Read on for some fantastic travel hacks to save money and make that dream holiday not only a reality, but an affordable one!
Dreams about going on a fantastic vacation have been in everybody’s minds, at least once (and for most of us, many, many more times!)
But going on a trip, especially if it’s abroad, is expensive. Wait, stay with me! That doesn’t mean it has to be impossible; there are many travel hacks to save money and make your trip more affordable, and I’m gonna share some of them with you. Learn how to save money when traveling and start packing your bags!
Be Flexible and Get Travel Alerts
The most important piece of advice that you can follow when trying to save money traveling is to be as flexible as you can. The more rigid you are with your schedule, the more bound you are to certain prices and deals. If you’re flexible with your destination and dates, as well as airlines and accommodation, you can get some incredible deals that will save you hundreds of dollars.
Besides flexibility, one of the best hacks to get cheap flights you can use is the (much welcomed) help of travel alerts, as they will make sure you get the best prices and current information on your flight. Sign up for email and text alerts that will let you know when prices have dropped, so you don’t miss a deal!
Book Flights in the Afternoon
Many are aware that flight prices change from day to day, with a lot of advice circulating about days of the week where flights are cheaper [Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday in the US, according to farecompare] but did you know that the prices also vary within a single day?
Morning flights are typically more expensive because business travelers usually find them more convenient, so lots of people choose the early schedules. Booking your flight in the afternoon is one of the best travel tips to save money.
Be Open to All Accommodation
If you assume that you can only ever stay in well-branded international hotel chains when you travel, then you are limiting yourself to what are typically the most expensive options for accommodation. Look for smaller independent hotels, alternatives like Airbnb, or even hostels to dig out some amazing deals. If you also take the flexible approach that we mentioned earlier, then you’ll be amazed at how cheap your accommodation can be.
Hostel accommodation in particular is a fantastic option, but some travelers avoid it because they assume hostels are run-down and grubby, and that they’ll be sharing their room with 7 criminals and even more cockroaches. The truth is that hostels have become more and more popular over the years, and most of them are clean, safe, and, the best part, very affordable, even at the “high end” of the hostel spectrum. If you’re looking for hotel hacks to save money, the best advice is to be open to options!
Browse for Deals “Incognito”
Here is a tip for the net-savvy traveler. If you’re searching and booking vacations online, then you should access your browser using its “incognito” function, which means you’ll be able to browse anonymously without the system using your history and cookies to influence what you see in your results. That past data actually can have a bearing on your travel costs, so going incognito removes that effect and ensures you’ll see the best-possible prices. This money-saving travel hack can actually make a big difference on your trip’s budget.
Carry a Reusable Water Bottle
One area of travel that really hits the pockets of tourists is buying water bottles. Areas where tourism is a key industry will always slap massive premiums on bottled drinking water, from the airport to the downtown restaurants. If there are travelers there, the water is expensive. Even if it’s not, you’ll be spending many precious pennies when you needn’t! It’s much cheaper (and environmentally friendly) to take a reusable bottle with you and refill it in public water fountains and other free sources. Your wallet will be thanking this cheap travel hack by the end of the trip.
Use a College ID Card
Remember in your student days when you had that magic discount card in the form of a student ID? Did you even check to see if there are any visible dates on there? If not, then why not continue to use it for a short time after you graduate? The picture should be accurate, and you can enjoy a few more discounted goods and services, some of which might extend to various tours and attractions. This will allow you to travel and save money at the same time.
Avoid Banks When Exchanging Foreign Currency
One way we don’t always anticipate that we’ll lose money is when changing our home currency into the local one. Some naturally gravitate toward banks because they can handle any amount and appear to be more trustworthy. In fact, banks invariably offer less than competitive interest rates and/or add draining commission on top, which leaves you with less.
Smaller kiosks that you find in malls or in some tourist areas will offer better exchange rates. You should really shop around and try to find the best rate you can, comparing it with a reliable source such as Xe Currency Converter.
Pick Off-Season Travel Dates
While being flexible still applies, if you have to choose your approximate dates, choose the off-season, as it will be much cheaper than the peak season and it’s how you can save considerable money when traveling.
Countries differ on their peak and off-seasons due to cultural differences, national holidays, and climate, but one good rule of thumb is that summer in either hemisphere means more expensive travel. That’s June through August in the northern hemisphere, and December through February in the southern hemisphere.
Do your research to determine when things will be cheaper in your target destination, especially if it’s a large place you wish to explore such as China. In that country, for instance, you’ll want to avoid October 1-7, the National “Golden Week,” because the entire 1.4-billion population is on vacation and prices are soaring.
