When I started writing this post, I was planning to share just a few tips I use to travel on a low budget. But once I started, I couldn’t stop, so I reached the amazing number you can see now. And I’m sure not all of these tips will apply to all situations, but most probably some will.
The most basic thing you have to remember is to always plan and research as much as possible. Nothing will make you spend more than your own lack of knowledge. So, if there’s just one thing you’ll take from this post, take this one: always do your homework, no matter how boring it may seem. Let’s get to it then!
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Timing is everything!
1. Travel in the shoulder season or low season
Traveling just outside the usually crowded times will get you better prices for everything: flights, accommodation, meals, activities, and so on. The weather is usually not that bad and you also share the places with fewer crowds.
2. Avoid school vacations
Families with children are tied to the schools’ schedules, so they cannot travel outside school vacations. But if you’re not in this category, you should use this approach. Avoid peak Summer months, when there’s a big school vacation in most of Europe, and Spring and Summer break times in the US.
Choose your destination wisely
3. Choose less touristy places
Everyone and their mother want to visit Paris. Everyone knows and wants to go to Bora Bora. But have you thought of visiting Stockholm instead of Paris and Vanuatu instead of Bora Bora? Try a cost simulation and be amazed at the price difference you will find.
4. Choose cheaper destinations
Maybe your bucket list is full of very expensive places to visit, but try to also look into very affordable destinations. Most of South East Asia is pretty cheap for the average Western European or North American, and I think some parts of South America as well. Try and prioritize these parts of the world.
5. Avoid countries where you need to pay for your visa
This might not apply to you if you have a “strong” passport, but most of us don’t have that luxury. In this case, choose countries where you can enter without a paid visa, or at least research this so you know what to expect.
6. If you’re traveling far away from home, cluster a few countries in a trip
If you’re traveling form the US to Europe, don’t do that for one week in Paris. Instead, plan a 2-3 week trip and visit Paris, Rome, Barcelona, and London. The flights between destinations will be cheaper and you won’t pay the long flight more than once.
7. Use the “anywhere” function from Skyscanner to find cheap places to go to
You don’t have to always know where you should go. Let the budget take you where you can go instead. With the “anywhere” function, you’ll find great places where you can go, and you might even find some cool destinations no one knows about yet.
Reduce your costs
8. Sometimes, it’s better to buy a pre-made package vacation
Especially in exotic places. I have never used it, but most people swear by Groupon for these sorts of deals. In any case, it doesn’t hurt to compare prices. Do a simulation and see what comes up.
9. Use a local SIM card to have internet
You can use an older phone as a wi-fi hotspot and share it across your group. This will avoid roaming fees from your usual service provider, and you probably don’t make that many calls anyway, so you won’t use your basic phone connection at all.
10. Use offline maps
If you want to avoid a need for wi-fi altogether. For 2-3 days you can be ok without having internet at all. Just have your data roaming easily accessible in case you need it for something important. Otherwise, McD and Starbucks, plus some other places in bigger cities might give you enough to get by.
11. Always use a private window to check prices for flights and accommodation
Maybe you noticed that if you search for some flights long enough, the prices start to go up almost by the hour. This is because you’re creating demand by continuously looking for the same destinations over and over again. A private browsing window can prevent this from happening.
12. Use a VPN to make it look like you’re searching from another place
We have noticed that the same plane tickets, for the same route, will have a different price if looked for from Romania versus Switzerland. The difference is not much, but why pay it if you don’t need to? Try a VPN and make it look like you’re searching from a poorer country.
13. If possible, travel in a group to split the costs
Some costs can be very well optimized if traveling in a group. If you plan to rent a car, a group of 4 is perfect. You’ll need one car and 2 hotel rooms, or a bigger apartment. All costs will get lower if you can make this work.
14. Travel for longer
Using the same means. For example, stay in the same hotel longer or rent a car for longer. The cost per day will be smaller if you make a bigger reservation.
15. Bring your gear when possible
If your vacation has activities that require special gear, like snorkeling or skiing, you might need to analyze if it’s cheaper for you to rent or bring your gear. For one day of skiing, it will be cheaper to rent than to add an over-sized bag on your flight, but for a vacation trip, you might be better off bringing your snorkeling gear.
