Have you finally decided to go on a trip? Meet new and exciting people, go on new adventures or just visit a new place? That’s great if you think now that you need a big budget getting there – you are wrong!
Of course, it depends on your destination and choice of stay (accommodation) etc. But generally speaking, you don’t really need much money to travel anywhere.
The biggest cost factors are generally transportation, accommodation, and food. If you are able to be more efficient with your money in all three areas you will get much further with your funds. Stay longer at a place you really liked or do the zodiac tour. Saved money is opportunity money which you can spend on new tours and adventures.
Whether more or less in your pocket starting your trip. The basic money saving principles are pretty much always the same. Be conservative with your money but not cheap. Spend your funds on important things and always think of cheaper alternatives.
I have compiled a list of 22 travel tips which should help get further with your money. Some of the tips are pretty obvious, but some might be new to you. It is about the compounding effect putting them all together. Every one helps maybe just a bit, but all of them combined will save you some serious $. You will travel with a different mindset and more awareness when it comes down to spending your hard earned dollars:) Without further ado here is my top 22 list on saving money while traveling.
1. Travel slowly
If you plan your trip, choose a smaller area and for a longer stays. This automatically reduces the cost of transport. Staying longer in one place, means also that you will be more knowledgeable in that area. You will come across more deals and are able to compare. Whether on food, going out, equipment etc. You will also build a much closer connection to the place and the people if you stay longer. I usually try to stay at least for a week wherever I go.
2. Be smart
With thorough research, you can save a lot of money. Compare flight prices, train tickets, bus prices, car rental rates, accommodation costs and consider a pre-booking. Find food stores in your local area and skip gas stations or corner shops. They usually overprice everything. Learn to be flexible, which might include walking a bit longer to your hostel or grocery store. Try to limit your visits buying essentials though. You didn’t come to save money, you came for the experience.
3. Find out about the travel destination
Accommodation costs vary greatly from city to city. Try to get a picture of where the city core is and where you want to be in advance. You might save some good $ by just taking the bus for a stop or not being on the main square. Try to stay away from all the big hotel chains, prices around them are usually high for accommodation. Do your homework and find out where things are, where you want to be and a compromise you might be willing to take.
4. Safe Money for Accommodation
How you live cheaply definitely depends on the destination. Find out how other people have done it in forums, facebook groups, blogs like Reddit. You should try to connect to people that went to the same place already. Open up some threads in forums and dig around Facebook. You can also go on Hostelworld, Airbnb, Couchsurfing and check for deals or promotions. Consider booking as early as possible since popular destinations are booked out quicker then you think.
5. Drive overnight on your road trip
A night ride has the advantage of saving you the cost of an overnight stay. Make sure however that you are physically fit to drive through the night. Make enough coffee breaks and open the window from time to time for fresh air. Try to keep your mind fresh and stay sharp. If you notice that you are getting into a tunnel stare – Stop and take a brake-. Don’t force yourself driving through, just have a nap in your car. Did you know that you can park overnight for free on any Walmart parking lot? Just locate the nearest Wal Mart and take a power nap if needed.
6. Travel the outback wilderness with travel buddies
If you team up with other travelers, you can, for example, share a room or rent a car together. This saves costs and you get to know interesting new people! It works for pretty much everything, car rental, hotel room, buying groceries etc. The only downside is that you have to be OK traveling with that many people. There is no point in stressing yourself teaming up with a bunch of strangers if you are not a very social person. You have to be OK with it and always remember that you will get further this way!
7. Save money before hitting the road & buy a used car for your road trip
If you are planning to go on a longer tour, you might want to consider buying a used car. This might seem crazy at first, but if you compare rental rates, for a week or even a month, well you get my point. You can find good deals all around your area, just phone up some car dealers in your area and ask if they have some basic cars available. Or just show up and take a look. Just google maps “car dealer” and you’ll find enough to get through.
8. Money Saver Classic – Cook your own meals
Whether it is cheaper to cook for yourself or go to a restaurant also depends on your travel destination. In Asia, for example, you can often eat so cheaply that you can save yourself the time you’d spend cooking. In North America and especially the US it can make a lot of sense cooking at your friends, hostel, or Couchsurfing gigs. You can save around $20 daily on food this way. Pasta or rice as a base and some easy bolognese with couple vegetables inside will last you for couple days.
9. Eat in restaurants and diners where the locals go
If you are sick of your own food, check out what’s on the menu around you. Ask around and find out where the locals go. That is usually a good tip finding reasonable places. You want to avoid all the locations around hotels and sightseeing spots since they are flooded with tourists. Most of them don’t really care how much they spend since they are just going on a 1-2 Week trip. If you intend to save your money beyond that find the food gems that are not on trip advisor;)
10. Better to get on the bus, not on the train or plane
Basically, the slower the mode of transportation, the cheaper. Busses are usually much cheaper than trains or even planes. Another reason is that there are quite a few bus companies out there like, Greyhound, Megabus, Peter Pan etc. Check out checkmybus.com for the best deal on every connection. Just as it is with accommodation – again – the early you can book the better. You can also subscribe to some bus line newsletter since they sometimes post upcoming sales and deals.
11. Sublet your apartment or house while traveling
With the power of Airbnb, everyone can become a landlord nowadays. Whether you’re traveling for a couple of days or couple of weeks. You can sublet your place for any time you’ll be out. If you are not on Airbnb you can just post your listing on craigslist. Going the craigslist route wouldn’t require setting up an account, payment etc. If you are a little bit more conscious and don’t want any stranger to stay at your place you could sublet it through friends. Just post a not on your facebook board or look for housing boards and set settings to private. Many ways to get some extra cash while being on the road.
