People enjoy having the experience of their lifetime. Travel provides many people with unique experiences they will never forget. The hard part is knowing how to save money while traveling for future adventures.
Saving can be a difficult thing for many people. Some people have lower-paying jobs and higher expenses and maybe do not know some tricks to save the most money possible.
It happens to us all. We fail to make a budget, and therefore we overspend. If we learn one thing, it is how to save money and then put it to use saving money while traveling.
This guide will help you in your journey to saving money for your future travels. It will guide you in saving money while traveling. Therefore you will come out ahead with many great memories and money left over for your next trip.
Table of Contents
The Beauty of a Budget
With anything dealing with money, you need to know where your money is going. If you spend every day at the end of the month, you look at your bank account and wonder what happened. Well… it was spent.
To better understand where your money is going, it is best to start budgeting your money. The word budget may seem like a dirty word to many. It gives restrictions on where you can spend the money. If your ultimate goal is to save money to travel more, then it is time to learn how to budget.
A budget is a great way to create goals for saving, investing, and making an emergency fund. If you are not doing these things, you may miss out on opportunities to secure your future or other options.
There are many budgets to help you:
- Zero-Based Budget
- Envelope Budget
- Dave Ramsey Budget
- 50/30/20 budget
These budgets can help you create a plan for your money. It can also help you to save for your future travels.
How to Keep Traveling and Vacations From Blowing up Your Budget
Michael Reynolds from Elevation Financial wants to ensure that traveling does not blow up your budget. So he provided some steps to keep your budget looking good by making a separate basket or account.
“First, set up a separate bank account at a different bank.
Make sure you get a debit card with it. Only pull it out to pay for travel and only take it with you on vacations. Keep the debit card locked in a drawer or a safe, so you aren't tempted to use it for everyday stuff.
Set up an automatic recurring contribution to transfer money into this travel account every month. It will become a habit, and your budget will adjust.
When planning vacations, use the balance in your travel account as your barometer of what you can spend. Use it to pace yourself.
Use this account for all travel expenses—plane tickets, hotels, all transportation, etc.
This way, vacation spending never hits your daily budget. Your household cash flow is not affected. It keeps you from going into debt and scrambling to pay for vacations (or the aftermath of holidays).
This also has the side effect of shielding your main account from fraud if your card is lost or stolen while traveling.
This system may seem silly to some, but among the folks, I work with, 100% of the people who have tried it say it has dramatically increased their financial wellness and decreased their stress when it comes to budgeting for vacations.”
Keep Your Money Safe
Michael Reynolds has a great point about a separate bank account. I use an Ally Bank account like him, but I prefer to use my Charles Schwab High-Interest Investment Checking account for my travel account. They pay for any ATM fees.
When you are traveling, you want to keep your money safe. You don't want your main account wiped out if your ATM card is stolen. It also helps that you use that account to save money. Every time you have extra money, you can put it into investments like a good index fund ETF or put some aside for your next travel adventure.
Grant Maddox from Hampton Park Financial Planning mentioned:
‘When traveling to a country with a different currency, consider having your card charged in their currency as opposed to USD. Most merchants will charge an additional percentage charge for using USD.'
Always be wary of the different ways you can protect your money. Budgeting helps make it all happen. You must be mindful of where your money is going and create goals to put it in place.
Numerous Challenges to Saving Money For Travel
Travel can be pretty expensive. Flights have dramatically increased in prices. The hotels have been rising prices as the influx of tourists are flooding areas, and there seems to be a lack of staff everywhere.
With these expenses come challenges to saving money to start on your travels. Every challenge has a way to overcome it, but you must be willing to make sacrifices and go above and beyond.
Not Enough Income
One of the most significant challenges to saving money for travel is not having enough income. If you are working at a job and living in a higher cost of living area, you may have some issues saving more money.
Income can be a deterrent to saving money. There are numerous bills to pay, food to purchase, and gasoline to fill your car. All these cost money, and not everyone has enough to spend on those things and travel simultaneously.
Take a look at picking up a side hustle, another job, or even creating a passive income stream. Many of these ways can help make other avenues to fund your future travels. You can even start a blog (like me!) to help support your travels.
