15 Easy Ways to Save Money While Traveling

People enjoy having awesome experiences and travel provides those unique experiences. We are here to share ways to slash costs while traveling so you can keep going on fun adventures and get more bang for your buck!

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Doing free outdoor activities on vacation

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15 Ways to Save Money While Traveling 

There are so many many cool travel tips and advice to help you to save money while traveling. In this article, finance and travel bloggers have suggested tips and share their personal experiences to help you save more money on your future adventures. Whether you are road tripping for the weekend or jet setting across the globe, we think you’ll find these tips super helpful!

1. Travel Hacking

Steve Cummings of The Frugal Expat shares on the art of Travel Hacking.

The art of travel hacking brings about opportunities to find cheaper flights and cheaper accommodations. If you are going to do any traveling, it may be prudent to seek out a sound travel credit card to help you accumulate points and miles to travel for free.

Travel hacking is the art of accumulating credit card points, airline miles, or hotel points to gain free and cheaper travel. The most common way is to open up a credit card to get a hefty welcome bonus and transfer those points to a travel partner to purchase free flight tickets. 

You can also use these same points for free nights at a hotel.

Travel hacking is an excellent way to save money to travel. The welcome bonuses and money spent can help you collect more miles and points to get free flights saving thousands of dollars while traveling!

2. Getting Cheap Flights

Steve Cummings of The Frugal Expat shares on how to find flight deals.

Cheap flights are not as easy as most people may think. If you want to save money, it is best to look for cheap airfares. 

Cheap airfare can be found by flexibly planning and using budget airlines to score great deals. 

Flexibility is critical when trying to fly cheaply. Airlines will increase their prices 28 days beforehand for international flights and 21 days before domestic flights. Use Google Flights or even Skyscanner to look for flight deals. 

If you can determine the place you would like to go, you can find a time to book a fun trip. It is usually best to fly out during the week and off-season times. This will allow you to find the best rates possible. 

3. Travel on Budget Airlines

When looking at cheap flight tickets, look at some budget airlines. Jason Butler from My Money Chronicles explains how budget airlines save him money.

One way to save money is to use budget airlines on short trips. I recently flew to Cincinnati on Frontier Airlines. The round-trip flight from Atlanta was $193. If I had flown Delta or Southwest, the trip would have been over $300. Saving money by flying with budget airlines allows you more money for food, drinks, and souvenirs.

If you are OK with flying budget airlines, you can score a great deal. Recently, I saw a deal on Twitter that you could fly from LAX to Honolulu for 12,000 Southwest points and then fly to Sydney for an additional $168. A ticket under $200 with a stopover in Hawaii is an incredible deal. These are on-budget airlines, but the prices are hard to beat. 

4. Explore On Your Own

Kevin Lao from Imagine Financial Security suggests exploring places on your own.

Don’t jump on a bunch of touristy excursions. Do an excursion yourself!  

When my wife and I traveled to Ireland, we rented a car with a very loose itinerary and drove around the entire country, stopping at different cities. It was amazing! The locals gave us suggestions and we would never have had these experiences if we jumped on an expensive tour bus.  

Not only did we avoid the expensive tour traps, but we saw places most tourists don’t even know about such as Whitebark Bay just north of Belfast.

5. Travel Like a Local

Ashlee Fechino from The Happiness Function shares her thoughts on how to save money while traveling.

Travel like a local and plan free outdoor activities such as hiking, taking photos, enjoying a campfire, or paddling. Consider exploring your destination like the locals do. Where do the locals hike, camp, and go out to eat? What would you do if you were to live near the destination you are visiting? 

We love to road trip four to five hours from home and explore the state parks and national forests. We opt-in for camping and free outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, and taking photos, leading to more traveling for less money. 

These days, the most considerable travel expense is gas, and we bring our groceries. Traveling to less famous places and experiencing them low-key like a local is a great way to have incredible experiences without breaking the bank. You’ll also likely encounter fewer crowds and spots to spend money.

Pssst.. Check out our article on exactly how we afford to travel so much! Hint, we travel cheap and local!

6. Shop Locally for Souvenirs

Sanjana Vig from The Female Professional shares money saving tips on buying souvenirs.