16. Play the patience game
If you want to buy a new gadget, like a new GoPro, wait until they launch the newest model and then buy the previous one at half the price. The same applies to a new phone, new Kindle, or other expensive electronics. I know it’s not exactly a travel hack, but aren’t you happy you know it now?
Just ask for it!
17. Tell everyone if you’re celebrating something
It can be your birthday, wedding, engagement, anniversary, you name it. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes you get free stuff because of it. And by everyone, I mean flight crew, hotel staff, tour guides, anyone that can give you anything. We did this in the Maldives and enjoyed a special dinner.
18. Complain but be polite
If something is not right with your room, tour or flight, complain about it. Be polite, but firm. You might get a better room, a free or discounted tour, a flight voucher, or an upgrade. But always, I repeat, always be polite.
19. Just plain ask for upgrades or discounts
With a smile on your face and a polite inquiry, you might get a better deal. It will not work all the time, but you might as well try. What’s the worst that can happen? They might say “no”. So? You didn’t lose anything, asking is always free.
20. See if you have people around that might have benefits
And if they can share these benefits with you. I’m talking about rewards, miles, vouchers, gift cards they’re not using. Don’t you have that one aunt that flies once a year, and has miles and gift vouchers that she just keeps lying around? Well, maybe some of them are transferable.
21. Ask for gift cards
When people ask you what you want for your birthday, Christmas or graduation gift, tell them you’d appreciate a gift card for travel-related expenses. They’re going to buy you a gift anyway, so why not have them spending their money on something you’ll use?
22. Use discounts offered by your employer
Some companies have special rates negotiated for certain services all across the world. If you’re going to rent a car anyway, see if there’s a discount for you and your colleagues for a rent a car company. Maybe you can use it for your trip.
It’s all about the money
23. Pay attention to currency exchange rates
Depending on your bank and the currency, this can add up. I use Revolut exactly for this reason. Living in Europe and traveling locally, I need a card that doesn’t charge me for currency exchange. It has been a lifesaver for the last 2 years.
24. Avoid the ATM fees
If you can manage to pay mostly by card, try to not withdraw so much money. Also, you have a smaller chance of losing a big amount of money if you get robbed. It can depend on your bank, but try to research ATM fees in advance to know what to expect.
25. Be informed about usual scams
Hey, if you’re not losing money you’re gaining money, right? Be aware of common scams where you’re going and research basic prices as well. If you feel you’re being tricked or you’re overpaying for something, just get out and try to find another place for your business.
26. Reserve things online in advance
Sometimes they’re cheaper like this. For example, our car in Iceland was 15% cheaper if reserved online, and some tours might have a similar discount as well. It’s worth your time researching a bit, in my opinion.
27. Get your deposit back
For everything you buy and you pay a deposit, plan to take it back. While sometimes this is automated, like when you rent a car, in other cases, you have to specifically ask for it. The most common example is when you have a transportation card that you must redeem before you leave. So plan this as well so you won’t lose that money.
28. Track your estimated versus spent budget
You’ll get better at estimations over time if you keep track of this for a while. It also helps you focus on your spendings while on vacation when you tend to spend more than you use to. Install a budgeting app or keep a simple note on your phone and you’re good to go.
Tips on how to get very cheap flight tickets
Flexibility is key
29. Be flexible with the dates
If you don’t have specific dates when you need to travel, try different dates around the same time of year. You can find wildly different prices if you just move 2 or three days with your dates. Skyscanner is great for this, as it allows you to search for a whole month, and shows you when are the cheapest fares you can score.
30. Be flexible with the destination
Make your bucket list and have alerts for all the places, so you can decide on a trip based on the available flights that seem to be friendlier with your budget. You don’t have to have your plans set in stone for the next 5 years, no matter what any HR will ask you at an interview. Try to go with the flow sometimes!
31. Be flexible with your departure and arrival points
Try to fly from or to smaller airports. This decreases the airport taxes that can get quite expensive, as bigger airports have bigger taxes. Still, look into how far away they are from your home or final destination. If you pay extra to get to the airport that’s further away, sometimes it’s just not worth it.
