Saving money for travel is one thing, but making sure you don’t blow all that money within a few weeks into your trip is another challenge. And finding ways to prolong your travels and stretch your money without shortchanging your experience is a pretty hard thing to do as well. However, it is possible. After 3+ years on the road, and only living on a budget of $50 a day for the both of us, we have mastered the art of saving money while traveling. Lucky for you, we are in the mood to share all our secrets, tips and tricks in this article, how to save money while traveling!
So what are you waiting for? Get to reading so you can start saving.
Saving Money on Accommodation
1. Stay at Hostels and Guesthouses
Local guesthouses and hostels are some of the cheapest accommodations you will find all over the world. So take advantage of them. Our favorite search engines for looking for guesthouses and hostels are Hostelworld and Booking.com.
Don’t know what to pack for staying in a hostel? Check our article 10 things you can’t go to a hostel without. And for the best hostel recommendations around the world click here.
2. Stay More Than Just One or Two Nights
When you stay longer at a hostel, guesthouse, or apartment rental, you are more likely to get a better deal or discount than if you stay just a night or two. This is especially true during the low season.
3. Rent an Apartment
If you want a little bit more space or are staying at a location for more than a month, it might make sense to rent an apartment instead of a hotel room. Monthly apartment rentals are often times a lot cheaper than hotels.
4. Go Camping
Take advantage of camping sites around the world, especially in the US and Italy. You don’t necessarily need a tent to camp, as most campsites have tents you can rent that are still cheaper than a night at a hostel. Beaches, parks, hostels and random people’s backyards are great places to camp as well.
If you plan on camping a lot, we recommend investing in a lightweight tent that won’t weigh down your backpack. We traveled with the Big Agnes Seedhouse tent while hitchhiking the U.S., and found it easy to set up and take down. It only weighed 3 lbs and fit in our 40L travel backpack with no problem!
5. Hold Your International Friends to Their Word
You know that friend who told you if you’re ever in X country, you should stay with them? Well, this is your chance to take them up on their offer.
6. Shop Around for Accommodation Once There
Never settle for the first accommodation you visit. I know this can be super hard if you’re walking around in the hot sun with a heavy ass backpack, but try not to. Instead, shop around to make sure you’re getting the best accommodation for your budget.
7. Volunteer for Free Accommodation
Accommodation is usually the highest expense travelers will have when traveling, so if you can volunteer for a few hours for free accommodation, you can save a lot of money. Volunteer gigs can last anywhere from a few days to a few months, it’s all up to you. If you’re interested in volunteering, here are a few sites that can make it happen:
WWOOF: WWOOF, which stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is an organization that connects volunteers to organic farmers looking for additional help. WWOOF hosts usually offer free accommodation, food and the opportunity to learn practical farming skills in exchange for 4-5 hours of work a day. There is a membership fee to join.
Workaway: With over 24,000 hosts in more than 155 countries, Workaway is a great site to use to help out others for a few hours in exchange for accommodation and food. We have used it several times during our travels and really enjoyed the experiences, especially in Guatemala where we volunteered on a permaculture farm.
Help Exchange: HelpX is another volunteer exchange site similar to Workaway, however there is a free membership option as well as a $20 membership fee for two years.
Facebook groups: There are a few Facebook groups such as Volunteer & Paid Work-Nomads where you can find volunteer gigs in exchange for food and accommodation.
8. Babysit a House or a Pet
Save money while you travel by watching over someone’s home or pet while they are away in exchange for staying in their lovely home for free. Here are some popular housesitting websites:
House Carers: There are new housesitting gigs on House Carers almost every day. Listings are primarily in the U.S. and Australia.
Trusted Housesitters: This site is the biggest and most popular housesitting website on the internet, which means there are hundreds of new listings added every day. However, expect a lot of competition. There is a very expensive annual membership fee.
Mind My House: Though Mind My House doesn’t have as many listings as Trusted Housesitters, it has the cheapest annual membership fee at $20 per year with over 15,000 listings.
Nomador: Nomador lets you test out their services for free before you commit to an annual membership fee with their discovery membership option. As a discovery member, you can send out three applications to house owners for free.
9. Take Overnight Trains And Buses
Save money while traveling by taking an overnight bus, train, or flight so you don’t have to pay for a night’s accommodation.
10. Sleep at the Airport
Save yourself the hassle, time and money by getting nice and cozy on the airport floor! A great website for tips on sleeping in specific airports overnight or during transit is sleepinginairports.net.
11. Stay With Locals For Free
If you don’t want to volunteer or watch over someone’s home, consider using hospitality exchange networks where you can stay in someone’s home for free just because. Hospitality exchanges are great ways to not only save on accommodation but meet locals, get a deeper understanding of a culture, make friends, and be a part of a great community.
