When it comes to sticking to a budget whilst traveling, it can be quite difficult. Especially when visiting new places with plenty of foreign and exciting experiences on offer. It’s something we’ve struggled with and still occasionally struggle with when we pass the local chocolatier or confectioner.
There are some great ways to save money whilst traveling and these top travel tips could even help you stay on the road for longer or check off one or two things from your bucket list you didn’t think were possible.
Some of these tips we follow quite strictly, whereas others really do depend on the budget. Before we dive in, it all really comes down to the level of comfort & how much you’re willing to spend. We’re not travelers that try to visit places & countries on a shoestring, but we’re also not going to go talking about budget hacking 5-star hotels (although, that would be awesome).
I think Matt Kepnes from Nomadic Matt sums up our idea of budget travel best:
“To me, traveling is about being frugal — not cheap. It’s about not wasting money on frivolous stuff. Not snacking or buying a million tacky souvenirs or going out and getting drunk every night. It’s about knowing when and where to spend your money, no matter how much you happen to have.” – Matt Kepnes
Now, we’re sort of an eclectic mix that searches for truly local experiences, whilst doing as many local clichés as possible.
That’s also something that’s reflected in the tips below, so let’s get started.
How to Save Money Whilst Traveling: 50+ Budget Travel Tips
Avoid touristy restaurants.
Naturally, we’re going to start this off with food.
Avoid touristy restaurants, these restaurants normally have their menus in multiple languages & charge a premium due to their prime location. Head a few blocks down and you’ll usually find the restaurants without the tourist mark-up & a more local atmosphere.
Picnics are a lot cheaper than restaurants.
For lunches and snacks, it’s a lot cheaper to head to a supermarket or grocer than to visit a restaurant for lunch. Add some snacks throughout the day as well, as these can be a lot more expensive at train/bus stations or along the tourist routes.
You will usually find a good variety of local delicacies in local supermarket chains, especially if they have a deli area.
Eat what the locals eat.
You know what they say, when in Rome!
Usually, the foods that are plentiful in the region can be more affordable… And the locals know how to get the best out of them.
Drink at the bar or take it to go.
A lot of the Mediterranean countries charge more for drinks when they’re ordered at a table as opposed to the bar. So, if you’re not enjoying a great view and a meal, head over to the bar!
The same can be said for coffee to go. In some cities, like Rome, it’s much more expensive to have a coffee at a café compared to the same one to go to.
Check what the tipping rates are for your destination before your trip.
Some countries write tips into the price and others can range between 5-20%… which can really start adding up!
It can also be disrespectful in some cultures to under/over-tip.
Share an apartment.
Renting an apartment or a home can be a great saving if you’re staying in a location whilst traveling in a group. Split the bill and everyone wins.
We use Airbnb for most of our trips, if you’re curious why & want to find out how to book the best homes, check out our article on booking the best Airbnbs.
Ask for a deal.
What do you have to lose?
A little-known secret in the travel world is hotels will virtually give away their rooms when the occupation isn’t high. You can take advantage of this by asking for a deal on multiple nights, getting a free breakfast, offering to pay in cash, etc.
It’s time to haggle! 😉
Shop in cheaper countries.
If you’re visiting multiple countries, do your shopping in the cheaper countries and visit these countries towards the end of your trip. This way you won’t have to schlep along with your new acquisitions wherever you go… You’ll also know how much money you have left to spend on your shopping spree.
Travel during the offseason.
The offseason holds a lot of benefits you receive automatically. Accommodation is usually a lot cheaper, flights are cheaper & restaurants/attractions can even be cheaper. Big cities usually also have plenty to offer year-round.
Go to places where your currency is strong.
If you’re living in a country with a strong currency, you can take advantage of traveling to places where your currency is worth more. Here you’ll find experiences generally cost less, i.e. massages, tours, etc.
Book discount flights.
If you’re not looking to gather flyer miles and are certain about your flight dates, you can usually book fixed flights for much cheaper than flexible tickets.
Use budget airlines to fly between cities.
Budget airlines, like Ryanair, can sometimes offer intercity prices better than rail… and they’re much quicker! In Europe, this is especially valid, but one of the catches is that you can only bring hand luggage with you (check-in luggage is an expensive optional extra).
Keep a look out for day passes when using public transport.
A lot of cities offer day/regional passes. Normally you can get a bus pass or a train pass, and these you can then use as much as you’d like for the duration of the pass.
If there is a tourist office or bus/train office nearby, check with them as they can make the best on-site recommendations.
Avoid driving in big cities.
Inside of most big cities’ cars become a real pain. Finding parking, parking fees, traffic, etc.
If you’re planning on renting a car and driving to another city, pick it up on the day you’re leaving & return it when you enter another big city or return.
In the meantime, use public transport to get around town.
Use a hop-on, hop-off tour bus.
These tour buses are awesome for travelers on a budget and you’ll find them in most of the larger cities. They generally are very affordable, tour past most of the city’s most famous attractions, have knowledgeable hosts, and operate throughout the day. The best part is your ticket is valid all day long… it’s almost free transport!
Use a guidebook.
A good guidebook provides everything you would need to know about your destination. Things you can skip, which places offer the best bang for your buck, etc. And for normally a very nominal fee.
I prefer using physical books as I can page through them whilst on location, and occasionally a local may point out something that just must be seen. We like the lonely planet guides, they cover basically everything, meaning we can choose what we want to do and see.
Looking at sights is free.
You may need to pay to enter some attractions but viewing (and photographing) most attractions won’t cost you a cent. Even in most of the big cities, there will also be attractions you can walk through for free, such as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris or the Dom in Köln.
Hike in nature.
Hiking is free, gets you out into the fresh air and with a pair of comfortable shoes, can make for an enjoyable day out. If nature is not your thing though, go on a walking tour through the city.
Don’t be afraid of the local tourism office.
The local tourist office can point you in the right direction on where free activities are, any special events you may be able to attend during your stay and so much more. It’s also absolutely free. Why not use it.
Look out for free city tours.
Check out freecitytour.com to see if there are any available tours you can join. These are generally, pay for what it’s worth to you tours.
Alternatively, you can find out by the local tourism office if there are any free/cheap tours nearby.
Have a backup budget & don’t plan to use it.
I can’t stress enough how not planning to use it can affect your planning. The whole point of the backup budget is in case of emergencies or there is something you really need to see/do that you didn’t know about in the first place. Backup budget, emergency backup, unforeseen events budget… None of them really have a great sound to it, but plan one anyway.
You can find the rest of the tips in our free How to save Money Whilst Traveling: 50+ Travel Tips eBook which we’ll send through to you right away once you’ve signed up for our Newsletter… Which inevitably involves even more tips.