Mix and match
32. Choose a flight with a layover instead of the direct one
Sometimes the straight line is not the shorter way to get somewhere, in terms of money. Since most people avoid layovers, you have a chance on finding a good price if you choose to do this. Still, pay attention to the tickets as they may hide additional fees if you have to change airports or sleep in a hotel overnight.
33. Take a multi-city, open-jaw trip or just a return flight
Any of the above options can be more cost-effective in certain situations. You can choose to either go from A to B, B to C and C to A, or to go from A to B and come back from C to A, and cover the middle part with another means of transportation. Also, usually return flights are cheaper than each leg bought separately.
34. Use a super long layover
You can do this to decrease the price significantly and to visit an additional city while you’re at it. You have to do some research for this, as you need to have enough time and to be allowed to exit the airport during your layover, but it’s doable.
35. Offer your seat
If you’re not in a hurry and your flight is overbooked, you can offer your seat and be rewarded a few hundred $, but it might add up, depending on multiple factors. You’ll be at your destination in 24 h tops and you might even score an upgrade.
36. Take the lesser-known route
Be open to fly mid-week and at impossible hours. No one likes the red-eye and most people don’t fly on Tuesdays. That’s your chance on scoring some great deals for plane tickets.
37. Hunt error fares
This is a risky one, but it may work just fine. If you find an error fare, book it right on the spot. Then book accommodation and other stuff only with free cancellation. Then, you wait. If it gets confirmed, you might go across the world for a few bucks. Some sites where you can find error fares: Secret Flying, Scott’s Cheap Flights, Dino the Tourist.
38. Look into companion tickets
This is a very cost-effective way of traveling as a couple. Some airlines have good offers for companion tickets, and you should be looking into this as soon as possible. More detailed information here.
39. Use search engines but buy only from the source
Search with Skyscanner, but buy only from the airline. If you buy from somewhere else, buy travel insurance to have your back covered in case of cancellation, lost baggage, or other issues that may appear.
40. Buy low cost, but pay attention
Sometimes flying low cost may add up to more than a flag carrier. If you’re only in for the very basic package, you’re good. But if you need to add additional luggage or any other service, you may end up paying more.
41. Bring your own if flying low cost
Your own of what’s not included in the fare, that is. This can apply to entertainment, snacks, drinks (except for alcohol, as it’s prohibited to drink your own), even a blanket. For this, you need to do your homework and know what’s included and what isn’t. Also, check-in on-line, as airport check-in may cost a fee.
42. Do everything online
Especially when it comes to low-cost carriers, you can save big time by doing everything online. So, plan to check-in online, reserve your seat online, print your luggage tag online, and so on. The less you interact with people, the cheaper it will get.
43. Be brave
If you can travel last minute, you can score awesome prices. You just have to be very brave to do this. Or to decide on a few destinations, and see which one you can go to. I advise you to take this approach only for closer destinations, as you can move easier if it doesn’t work out.
44. Accept the airline credit
If you should get a refund from an airline you use often, accept the airline credit instead. It’s usually more than the refund amount so that they’ don’t have to give you money. You usually get to choose between 100% money back or 120% airline credit. If you use it often, it’s like free cash you’re getting.
45. Set up alerts
For every travel site you’re following, there’s probably an alert you can set up. The same applies to all airline sites. Try to set up alerts for your desired destinations so you can book if the price goes below your budget.
46. Social media is your friend
Follow airlines on social media. They sometimes publish very good offers on social media. And you’re checking your Facebook more often than your email anyway. So why not get a notification when they finally open up those tickets to the Caribbean?
47. Gather miles and points
I will not tell you to have a credit card or something similar, as I come from a culture where credit cards are evil. But you can gather miles on your usual debit cards, or you can just make an account with airline groups and gather miles in this account. You don’t have to pay anything, and you just gather points while you are flying anyway.
How to find cheap places to stay
Variation is key
48. Check accommodations on all platforms
Sometimes, the same accommodation can have 3 different prices on 3 different platforms. That’s why I always look at least on both Agoda and Booking. If you’re into AirBnB and HomeAway, look on those as well. You should have accounts on all of these platforms and see where you can find the best price.
