This post highlights all the smart ways I’ve been able to save money on travel. These are all tried-and-true methods that I can guarantee will save you money as well. It’s no secret that travel is not cheap, but it is possible to travel when you’re broke. A friend recently told me I must be loaded since I’m always traveling. If only she knew of these tips and tricks that I’m sharing today.
If you’ve been thinking of taking a vacation, whether a solo vacation, a family vacation, or even a girls’ trip, and have been saving up money for your trip, you more than likely want your money to stretch as far as it can. That way, you can do as much as possible while on vacation. No one wants to go on vacation and return feeling more stressed than before they left.
When I travel, I am always looking for ways to cut costs since I hate spending more money than is necessary. I don’t call it cheap or frugal, I call it being smart. I’m on my way to achieving my dream of visiting 50 countries before I turn 50, and these are some of the best ways that I’ve found to save money when traveling, including ways to save on airfare, lodging, dining, and other travel-related expenses.
I’ve been following the advice I’m sharing on this list for years and continue to do so even now. After all, who doesn’t like their money going further?
Here are some of the best ways to save money on travel.
1. Travel in the off-season.
I’ve spoken numerous times about traveling during the off-season, also known as off-peak season or even shoulder season. This is hands down my go-to strategy for cutting travel costs and making the most of my budget. Not only do you save money on airfare and lodging, but you won’t have to contend with tourists during the high season.
I was able to visit Prague at a significant discount during the off-season in January, which made that trip among my most memorable travel experiences. If you’re considering a summer vacation, consider the month of August, as airfare tends to be cheaper than the months of June and July.
2. Use Google Flights Explore & Skyscanner to find cheap flights.
When I wrote about the ways I’m able to afford to travel the world, I mentioned that I generally travel to places where it’s cheapest to fly to and not necessarily where I want to go. On my quest to visit 50 countries before age 50, that strategy has worked out perfectly for me. I have visited countries that were never on my top priority list but instead because of the price to travel there, turned out to be amazing.
Google Flights Explore is one of the ways I’m able to check for cheap flights. I put in the dates I want to travel and then simply check to see where it’s cheapest to fly to at or around that time. To use Google Flights Explore, merely input your departure airport, leave the arrival airport empty, enter your travel date, and simply hit search.
Skyscanner is also another that I use. If you have some flexibility in your travel plans, you may get the cheapest flights on specified days or at any time throughout an entire month. If you want to locate the most cost-effective flights from your city to any destination worldwide, try Skyscanner’s “Everywhere” search function.
I also signed up for Going (previously known as Scott’s Cheap Flights), which sends me travel deals via email.
3. Book flights in advance.
I’ve found the ideal time to book a domestic flight (flights within the United States) is one to two months in advance, while the best time to book an international flight (flights outside of the United States) is three to six months in advance. When you book your flight in advance, you could end up saving a lot of money. However, sometimes you can at times find last-minute deals, especially when using tip two above.
I’ve also found that traveling on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, in general, offers the best prices for airline tickets. Try to avoid traveling on or around major holidays, as this is the time of year when fares are at their highest.
4. Travel light.
I’m exclusively a carry-on traveler, as checking luggage is not only time-consuming and more expensive, but I’d rather not wait around for my luggage to show up after a flight. I like to get on and off the plane as quickly as possible. However, I recently discovered that backpack travel is even cheaper, especially with budget airlines, as sometimes they charge for carry-ons. If you can swing it, try traveling as light as you can. You’ll save a lot on baggage fees, which in turn saves you money.
5. Book the nonrefundable hotel rate.
I’ve shared before how to get the best deal on your hotel room, and these are tips that I also use when I’m booking a hotel. As a matter of fact, while hostels, including AirBnB, can save you lots of money, I’m a bigger fan of hotels because of the security they give me.
I do have friends who have stayed in hostels and swear by them, but since I’ve personally never stayed in a hostel, I can’t personally recommend it. AirBnB, on the other hand, can save you quite a bit of money as their rates are generally cheaper than hotels.
If you have concrete plans for your next trip, then booking your hotel room at the nonrefundable rate can be an excellent way to save money, as this is generally cheaper than the flexible rate. However, it can also be the most expensive method if you have to cancel, so you do need to be careful.
