So you’ve already set a budget or had the time-off approved for your dream trip.. but what about saving on all of the “smaller” expenses that add up while traveling?
Masashi and I are looking forward to our “bucket-list” trip (see here: how to plan a budget trip).. but this is not our first adventure, and we’ve both picked up some saving-money skills. We thought we would share these to help make your next trip cost a little bit less jaw-dropping..
How To Save On Travel
1. Travel lighter.
Although you might not realize it, the amount and weight of what you bring on a trip can determine a lot of your extra expenses. While most international flights allow a set amount of checked luggage, smaller domestic flights (such as between countries) may have different weight requirements, or require additional luggage fees if you are carrying more bags. Be sure to check the luggage requirements for *all* the flights you are thinking about booking, and consider going lighter on luggage to reduce unnecessary costs (and free you up for more fun!). If you’re worried about whether you’ll be able to bring back everything you buy abroad, you might consider bringing a collapsible bag that you can use just on the way home.
2. Use a credit card.
We are not proponents of using credit cards to go into debt – something that we strongly believe can be detrimental to families, and something we avoid doing. However, if you do have a credit card and choose to use it responsibly, it can be helpful while traveling. Specifically, a card that is linked to a rewards or points-back system, or that has a reduced rate on exchange fees between currencies, can make it possible for you to evade steep exchange rates. This is preferable to buying lots of local currency purchased at a high loss. If you qualify, some credit cards also offer free traveler’s insurance. In addition, we’ve been able to use some point systems to pay for nicer meals out.
3. Dine in, not out.
When you think about the fact that you have to eat whether you’re at home or abroad, food doesn’t seem like such a “trip expense” so much as something that you have to pay for, regardless. However, how much you spend on food during a trip does have a big part to play in your overall travel budget. While it might be tempting to cross off every item on your must-try list, tempering your expectations and dining in by shopping at local grocery stores can not only be money-saving, but allows you the chance to get a true “local’s experience”. When we visit somewhere new, Masashi and I like to balance eating out a few times with outdoor picnics using food purchased from local stores.
4. Avoid using vending machines to make snack or beverage purchases.
Another savings-tip related to food is to avoid using vending machines at all costs. Yes, it can be inconvenient to lug around extra food.. and the machines look so tempting.. but the items are almost ALWAYS priced higher than if purchased at a local grocery or convenience store. If you can go without a soda-fix during your travels, bottling tap water (as long as it’s safe) can be another way to keep cash in your pockets.
5. Use less transportation.
Taxis, buses, and trains are all convenient modes of transportation.. but if you’re on a tight budget and able-bodied, walking more rather than riding can save a lot. Often travelers miss to check maps and distances, and end up hopping on a bus for a distance that they could have walked almost as easily on foot. Tickets also might not seem like much at the time, but they do add up! Not to mention, you can take in much more scenery while walking than on underground subways or from the vantage of the windows on a cramped bus.
6. Don’t fall for tourist traps.
I know you’ve probably heard this one before, but it’s still worth saying. Personally, Masashi and I tend to find the cheaper things more enjoyable than the touristy, overly-frequented sights. When we lived in Yokohama, this was true even of our own city! Crowds, queuing, and heightened prices are things we like to avoid (and you probably do, too..). Souvenirs can be especially over-priced in tourist areas of town.. so we recommend shopping where locals frequent.
7. Use discount cards.
Many major travel destinations have discount cards available on attractions, sightseeing, restaurants, and so on. For example, London offers the London Pass. Before purchasing a discount pass, do double-check and make sure that you’re actually getting a discount. Think about what sights you truly want to see, and how many you can realistically visit within the given time that the discount card is valid. Unless your goal is to see every sight the card offers in a short amount of time, you may find that a discount pass does not match your traveling pace.
We also decided NOT to purchase one discount pass for Ireland because, although it does offer some savings, most of the sights are not places we particularly want to visit, so we wouldn’t actually save money. Be sure to also check that the places you can get free admission to using a discount card are actually priced to begin with! Some discount cards list sights that are already free to the public as places you can go.. which, while true, seems a bit deceptive!
8. Do things that are free.
This one might seem obvious, but often people overlook that sometimes the best things in life really are free. Check online to see what museums are open to the public, and don’t fall for every overpriced attraction.
9. Talk to locals.
Sometimes the people that are best-informed about what sights are worth it and how to save money are locals. If you’re staying with an Airbnb host, perhaps you can talk to them about their recommendations.. or, read what locals say online, and even better.. get out and talk to people! For example, I was able to get tips on international SIM cards by communicating with a local.
10. Work while traveling.
This is not something that everyone has the ability or desire to do, but working while traveling can be a great way to cut your costs by continuing to bring in an income while you’re abroad. Whether that is through working online, getting a part-time job abroad (with a valid working visa), expanding your knowledge through a paid research grant program, or something else.. there are opportunities out there.
If you’re really pressed for cash, you might also consider other creative ways to go abroad on the cheap, such as by being a nanny, doing language tutoring in exchange for housing, doing house exchange (where you stay at a local’s house while they stay at yours), house sitting (you watch someone’s house while they’re away), studying abroad on a scholarship, or participating in an agriculture program. Or, try backpacking instead of traditional travel.
11. Adjust your expectations.
Although you might think that you need lots of souvenirs, if you can change your expectations of what you want out of a trip, you will save money. Focus on family or friends, the experience, and enjoying sights.. rather than going on a spending spree. You can get a lot out of a trip by talking with people, sharing meaningful experiences, learning about new cultures, or just walking around and observing how people live life.
Have more money-saving tips? Planning a trip?
Please let us know by commenting below!