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How to save money whilst traveling 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.
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 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 a dollar on the road.
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.
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?”).
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.)
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:
Flying at unpopular hours, such as the red-eye or early in the AM increases your chance of getting discounted flights.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually the cheapest times, and try and avoid holiday periods.
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.
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.
Ask about student discounts at STA Travel. (if only to be young again!)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Always ask about discounted rates, free meals for children, and an upgrade at check in – they can only say no.
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:
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 :
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cheap price, more comfy than a bus, slightly faster pace than walking..
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.
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.
Just go one street or one block over and it will usually be much cheaper and more authentic!
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.
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.
When booking a hotel or hostel look for one with breakfast included.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
When taking road trips make sure your car is operating efficiently and is fully serviced. Some tips:
For the ultimate road trip planning guide click here.
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.
Many things to see and do are absolutely free:
Hit the street with your feet and get lost in a city or town. It’s amazing what you’ll discover around every corner.
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.
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