Ultimate Travel Hacks: 34 Ways To Save Money Traveling and Cut Costs

Save money when traveling - save traveling
Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes

Save big on your next adventure. Money saving hacks for travelers that actually work! While traveling can broaden your perspective and introduce you to new viewpoints, cultures, landscapes, and even cuisines, it can be undoubtedly pricey. If you have a desire to hit the road, but finances are getting in the way, you’re not alone.

Having visited dozens of countries, often on a shoestring budget, we’ve found plenty of ways to travel cheaply. We’ve traveled on a budget as solo travelers, with friends, and also as a family. So we’ve packed this blog post with our best tips to cut costs and save money traveling. So get ready to travel on a budget and discover new ways to save your coins to either vacation more or for longer. 

Whether you’re dreaming of a European getaway, lounging on tropical beaches in South East Asia, or prefer dry camping in the wilderness, here’s how to make your travel aspirations a reality without emptying your wallet. 

How To Save When Traveling: 34 Ways To Travel For Less

1. Listen to The Thought Card Podcast

As an affordable luxury travel and personal finance podcast, The Thought Card Podcast by financially savvy traveler Danielle Desir Corbett shares how to make travel a financial priority, travel planning tips, and in-depth destination guides. Danielle also interviews other financially savvy travelers to share creative ways to travel the world while building wealth.  

Some episodes you might enjoy include: 

Follow The Thought Card on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, and more

Click on this link to learn about dozens of other travel podcasts to add to your listening queue. 

2. Get flights deals sent to your inbox

Wondering how to save on airfare? Thrifty Traveler Premium is our go-to subscription service for domestic and international flight deal alerts departing from the US and Canada.

Sign up for Thrifty Traveler today!

3. Read insightful books

Learn how to save money traveling by reading a variety of budget travel books from authors like Jen Ruiz, Matt Kepnes (a.k.a Nomadic Matt), and Danielle Desir Corbett. 

These books will teach you how to save money on travel, make smart money decisions, and travel longer. 

4. Apply for paid travel opportunities 

Traveling on a tight budget is made possible by options like travel scholarships, grants, fellowships, and other fully paid-for travel programs. Packslight PTO Dashboard is a wonderful place to start your search. Sign up for Gabby Beckford’s newsletter to get new travel opportunities sent right to your inbox every Sunday. 

To learn more about free travel opportunities, listen to this insightful podcast episode with Sibu Szymanowska. 

5. Travel off-season

Ready to travel the world on a budget? Want to avoid the hiked prices during the busy travel season? Avoid traveling during the holidays (Christmas, Easter, and New Year) or when everyone else is traveling, which is usually during the warmer months, school breaks, or big events like festivals, conferences, and concerts. 

6. Slow down, slow travel

While it may be tempting to travel to various cities across a region, when you factor in transportation costs, fast travel is significantly more expensive than slow travel. If you want to save money traveling, consider staying in one city for a couple of weeks or months, really explore the region, live like a local, while reducing transportation expenses. Slow travel also helps reduce stress and travel burnout. 

7. Walk as much as possible

Walking is a fantastic way to get around and explore an area. This is ideal in walkable cities and small towns where you have the flexibility to duck into side streets, get off the beaten path, and fully take in the surroundings all on foot. Some of our favorite walkable cities include Paris and Franklin (Tennessee).

8. Use public transit

Public transit is a low-cost alternative to walking. Trains are usually the most affordable option after buses. For example, in popular cities like Paris and New York City, the metro train system will get you pretty much everywhere you need to go. 

When planning your trip, do some research to determine how comprehensive and cost-effective the public transit system will be. 

We recommend Rome2Rio, a research tool for figuring out which routes to take, whether you should take the bus, train, ferry, or fly. 

Click here for a list of our favorite travel planning apps

9. Book in advance

Since travel prices rise and fall with demand, the cycle fluctuates as travel dates get closer. 

It’s often cheaper to book transportation, accommodations, and even activities well in advance since prices rise for last-minute plans accommodating the demands of business travel for example. 