Debt is something that can cash-strap anyone wanting to venture throughout the world. There have been numerous stories of people cutting expenses and pushing as much money as possible to get out of debt.
If you have debt from student loans, credit cards, or even a large car loan, it is best to devise some cost-cutting and money-saving strategies to knock it out.
Travel is a luxury to many people, and being able to say you are debt-free is a liberating feeling. Try to cut unnecessary spending like cable and streaming services, eating out, and buying unnecessary things. You can have a roommate or even house hack to lower bills.
Take the time to create strategies to eliminate any debt to go and see the world.
These have been a couple of things that people talk about that slow their progress in seeing the world. As you travel, these habits you build will be the habits of saving on the road.
The 15 Best Ways to Save Money While Traveling
There are many tips and advice out there to help you to save money while traveling. Many finance and travel bloggers have suggested these tips to help you save more money on your future adventures.
1. Travel Hacking
The art of travel hacking brings about opportunities to find cheaper flights and cheaper accommodations. If you are going to do any traveling, it may be prudent to seek out a sound travel credit card to help you accumulate points and miles to travel for free.
Travel hacking is the art of accumulating credit card points, airline miles, or hotel points to gain free and cheaper travel. The most common way is to open up a credit card to get a hefty welcome bonus and transfer those points to a travel partner to purchase free flight tickets.
You can also use these same points to be sent to a hotel partner for free nights at a hotel.
Travel hacking is an excellent way to save money to travel. The welcome bonuses and money spent can help you collect more miles and points to get free flights, saving thousands of dollars while traveling.
2. Getting Cheap Flights For Travels
Cheap flights are not as easy as most people may think. They do not grow on trees. If you want to save money, it is best to look for cheap airfares.
Cheap airfare can be found by flexibly planning and using budget airlines to score great deals.
Flexibility is critical when trying to fly cheaply. Airlines will increase their prices 28 days beforehand for international flights and 21 days before domestic flights. Use google flights or even Skyscanner to look for some cheap flight deals.
If you can determine the place you would like to go to, you can find a time to book a great time. It is usually best to fly out during the week and off-season times. That will allow you to have the best rates possible.
3. Travel on Budget Airlines
When looking at cheap flight tickets, you must look at some budget airlines. Jason Butler from My Money Chronicles explains how budget airlines save him money.
“One way to save money is to use budget airlines on short trips. I recently flew to Cincinnati on Frontier Airlines. The round-trip flight from Atlanta was $193. If I had flown Delta or Southwest, the trip would have been over $300. Saving money by flying with budget airlines allows you more money for food, drinks, and souvenirs.”
If you are ok with flying budget airlines, you can score a great deal. Recently, I saw a deal on Twitter that you could fly from LAX to Honolulu for 12,000 Southwest points and then fly to Sydney for an additional $168. A ticket under $200 with a stopover in Hawaii is an incredible deal. These are on-budget airlines, but the prices are hard to beat.
4. Explore On Your Own
Kevin Lao from Imagine Financial Security suggests exploring places on your own.
“Don't jump on a bunch of touristy excursions! Do your excursion yourself!
When my wife and I did Ireland, we rented a car with a very loose itinerary and drove around the entire country, stopping at different cities. It was amazing! The locals gave us suggestions we would never have had if we jumped on that expensive tour bus.
Not only did we avoid the expensive tour traps, but we saw places most tourists don't even know about! Example: whitebark bay just north of Belfast.”
5. Travel Like a Local
Ashlee Fechino from The Happiness Function shares her thoughts on how to save money while traveling.
“Travel Like a Local and Plan Free Outdoor Activities When traveling, consider exploring your destination like a local. Where do the locals hike, camp, and go out to eat? What would you do if you were to live near the destination you are visiting?
We loved to road trip four to five hours from our home and explored the state parks and national forests. We opted-in for camping and free outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, and taking photos, leading to more traveling for less money.
These days, the most considerable travel expense is gas, and we bring our groceries. Traveling to less famous places and experiencing them low-key like a local is a great way to have incredible experiences without breaking the bank. You'll also likely encounter fewer crowds and spots to spend money.”