49. Always try the hotel’s page as well
Or try to contact the owner, if it’s a smaller place. You have a chance on finding a better price or to be offered a discount. But keep in mind that this way you won’t have the Booking guarantee or help in case something goes wrong. You’ll just do it like in the old days when we didn’t know about search engines for accommodation.
50. Reserve with free cancellation
And change it closer to your date if you find something better or cheaper. Set a reminder on your phone one or two days before the free cancellation expires, and look again for hotels. You might find a better hotel for the same price, or even cheaper hotels, as sometimes they lower the prices as the date approaches.
51. Ask for an upgrade closer to your date
If superior rooms seem to still be available, they might offer you an upgrade for a fraction of the price or for free to leave the cheaper rooms available as they tend to be occupied easier when the date is approaching. Even if they don’t fill them, they know they have offered a good deal to a customer, and this leads to a good review or even a returning guest.
Sometimes, you just have to risk it
52. Go to places without reviews
They are usually cheaper because of this. And you tend to get better service because they know they need good reviews to set up a good business, so they will go out of their way to make your stay comfortable. In the end, it can rarely go very bad, and you can always find a last-minute deal if you need to leave the place.
53. Go without accommodation
You can find available rooms at a heavily discounted price in most places. HotelTonight is a good place dedicated only to this niche, and you can use the other platforms as well to find cheap places. Also, if you see there are rooms still available on a platform, you can go directly to the hotel and book a room for a fraction of the price.
Have a strategy in place
54. Avoid hotels with plenty of stuff you won’t use
You’re paying for them through the room price anyway. A few examples are: fitness area, pool, breakfast that starts too late and you’re already gone, children’s playground and so on. If you don’t use it, don’t pay for it.
55. Take the location into account
Don’t go to the cheapest hotel to spend plenty of money (and time!) on public transportation because of it. Instead, choose something with a good balance of location and price. And pay attention to the distance to tourist places. Sometimes you cannot stay close enough, so just choose something on a direct public transportation line to most things.
56. Ask for a frequent customer discount/card/program
If you’re going to a few hotels all the time, you might get a small benefit by registering in their program. Especially if you’re sometimes traveling for work, you can register as a regular and use the status for private trips as well. It never hurts to ask anyway, so why not do it?
How to pack light and avoid baggage fees
57. Travel light, only with a carry-on if possible
A carry-on is not just a purse anymore. In the last few years, with the rise of low-cost companies, we have learned to take a 3-4 day trip with just a carry-on and a small backpack for two people. Avoid the checked bag if you can and you’ll save big time.
58. Learn how to pack smart
This is how you carry less and have a cheaper and more enjoyable vacation. Prepare what you want to take with you, and then leave half of it home. You’ll never come back from a vacation regretting what you left home, but you might regret what you took with you and didn’t wear or need.
59. Wear all the heavy stuff while on the flight
But don’t overdo it though, you don’t want to draw attention. You can wear your winter coat even if you leave a sunny place, but don’t wear ski boots on the flight. They will notice something is wrong with you. Also, you don’t want to be that guy. Everyone notices that guy.
60. Use travel-sized bottles
Reusable ones, of course, don’t just buy the tiny toiletries you can find at the airport, those are overpriced as they have more packaging than the big versions. Just buy a set of reusable containers that are carry-on compliant and fill them up with what you need.
61. Don’t take toiletries at all
If you know your hotel is going to provide them, you can take only the necessities. Look at the offers from the hotel and see what you need to take and what you can leave at home. If you’re not picky with what you put on your skin, you can probably go with anything they offer.
62. Use fewer liquids if possible
Nowadays, more and more people move towards shampoo and conditioner bars, using soap instead of shower gel, and you can even buy toothpaste capsules that come in a jar. They’re not only more environmentally friendly, but they’re also lighter, so you don’t risk having them triggering a TSA alarm and they won’t spill in your bag.
63. Choose a bag that fits the limits
This way, you don’t risk overstuffing it and asked to check the bag because it doesn’t fit in the baggage checker by one half an inch. It’s been known to happen, so pay attention to this as the price can be even bigger than the flight ticket itself.