Couchsurfing: Couchsurfing is the most popular hospitality exchange community and the one we love and use often. We would honestly recommend it to everyone. Some of our best travel experiences were because of couchsurfing. It’s way more than just a free bed, it’s a cultural exchange, better yet, it’s a community!
Bewelcome: Bewelcome is a non-profit hospitality exchange community that is run by volunteers (members) with a huge emphasis on sharing rather than on freeloading.
Global Freeloaders: Though very similar to Couchsurfing, Global Freeloaders has a reciprocal hospitality policy. In order for you to sign up, you must agree to offer your home to travelers for free within six months of signing up.
Warm Showers: Warm Showers is a popular hospitality exchange community for touring cyclists.
Saving Money on Food
12. Eat Street Food
Not only does eating street food make your wallet happy, it also helps the local economy! And yes, street food is safe. After all, locals eat it every day and they are all still alive!
13. Eat at Pay-What-You-Want Restaurants
There are a good number of pay-what-you-want restaurants around the world where you can eat a good meal without burning a hole in your wallet. Pay-what-you-want for meals is a genius idea, but please do not abuse the system by showing up, stuffing your face and walking out! Don’t ruin it for everyone else. Pay a fair price for your meal. If you cannot afford to pay, volunteer in the restaurant for an hour in exchange for your meal.
14. Cook at Home
Take advantage of accommodations that have a kitchen and make your own meals at home. You don’t need to be a chef to make a good meal, just be creative.
15. Never Eat in Touristy Areas
Never eat within three blocks of a major tourist attraction, as prices are usually 2-3 times more expensive.
16. Travel With A Reusable Water Bottle
Save the planet and your money by investing in a reusable water bottle. If you are in a country like Austria, you can refill your bottle in the bathroom sink! Yep, the water is that good.
17. Eat Out During Lunchtime
If you want to eat a nice restaurant meal once in awhile, make that meal your lunch or brunch, as those meals are usually cheaper than dinner. Take advantage of those lunch menu deals.
18. Stay Where Breakfast is Included
Kill two birds with one stone by staying in places where breakfast is included in the price. If breakfast is not included, that’s fine too. Instead of having breakfast at a restaurant every morning, head to the local supermarket and grab a few breakfast items like cereal, bread and fruits to eat in the morning to save money while traveling.
19. Shop at Local Markets
Supermarkets are always more expensive than local markets, especially in developing countries like Guatemala and Jamaica. Also, don’t forget to take advantage of farmers markets in developed countries.
20. Don’t Go Looking For Food When You’re Starving
When you’re starving, you’re more likely to pay just about any amount on food so you can fill your crying, aching belly. Instead, try looking for food when you get a tad bit hungry. That way you can take your time shopping around for a good place to eat that won’t empty out your wallet.
21. Pack To-Go Lunches
If you don’t want to spend money while you’re out, pack a lunch or snacks to avoid being tempted to spend money on food.
22. Limit Your Drinking
After accommodation and transportation, travelers, especially backpackers, usually spend the most amount of money on alcohol. You can save yourself a good chunk of money by not drinking at all, but I know for most people that’s not realistic! More realistic money saving tips would be to pre-game before you go out, drink local beer and alcohol and not expensive imported beer, take advantage of happy hours, buy alcohol from the supermarket, and don’t drink while eating at restaurants.
23. Don’t Tip
Tipping is an American concept that is not common in many other places around the world. This is especially true in developing countries. So please save your money by not tipping and not bringing the tipping culture to other countries.
Saving Money on Transportation
Stick your thumb out and get a free ride to your destination from amazing and friendly people around the world. There is no better way to save money while traveling than hitchhiking. All you need is some time, and flexibility.
You can read all about our hitchhiking adventures in the USA here. Also, if you plan on hitchhiking a lot Hitchwiki is a great resource you might want to look into!
25. Research the Best & Cheapest Mode of Transportation
Don’t automatically assume one mode of transportation is always the cheapest. There will be times where an overnight bus or train will be the cheapest mode of transportation, and other times where flying is the cheapest option. So do your research!
26. Walk Everywhere or Take Local Transportation
Walking is your wallet’s best friend. Why not keep your wallet happy by walking everywhere you can? When you find you can’t walk anymore, take local transportation and avoid taxis! Taking local transportation is a great way to meet locals and get a small insight into their everyday lives.
27. Use Budget Airlines
Budget airlines are a great way to get to various destinations for fairly cheap, especially in Asia and Europe. Using budget airlines only makes sense if the flights are cheap and you don’t pay any fees. For tips and tricks on how to pay $0 in fees and keep your fare cheap, read our post on 16 essential tips on how to use budget airlines.