6. Shop Locally For Souvenirs
Sanjana Vig from The Female Professional shares money saving tips on buying souvenirs.
“One of the best parts of traveling is bringing home fun souvenirs to help you remember your trip. When it comes to souvenirs, try to shop locally. You'll be supporting local businesses, receive authentic, usually handmade wares, and, depending on where you are, can bargain down prices.
Some tips to follow when bargaining include:
- Start at the lowest possible price that you think is fair.
- Have a cutoff price above which you will not go.
- Try to bundle items, paying a lower total cost than purchasing them individually.
- Be willing and quick to walk away if shop owners don't work with you.
- Haggling over the cost of goods can help you practice your local language skills while you get the best price for something you love.
- You get to save money while adding to the overall experience of the trip!”
7. Stay at a Home Exchange
Casandra Karpiak from Karpiak Caravan shares her tips on Home Exchange and how it can save us money on accommodations.
“My secret weapon for saving money while traveling is the website Home Exchange. I have been a member of Home Exchange for years, and it has saved me thousands upon thousands of dollars. I travel the world with my family of four, staying in all kinds of accommodations during a home exchange.
In Portugal, we had a three-bedroom beach house; in France, we had a four-bedroom home in a charming French village; and in South Carolina, we stayed in a gated resort with member privileges to the resort pool and golf course, all for free.
The best part about Home Exchange is there are three ways to participate. Simultaneous, non-simultaneous, and guest point exchanges provide the flexibility to exchange the way that suits your travel style.
For a typical family vacation, we purchase airfare on points and do a home exchange in at least one of the destinations we visit, leaving only paying for a rental car. If you are looking to save money while traveling or for ways to travel more often, this is a wonderful option.”
8. Pack Smart
Jessica Bishop from The Budget Savvy Bride gave some tips about packing smart when you go off traveling.
“Plan and pack smart! Maximize your space by finding the largest-sized airline-compliant personal item possible. If you can get away with packing only a carry-on, you can avoid added baggage fees on most airlines.
Consider putting together a capsule wardrobe of mix and match items that you can wear multiple times if you go for a more extended trip. The extra $100 or so you'll save in baggage can be put towards much more fun parts of your travel!”
9. Bring Your Own Water Bottle
Carley Rojas Avila from Home to Havana suggests bringing your own water bottle to save money.
“Ditch the Bottled Water Any international traveler has likely faced the dilemma of finding safe drinking water. While grabbing a bottle of water here and there might seem like a small expense, it can add up quickly throughout a vacation.
Save money when traveling abroad by bringing along a Steripen or similar UV-light water sanitization device. Not only do these small, packable UV lights filter large quantities of water quickly, but they'll help you become a more eco-friendly traveler by cutting down on your single-use plastic consumption.
You'll recoup the cost of the Steripen within just one international trip with all the money you'll save.”
10. Meal Planning
Karee Blunt from Our Woven Journey gave us tips about her meal plans to save money on food for a whole family.
“Be Strategic With Your Meal Planning Dining out can be one of the most expensive parts of traveling. We all have to eat, so there's no way to avoid spending money on food, but how can you enjoy your vacation without overspending on meals? Where you choose to stay can significantly affect how much you pay (or save) on meals, especially for larger families.
Whenever possible, stay in a hotel that offers complimentary breakfasts. Some hotels like Homewood Suites even offer “social hour” several evenings a week, which can easily be dinner for most people.
Another option is to book a hotel room that has a kitchenette. You're all set to grab a few groceries at the store, like milk and cereal for breakfast and frozen pizzas for dinner. It takes minimal effort to fix the meals, and you'll save money for other vacation activities.”
11. Research Food Options
Caitriona Maria from TPR Teaching shares how to save money on researching food options.
“When you go on vacation, you want to enjoy yourself without breaking the bank. If you plan to eat out several times a day (which I am here for!), it's a good idea to be mindful of how much money you spend on food and beverages. When you go to the tourist hotspots, such as the Irish pubs or metropolitan hotels, for some grub, expect to pay a higher-end price for the service.