Overall, the sooner you start the planning and booking process, and the more flexible you are with dates and times, the more you can save. 

This is especially true when planning a Disney vacation! 

Read Next: Disney World vs Universal Studios 

10. Track travel expenses 

When you’ve decided on your trip budget, the easiest way to stick to it is by recording every cent spent via a travel budgeting app, spreadsheet or using pen and paper. 

Since everything is jotted down, you can clearly see where your money is going, and potentially where you may need to cut back.

Couple this with a trip debrief session where you review your expenses and evaluate if they are aligned with your values. 

For a detailed guide on how to conduct a trip debrief, read ‘We Are Financially Savvy Travelers’ a book on how to make smart financial decisions to afford a lifetime of travel experiences. Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and more

11. Skip car rental insurance 

When renting car, consider taking advantage of travel perks that come with your credit cards like rental car collision protection. Instead of paying out-of-pocket for car rental insurance, simply use a credit card with this perk and you are automatically covered. 

Disclaimer: Read your credit card policy thoroughly for eligibility and policy details.

12. Leverage built-in credit card perks 

Did you know that some credit cards provide additional perks like TSA PreCheck or Global Entry reimbursement. For example the Capital One Venture card will reimburse you up to $100 for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry when you use your card.

13. Choose cheap travel destinations

There are plenty of beautiful and underrated places that have yet to be heavily documented by travelers, ideal for cheap travel.  

For how to travel cheap, Will Hatton from The Broke Backpacker suggests backpacking destinations like Pakistan, Nepal, India, or Colombia.  

Listen to this episode for tips on how to backpack on $10 a day. 

You can also save a lot of money by visiting small towns and second-tier cities. Alternatively, consider planning a staycation, day trip, or going camping. 

14. Redeem points and miles 

By earning points and miles through everyday purchases on credit cards, use those rewards toward your next flight or stay, either partially or fully. 

Want to learn more about how to earn and redeem points and miles? Listen to this Spotify playlist for my best travel-hacking podcast episodes. 

15. Find free attractions 

Admission to attractions can add up quickly so instead look for free activities or inexpensive activities to partake in, such as free local events, free museum nights, parks, nature hikes, or even free walking tours. Simply type in Google or Pinterest, “free things to do in…” for a comprehensive list.  

16. Haggle 

Negotiating prices is quite common in many places around the world, and is especially helpful for shoestring travel. 

A guided tour, an activity, or even your car rental may be negotiable! 

One of the best advice for cheap travel is to bargain shop, which can result in significant savings. However, just make sure haggling is culturally acceptable.  

17. Dine out less

Either book accommodation with a kitchen to cook your own meals, take advantage of lunch specials, buy cheap lunches in a supermarket, or pick up fresh food at a farmers market rather than at a cafe or restaurant. Food trucks and food carts may also be affordable dining options like Portland, Oregon’s food scene

Also, be open to wandering around before choosing a place to eat because if you pick the first restaurant you see, you won’t know if you’re overspending.

Other ways to trim your food budget include skipping meals, eating a large lunch that holds you over for dinner, or taking advantage of happy hours and lunch specials. 

18. Find cheap stays

Swap hotels for hostels and guest houses to save money. 

Hostels provide free amenities and experiences, from bike rentals, and yoga classes to cooking, and even surfing lessons.

Hostels may provide complimentary meals, with breakfast frequently included and perhaps even baked goods and snacks. They are also a go-to for those interested in meeting a variety of people and creating new friendships.

Websites like Airbnb, where you can reserve a spare room in a local person’s home or apartment is also a fantastic alternative. You’ll typically pay less and get a true representation of local life.

Click here to read about Airbnb etiquette do’s and don’ts for guests

Have relatives or friends in the area? Let them know you’ll be in town and want to visit.  

19. Student and senior discounts

There are plenty of discounts to be had if you know to ask. 

Make sure to bring your student ID (especially in Europe) to take advantage of discounted student pricing. 

