We all deserve a vacation once in a while. Sometimes it’s hard to justify spending a big chunk of money on a few days away from home, however. The good news is, you don’t have to.
Check out these 7 insider tips on how to save money on every trip. I’ve been traveling continuously for the last 6 years, and I can confidently say from personal experience that these tips work.
Airline tickets have the potential to be the priciest part of any vacation, but there are ways around that. Plenty of budget airlines offer cheap flights to many destinations that the “luxurious” airlines fly to. There may not be in-flight entertainment or the most comfortable seats, but these little sacrifices can help get you to your destination for far less.
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Insider Tip: Pack snacks. Most budget airlines don’t provide complimentary food and drink and buying on the airplane isn’t cheap. Nuts and fruit are my favorite travel snacks. Not only are they healthy, but they don’t get damaged knocking around in my carry-on.
Don’t Check a Bag
Some budget airlines charge extra if you want to check a bag and it can really bump up the cost of a budget flight. Practice a minimalist lifestyle when you pack your bag and take only the basics and necessities in your carry-on luggage.
You don’t need a different outfit for every day - no one will notice if you wear the same shorts twice. Choose a clothing color scheme and select pieces you can mix and match. Wear your bulkiest stuff on the plane and layer up. This will help you to take more with you without going over the carry-on weight limit.
Another bonus of taking a small bag and stuffing it to the brim? You won’t have the room to take back too many souvenirs - which means you won’t overspend on shopping
Insider Tip: Most airlines allow you one carry-on and one personal item. I always take a stuffed backpack plus another shoulder bag (like a purse, a small sports bag, a laptop bag, etc.) and I’m always allowed to take both items in the cabin.
Travel With a Friend
Having a travel buddy makes all the difference when it comes to saving money on vacation. You can share the cost of almost everything. Slash the price of accommodations and shack up in the same room. Split the cost of a tuk-tuk, motorbike, taxi or car rental. Share meals. Haggle two-for-one deals in the markets. Score a free ride by hitchhiking (much safer in pairs). Traveling with a friend or partner saves a significant chunk of change - just make sure your plus one has the same budget as you.
Sign up for a Free Walking Tour
Free walking tours are available in hundreds of cities. They are mostly run by passionate locals eager to share their knowledge, tips and insider information on their city. It’s a great way to warm up to a new destination on your first day in town. Expect to learn some basic background information on the destination, gain a better understanding of city layout and receive introductions to many of the city highlights.
The best part is the tour itself is totally free. But because the guides work solely for tips, they really put a lot of effort into the tour. It’s nice to show your appreciation with a donation afterward - especially if you enjoyed it - but it’s up to you how much you give.
I took a free walking tour in both Vietnam and Georgia and I was extremely satisfied with both. My guide in Hanoi provided interesting tidbits of information on each site, which really made me appreciate the city more. My Tbilisi city guide in Georgia took us to the city’s oldest bakery (totally unrecognizable from the outside) and gave tons of recommendations on where to eat and drink.
Take a Night Bus
If you’re someone who can sleep anywhere, night buses are a great way to save money on accommodations. A night bus ticket will typically cost less than accommodations (unless you’re staying in the cheapest hostels). I used this trick a lot in Croatia because I found even the most basic rooms there were over my travel budget.
It’s also an efficient way to see more places when you’re on a tight time schedule. Instead of wasting a travel day getting to your destination, you can leave Point A in the evening and wake up at point B the next morning.
The street stalls, markets, mom n’ pop shops and hole-in-the-wall local restaurants are cheaper than tourist joints and the fancy places. Oh, and the food is almost always better.
Grazing your way around food stalls and markets is an easy way to get a sampling of the local flavor without spending a fortune. When I’m in Southeast Asia, I usually eat from a market once a day. The food is so tasty and the atmosphere is livelier than a stuffy restaurant.
Market eating means hand-to-mouth food or perching on a corner of a plastic chair, sometimes with or without a table. If you want to properly sit down and take a load off, take a wander around and check out where the locals are eating. They’re usually there for reason. My advice? Avoid the ones full of tourists.
Take advantage of the facilities in your accommodation. If your room has a kitchenette or fridge, stock up on some basic breakfast materials like yogurt, oatmeal or cereal. Buy fruit from the local markets. Bring your own coffee (I never leave for a trip without my mini French press and a small supply of coffee grounds). Eating one meal at “home” every day and skipping your usual morning coffee shop brew equals money saved.
Even if you don't have access to a fridge, you can still buy non-perishable food and fruits. Do this every day and you’ll keep your stomach and your wallet full.