However, there are some tips and tricks you can use to help lighten the load on your wallet. Here are some tips on how to save money on foreign cuisine:
1. Do your research (before you get hungry!) and look for restaurants that offer good value for money. Every city has hidden gems that don't cost an arm and a leg to dine in. You can quickly check the restaurant reviews and price ranges on Google Maps.
2. Opt for happy hour when grabbing drinks. Raise your glass to happy hour! Happy hour is when discounted alcoholic beverages are served in bars and restaurants. Typically, happy hour is between 4 – 8 PM, Mondays through Fridays.
3. Look for buffets and all-you-can-eat deals if you have a big appetite. Not only will you save money, but you'll also get to try various dishes.
4. Ask the locals about the best places to eat and drink and avoid expensive tourist traps. Rather than blindly figuring out everything yourself, they have the best knowledge of where to find the tastiest food and cheapest drinks.
5. Stick to water if you are on a tight budget. It's cheap and will save you from spending money on overpriced beverages. Tap water is also safe and free to drink in some countries. If you decide to go to Ireland, ask for “a jug of MiWadi.” This delicious concentrated orange soft drink is free in most Irish venues.”
12. Prepare Meals On the Road
Steve Morrow from Paddle About shares tips on preparing meals on the road.
“Food is always a considerable expense when traveling. One way my wife and I save money is to stay in an Airbnb or hostel where we can prepare our meals. Often we can make our meals much cheaper than eating out.
When we stay in a hotel, we always try to book a hotel with a complimentary hot breakfast. Then, we fill up with a great meal in the morning and eat snacks until dinner. This way, we cut down on the number of meals we pay for each day.
We have successfully traveled with our kids over the years by maxing out the complimentary breakfast.”
13. Store Food and Eat Leftovers
Jon Dulin from Money Smart Guides shares his tip.
One way we save money on travel is to stay in hotels with a microwave and mini-fridge. These amenities allow us to buy some basics at the grocery store and make breakfast and lunch, saving money. And when we do eat out, we can bring leftovers back to the hotel and reheat them the next day.
Finally, staying in a hotel that offers complimentary breakfast is another option. When we do this, we make it a point to eat a large breakfast so that we can skip lunch if we are out and about.
14. Ordering Grocery Delivery
Mark Patrick from the Financial Pilgrimage shares how ordering groceries can save money on travel.
One way we save money while traveling is by ordering grocery delivery on the way to our destination. Using a service such as Instacart, our groceries are often waiting for us on the doorstep by the time we arrive at our place. Of course, ordering groceries doesn't mean we avoid restaurants altogether.
On the contrary, eating out is one of our favorite parts of a vacation. However, having lower-cost groceries reduces runs to the hotel lobby or convenience stores in higher-priced areas to fill the gaps between restaurants. Using Instacart to order groceries from Aldi or other low-cost grocery stores, you'll save a lot of money and time by having groceries delivered directly to your place.
15. Always Have A Food Plan
Sam from Smarter and Harder shares his tips of saving money on travel.
Always have a food plan. If you leave your travel meals to the fate of “I’ll eat when I’m hungry,” you may find yourself in a precarious position with limited options. Having at least a loose plan for what, where, and when you’re going to eat each day allows you to avoid overpaying for meals at the last minute out of necessity. You can also plan to bring pre-packed meals and snacks to drive down the travel food bill further.
Traveling is a fun adventure to have. As we travel, we must be mindful of how much we spend. If you spend too much, there will be less to see since there will be less money. So budget your cash and meal plan, be flexible, travel hack, and think as a local. These few tips can help your travel experience be much better.
These 15 ways to save money while traveling will allow you to travel farther, better, and have an exciting adventure.
I’m Steve. I’m an English Teacher, traveler, and an avid outdoorsman. If you’d like to comment, ask a question, or simply say hi, leave me a message here, on Twitter (@thefrugalexpat1). Many of my posts have been written to help those in their journey to financial independence. I am on my journey, and as I learn more I hope to share more. And as always, thanks for reading The Frugal Expat.