You’ve done all the things to budget and save for your trip. You’ve booked your hotel and airfare. You’re thinking about what you’ll pack in your suitcase. You’re putting together the final details for your trip. One thought comes to mind: you don’t want to let vacation-indulgence brain break the bank during the trip. How can you make smart decisions to save money while you travel? Here are 15 ways to save money.
1. Stay with your budget.
Remember how you estimated your trip costs? Now it’s time to keep yourself in check. Keep a list of those costs with you and keep on track with your budget. Avoid impulsive buys for souvenirs, snacks or activities unless it will truly enhance your experience or you can’t live without it. Keep notes of how much you spend throughout the day.
2. Use public transportation instead of taxis and ride-sharing.
While it might be more convenient and time-efficient to get from point A to point B with direct transportation, you can save money by using public transportation. You can usually buy a subway or bus card for a ‘per ride’ or ‘per day’ rate. Cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco are fun to explore by subway and many European countries have easy to navigate subway options also. Check out this article for the best public transportation systems around the world.
3. Pack lighter to avoid baggage fees.
Most airlines allow two carry-ons and they vary by how much checked bags cost. TripAdvisor has a handy list of all airline baggage fees. Since most people tend to over-pack, avoid this by packing your bags once and then taking out half of what you packed. If you’re planning on buying souvenirs, remember to leave room for those.
4. Book excursions and tours before your trip.
It helps your budget and schedule when you plan ahead. You never know what kind of surcharges you may get by booking last minute, especially if it is transportation. Also, booking through your hotel is usually more expensive than booking with the tour company directly. If your schedule is flexible and you’re open to the kinds of excursions and attractions, don’t book ahead and you may be able to get a last-minute deal if a tour is trying to fill the remaining spots.
5. Visit a restaurant for lunch instead of dinner.
If there are restaurants you really want to visit during your trip, consider eating there for lunch instead of dinner. Lunch is usually less expensive while offering the same or similar dishes from the dinner menu.
6. Cook at home and pack snacks.
Avoid eating out altogether. You can indulge in the local cuisine during the day and if you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen, make a trip to the grocery store and make dinner at home. You can also pack snacks instead of impulsively looking for one when you’re at the airport or out exploring.
7. Don’t eat near tourist sites.
Restaurants near tourist sites are convenient but you’ll be paying for the convenience of the meal with price and sometimes quality. Try restaurants a few blocks away.
8. Use tourism passes for attractions.
If you’re planning on visiting multiple well-known attractions, look for city passes/packages that bundle the attractions for a lower price. Enter “city pass [the city you are visiting]” and you’ll find options.
9. Use a rewards credit card and fee-less debit card.
I love my Chase Sapphire Preferred card because it saves me money directly with its zero foreign transaction fees. It indirectly helps me save money because with the points I’ve saved up, I can book flights and hotels at a discount through their rewards portal. The card also helps me earn points faster because it gives me 2x the points when I use it for dining or travel. Also, Charles Schwab Bank has no ATM withdrawal fees, which is very beneficial in foreign countries!
10. Use an ATM at a major bank and not at the airport.
If you have a debit card that requires a fee for withdrawals, use it at a major bank for a better exchange rate. ATMs at restaurants, convenience stores, etc tend to charge higher exchange rates, as do ATMs and exchange counters at the airport.
11. Find free attractions and events.
A city’s tourism website usually has suggestions for free events and attractions. Look for free days at museums, community events or interesting architectural wonders. Check a city’s event website to find free concerts, festivals, and activities. You could also use Facebook’s events section. Instead of taking a paid guided tour, search the web for free, self-paced walking guides.
12. Use an International Phone Plan.
Avoid racking up dollars for calls and data. Access to maps and documents could be crucial when you travel, especially in a foreign country. Get an international phone plan ahead of time. Also look into getting a SIM card when you arrive in the country.
13. Don’t forget travel insurance.
God forbid anything bad happens to you while you’re on vacation but if you needed to go to the hospital, cancel your trip or book an emergency flight home, having travel insurance can save you a lot of money. My go-to is World Nomads. The website is easy to navigate and understand and you can see an estimate of your insurance cost before you book.
14. Bring a reusable water bottle.
You need to stay hydrated, especially if you’ll be doing a lot of walking while sight-seeing. Instead of buying bottled water at every need, bring a reusable water bottle and fill it up at water fountains and faucets. If a city/country’s water is questionable, get a water bottle that includes a purifying filter. The best I’ve found is the LifeStraw Go Water Bottle that not only makes the water taste better but removes pathogens and bacteria.
15. Negotiate the price.
Read the situation and/or know the place you’re going to decide if you can or should negotiate. This tip can be used at markets and shops. Don’t take the first price said and respond with a specific lower price. Always be willing to walk away if the price is higher than you want.
How do you save money while you travel? Share your tip below!
Looking for ways to save money on hotels, flights, and more? Check out this post about budgeting and saving BEFORE your trip.