6. Book hotels with free breakfast.
While we’re on the topic of hotels, I always book a hotel that offers complimentary breakfast. One of the sites I visit when booking my hotel is Tripadvisor. I input my hotel filters, and free breakfast is always one that I check, especially when traveling with Madison. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I would much rather eat before I go out than go out searching for a place to eat.
Whether it’s a buffet-style breakfast or breakfast offered at the hotel’s restaurant, it’s always good when it’s free. FYI, luxury hotels generally don’t often provide free breakfasts, and it’s usually an extra charge when you book with them, while you’ll have a better chance of it being offered at a budget hotel.
7. Eat local.
And by that, I mean eat where the locals eat. Skip the tourist trap restaurants. I save much more money by moving a little bit further away from popular tourist attractions and finding a more local spot. You can always ask the hotel staff for recommendations or even doing a bit of research beforehand. These restaurants not only offer more authentic meals, but they’re also much cheaper too.
One of my favorite restaurants to date was a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Prague named U Červeného páva (the Red Peacock). It was recommended by a staff member at a museum I happened to walk into who had just gotten back from lunch. It was amazing. The portions were significant, the price was right, and I highly recommend paying them a visit if you’re ever in Prague.
8. Order water only.
When eating out at restaurants, skip the sodas or drinks unless you’re on a food tour, of course. We hardly ever buy specialty drinks and instead get water (still or sparkling). Water is always cheaper and a lot healthier too.
If you would rather not pay for water, you can ask for tap water instead. But if you need more clarification about the safety of the water in the country you’re in, consider getting water from a store and filling up a refillable water bottle. Whenever we travel, we always take our Hydroflask with us. They’re such a lifesaver. You can also take your refillable water bottle with you. We’ve never been asked not to drink from it whenever in a restaurant.
9. Take free tours.
Did you know that free walking tours are offered in the majority of the world’s major cities? A listing of free walking tours from all over the world may be found on the website FreeTour.com. Every time I plan a trip to a new location, the first thing I do is look into whether or not there are any free walking tours available.
Madison and I have taken part in quite a few walking tours, and it’s such a great way to see the city through the eyes of a local. We were able to see sites that we would not have thought of seeing if we hadn’t done the tour. Even though the guides of these free walking tours work for tips, going on one of these tours is still cheaper than going on one of the many other types of tours that are available.
10. Take public transportation.
Thanks to Google Maps, taking public transportation is normally a breeze and can end up saving you a ton of money. Whenever I travel, I always map out the direction from the airport to the hotel and take into consideration how much time it will take me to get back and forth using all methods of transportation.
However, public transportation isn’t always the cheapest or most convenient. For example, it’s cheaper and more convenient to use taxis in Dubai when going longer distances, as using public transportation can be a pain when needing to transfer.
In Europe, while Uber is available in most countries, it’s not available in all. Consider downloading Bolt and FreeNow to compare rates between all the ride-share services. Uber isn’t always the cheapest, as we found out in Poland. We saved so much more using FreeNow over Uber and even their public transportation.
11. Check museum free days.
Besides taking advantage of free tours, another great way to save money on travel is to go to museums on the days when they are free to the public. The majority of museums offer complimentary admission on at least one day per month. We would generally research free days before we travel and visit on those days (if convenient). On our last trip to Warsaw, Poland, many of the museums we visited were free, which ended up saving us money that we later spent on food.
12. Skip the souvenirs.
I used to be one who would souvenir shop whenever I visited a new country. I would grab the tees, snow globes, and keychains—you name it, I bought it. But not only are souvenirs expensive, but they also take up precious space in your luggage. There are many other ways you can create beautiful souvenirs of your travels.
I now pick up one magnet that I can place on my refrigerator. You can go cheaper and pick up a postcard which you can either mail or stick in your backpack or carry-on. Or you can skip the souvenirs entirely and just take a photo. Either would make great mementos of your travels.
Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive at all. Granted the most of your travel cost may be accommodation and transport to your destination, but if you don’t need to fly, consider taking the train or bus or even driving your private vehicle.
However, there are plenty of ways to save money on travel without compromising your experience. From choosing off-peak travel times and opting for public transportation, these strategies can help you save money while still enjoying all that your destination has to offer.
Additionally, planning ahead and researching your destination can help you avoid unnecessary costs and make the most out of your trip. With these money-saving tips in mind, you can explore new places and create unforgettable memories without breaking the bank. So go ahead and start planning your next adventure today!