64. Try to pack everything you need
Only if you think you might find them very expensive where you’re going. If you’re going on a resort island, pack SPF like crazy, as it’s going to be expensive there. If you’re a smoker and you know cigarettes are expensive where you’re going, pack as much as legally possible, or buy from the duty-free in the airport.
65. Don’t add the bag at the airport
Try to pay for it from home and print your label. This is often cheaper than adding it directly at the counter, and you usually know one day before that you’re going to need an additional bag.
66. Choose a quality bag
If you intend to use it often, don’t choose a cheap bag that will fall apart quickly. This way, you don’t have to change it every year, and it will be cheaper in the long run. Also, it has a smaller risk of being screwed by the airline, which makes it less stressful for you.
We use Samsonite products for this exact reason: they’re a bit pricier, but they’re very sturdy, nicely looking and have a 10 year guarantee worldwide. In other words, if you take it back damaged in less that 10 years, they’re give you a new one, no questions asked.
67. Buy light
Not booze, but clothes, towels, sleeping bags, even winter coats. If you have a towel that can occupy the space of a handkerchief, you’re struck gold. Buy all your clothes like this and you can make your carry-on last for a week-long trip. Also, you’ll carry less and your back will thank you.
68. Use an e-reader
I know, you love the smell and feel of real, paperback books. I’m the same, a library geek. But when traveling, carrying books is not a good idea. Invest in a good e-reader that you can fill up with all the books you need. I have a reMarkable for this purpose, but you can choose from a big variety of Kindles as well.
69. Buy a baggage scale
It costs less than 10$ and it will prevent unexpected fees. You can check your bag at home and make the necessary adjustments, so you will never have a surprise at the airport when it’s a bit too late. It’s also small enough for you to take it on vacation and check it after you buy souvenirs as well. You can buy one here.
How to eat on a budget while on vacation
Take advantage of your accommodation
70. Have a rich breakfast
If you have breakfast included at the hotel, fill up to you can skip lunch and go directly to dinner later. Also, choose wisely what you eat so you have a filling meal. Skip the sugary stuff and get your protein intake higher instead.
71. Cook for yourself
If your accommodation has a kitchen, cook a meal from time to time. I know you’re not there to slave over the oven, but you can whip up some sandwiches or cook a frozen pizza from time to time. It will help you keep your costs down even if you don’t do this daily.
72. Skip the all-inclusive
If you don’t drink a lot, half-board is usually enough. You can eat a late breakfast and an early dinner so you won’t starve, don’t worry. But this way you’ll also be able to skip the fixed times for lunch, when you sometimes want to be wandering around, not being tied to your hotel.
Don’t be such a tourist!
73. Hit the grocery stores or supermarkets
Buy stuff to have in your room like fruits, yogurt, and sweet treats, but only when you know if you can deposit them properly. They cost less and will offer you a filling and healthy snack not only at home but also on the move.
74. Check out the farmer’s markets
Especially for fresh fruit and vegetables, but you can even find dairy products and local snacks. These are mostly targeted to locals, so the prices don’t include the “tourist tax” you’ll pay everywhere else.
75. Don’t eat in super touristic areas
You should go at least 4-5 blocks further away from all the buzz to find a better deal, but you’ll usually have at least a 30% discount and a more authentic feel. A good indicator is if you see locals eating there and if they have English menus. If they don’t, great, that’s your place!
76. Eat mostly in smaller restaurants
Family-owned restaurants are usually not so touristic and they’ll feel cozy and comfortable. The food is usually filling and authentic, and the prices are better, as they are usually in business for so long, they have a constant flow of customers to attend to. Also, the food is always fresh, as it doesn’t have time to go bad.
77. Ask locals where they usually eat
And phrase it exactly like that. They sometimes tend to recommend places that they know tourists go to, but if you ask them like that, they’ll give you the best recommendations ever, in terms of price and quality. You can ask hotel staff, tour guides, or even random people on the streets, if you feel chatty and they seem nice and understanding.
