Here is a truth for you. I lived cheaper each month travelling the world to some of the most expensive countries than the average German does in their own country. Mind you, I travelled nearly halfway around the world in miles when I was in Australia alone! That is a remarkable feat I’ve been told time and again. To me, it just shows what a terribly cheap skate I am. Or how budget conscious and money sensitive. Take it how you will, but I can show you some tricks how to keep your bucks close. Let’s go!
#1 Develop a saving mentality
If you live in the moment and reward yourself constantly, and that is what a lot of people do on holiday, then you are not thinking about your long-term happiness. Sometimes you have to choose and sometimes you just have to restrain yourself from an instant buy. Always ask yourself if you really need it or if it would keep your happiness levels up over a longer period.
#2-5 Set a budget prior to travels
If you can travel with a card that has not all your money on it but rather regularly transfer weekly ‘pocket money’ onto it to a) prevent you from spending your cash too easily and b) avoid a heavy loss in case of theft (don’t have all your money on the card you travel with). Also, if you can, take a second visa card with you in case the first one gets lost or stolen and you don’t want fees for having money wired to you, etc. If you plan on going on a big trip in a few years, think about an extra savings account with higher interest rates and a set investment time where you cannot touch it.
#6-13 Do your research
I cannot stress this enough. If you take the first best offer, then that’s all you get. You might be lucky but what are the odds. Get the best price by signing up for newsletters, checking groupon for coupons, heading to comparison sites, looking at travel deals with local supermarkets and asking travel agents for packages. I recommend downloading travel apps from travel discount sites, such as hipmunk, to get notifications to your phone of deals the second they pop up to not miss any deals. You might also have friends abroad that would host you for free. Another thing that can safe a lot of money is to have a good idea of your itinerary and avoid backtracking routes you’ve been on before.
#14-18 Allow for flexibility in your schedule
If you can only book a certain date and that date falls on a national holiday when everyone hits the road, chances are the prices will soar. To avoid this, be flexible, check different dates during the week, travel off season, use a mix of airlines, hotel chains or train services and book from the intenet explorer private mode. Knowing when to best book your flight, for instance, is a science in itself.
#19-25 Check different options for local travel
It is a no-brainer that travelling on the ground by bus or rail is usually cheaper than by air. But even if you land at the airport, don’t take the express train. Inform yourself about different options and if whether taxi rides are affordable in the first place. In case they are not, you can share a ride, call an uber(this is an affiliate link)*, go with a local bus or a free shuttle offered by your hotel. Usually, there also are local transport cards that you can recharge and often give you a discount as opposed to one time tickets.
#26-34 Look for included benefits
A good idea to avoid public transport fees, not be dropped off at the outskirts of the town and generally be flexible is to rent a car. But before you buy that too-good-to-be-true deal, make sure that the insurance costs are not horrendous and opt for those rented car deals with included insurance if possible. Should you be staying in a hotel, ask the concierge for a free room upgrade (ask for a free upgrade with your airline as well) as well as complimentary local tickets and a free town shuttle service. Maybe there is even a free breakfast included or an extra night if you book over a certain period? A lot of towns and cities offer special city passes that will not only allow you entrance to major attractions and museums but also discounts in restaurants and free local transport.
#35-36 Be streetwise and cautious
Before you do anything, inform yourself about the security levels of your destination. Which areas are safe to book your stay in, to walk around, to party at night, etc. Not only will it give you a much more comfortable stay but by not being robbed and/or beaten up, you can keep your cash. Also, avoid making big purchases around tourist hot spots as these are usually rather expensive areas.
#37 Know the prices and tipping expectations
This one is a tad hard to find out, especially if you are completely new to a country and don’t speak the language. But it is always a good idea to check online in blogs, forums, ask friends or your host what standard fares and tipping rates are. You wouldn’t want to be ripped off by cheeky taxi drivers, hair dressers or souvenir stands, now would you? Trust me, it happens all the time.
#38-44 Take advantage of free trials
Some people like to stay fit on the road, so why not sign up for a free gym trial week or even book a hotel with an included gym? Also, Netflix has a free trial period. For those loving to test new products and get the samples for free, you can sign up online with different brands, such as NIVEA. If you love shopping, you could also think about applying for a local grocery saving card that might allow you a free first shipping, which I had with Woolworths in Australia and it is possible with Amazon Prime in the USA, to name a few examples. This way you can also take advantage of discounts and saving events.
#45-48 Know where to buy cheapest
If you are living in an expensive country, you might be able to save money in your travel destination, so make sure you take only essentials with you and purchase all the cheap things you don’t have at home in your destination. This also means, that you need to compare prices in advance for things you might consider buying. For instance, in Japan not all electronic devices are cheaper than you think and you need to check custom limits as well to avoid fees. And while you do that, check for taxes and tax back programs, too. Sometimes you can even avoid paying taxes by placing an order from out of state in the USA, such as with the Japan RailPass I used.
