How to Travel on a Budget: 26 Tips to Save Money When You Travel!

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Travelling on a budget doesn’t have to suck, and by the end of this post, you’ll know all my top tips for saving money on every trip… without eating bread and hummus every day.

(Unless you want to, of course.)

From a website that helps you get 50% off your food bill automatically to a free service that gives you cash back on most online purchases, I’m spilling all my best secrets today and holding nothing back.

… I hope you enjoy it!

Save this list of Budget Travel Tips for Later!

You’ll be very glad you did.

1. Get a good credit card that maximizes rewards and points

First, before you make all your travel bookings, make sure you have a good credit card that will help you maximize points and rewards! I feel like I say this all the time, but remember: you’re going to spend this money anyway. You might as well be rewarded for it!

I personally have the Amex Platinum, but it has an extortionate annual fee that (honestly) is becoming tougher and tougher to justify… but be sure to look into options in your country and find a good fit!

At the very least, try to get a credit card that offers cash back.

2. Use cash back websites like Rakuten to get cash back on big purchases like hotels/flights

Speaking of cash back, consider registering with a free cash back website like Rakuten.

Long story short, when you shop through one of these sites, they earn a commission for referring you and then give you a portion of that commission back as a thank you.

This means you could earn 2-10% of your online purchases back… automatically! (They have a free Chrome extension that makes it simple, then they PayPal you what you earn). Sure, this isn’t a huge amount of money but it can add up and is essentially free money so you might as well.

You can find use referral link here for a free additional $25. (Or this link if you’re Canadian)

Next, honestly, when it comes to saving money on travel, the most important thing is to…

3. Be as flexible as possible with your travel dates/destinations

I know – we all want that dream summer vacation to Paris or London, but the truth is, the biggest savings you can get will be the ones you make by travelling during off-peak periods, or to destinations you didn’t necessarily have on your radar.

Because truthfully? If your search parameters are strictly “cheap deals in Paris from July 4-11” then your options will be way more limited than say… “cheap deals anywhere for a one week trip between now and August”.

So, your best bet for saving money on travel is to just be flexible with your dates and destinations.

(Plus off peak times tend to be less busy too so it’s just a win win overall)

That time I flew roundtrip to Europe for less than $400 CAD because I went through Vilnius

4. Set up Fare Alerts to be notified when prices go up and down

In the past, I’ve written a lot about the best tricks to finding cheap flights, but honestly one of the more underrated ones is setting up Fare Alerts.

These days, since pricing systems are dynamic, there isn’t really a set rule on when flights are the cheapest… so your best bet is to use fare alert tools to monitor flight prices and pounce when they drop. Apps like Hopper and Google Flights are your friends for things like this.

5. Look on flight deal sites (especially local ones) to find super cheap flights

Now if you’re not great at finding deals on your own, here’s another secret: there’s loads of websites online that crawl the web for deals and curate them for you.

In the past, I’ve been successful with finding deals on big sites like Secret Flying, but honestly the best way is to find a local flight deal website that shows you deals exclusively from your home airport. Most major cities will have a website like this (in Vancouver for instance we have YVR Deals), so be sure to look into that by typing “your home + flight deals website”.

BONUS TIP: If there are only a handful of airlines that you fly with, make sure you’re on their mailing list because then you’ll get an email anytime they have sales.

6. Consider flying with a budget airline

Honestly, after dozens of flights with the likes of Ryanair, easyJet, Wizz Air & Lynx Air, I believe I can declare myself a veteran of the budget airline world.

And as a veteran, I can tell you: they are safe to fly with! If your main goal is to save money on travel, don’t shy away from budget airlines (especially on short haul flights) – they can be a huge cost saver.

Sure, they don’t offer frills, but they do offer fantastic prices. So long as you’re prepared and know what to expect, you can end up saving hundreds of dollars on flights.

… Just beware of the fine print and know the secret tricks they use to charge you extra.

RyanAir plane on the runway with passengers walking on

Now when it comes to hotels, one underrated tip is to just…

7. Call hotels about perks or discounts for direct bookings

I love using 3rd party sites like Booking.com to search and browse hotels. They’re also great for keeping all your hotel bookings in one neat place… BUT if it’s the absolute lowest price you want, then often it’s worth calling a hotel to ask if they offer any kind of deal or incentive to booking directly.

Often they’ll say yes, because they want to avoid paying fees to those 3rd party sites as much as possible.

So, it doesn’t hurt to ask!

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Booking direct w/ citizenM will often mean a free welcome drink for instance | Photo from citizenM Tower of London

8. Stay loyal to one service when booking with 3rd party websites

That said, if you are using third party booking sites, it can pay to stay loyal to one service.

For longer trips where you’re changing hotels a lot, sites like Booking.com can come in handy because they keep all your bookings in one place, but also reward your with discounts and perks the more you book. As a Booking.com Tier 3 Genius for instance (self-important mouthful, I know!) I often score amazing deals like 30% off or extra mobile booking discounts. With these discounts, sometimes the rate is even cheaper than booking direct.

