that for you. 

Sign up to flight deals sites such as Scott’s cheap flights, which will send you alerts when there’s a cheap deal from your home airport. All you need to do is keep an eye on the weekly emails. 

Another great site is Airfare Watchdog, which notifies you when an airfare is considerably lower than the usual price.

6. Be open and flexible

Use the “Anywhere” option on search engines such as Google Flights or Kayak to find the cheapest flights for your set vacation dates. This way, you can save on flight costs and be surprised by a place you may have not heard about before.

7. Use stop over options

Many airlines, most notably the Middle Eastern ones such as Qatar and Emirates but also Singapore Airlines, will allow you to add a stop over in your itinerary for the same price or a small fee. Their stop-over programs often include free tours and other perks and discounts.

Pro tip: if you are using miles to pay for a Singapore Airlines (Star Alliance) the stop-over feature will allow you to book flights with very long stopovers that are effectively the equivalent of two separate trips.

8. Pack carry on

Many low cost airlines will charge you more to check in a bag, learn to pack light and bring only what you need and within the airline’s limits to carry on to save on luggage fees.

Cindy agrees: “I’ve never paid to check in a bag. Travel light. A few quick dry outfits. Hand wash”.

9. Book affordable accommodation

If you’re going on a road trip to a nature destination with lots of outdoor activities, consider camping for a few nights.

This could be completely free in countries where it is allowed such as Sweden, or carry a minimum charge if you have your own equipment.

Many of our members will also occasionally sleep in their cars to save on accommodation. Always find a safe place to park, for example the parking lot of a Walmart in the US, which has cameras and security personnel, or the rest areas of European highways.

10. Search in incognito

Hotels are usually more expensive but generally the safest option, but you can find cheap hotel deals on sites like Booking.com or Hotels.com

Don’t forget to search in an incognito window and check the hotel websites directly to compare prices and find last minute deals. Many hotels will offer additional benefits to direct bookings, such as room upgrades or breakfast.

11. Stay at hostels

Hostels are one of the most affordable accommodation options when traveling and a great way to save on your vacation. 

They usually have lower prices than hotels, because you’re booking a bed in a shared dorm, and they are great places to meet people while traveling.

Pro tip: If you are not sure about sharing a room, look for hostels with private room options which are still much cheaper than hotels and are a good in-between alternative if you wish to have your own personal space.

12. Work exchange programs

Some hostels even offer work exchange positions where you work a few hours a day and get free accommodation and even some meals in return. Reach out to the hostel directly to ask if they have an exchange program available. 

There are sites like Workaway, that offer lots of work exchange programs in local communities in more than 169 countries across the world. These work exchange programs often involve a low cost to cover low budget accommodation and other fees.

Volunteer vacation programs are also another great way to travel and have a positive impact in the community you’re visiting. There are many reputable organizations that offer these opportunities like the United Nations, Omprakash and Volunteering Matters.

13. Look for alternative accommodation options

Alternative accommodation options are ideal for saving money on vacation. Airbnbs, private homes or villas, or home swaps. Use this link to create your profile in Airbnb and get $35 USD off your first booking.

14. Stay near the city center

Our member Kat gave us this smart tip: “I try to stay in a central location so I can walk or take public transportation.”

Try to find affordable options nearby the city center so you can walk and save time and money on public transportation. Staying in a central location will allow you to walk to the main landmarks and tourist attractions, which are generally within a walkable distance from the city center. 

Make sure your accommodation is close to a metro station or bus stop, this will ease your logistics and make you save on transportation.

15. Get free accommodation

Looking for other ways to get free accommodation? Try Couchsurfing, an online site that allows you to request a sofa (or more comfy options) in a local’s home to stay during your travels. There’s also house sitting, where you provide housekeeping or take care of a pet in exchange for free accommodation while the homeowners are out of town. One of the best house sitting platforms is Trusted Housesitters.

Finally, try joining Facebook travel groups especially made for finding hosts abroad, offering yourself as one, swapping homes or pet sitting, like our Solo Female Travelers Connection group or Host a Sister.

16. Choose accommodation with breakfast included

A great part of your travel expenses will involve food, so what better way to save some money than getting a breakfast included in your accommodation rate and making the most of it so you can have a lighter lunch on the go.