One of the best parts of traveling is bringing home fun souvenirs to help you remember your trip. When it comes to souvenirs, try to shop locally. You’ll be supporting local businesses. 

Here are some tips to follow when bargaining abroad: 

  • Start at the lowest possible price that you think is fair.
  • Have a cutoff price. 
  • Try to bundle items allowing you to pay a lower total cost than purchasing each item individually. 
  • Be willing and quick to walk away if shop owners don’t work with you. 
  • Haggling over the cost of goods can help you practice your local language skills while you get the best price for something you love. 
  • You get to save money while adding to the overall experience of the trip!

7. Stay at a Home Exchange

Casandra Karpiak from Karpiak Caravan shares her tips on Home Exchange and how it can save us money on accommodations.

My secret weapon for saving money while traveling is the website Home Exchange. I have been a member of Home Exchange for years, and it has saved me thousands upon thousands of dollars. I travel the world with my family of four, staying in all kinds of accommodations during a home exchange. 

In Portugal, we had a three-bedroom beach house; in France, we had a four-bedroom home in a charming French village; and in South Carolina, we stayed in a gated resort with member privileges to the resort pool and golf course, all for free. 

The best part about Home Exchange is there are three ways to participate. Simultaneous, non-simultaneous, and guest point exchanges provide the flexibility to exchange the way that suits your travel style. 

For a typical family vacation, we purchase airfare on points and do a home exchange in at least one of the destinations we visit, leaving only paying for a rental car. If you are looking to save money while traveling or for ways to travel more often, this is a wonderful option.”

8. Pack Smart

Jessica Bishop from The Budget Savvy Bride gave some tips about packing smart when you go off traveling.

Plan and pack smart! Maximize your space by finding the largest-sized airline-compliant personal item possible. If you can get away with packing only a carry-on, you can avoid added baggage fees on most airlines.

Shop our favorite carry on! Patagonia Black Hole Duffel

Consider putting together a capsule wardrobe of mix and match items that you can wear multiple times if you go for a more extended trip. The extra $100 or so you’ll save in baggage can be put towards much more fun parts of your travel!

Plus, you don’t have to worry about your checked bag getting lost or not showing up for your trip!

9. Bring Your Own Water Bottle

Carley Rojas Avila from Home to Havana suggests bringing your own water bottle to save money.

Ditch the bottled water! Any international traveler has likely faced the dilemma of finding safe drinking water. While grabbing a bottle of water here and there might seem like a small expense, it can add up quickly throughout a vacation. 

Save money when traveling abroad by bringing your own water filter and purifier bottle or a UV-light water sanitization device. Not only do these water bottle filters or packable UV lights filter large quantities of water quickly, but they’ll help you become a more eco-friendly traveler by cutting down on your single-use plastic consumption. 

Shop our favorite water filter and purifier bottle from REI!

You’ll recoup the cost within just one international trip with all the money you’ll save.

10. Meal Planning

Karee Blunt from Our Woven Journey gave us tips about her meal plans to save money on food for a whole family.

Be strategic with meal planning. Dining out can be one of the most expensive parts of traveling. We all have to eat, so there’s no way to avoid spending money on food, but how can you enjoy your vacation without overspending on meals? Where you choose to stay can significantly affect how much you pay (or save) on meals, especially for larger families. 

Whenever possible, stay in a hotel that offers complimentary breakfasts. Some hotels like Homewood Suites even offer “social hour” several evenings a week, which can easily be dinner for most people. 

Another option is to book a hotel room that has a kitchenette. It takes minimal effort to fix easy meals, and you’ll save money for other vacation activities.

11. Research Food Options

Caitriona Maria from TPR Teaching shares how to save money on researching food options. 

When you go on vacation, you want to enjoy yourself without breaking the bank. If you plan to eat out several times a day, it’s a good idea to be mindful of how much money you spend on food and beverages. When you go to the tourist hotspots, expect to pay a higher-end price for the service. 