78. Eat local food
Although I know you can get tired of Gyros in Greece, eating local should be a habit. It’s not only more environmentally friendly to eat produce sourced close-by, but you will also pay a very small price for it. If you want to buy stuff that is imported from far away lands, it’ll get very expensive over time.
79. To tip or not to tip
Find out if you have to tip or not, In some cultures, the tipping culture is to just round up to the nearest dollar, in some other, there’s no tipping culture, and in some places, a 10-15% is the minimum expected. Do factor this every time you decide on a place to eat, as it may add up if you do it daily.
80. Where do the locals eat?
Look where professionals or students eat during lunchtime. It has to be affordable, professionals wouldn’t be able to eat there every day otherwise. And students are broke as hell everywhere in the world, so they know all the cheap places.
81. Try the street food
If you feel safe and comfortable doing so, that is. In certain places, there’s an actual art of eating only street food, and in some other places, it can give you food poisoning faster than you might expect. Weight in your options and choose wisely. If you choose to, go where there’s a line, as the food doesn’t have time to go bad at that place.
Bring your own
82. Bring snacks from home
If it’s possible and they’re cheaper where you come from, you can pack some nuts, dried fruits, and granola bars. They make a good and healthy snack while on the road, so you don’t have to buy the sometimes overprice snacks in tourist shops.
83. Drink tap water if drinkable
And use a water filtering bottle if not. You can save up so much money by not buying bottled water every day, and the environment will thank you SO much. We have a Chilly’s bottle that we carry around everywhere, and you can also buy a bottle with a filter if you think it’s best.
84. Buy in duty-free
Especially alcohol can be cheaper in duty-free stores, as taxes on alcohol tend to be huge everywhere you go. Of course, pay attention to the regulations you have at your destination, as alcohol is prohibited in some countries.
85. Skip Starbucks
Cut the expensive drinks like coffee and milkshakes and have a coffee mug that you can fill from the hotel breakfast or make yourself a coffee at home. These threats can get very expensive and will drive your budget over the cliff. You can resist without them for a vacation, don’t worry.
Reduce some stuff
86. Eat only one big meal a day
Or two meals, if you don’t have breakfast included. But spending on three full meals will get you bankrupt, and you’ll waste so much time. Instead, fill up at breakfast and have a late lunch. You can fill in the blanks with some snacks you have at the hotel.
87. Cut the alcohol
This is usually the most expensive thing on the restaurant’s check, especially if you do it daily. Now, tasting a local beer or a special glass of wine will be part of the experience, but avoid drinking daily as this will make you pay too much. You can handle being sober for a while now, right?
88. Look for happy hours
Find out when and where you can find happy hour offers so you can still drink a bit if you wish. This can also apply for buffet restaurants and actual meals. If you can have a 2 for 1 sale and you’re traveling with someone, you can make use of it. Ask your hotel’s staff if they know any similar offers.
89. Reduce eating and drinking out
A bottle of wine or a few beers to have at home can be OK compared to bars, as the added tax on alcohol in bars and pubs can be more than 100% in some cases. You can drink at home, it’s socially acceptable if you’re on vacation, don’t worry. At least I’m not judging you if it helps.
90. Take-away instead of dine-in
In certain places, the simple fact of eating out will cost you more for the same meal. Switzerland is one of them, and I’m sure there are plenty more. You can take a pizza, some sandwiches, or even fully cooked meals to eat at home or have a picnic in a park. You don’t have to tip either in this case or maybe you can tip less if you don’t sit to eat.
91. Ask for the leftovers
The less food you waste, the better. If portion sizes are huge where you’re going and you cannot finish it all, ask for the leftovers to take home. Once, in Sicily, my husband ate pizza for breakfast for 3 days only from the leftovers we collected from a three-person meal. It was almost an entire pizza there, and it would have been thrown away if we just left in there.
92. Eat out for lunch instead of dinner
There are usually lunch menus available at most restaurants that are cheaper than dinner. Sometimes even the same food as for lunch is more expensive during dinner time. Also, you can usually find lunch special menus of two or three courses that are a great deal, and they can also serve you quickly as the meals are pre-made.