For example, HolidayInn and HolidayInn Express hotels offer free breakfasts to all guests. You can also select “breakfast included” when searching for hotels on accommodation sites such as booking.com.

Bonus tip: Take a snack such as muffin or bread bun to go. Most breakfast buffets will have individually packed crackers, butter, fruit jams and chocolate spreads which you can take to enjoy with your bread/muffin later on. Fruit like a banana or apple is also a good idea. 

17. Skip hotel breakfast

While hotels with free breakfast are amazing, you usually pay for it in the rate and almost always, you will be paying more than you would at the corner cafe. 

Unless you plan on making breakfast the biggest meal of the day and taking snacks to go for later, paying for hotel breakfast is not a financially savvy decision. Save on your holiday by taking a rate without breakfast and finding a local cafe or bakery instead.

18. Look out for attraction passes and find deals on travel apps

Our member Raina advised us to look for combo tickets and passes to attractions. These are tickets that include entrance to many museums and attractions for a better price than if you buy them separately.

Pro tip: Really look into the details of these passes. Some of them are great deals but only if you are planning to visit all the attractions, otherwise you are just paying for something you won’t use.

Use travel apps to get amazing deals on things to do in your destination. Check if entrance to museums and attractions are cheaper ahead of time (there may be discounts or offers on sites like Groupon).

19. Book excursions locally

Oftentimes, booking an excursion or activity ahead of time is more expensive than doing so locally at the destination, where you can haggle and avail of last minute availability. This is the case in Southeast Asia or Latin America, while in Europe, you usually are better off booking in advance. 

If you have time because you’re spending a few days at a place, you could go down to the activity providers and negotiate a price or offer to join a day trip at the last minute for a reduced price in case they have availability. 

20. Walk and use public transport

Probably one of the most effective ways of saving money on vacation is by avoiding taking taxis and other expensive means of transportation. 

Using public transport is way more affordable and eco-friendly and most popular cities will have multi-trip passes that allow you to save even more by buying 10 or more trips at once. Some of them, such as Luxemburg, even offer free public transportation.

Compare options and get the most affordable option depending on how many days you’re spending at your destination and where you plan to go. 

“Take local trains and buses. Takes longer, but it’s cheaper and you see more of the local scenery” shared Trish.

Use Google maps to map out your itinerary and bundle activities that are near each other together, so you can walk between them. It’s free and it’s good for you.

Pro tip: Look out for free or cheap airport buses. Many cities will have affordable airport transportation to the city center. Sometimes, this just means you have to walk or spend more time on the way than you would on a cab, but the savings can be huge.

And lastly, don’t underestimate how great it is to explore a city on a bike. Most main cities in Europe have bike share apps that you can use to rent a bicycle for the day or for a few hours. This is not only a great travel saving hack but also a fab way to stay in shape and see a place slowly.

21. Skip the fancy drinks or find a restaurant/bar with ‘Happy Hour’

Have you ever had a super expensive cocktail on vacation? Chances are it was made with imported liquor or spirits. 

Instead, choose the local alternative, not only will you have a more authentic experience and support the local economy but will also save on hefty import duties and taxes that are often imposed on luxury items such as alcohol. 

An affordable option is to find a local restaurant with happy hour pricing on their food and drinks, as suggested by Dana.

22. Buy a local SIM card 

Avoid spending tons of money on international roaming fees or internet data by buying a local SIM card at your destination, or ordering it ahead of time

With internet access, you can find your way around a place, order a cab if needed, find a place to eat, check the best transportation option, research what to do next, etc.

In Europe, a SIM card bought in one country will work in all of the European Union without roaming charges, you may just have to check how you can recharge it when abroad. That is, you can buy a SIM card in Barcelona and then use it in France and Italy on the same trip.

23. Hook onto free WiFi networks

Even if you have a local SIM card, data plans and allowances can run quite high in some countries so it is always a good idea to save as much as possible by using free WiFi. 

But beware, connecting your devices to free WiFi networks carries a risk so one of our safety tips is using a VPN, this way you will protect your personal information like IDs, passwords and credit cards from cyber hackers.