However, there are some tips and tricks you can use to help lighten the load on your wallet:

  • Do your research (before you get hungry) and look for restaurants that offer good value for money. Every city has hidden gems that don’t cost an arm and a leg to dine in. You can quickly check the restaurant reviews and price ranges on Google Maps. 
  • Opt for happy hour when grabbing drinks.
  • Look for buffets and all-you-can-eat deals if you have a big appetite. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also get to try various dishes. 
  • Ask the locals about the best places to eat and drink and avoid expensive tourist traps. Rather than blindly figuring out everything yourself, they have the best knowledge of where to find the tastiest food and cheapest drinks. 
  • Stick to water if you are on a tight budget. It’s cheap and will save you from spending money on overpriced beverages. Tap water is also safe and free to drink in some countries.

12. Prepare Meals On the Road

Steve Morrow from Paddle About shares tips on preparing meals on the road.

Food is always a considerable expense when traveling. One way my wife and I save money is to stay in an Airbnb or hostel where we can prepare our meals. Often we can make our meals much cheaper than eating out. 

When we stay in a hotel, we always try to book a hotel with a complimentary hot breakfast. Then, we fill up with a great meal in the morning and eat snacks until dinner. This way, we cut down on the number of meals we pay for each day. 

We have successfully traveled with our kids over the years by maxing out the complimentary breakfast.

13. Store Food and Eat Leftovers

Jon Dulin from Money Smart Guides shares his tip.

One way we save money on travel is to stay in hotels with a microwave and mini-fridge. These amenities allow us to buy some basics at the grocery store and make breakfast and lunch, saving money. And when we do eat out, we can bring leftovers back to the hotel and reheat them the next day. 

Staying in a hotel that offers complimentary breakfast is another option. When we do this, we make it a point to eat a large breakfast so that we can skip lunch if we are out and about.

14. Ordering Grocery Delivery

Mark Patrick from the Financial Pilgrimage shares how ordering groceries can save money on travel.

One way we save money while traveling is by ordering grocery delivery on the way to our destination. Using a service such as Instacart, our groceries are often waiting for us on the doorstep by the time we arrive at our place. Of course, ordering groceries doesn’t mean we avoid restaurants altogether. 

On the contrary, eating out is one of our favorite parts of a vacation. However, having lower-cost groceries reduces runs to the hotel lobby or convenience stores in higher-priced areas to fill the gaps between restaurants. Using Instacart to order groceries from Aldi or other low-cost grocery stores, you’ll save a lot of money and time by having groceries delivered directly to your place. 

15. Always Have a Food Plan

Sam from Smarter and Harder shares his tips of saving money on travel.

Always have a food plan. If you leave your travel meals to the fate of “I’ll eat when I’m hungry,” you may find yourself in a precarious position with limited options.

Having at least a loose plan for what, where, and when you’re going to eat each day allows you to avoid overpaying for meals at the last minute out of necessity. You can also plan to bring pre-packed meals and snacks to drive down the travel food bill further.

Closing Thoughts

Traveling is a fun adventure leading to many incredible memories but costs of traveling can easily add up! With these tips, you know how to meal plan, be flexible, travel hack, and think as a local.

Though Pablo and I typically focus on outdoor activities, this article is great for all kinds of escapades. Whether you are jet setting or taking a road trip with your best pals, these money saving travel tips will help you get more bang for your buck!

This article originally appeared on The Frugal Expat and was written by Steve Cummings.

Steve Cummings is the founder of the personal finance blog The Frugal Expat. As a traveler and expat, he has learned a lot about how to save money, live frugally, and invest for the future. His mission is to help people in saving, investing, traveling, and reaching financial independence.


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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation writer and founder of The Happiness Function based in Oklahoma. Her goal is to help inspire people to build a life they love by sharing how simple and fun it is to travel locally, connect with nature, and explore off-the-beaten-path. You don't have to spend a lot of money or use a ton of vacation time to explore close to home. Ashlee holds a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability and has a passion for the outdoors. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo! They camp in their Aliner often and love road trips and hiking.

2 Comments

  1. Chelsea on July 20, 2022 at 3:29 pm

    I love these ideas to save money while you travel! I love traveling like a local myself and using points too.

    • Ashlee Fechino on July 21, 2022 at 11:58 am

      Thanks for reading, Chelsea. Have a great summer!

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