28. Don’t Just Stick to Flight Search Engines
Don’t get me wrong, we love Skyscanner and always check for cheap flights with them, but we never stop our search there. Do multiple searches for flights in different places, including airline websites, to make sure you are truly buying the cheapest flight.
29. Book a Flight Past Your Destination
Direct and multiple-stop flights to your destination can be expensive, so why not book a flight that has a layover in your final destination. Skiplagged is a great site that allows you to find hidden cities (layovers) to purchase cheaper flight tickets. However, this can only be pulled off if you travel with a carry-on sized backpack.
30. Take Advantage of Error Fares
In order to do this you will need to be fast, flexible and constantly on the lookout for these error fares. The best way to do that is to sign up for email alerts from websites like Secret Flying or the Flight Deal. Following them on social media would also be wise.
31. Use Ridesharing Programs
Ridesharing programs can also be a good way to keep your transportation costs low. Here are some popular ridesharing companies around the world:
- Lyft: Popular in the U.S.
- Uber: Popular in the U.S., but available in other countries like Thailand
- Grab: Ridesharing site for Southeast Asia
- BlaBlaCar: Popular in Europe, but also available in other countries like Brazil
- Ridely: Carpool site in India
- Noritomosan: Carpool site in Japan
32. Share Transportation Costs
Try to share transport costs with other travelers, especially when renting a car or taking a cab!
33. Travel by Land
In many continents it’s cheaper to cross borders by land than by air or sea. This is especially true in Central and South America. For border crossing fees in Central America, check out this article.
Saving Money on Attractions
34. Under 24 Years Old? Take Advantage of It!
If you are a student who’s younger than 24, you can take advantage of huge discounts on attractions around the world, especially in Europe, with your student ID.
35. Utilize Free Days
The best days to visit a tourist attraction or museum is on free or discounted days because obviously it’s cheaper. This tip is especially helpful when backpacking through Europe, as you can save yourself a good chunk of money. For example, while backpacking Florence we saved $100 in attraction fees by visiting on the first Sunday of the month, when all state museums are free.
36. Do Free Attractions Too
If there are not at least 3-5 free things to do on your itinerary when visiting a destination, you are doing it wrong and your wallet is suffering. Don’t underestimate the awesomeness and fun-ness that can be had by doing free things like having a picnic at the park, watching the sunset, hiking up mountains and so forth. A simple search on Google can also provide you with a list of countless things to do in your destination for free. For example, some of Rome’s most popular attractions are free, like the Pantheon.
37. Free Walking Tours
Free walking tours are a great way to learn about a city and its culture without shelling out your life savings. Most popular cities, especially in Europe, offer free walking tours. All you have to do is pay whatever you think the guide deserves at the end of the tour.
38. DIY Tours
Skip tours for attractions and do them on your own. After all, you can always eavesdrop on a guided tour group passing by for free! However, guides for historical sites like ruins can be useful if you want to bring a site to life.
General Saving Tips
39. Travel Slow
By spending more time in a place, you can save yourself a lot of money, immerse yourself in a country as well as prevent yourself from burning out. Travel burnout is a real thing, trust us we know.
40. Travel During the Low Season
Save money on accommodation, attractions, and tours by traveling during the low season when there are less tourists and businesses are dying for some money. Don’t forget to utilize your bargaining skills during this time.
41. Avoid First Timer Mistakes
If you are a newbie travelers check out our article on travel tips for first time travelers to avoid common beginner mistakes.
42. Don’t Stick to the Guidebook
Guidebooks are cool, they give you an idea of what to see, visit, and do, but they also lead you to popular restaurants and guesthouses where you will pay more just for the popularity. So look for local restaurants and guesthouses that aren’t popular among tourists, but among locals!
43. Use Free Apps to Stay Connected
There is free wifi practically everywhere, so skip the international phone plan and make use of all the free messenger apps out there. Actually there are a good number of free travel apps you should travel without. Some of our favorite messenger apps are Skype, FB Messenger, Whatsapp, and Line.
44. Utilize Facebook Groups
Facebook has an outrageous number of travel related groups, such as backpacking Asia or hitchhiking Europe, that can provide you with tips and advice for traveling to a destination. So don’t just use Facebook to post your travel pictures and videos!
45. Think Local
Whether it’s taking local transportation, eating local food, or staying at local guesthouses, going local is the best way to immerse yourself in a culture, meet amazing people, learn about local gems, give back to the local economy, save money and enhance your travel experience.
