I have read trough many of these lists from different articles about saving money while traveling. What I find most annoying is that they tend to list things just the sake of listing things, when many of the points are not something most people would do. So, I decided to make a realistic list of things I have done to save money while travelling.
Four main expenses when traveling are: accommodation, transportation, food and activities. So, all these tackle one of these categories.
Save money while traveling part 1: Accommodation
One of the biggest expense categories or even the biggest expense while travelling. It is important to optimize this to save money while traveling.
1. Staying budget accommodation such as hostels or AirBnB
Hostels are probably the cheapest option out there. The thing about hostels is that it get really old fast if you are travelling for a long time. Take it from me, I have stayed in countless of hostels, probably around 3 months of hostel life in total.
It might sound like a fun experience, getting to know like-minded people, finding friends to tour around and to party with, right? The reality is that it is hard to make contact with people because of the rate people come and go. Just when you get to know someone, they leave and there’s a new person. Also, if you are a light sleeper, you are in trouble. There’s always someone coming back to the room at 5 am and someone waking up with alarm clock at 7 am. It might not feel like a holiday but more like a school trip.
So, what I have been doing recently is staying in Airbnb. In many cases, there are a lot more cheaper options when compared to hotels. Also, the places are in local areas where there is more establishments with local price tags.
I have to mention, that this depends on where you travel. Around Asia, there are countless of affordable hotels too, best place to book then in my opinion is Agoda.
2. Staying away from the city center and focusing on cheaper more local areas
This is given if you are staying at Airbnb’s. If you still want to stay in hotels, it is a good idea to check areas that are not in the center for better price.
It is crucial to to investigate how to navigate from the hotel though. If it is too far from the center and public transportation is nowhere to be found, there won’t be much savings as you have to use a taxi etc. a lot more often.
Save money while traveling part 2: Transportation
Biggest expense in this category is flights. Obvious answer to save money while traveling in this category is find cheapest possible flights. This is obivious,s o it is not on my list, because that is something everyone probably does anyways.
There are some theories around on how you should book your flights “xx” time before to get the best prices or on “yy” day of the week, but in my opinion those claims are not true.
My friend works for a big airline company, and she confirmed this to me. They don’t have any special times when the prices are lower but instead price is fluctuating based on other factors, such as how desirable the flight itself is. Often, Wednesdays are cheaper than Fridays, but that is due to higher demand, not any policies to have cheaper prices on certain day.
So, it is always a good idea to check for multiple dates.
3. Traveling with only a carry-on
Last time I was traveling around Asia and Australia for 4 months, I counted that I flew around 17 times in total. Normal bag fee is around 30-50 euros extra on top of the ticket. So, for 17 flights, that totals to 510-850 euros extra spent on just getting your bag on board!
It is a huge saving to switch to only carry-on. Even if you won’t fly 17 times on one trip, think about the amount that accumulates in savings after the years go by.
If you are interested, I wrote a post all about carry-on traveling tips and tricks, check it out here if you want.
4. Using local public transportation
In many countries, there are public transportation options available for example at the airport and around popular spots. What is important though is to try to look is up beforehand.
Nothing is more awful than to arrive to a foreign country in the middle of the night at the airport and not knowing how to get to your accommodation. I always look up beforehand how to get to my hotel so I know what is my plan at the airport.
5. Renting a car/scooter instead of taking paid tours
Especially in western countries, all paid tours are really expensive. I was recently in Croatia and went to see the nature park. Paid tour there with a bus would cost around 50 euros per person and I was traveling with a group of four, so that would be 200 euros for that one trip in total.
With that price, you easily rent a car for a couple of days and do all these activities then. Also, it gives you more freedom. I have to say that that car was a lifesaver there, nothing is better than entering air conditioned car after 2-3 hours of walking in +35 degree Celsius heat.
A scooter is a must around many South-East Asian countries.
Save money while traveling part 3: Food
Food might be one of the smallest categories to save money while traveling, at least for me. That is why I practise balance. Skimp on some aspects, but it is still important to explore local flavours and cuisines.
6. Cooking some of the meals by yourself
Unless you are staying in a fancy hotel with breakfast included, this is the easiest meal to cook by yourself. It is given that experiencing the local cuisine is important component of traveling, but if you wan’t to save money while traveling, some sacrifices has to be made. Cooking some of the meals by yourself and eating in restaurants for some is a great way to balance this.
Also I must note, that when traveling in Asia, eating out in the restaurants is probably the cheapest way anyway. i still like to cook my own breakfast ( and by that I mean have my own oats to soak in the water and add fruits) because the food is often extremely oily. I don’t want to eat that way for every meal.
7. Eating out in local areas, not near the tourist spots
Tourist areas are overpriced most of the times. So, the best price-quality ratio can be found from places locals use. For this, internet is a friend.
Save money while traveling part 4: Activities
For me, activities are the most important category when travelling. Those are what makes the experience for me. For example in my budget break-down for Australia, this was a huge expense. That is why I tend not to skimp in this. Still, there are some things I do to save money while traveling.
8. Google “Free things to do in xxx” to find awesome free activities to do in the place
This is something I always google to find out cool, free or inexpensive experiences. Free doesn’t mean unimpressive! For example many nature parks, beaches, street arts and so on are free or inexpensive.
These are also important points to save money while traveling. They affect multiple categories as whole and cannot be put into just one.
9. Remember to negotiate
This is something I struggle with. As a person from Finland, it is something I am definitely not used to doing. Everything in Finland is always priced as exactly it should be. Then again in many countries, it seems to be the norm to shoot up the prices 50% and go from there to find the common ground.
10. Have a budget and stick with it
I saved the most important step to save money while traveling for last. Most important thing is to figure out budget, how much you can afford to spend. After you have a budget, track it. Similar to when dieting, you are more conscious of the money spent if you have to write it up. I wrote a post about how to establish a budget for travelling, check it out here if interested.
So, there you go. 10 things that I actually do every time I travel that are practical and useful. Funny enough, I didn’t plan to do 10 tips. I just wrote out all the things I felt were good and it turned out to be 10. These are all something that I practice every time I travel. Most important thing is to find what experiences are the most important to you and what are the least important. That way you’ll find it easier to decide on what to skimp on and hat to spend on.