Europe also offers youth discounts to people under 26 years old.

There may be discounts for seniors, especially AARP members, and also active military. 

20. Add layovers

Depending on where you’re going, a direct flight may be more expensive. Layovers may bring down the price. If you’re not in a hurry, take advantage of those layovers or stopovers where you spend a few days at a destination for the same or similar costs. IcelandAir, TAP Air Portugal, and Turkish Airlines are a few airlines that provide free layovers.

21. Volunteer or work exchange programs 

Volunteering can be a great way to save money on accommodation. There are plenty of job-exchange programs where you work a few hours each day in return for a free stay. 

Swap your skills (such as painting, cooking, cleaning, teaching, social media management, graphic design, and website development) for free lodging in breathtaking settings.

You can also obtain a working holiday visa from certain countries which permits you to perform specific jobs for a set period of time. 

House sitting is another viable alternative. Listen to this podcast episode to learn how Brittnay Sharman saved 60,000 Euros house sitting around the world for a year. 

What could be a better approach to becoming fully immersed in another culture?

22. Travel with a friend or partner

When you travel with a friend, family member, or partner, split expenses like lodging, food, transportation, and other expenses. 

23. Consult with locals

If there’s anyone who knows the destination you are traveling to, it’s the locals. Uncover hidden treasures and avoid paying high prices by asking folks who live where you plan to visit. Don’t know anyone personally? Consider joining local Facebook groups for more money-saving insider tips.

24. Use travel deals sites 

Savings sites such as Groupon or TravelZoo can come to the rescue. These sites can help you save on all types of different experiences and vacations. Buy discounted tickets on Groupon for things like amusement parks, mini golf, brewery tours, wine tastings, scuba lessons, skydiving, and entrance to museums.

25. Bundle package deals

Bundling flight, lodging, local transportation expenses, airline tickets, and even attraction tickets can help you snag significant discounts. Learn how airfare and hotel pricing works and how bundling can help you save by listening to this episode. 

26. Pack light 

To avoid paying $30 or more to check your bag, only bring what is absolutely necessary when flying. An alternative to ditching the checked luggage fee is to book flight reservations with a co-branded airline credible card with this perk. Remember lots of hotels have on-site laundry facilities for guests, use them! 

27. Bring an empty water bottle 

Here’s an airport travel tip. Bring a reusable water bottle to avoid buying water at the airport. If you’re traveling throughout Europe, be on the lookout for water fountains sprinkled throughout major cities. 

28. Pay in local currency

For how to save when abroad, you will almost always save money if you use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees or decide to pay with local currency.

29. Travel to places where the US Dollar is strong

In many parts of the world, the US Dollar is a stronger currency making your funds stretch further. Budget-friendly travel destinations where the US Dollar is strong include Vietnam, South Africa, Indonesia, and Argentina. 

30. Book hotels directly for discounts and exclusive perks

Hotels incentivize us to book directly so they keep a bigger percentage of the profits. For discounts or special benefits like complimentary daily breakfast or a welcome drink, book hotels directly on their website and not a third-party site.

31. Use Rakuten for cash back savings

Earn money when shopping at all your favorite stores and outlets with Rakuten. Use those cash-back checks to pay for upcoming travel purchases. 

32. Apply for travel giveaways 

Go on a free vacation by winning a travel giveaway! Take a chance and submit to all types of travel contests. You never know, if you never try!

33. Fly with budget airlines 

Spending less on airlines is a great way to cut your spending and pursue low-budget travel. Consider flying with budget airlines like Avelo, Breeze, PLAY Airlines, Southwest, and Ryanair.

34. Take advantage of kids flying free

Given children fly free under the age of two, bring your children along and experience the wonderful adventures of family travel. 

As we wrap up this article, remember your travels don’t have to come with a hefty price tag. There are plenty of ways to save money when traveling. By adopting these money-saving strategies, you’re equipped to explore the world while keeping your finances in check.

What other cheap travel tips would you recommend? Leave your thoughts below in the comments section. 

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