#49-52 Know where the locals shop
If you head to the first supermarket you might wonder why everything is so expensive. Learn how to differentiate between the big wholesale markets and the more expensive shops (which I found hard in Japan) and consider shopping at local markets and dollar shops. To get fresh food deals, head over to farmers markets and it might even pay off to arrive before closing time to snatch last minute market deals.
#53-61 Know special food deals
A good idea for saving money is also to find out if there are certain times that discounts go up (such as 1 hour before shops close in Australia), what the opening times are to avoid having to buy at 24/7 stores and when holidays are near and certain goods more pricey. Some supermarkets and even travel agents, such as Wal-Mart or Flight Center, even match prices if you found a cheaper deal. You can even email food brands to get coupons for trying out their new brands and packages. Then ask for a mini fridge in your hotel room to avoid the temptation of touching the expensive hotel mini fridge beverages.
#62-67 Cook for yourself or get food to go
The best way to save money on food is to prepare your meals yourself. This has the disadvantage of not being exactly local cuisine but especially over long trips it can save you a lot of money. You can also take advantage of supermarket seating areas with a microwave if you don’t have a kitchen, such as in Japan or the USA. Grab a free recipe in a local supermarket or google one to add the local flavour. Another idea is to get food on the go (to save seating fees) or eat on street markets to save both on big menu prices and tipping. Sometimes food delivery can be a great option as well.
#68-73 Know how to pack right
Avoid luggage excess weight fees as well as luggage cart fees by packing light, for instance by aiming at packing for a maximum of 7 days and washing your clothes in the bathroom sink with a travel sized detergent to avoid laundry costs. Travel with a carry on saves you luggage fees altogether. Check in online to avoid hefty check in fees with cheaper airlines and get the cheaper luggage check in fees. Bring your own snacks and refillable water bottle for your airport, flight and train/bus time.
#74-78 Take advantage of free wifi
Granted, not all places have free wifi but more and more tourist-friendly places, airports, train stations, tourist information, libraries, food and drink chains and cafes offer free wifi. Find out where they are (e.g. on www.wififreespot.com) while you still have internet, get a wifi locating app or order a hotspot or sim card either from home to be delivered to the airport or hotel or sign up for a deal locally. If you have to make calls, I tend to use skype as their fees are pretty decent and you can have (video) chats for free. Make screenshots of your addresses and phone numbers, local maps etc and download free offline maps from the maps.me app. In general, travel apps can save you a lot of hassle.
#79-84 Find free activities and places
In some cities, such as London, there is a generally free museum entry, in others, there is not or only on special museum nights or during holidays, such as in NYC. Sometimes there even is a “suggested admission”, which means pay as much as you can/want to afford. Also look out for free city walks, free events and locals on courchsurfing or travel apps that want to play guide for you.
#85-88 Try different kinds of travel
If you don’t want to pay full prices for hotel rooms, check for discounts and affiliate links on travel blogs*, try staying in hostels, airbnbs(affiliate link)* or do couch surfing. If you want to save on public transport and stay active, rent a bike or walk everywhere (I do and sometimes get lost, which is half the fun!). Another option is to go camping or hire a campervan. Buying a tent is relatively cheap and can be sold to a hostel guest by the end of a trip (try the blackboard!). In case you will camp a lot, visit national parks and do a lot of hiking, check for annual park passes.
#89 Use shared knowledge
I love Tripadvisor and sites like yelp for helping out people with local knowledge. You can save yourself from trouble by reading reviews on nice-looking but dodgy places, find cheap local food options and so on. No need to invest in bulky travel guides. Find apps with free self-guided tours, hikes and meetups with locals, such as local tourist information apps, ramblr and evntr, to name just a few.
#90 Save on water
The more active you are, the more you need to drink. This can get expensive if you keep buying water bottles. Sure, be aware that some countries don’t have drinkable tap water but think of other options, such as refilling at water fountains, boiling water or tea or using water filters.
BONUS #: Sublet your apartment while you are away
There are many different sites that offer you to make some money through renting out your place while you are on holiday, such as airbnb(affiliate link)* and trampolinn or listing on alternative sites, such as craigslist or gumtree to save yourself the fees. You can also do a house swap or a house sitting to avoid accommodation costs.
BONUS #: Be covered and read the small print
I cannot stress enough how vital both a good travel and health insurance is. Sure, you don’t expect or want to have something happen that would require you to use either of them but what if you do? You would pay horrendous fees! But make sure you read the small print and know what is covered. Do the same for your cancellation policies for hotels and tours to know when you are entitled to get your money back. If you make a booking, use visa as it allows you to take back money in case of an unfulfilled service (this way I even got money back from a bankrupt airline).
To get a run down on how to combine these tips in your DIY travel planning to travel the world guilt-free and in full control of your finances, sign up for me FREE course.
*This post contains affiliate links. They do not cost you anything but instead give you a discount if you click on and book through them. I get a little extra as well (such as a discount). So it’s a win-win situation. In any case, they are marked with an asterisk.