12. Save money by suspending or pausing contracts
How many monthly payments do you currently have running? Regardless if you are planning to go for a day or a month. It’s always worthwhile checking your subscriptions or plans. Most provider offer “vacation” options, where you just go online and “pause” your service to save dollars every day. If you plan to go on a longer trip, you might want to consider even terminating some contracts.
Most gyms, for example, offer to pause your memberships for up to one month and longer. Another cost-saving option could be checking on your car usage. You won’t use your car during our absence obviously, maybe its worth pausing the insurance or even your parking lot for some time. You can also look into pausing newspapers or magazines. Here is a sum up of plans and subscriptions you can check: Gym, Cable TV, Netflix, Phone plan, Car insurance, Parking, Electricity, Water, Public transport etc.
13. Only buy stuff on your trip that you really need
If something broke or you need something during your travels, remember the following three money saver tips:
- Do I really need it?—If you can’t remember what it was next day, chances are you don’t.
- Can I fix it myself?—Use your skills and not your credit card, get creative and make it work.
- Can I get it used instead?—If you still need that one thing, try browsing thrift stores or check craigslist.
This method is not just good for the environment, but especially for your wallet as it will save you some real dollars.
14. Save money while traveling – through free city tours
Free city tours are offered in most major cities. The advantage of these tours is that you get to know the city through a locals eyes. Another one is to meet like-minded people on the tour. Of course, there will also be some tourist, but probably also one or two just getting the place to know a bit better. Ask for suggestions at your hostel counter or check them out online. Here are the two most popular one’s Free Tour and Free City Tour. Sometimes they fill up pretty quick, make sure to reserve your spot asap.
15. Common food box at the Hostel
When on a budget, the first thing you should do when you check in at a hostel is checking their common food box or shelf. They usually have a box which has “FREE” on it. Sometimes even an area or shelf in the fridge which would be named something like “FREE FOOD” or similar. If you cant find anything just ask at the counter and they will let you know where it is. You can usually be sure to find the basics like pasta, rice, sugar, salt or oil.
16. Save money on your trip & bring your own food
If you have the option and are not backpacking with a limited weight restriction, that’s for you. It’s not about doing a big food shopping, loading up your car and taking off. You want to be spontaneous and enjoy your time, that might include trying something new. The point about bringing your own food is more about the basics. Try always to bring some basic stuff, like salt, pepper, some rice and maybe pasta. That will allow you to overcome the first couple of days arriving at a new location. You won’t know right away where cheaper foodie places are so you will need 1-2 days to adjust. That’s what your rations should be good for.
17. Bring some basic medicine with you
You know best what helps you and you can’t always be sure that the same drugs are available in the right dosage if you really need them. Under certain circumstances, they are also significantly more expensive than buying them at home. Since you rarely need one or two out of a package. If you are in need however you will have to buy the whole thing. Just bring some basic stuff against a headache, diarrhea and maybe some vitamins. Store it somewhere dry and easily accessible.
18. Save money on your trip by using Wi-Fi whenever possible
Don’t blow through your data browsing on Instagram or Facebook. You might need it when you get stuck, or for navigating and checking on nearby locations. Tap into every Wi-Fi zone that you can find, don’t be shy, if you don’t see the Wi-Fi sign – just ask. It will also minimize the risk of blowing through your data cap and paying crazy money returning from your trip.
19. Wash clothes by hand
Laundry and laundry services cost money (and take up valuable destination time). Consider washing clothing yourself, whenever possible. Whether in the hotel sink or hostel shower. Or even down at a lake (if you do so, make sure you are using proper soap). Have always some backup clothing while you wait for your stuff to get dry. Also think first about a good drying opportunity before you start washing your entire wardrobe;). Good drying spots are near or on a radiator and around windows. If you need a piece dry within a short time use a blow dryer or an iron.
20. Save money on your travels – stay at campsites
Many cities and towns have designated camping grounds. A rainproof tent and a warm sleeping bag are of course a must if you are planning to stay on a camping site. It is definitely one of the cheapest accommodation options. If you decide to stay in your tent make sure you are never leaving any valuables inside like, camera, smartphone or even laptop. If I know I am intending staying on camping sites for longer I usually bring my budget tent along. If you have a +$300 tent, don’t be surprised if it’s not there anymore when you come back from your day trip. This is probably the downside staying on camping grounds 😉
21. Save money on your travels – find cheap gas and fuel
Check out my post about the Top 40 Road Trip Apps. You can find a ton of great apps that come in handy while you’re on the road. Scroll down and look for the Gas Buddy app. You can also check online on GasBuddy.com for the best deals on gas. Since prices are changing on a second – minute basis you should get the app. That way you can look for the best deals in real-time and when you are in need for fueling up.
22. Save money on your travels – track your expenses
Another great app that can save you some real dollars is called AndroMoney. It allows you to create travel budget and track expenses as you go. That way you will also see what you spend your money on and might think twice for the next time. You will also be surprised to see how much money you spend on minor expenses. It really adds up. You’ll find the AndroMoney app in the same Top 40 Road Trip Apps post as already mentioned.
No matter how long you’re traveling for or how little money you spend, basically every trip is somehow too short in the end. So, enjoy every moment to the fullest!
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Your outback gear and review team