93. Eat where employees eat when at the airport
They know where the best value food in there. We all know airport food is where our taste buds go to die, so the most you can do is make the best out of it. If possible, eat a good meal before arriving, so you can skip this altogether.
94. Eat fast food from time to time
There, I said it! You can eat fast food from time to time but choose wisely. In certain places fast food is of acceptable quality and it can be filling, in other areas, it’s crappy quality, has millions of calories and you’re hungry again in an hour, and in other areas, it’s more expensive than a good local food dish.
95. Snack less
Be very aware of how much do you spend on snacks. Since the price is low, you think it doesn’t affect your budget, but it adds up over time. Now, I understand the need for gelato in Rome or some Belgian fries in Antwerp, but keep track of these expenses and factor them in when estimating your budget.
Get the free stuff
96. Go before closing times
Some bakeries will give stuff for almost nothing, and sometimes even free at the end of the day, just to get rid of excess stock. They’d have to throw them anyway as they go bad overnight, so why not give them to people? Once in France, I wanted to buy a baguette and I got 4 instead. Made some nice croûtons with them, so they didn’t go to waste.
97. Play the tourist card
Look for discounts for tourists, the local tourism office can usually give you plenty of information. You can even contact them beforehand and find this out, so you don’t waste time when you get there. Sometimes discounts are included in a city pass, some other times you can download an app that might help you, or you can even get some discount coupons from your hotel or other tourist attractions.
How to save money on transportation costs while traveling
Play it simple
98. Use public transportation as much as possible
I shouldn’t need to explain this any further. Even in your daily life, using public transportation instead of driving or, even worse, hiring a car and driver will be cheaper. Also, the environment will thank you, and you’ll have less stress as you won’t drive. Plus, you get to taste the local culture and mix in with the people.
99. Walk as much as possible
Hey, using your legs is free! If the distance allows for it, walk instead of taking any mode of transportation. You get to see cool things on the way. You know what they say, it’s not about the destination, sometimes it’s the journey that’s important!
100. Rent a bike
Or a scooter or even segway, whatever floats your boat. If it works for you and you think it’s a good place to do so, by all means, look into this option as well. It will cost you a little something, but you can move around really easily if you have a bike.
101. Never take a taxi from the airport
Public transportation is always the cheapest option to get to the city. Sometimes even express buses can be pretty expensive, so look into some different options on how to get to the city. Unless, of course, you’re landing at 1 AM and there are not that many options. In that case, try to at least split the bill with someone.
102. Buy multi-day or weekly cards
If they make sense, of course. There’s no point in doing this if you’re just staying for two days. But if you’re spending a week somewhere and intend to use the public transportation intensively, look into weekly cards as the price per trip will be much cheaper this way.
103. Use overnight trains or buses
Sometimes it can be a great deal and you cut accommodation costs as well, as you will sleep while on the go. It can be quite tiring though, so factor this as well. But once you get used to it, it can be a pretty effective way of switching places for a small price tag.
104. Hop-on, hop-off
These are sometimes available for buses, trams, trolleys, and even trains. Ans sometimes they cover exactly the tourist places, so they can be quite convenient in terms of time as well. Do your homework and see if they’re included in a city pass, or if they have discounted offers.
The more, the better
105. A taxi can be cheaper
If you’re in a group of more than 3 people, the taxi can cost less than 3 public transportation tickets. But keep in mind that this is so much worse for the environment, so don’t overdo it, please! Walk more, group landmarks, and do anything you can to avoid this. Pretty please…
106. Rent a car
If traveling in a group of 4 or 5, renting a car might be cheaper. The same applies if you travel for longer in certain cases. Still, investigate first, as this is not always the case. Some countries are better visited by public transportation, and some others need to be seen by taking a road trip.
107. Plan your daily trips
Plan every day to minimize the transportation needed. This helps with time planning as well, as you won’t waste time just going from one place to the other. It will save you money if you move less, so get yourself organized daily.
108. Buy group cards
Sometimes you can find group cards, usually for train rides. Family offers can be helpful as well if you’re traveling with children, so look into this before you get to your destination.