Get a Gig as a House Sitter
What better way to save money while traveling than by getting free accommodation? If you’re in the market for a longer stay in another place, be it another state or another country, you could save some bucks and really get familiar with the destination by becoming a house sitter or pet sitter in exchange for lodging. Check out platforms like TrustedHousesitters to see how you can see more of your country or the world in this innovative way.
Check Your Smartphone Plan
Even the most frugal vacation could go awry financially if you haven’t checked the details of your smartphone plan where international data are concerned. You could go away for two weeks, not make or receive a single call or send an SMS message to anyone but still end up with a huge bill. How? Data!
Talk to your provider and see if you have international data options within your plan. You might not always be able to get on Wi-Fi, and therefore data use will ensue. Getting a prepaid plan will be cheaper than the bill you end up with by using roaming data.
We’ve already dealt with inflated water prices, now it’s time to look at food prices. We know that restuarants come with hugely marked-up prices because it’s the same at home, not just in our vacation destinations. Self-catering accommodation options can seem a bore because you have to cook and do dishes, but when you see how much you can save money traveling by doing it, you’ll be glad you did.
This is especially true when you visit countries with great local markets. If you shop more like the locals, you’ll be astonished at the price differences.
Pack Up Your Carry-On Bag
If you’re taking a vacation where flights are involved, then it’s easy to get caught out at airports with excess baggage fees. You can avoid this by starting with a light carry-on bag at the start of the trip that you fill up with the newly acquired items as you travel along. This keeps your main luggage the same weight and you’ll avoid those pesky fees.
Learn to Haggle
You may not be able to haggle at your local Walmart, but you can certainly do it in many countries around the world. In fact, many market sellers will be more surprised, even baffled, if you don’t haggle. The world of haggling is intimidating to some, but once you get into it, it becomes rather exciting and engaging. If you’re a keen language learner, it’s a great way to practice skills, but even just using your own language you can master it.
The classic art of the bargain is to name your price, and when it is refused, simply walk away. This works great in markets where many vendors are selling similar goods because they won’t want you to get the same thing from a different vendor. When they call you back, that puts you in the driving seat and you can make those savings happen.
Get All-Day (or Multi-Day) Transport Passes
Many popular city destinations around the world are also the most expensive places to live and travel. Take London, for instance, infamous for high rents and high prices, but also a city that countless people name as one of their “bucket list” destinations. How could you possibly save money in a place like that? The answer is found in London’s sprawling public transport system: all-day travel passes.
These start at £12.70 ($17.37) for Zones 1-2 in London (city center), and up to £18.10 ($24.76) for Zones 1-6 (entire Greater London area) at the time of writing.
A pass allows you to use the tube, buses and other public transport (not taxis) with the same ticket for the entire day. When you consider that a single journey fare on London’s subway costs about £5 ($6.84), it doesn’t take long before you get your money’s worth! Many cities around the world offer similar schemes, and they help tourists save a small fortune.
Some schemes even offer multi-day tickets, which will cost more, but if you’re going to stay for that period of time, it will pay for itself.
Dine Out for Lunch Only
Let’s say you’re doing a self-catering vacation to save money, but you still fancy sampling some of the local restaurants. It’s understandable, and you can still save money while doing so if you limit your outings for lunch.
Commit to eating in during the evenings, and you can take advantage of fantastic lunch menus in your destination’s restaurants for much less.
Look for Free Local Attractions
Most of the world’s most popular vacation spots contain a mixture of local sights and highlights. Some of them are pure tourist traps where you pay a pretty high ticket price for the privilege of a very short and forgettable experience looking at the world’s largest cotton reel, or a park bench where a famous local author penned a work of note.
Forget about these attractions and look for other spots that are free. For instance, to continue with the London example, instead of paying a fortune to go up the London Eye for the view, check out other free viewpoints that are free; there are tons of them!
Most European capitals offer free entries to museums and famous landmarks as well, and they even have free walking tours, so take advantage of these deals and enrich your trip without spending unnecessary money.
Further above we talked about getting all-day or multi-day transport passes to save money while you’re getting about your vacation spot. If the place you’re going doesn’t have this on offer, then at least do your best to avoid taking taxis. Even when you get a reputable and decent taxi service, it costs far more than public transport. In the worst cases, you can even be cheated out of huge sums as drivers “take the scenic route” or force you to tourist traps with which they have a connection.
If you’ve ever landed in an airport or arrived at a railway station and are greeted at the arrivals gate by a storm of drivers shouting at you to follow them, the best thing you can do is avoid them and get information on shuttle buses and metro trains to your next stop.
Hopefully, the above tips will help you make significant savings on your next vacation or extended travel period. There’s no need to be a total miser, don’t forget to have fun! Experiences you gain while traveling enrich the mind, broaden your horizons and provide you with insight and knowledge that stays with you forever. When you act smart and learn how to take cheap vacations, you not only save more but you also don’t lose any of the benefits.