24. Cook your meals

The best way to save on vacation is to avoid eating out at all. In most countries, cooking your own meals is cheaper than eating at restaurants, so buy affordable ingredients at local markets or supermarkets and eat home cooked meals every day. 

Pro tip: If you are staying at a hostel, cooking your own meal is quite common so you could make friends with other travelers by making a bit more food than you’ll eat and inviting others to join you. 

Besides being a travel hack to save money, going grocery shopping in another country can be fun and interesting, and you could learn about new ingredients that don’t exist where you live. 

To make the most of this travel saving tip, make sure you double check that the accommodation you have booked includes a fridge and a kitchen you can use. 

Or opt for instant pot noodles which are very affordable and you can enjoy with just hot water from the kettle while chilling with a Netflix show after a day of sightseeing.

25. Eat local

There are many affordable options for eating abroad that don’t invoice expensive restaurants. 

You can buy pre-cooked meals at the supermarket that are ready to eat or heat, or buy food from street vendors or food trucks, which usually have lower prices than restaurants. 

“Buy meals at a grocery store. Fresh and local, and most have eateries where you can sit” shared Alisa.

In many countries, supermarket or convenience store food is actually very good. In Japan and in Singapore, many malls have basement food courts where you can get affordable and really fresh food that is made to order.

Street food in Thailand and across Southeast Asia is fabulous and truly inexpensive. Just make sure to pick from places with a lot of traffic and where the food is cooked in front of you. 

Pro tip: If you are going to eat with your hands, use sanitizer. You don’t want to end up with a nasty episode of traveler’s diarrhea!

26. Look out for lunch menus

Many countries have a culture of set lunch menus, especially across Europe. For example, in Spain, it is very common for office workers to go out for lunch and almost every restaurant in big cities will have an affordable 3-course meal with wine for a very affordable amount.

27. Get away from the tourist areas

When eating at a restaurant or cafe, avoid the popular areas at all costs and move towards where the locals eat.

In countries such as France, Italy or Spain, restaurants on the main square will charge you much higher prices than those away from it. You are not only paying for the food you are eating but also for the view and the excitement that comes from being in the middle of it all people watching.

There are great travel apps for finding affordable restaurants at your destination, like The Fork (to find the best restaurant choice based on your interests) or Eatwith (which connects you with locals to have an authentic dining experience).

If you have the opportunity of chatting with a local, ask him or her for recommendations of local affordable restaurants in the city.

28. Make lunch the main meal of your day

Plan your biggest meal to be lunch instead of dinner. Lunch is generally more affordable and many eateries offer lunch specials and combos at good prices. “Eat a bigger lunch and snack at dinner. Lunch is cheaper”, Nancy told us.

As suggested above, avoid eating at touristy places in main streets, which generally overcharge and the food’s quality is not that good. 

If you’re eating by yourself, ask for a place in the bar or a communal table so you can meet new people abroad. Eating at terraces or at tables may even carry an extra fee in places like Italy.

29. Pack snacks from home

One more food tip for how to save money while traveling: bring your own snacks or BYOS as we like to call it. 

Traveling usually involves a high level of physical activity, so you may be craving for snacks every now and then during the day. Stopping at an overpriced convenience store could be quite pricey so bring your own.

Choose healthy options that give you energy when you’re feeling hungry and need a quick boost. Some energy-boosting snacks options are nutrient bars without added sugar, dried fruits and nuts, or canned salmon / tuna with crackers. Apples can also last you a few days.

“When going to islands and expensive food places sometimes pack granola, trail mix and protein bars from home to have some easy cheap breakfast and snack options” advised Susan, one of our members.

30. Drink the water (or the beer)

Water is usually the healthiest and most affordable drink you can have, so if you are looking for tips for saving money on vacation, you should lay off anything other than water, except in places like South Africa, where beer is almost the same price as water.

To save even more and be a more responsible traveler, bring your own water bottle and refill it locally, and always check at restaurants and bars, if they serve free tap water. 

In many countries, tap water is potable and sometimes even of better quality than the bottled water you may find at home, and it may also be offered free. 

In Singapore, almost all restaurants, including Michelin-starred restaurants, offer free tap water to all customers, hawker stalls being an exception. 

On our trip to Iceland, we always recommend guests bring their own water bottle and refill it every morning before leaving the hotel because Iceland’s tap water is some of the purest and tastiest in the world.

