There’s no way around it: traveling isn’t cheap. But you don’t have to be a millionaire to go an annual vacation, just well-organized and travel-savvy. You don’t even need to resort to petty penny-pinching; there are plenty of great tips that are both easy and sensible. Find ten of the best ways to save money when you travel here:
1 Book Under The Radar
Booking online has made comparing deals a breeze, but it has also paved the way for companies to be a little underhanded. Many booking sites store cookies on your computer, which contain a record of what you were looking at, whether that’s flights or hotels. If you come back to it later, without clearing those cookies, they’ll often put the prices up to encourage you to book sooner. It’s easy to get around it though – just clear your cookies, or better still, always browse for bookings in an incognito/private browsing window.
2 Time It Carefully
It’s fairly common knowledge that prices go down in the off-season, making it the best time to grab some bargains and deals. What people don’t always realize is that this includes the week just after the main tourist season ends, when the weather is still great, but you can avoid the crowds. Another great time to book is on less-popular weekdays; you could easily enjoy an extra night in a hotel for a similar price to booking a two-night weekend stay.
3 Research Thoroughly
It makes sense if you think about it – not just choosing the first place you see to eat is going to save you money, just like shopping around for the best price at the supermarket. A bit of time spent now can seriously pay off later, such as finding cheap bus or metro tickets, or avoiding tourist traps to find authentic and reasonably-priced cuisine just off the beaten path. Many restaurants have better deals at lunchtime than for dinner, so plan your schedule accordingly. There are also websites which will connect you with a local for cheap or free guide services, ride sharing, and home-cooked meals.
4 Consider Alternative Accommodation
There are numerous alternatives to hotels that don’t cost the earth, and that aren’t crowded hostels, either. House sitting, house swaps, or Airbnb are all great options that allow you to stay in a great house or apartment which can have far more character than the average hotel, while still being centrally located. Having a kitchen means you can pick up some groceries and cook a few meals instead of dining out, too. If you’d rather stay in a hotel, look at ones just outside of big cities – but be wary that the cost of travel into the city doesn’t cancel out these savings.
5 Travel in Packs (or at least pairs)
Just about everything is cheaper in bulk, and that includes travel. Sharing hotel rooms or cruise cabins means cutting the cost significantly. So does splitting car rentals or gas for a road trip. Pairs are better than groups, certainly for accommodation, but groups have advantages, too. You can also share certain items, cutting down on luggage.
6 Pack Smartly
On the subject of luggage, less is more. Large suitcases are annoying and have to be paid for on budget airlines, so aim to just take carry-on. Save space by taking less – if you’ll have easy access to a washing machine, take some washing powder in a sock, which will also keep your clothes smelling fresh. Socks can be stuffed into shoes; clothes should be rolled and can then be put into packing cubes, which double as makeshift pillows in a pinch!
7 Hydrate Sensibly
This might sound like obvious advice, but don’t buy bottled water if you don’t have to. Sure, try some local drinks, but a reusable water bottle can save you a surprising amount of spending money if the tap water is drinkable. Of course, be aware that some areas don’t have safe tap water; a trip to the hospital will cost you a bundle.
8 Consider Currency
Again, shop around for the best exchange rate when changing cash, find a bank with the best foreign ATM fees and get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. Generally, you’ll get a better exchange rate if you just use your credit card wherever you can but, in some places, cash is king. Local markets and small shops may charge a fee to pay with credit and some may not accept plastic at all. It’s best to change or withdraw larger sums of money, but put it in separate places. Use a money belt to keep it secure.
9 Find Free Activities
This is also part of the research stage, but keep an eye out while you’re on vacation for advertised events – changing plans is easy. Remember many cities have free walking tours and other free events. Not only will you save money, but you’re more likely to interact with locals and have a more authentic experience.
10 Have A Back-Up Plan
This applies to insurance (which again, shop around), but also to be prepared in case of accidents or robbery, etc. It’s smart for any traveler to have a copy of their ID, phone numbers related to bank cards, insurance policy details, and other key info such as embassy/consulate details, in a safe place – a small pocket underneath your clothes is sensible.
Try out these tips when you next travel for a fuss-free, frugal trip. You’ll be surprised at the difference they’ll make not just to the cost, but to the ease of your journey.
Andrea Boffo is CEO of PlusVoucherCode, a website that provides discount codes to save money on online purchases.