How to spend less on activities while on vacation
Get the free stuff
109. Investigate and plan free activities
You can always go to parks, gardens, and plenty of other natural beauties. Most churches, temples, and shrines are usually free of charge as well. And some things are just free in general, you just have to look them up. The best example is the Metropolitan Government Building in Tokyo that offers great skyline views.
110. Self walking tour guides
You can become your tour guide! You just have to learn plenty of stuff about every place you go to, which is not as boring as it sounds. This is why you’re going there anyway, so why not learn something beforehand and impress everyone with your knowledge while traveling? I know, I must be fun at parties.
111. Hunt the free entries
There are plenty of places in the world that have a “free entry” day or specific hours when the entry is free or much cheaper than usual. Look them up and try to schedule in such a way that you make it work. We did this for the Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm and it worked perfectly.
Get the almost free stuff as well
112. Go to free walking tours
To be completely honest, you might pay a small fee at the end, but it will be what you can afford, not a specific price. Bonus, they are usually locals that are very knowledgeable and they can give you other important tips as well, so you can find out good restaurants, great shopping places and sometimes some quirky events taking place nearby. We usually use Sandeman tours, but they are available mostly in Europe.
113. Look into discounts
Doesn’t matter if it’s for groups, youth, seniors, special days or times of day, online bookings or God knows what else, a discount is a discount. Look into it and take advantage of whatever you can, whenever you can.
114. Look into city passes
It’s not always true, but sometimes they might be great value for money. Calculate the price for the landmarks visited separately and the price of the card for those days and you’ll easily see if you have a winner. Be realistic though, if you have 20 museums included and 2 days to spend there, you won’t see them all anyway, so don’t just buy the card because it offers you more.
115. Are you sure?
Analyze if you really want to go to some of those places you were planning to. You might realize you’re just there for the hype, you’re not interested in those things. A great example is the Louvre. If you’re not an art fan and you’re only there for the pictures, take a few IG worthy pics, check-in on Facebook and then go somewhere else you’ll like.
Shopping when traveling on a low budget
116. Make your souvenirs
I know you might think it won’t count as a souvenir, but hear me out. Instead of buying some made in China souvenirs from NY, you can take a few pictures and make them in a nice album or wall art when you return. You can even print your coffee table album. You can be as creative as you wish. And it will still remind you of the place, don’t worry.
117. Go where the locals go
There’s probably nothing you can buy close to the tourist places that you won’t find further away in the city, in a grocery shop, a thrift shop, or even a supermarket. Ask the locals where they go and follow their advice, you’ll spend less than you think.
118. Don’t buy souvenirs right next to the attraction
The 5 blocks rule applies here as well. Always go further away from the main attraction if you want to spend less and buy more.
119. Act poor
If asked where you’re from, don’t say a country that’s perceived as rich (Switzerland, the US, Singapore, the UK), but say one that’s perceived as poor and/or too obscure to be known (I’ve had great luck saying I’m from Romania), and I’ve known people that scored at least a 25% discount for being from Slovenia.
120. Shop local
Try to leave the money in the community, not to a big chain of stores. You’ll get authentic merchandise, not cheap fakes, and you’ll help the community you’re visiting instead of a soulless, billionaire chain. Of course, it doesn’t apply to everything, but the things you want local, buy them from local places.
Investigate if you can get a tax deduction on your shopping where you’re going, as some countries will offer you this option. Two good examples are Japan and the EU, and the tax can be up to 20% in some cases, so not exactly peanuts.
Investigate if you can haggle where you’re going. In certain cases, it’s almost expected that you do, and if you don’t, you could be paying 2 or even 3 times more than the correct price. A good rule of thumb is that if they don’t have prices openly displayed, you can haggle and get a few bucks off.
123. Buy in bulk
If you buy more than an article from a place, you can negotiate better prices in most cases. So try to not buy things little by little, but to buy everything you can from one place you like.
How to travel on a low budget – the takeaway
Thank you for holding up until the end. I’m proud of you! I am. It took me a great deal to write all of these helpful tips on traveling for cheap, so I’m excited to share this with everyone. Now, don’t think that this list cannot be further improved. Let me know in the comments if there’s anything else I can add to it.