46. Track Your Expenses
If you want to know how to save money while traveling, first you must know how you spend your money. To do this, first you must determine your budget, track your expenses, analyze the data and adjust your spending habits to make sure you stay within your budget. We recommend doing this for at least 3 months.
47. Leave Your ATM Card at the Hotel
If you’re going out, take out some money ahead of time and leave the bank and credit card at the hotel. That way you don’t make crazy drunk transactions and regret them in the morning. Oh, and tuck away some money somewhere on you to get back to the hotel.
In most countries, it’s common or expected to bargain for goods, food and souvenirs, so don’t be afraid to whip out your bargaining skills to get an item for cheaper. However, don’t over bargain. A dollar may not seem like much to you, but it can be a meal or two for the vendor and his family.
49. Research Common Tourist Scams
A quick Google search for common tourist scams in your destination can keep money in your pockets and out of the hands of scammers.
Expert Vagabond has a great list of common tourist scams and tips on how to avoid them!
50. Ask Locals for the Prices
Locals are your best resource for saving money while traveling, so don’t be afraid to ask them for help. We always ask locals how much something should cost to avoid getting ripped off, especially when it comes to using public transportation.
51. Save Money While Making Money
There are plenty of ways to make money while traveling. For example, work at a hostel, do a holiday work visa, become a tour guide, become an au pair, or bartend. The possibilities are endless.
52. Look Into Getting a Rewards Card
Look for a good travel credit card that rewards you with points and miles to save money on flights. The Points Guy and FlyerTalk are both good resources for using credit cards for frequent flier miles. However, if you are someone who likes to spend more than you have or can pay back within a month, don’t use rewards cards because they will only put you in debt.
53. Get a Bank Card With No ATM Fees
By having a bank card that doesn’t charge ATM fees, we save ourselves over $60 USD a month.
The following banks do not charge any ATM fees:
- Charles Schwab (USA)
- DKB (Germany/Europe)
- N26 (Germany/Europe)
If you don’t have access to the above banks, here are some tips:
- Take out the maximum allowance you can get per day (that way you only pay the fee once), stash it in various locations (don’t forget where you put it), and use the sum of cash over time. P.S. be careful not to take out too much, so you don’t get stuck with local currency when you are heading elsewhere.
- Utilize a credit card when possible. Only do this if you have your credit card has a 0% foreign transaction fee.
54. Get More Bang for Your Buck
Travel to destinations where your currency is strong and the cost of living is low so you can get more for your buck. A few popular cheap destinations to backpack are Thailand, Guatemala, and Bolivia, to name a few. Also, consider traveling to places where you don’t have to pay for a tourist visa!
55. Skip Buying Souvenirs
Here are six reasons not to buy souvenirs:
- There almost always the same shit everywhere, just with a different country’s name.
- They’re going to take up valuable space in your backpack.
- They’re probably made in China anyway.
- It’s a multimillion dollar tourist trap business! Store and remember your experiences in your head rather than buying things to help you do that for you.
- Your family members and friends will still love you if you don’t buy something for them. If they don’t, you might want to disown them!
- You are spending money on something you might never look at or use again.
56. Avoid Exchanging Money at the Airport
Exchange rates are usually the most expensive at the airports. Instead, find the nearest ATM and take out money there. Fees are usually cheaper.
57. Get Travel Insurance
Save yourself the headache and money by getting a good quality travel insurance that will save your ass when something goes wrong, your travel laptop breaks, or anything else out of your control. We use and recommend SafetyWing.
And there you have it – our best tips on how to save money while traveling. Traveling on a budget is much easier than most people think and you now have all of the tools you need to travel longer without breaking your budget. With our tips, you’ll even be able to teach your friends and family how to save money while traveling. You no longer have to wait to visit the places you’ve always wanted to go, even if they are expensive. The time is now and the world is waiting!
Happy travels :)
Do you have any tips on how to save money while traveling that are not mentioned here? Tell us below!
Excellent tips! I am bad at saving money but thanks to your amazing tips I can now at least try to save ;) All for the sake of traveling!
Shannon - SoleSeeking says
Thanks for all the useful resources. Definitely going to do some research into the house-sitting links! And I wish I’d known about that website for sleeping in airports sooner – probably could have saved me a few aches ha!
Glad to share! Yeah, we didn’t know about the airport site either until last year (2015) but it has been a great resource for us every since. Hope you get to take advantage of it in the further ;)!
Really informative and useful list! As a self proclaimed budget backpacker I found that I do basically all of these, I must be doing something right! haha Great post!
That definitely means you are doing it right! Happy Travels Rebecca! :D
Great read, so useful! Thank you and happy travels in 2017!:)
Glad you found our post useful! And same to you! :D