Another hack for saving while traveling are public fountains. In Paris, not only will you find pretty stylish public fountains that dispense perfectly safe drinking water but you can also find sparkling water fountains, talk about fancy.

31. Bring a refillable water bottle

This one is linked to the previous tip about drinking water. Bringing a reusable water bottle is the best way to do it in an ecological way. 

The National Academy of Medicine suggests women should drink around 2-3 liters of water every day, especially during those travel days when we walk 20,000 steps or more daily. 

Save money on vacation by packing a reusable water bottle. Some cities, especially in Europe, offer free drinking water fountains where you can refill your bottle. Or you can refill it in your hotel every morning. 

Check out this refillable foldable water bottle from Amazon.

32. Visit free sites and attractions 

Find the best free things to do in the destination you’re visiting. 

Sometimes, the best spots are free, like the view from Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence or seeing Sagrada Familia from outside in Barcelona. Many churches and architectural landmarks are also free to enter and admire.

Adventure yourself with free outdoor activities like our member Katia, who loves visiting parks, hikes, and urban art.

33. Take advantage of free museum days

In many cities, there’s one day a week or month where museums and other cultural attractions offer a free entrance or a reduced rate. Do research in advance to find out which days in each destination, and plan your schedule accordingly. 

For example, many museums and monuments are free the first Sunday of every month in Rome, Italy.

This great tip was suggested by our group member Laura, based on her experience in Paris, where the well-known Louvre museum is free on July 14 every year, unless it falls on a Tuesday when the museum is closed.

Additionally, search deals for students, young people and seniors, which can get reduced rates or free entrance to several museums worldwide.

34. Join free walking tours

Free walking tours are very popular and an incredible way of saving money on vacation. These tours are generally hosted by a local and have a casual environment with lots of walking. There’s no cost for joining the tour, but generally a tip is expected from the guide.

Check out a Free walking tour site to search for tours in your destination, some even offer activities like pub crawls, which are a fantastic opportunity to meet other travelers.

35. Ask advice from locals

Some of the best tips come from having conversations with local people. 

Feel free to ask your Airbnb host, the barista at a coffee shop or locals walking on the street for tips on things to do, how to save money when traveling in that destination, free events and attractions, typical affordable places to eat, etc.

You’ll be surprised with the answers and may even find some not-so-touristy hidden gems during your trip.

36. Do your own laundry

Save money on travel and time by doing your own laundry at your accommodation, instead of paying to use self-service laundry or extra luggage at check in. 

Our member Dorcas shared this great tip: “Carry detergent and do your own laundry at the hotel”. 

We love SinkSuds, which are little detergent packets that can go in your backpack or carry (TSA compliant) and are ideal for washing clothes in the sink. They can be used with all kinds of fabrics, including delicates, and you can use 1 packet to wash up to 3 garments.

37. Don’t overspend on souvenirs

We know that some souvenirs are great and make you remember your trip when you return home, but if you’re traveling on a budget avoid buying souvenirs, especially expensive ones. 

If you really feel like buying something during your travels, opt for cheap souvenirs like postcards or keychains.

But, you don’t need souvenirs to have memories of your trip. Instead, take lots of photos to bring back the best memories and share them with your loved ones, or even make a digital/printed photo book when you return home.

38. Collect rewards 

Collect rewards from flights and accommodation. There are some awesome rewards programs like the one from Hotels.com, which gives you a free night for every 10 nights you book through the site or app. This is also the go-to app for booking hotels that our Co-Founder Mar has been using for decades.

Our group member Seneca gave this great tip: “Join hotel loyalty programs for member rates and points which can be redeemed”. 

There are many options to accumulate points and earn rewards to save money on vacation, like hotel reward programs, credit card travel rewards and flight miles.

Do your research, find the reward/miles programs that fit your needs best and sign up to start accumulating. Our team and some of our members have bought round flight tickets only using accumulated miles.

39. Bring your own booze

Looking forward to a drink on your fabulous cruise cabin balcony? Skip the overpriced cocktails with your own bottle or gin and tonic you carry from home then order ice. Or better yet, buy locally at the supermarket on any stop and sample local spirit options.

Pro tip: Make sure that you comply with custom limits and not carry more than you are allowed or you’ll have to pay for the custom duty which may negate the saving.

40. Take overnight trains or buses

“When I was a student and had limited money, I took more than one overnight bus and train to save on accommodation”, says our Co-founder, Mar. “You get to your destination in the most efficient way, wasting the least amount of day time, and save on accommodation.”

In countries of great distances such as India or the US, options such as trains and overnight Greyhound buses respectively, are great money-saving tips.

41. Don’t overtip

In many countries in Asia such as Singapore, a service charge is already added on your bill so you don’t have to add another one. Check the bill before leaving any extra money.

Additionally, always understand the local tipping culture. Even though it’s never a bad thing to tip extra, if you are looking to save money on vacation, the last thing you want is to overtip. Do your research, observe what locals do or even ask the waiter what is expected.

42. Always bring your own food to the airport

Airports can be real money drainers. Everything there carries an extra premium, from bottled water to snacks and drinks. Even if you make it through without spending anything, you then board the plane and are faced with even higher prices in the cases where meals are not included in the fare. 

Bring your own water bottle you can often refill at the airport and carry your own snacks. If you plan to stay at the airport for a long time and it’s not practical to carry your own food, consider paying for airport lounge access where you can eat, drink and work. This could also be cheaper than paying for an overpriced airport hotel if you have an overnight flight.

43. Get a no-fee card

Get an accessible credit card that offers international purchases with no fees. We highly recommend Revolut, the ‘financial super app’ that offers cards with excellent benefits for travelers. With their cards, you can spend internationally with great exchange rates and you can use their app to make international transfers in a matter of minutes. 

With Revolut, you will save on high fees and get great currency exchange rates when traveling.

“Revolute, hands down the best! I travel all over the world with it, had it for a few years, never had one problem.” our group member Beverley shared.

44. Track your expenses

Even if this may not help you save money on your current trip, it will be useful for the next one. Look at where you spent your money upon your return and see how you could have saved. 

Before your next trip, check your last again and see how you could have saved some of the money with better planning or preparation. This can be very insightful and useful.

To track your expenses, we recommend apps like TravelSpend.

45. Bring your own coffee

Coffee can be one of your biggest expenses when traveling, especially if you cannot tolerate bad, watered down hotel breakfast coffee and end up ordering a premium latte or cappuccino for $7. Even great 5* hotels provide terrible coffee, a mystery we never understood.

You can save money on your daily coffee fix by bringing your own high quality instant coffee or if you are a coffee snob, your own travel coffee maker. It is an expensive investment at first but it can save you lots on your travels.

We like Pakt Coffee Kit because it makes excellent high quality coffee. At $5 per coffee, you’ll need to take 30-40 coffees to start seeing savings but can you put a price on going about your day half asleep because of bad coffee?

We hope these tips help you save money on your next trip! 

If we missed any tips on how to save money on vacation, please share them in the comment section below.

2 thoughts on “43+ Expert hacks to save money on travel”

  1. That is a very long article of mostly stating the bleeding obvious and repeating the same points over and over – or just contradicting yourself. You literally recommend getting breakfast included then avoiding the included breakfast in consecutive points.

    Reply
    • Hi Sharon, it’s possible that because it is a very long article, you may have misread the advice on breakfast, as there is no contradiction 🙂 We say that many hotels or acommodation providers provide a free breakfast, and if this is the case, it’s a great idea to make this a main meal of the day, however if breakfast is charged extra, a good way to save is to not have it included. Hotel breakfast buffets for instance are often insnaely overpriced, and I’ve been to some which charge $34 + for breakfast, when you can instead visit a much cheaper cafe.

      So in recap – free breakfast, included as part of your room rate – go for it. Charged breakfast, not included in the room rate, and charged extra – go to a local cafe instead.

      Hope this clears that up.

      As it sounds like you’re already on top of all 43 ideas for saving money on travel, it’s great to hear that you’re already a pro, and we wish you the best on your next trip. If you have additional ideas beyond those listed above which you believe are more creative, you’re very welcome to share them, as all of our content is based on the advice and tips of our 160,000 member community, so the ideas here are a collaboration of many different minds.

      Reply

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