Alternatively, Hotels.com offers a free night for every ten nights you book with them. So remember to not just chase the best deal, but also try to stay loyal to one service if you can.

Berghotel Rehlegg

Another potential way to save money on accommodation is to…

9. Look into house sitting or dog sitting in exchange for free accommodation

You know what’s better than saving money on hotels?

Getting accommodation that’s 100% free! And there are ways to do it – specifically if you’re willing to house sit or pet sit in exchange for somewhere to stay.

Of course, this makes a lot more sense for long term travel because if you’re going on vacation, you don’t want to spend the entire time watering people’s plants and feeding their cats, but these days there are many platforms out there that connect you with people for accommodation in exchange for house or pet sitting, so be sure to look into that if you’re interested.

The most popular one is Trusted Housesitters.

Would be happy to dog sit these direwolves anytime (photo from my Game of Thrones tour through Northern Ireland)

10. Look into one-way or repositioning deals

Another trick for finding good travel deals is to keep an eye out for one-way or repositioning discounts.

This is where companies offer discounted rates because the purpose of the journey is to bring a boat or vehicle back to another destination so it’s usually just a one way trip.

This is very common in the cruise industry but I’ve also seen it with certain car or RV rental companies too, so know that’s an option to look out for!

THE best predeparture checklist for International Travel. If you plan to be traveling abroad, you need to save this list! It breaks down all the important things you need to do before you travel 3 months, 1 month, 1 week, 1 day and the day-of your departure. This International Travel checklist is a must for staying organized!

11. Get a travel friendly card to avoid ATM/currency conversion fees

And to avoid currency conversion/ATM fees, be sure to get yourself a travel friendly card like…

  • Wise: my go-to these days! Super simple and easy to set up.
  • Revolut: my go-to when I used to live in Germany. Very simple to use.

12. Prioritize using public transportation (vs taxis) whenever possible

A huge cost that adds up quickly when you travel is taxis/Ubers.

And honestly? If you’re travelling somewhere with a good public transportation network, not only can you save hundreds of dollars by just hopping on buses/trains instead of taxis, it’s also a great way to experience local life a little bit more.

NOTE: I know some people are wary of public transport depending on where they’re from, but do know that in many places around the world, public transport is safe, efficient, clean and well worth trying… so don’t dismiss it right away, even if you’re not used to it back home.

Now if you do plan on taking public transport, it may be a good idea to…

13. Look for transport tickets and deals based on time frame or group size

Fun fact: most public transport systems offer discounts either for flat rate time periods like a day/week or sometimes if you’re travelling with multiple people, so be sure to look at the different ticket options available instead of buying just standard one way tickets every time, because those are rarely the cheapest option for frequent travel.

A Bayern Ticket, which is both a group AND day ticket in Bavaria that can save you loads of money

Now if you do plan on taking taxis or private transfers then one hack is to…

14. See if there are local Uber equivalents and look for 1st time user promo codes

Depending on where you’re travelling, it’s possible they might have a local equivalent to Uber or other rideshare apps. If that’s the case, make sure you scour the web for special first time user promo codes! Often these apps will offer great discounts for new users to incentivize people to sign up, which means easy savings for you.

I’d recommend searching “app name + discount code” or “app name + first time user” on both Google and YouTube to hopefully find a functional code.

NOTE: The same tip can be applied for saving money on food delivery or grocery delivery!

16. Get groceries and snacks from the supermarket & try to prep some meals yourself

Another fairly obvious money-saving tip for travel is cooking for yourself rather than having every meal out… but I’m sure most of you know that already.

Where I think grocery stores come in especially handy though is for things like snacks, drinks, and other small items like fresh fruit that would be way more expensive to buy outside of the grocery store. So, be sure to take advantage.

Grocery store display with fruits and drinks
Photo by Eduardo Soares on Unsplash

That said, when dining out, there are a ton of other great tricks you can use, like…

17. Keep an eye out for lunch specials and splurge more at lunch > dinner

Many restaurants around the world will offer discounts for lunch, so prioritizing a heavier more indulgent lunch over dinner can be a nice way to save money while still treating yourself to local cuisine!

Alternatively, you can try to…

18. Look for early bird specials or Happy Hours

Many places also offer discounts at off-peak periods like early bird specials or happy hours, meaning you can get a nice discount on food if you’re eating much earlier or much later than the norm.

To find these deals, I’d Google “best happy hours in [destination].”

On that note, you can also save big on meals through…

19. Save 50% off your food bill by booking through a service like First Table

First Table is a really cool website that incentivizes early diners by giving them a 50% discount on their food if they book the first table of the night. The idea is to get people in the restaurant and make it look busy, hence why they’re willing to give you a reduced rate in exchange for you coming in earlier.

I know it sounds way too good to be true, but I’ve used them a few times and it’s not a scam! Though they’re not active worldwide, they do operate in over 50 cities so, be sure to look into them.

Pasta Il Porticciolo Manarola

20. Use TooGoodToGo to find discounted food

TooGoodToGo is an app that partners with local food spots to reduce food waste by selling leftover food at a steep discount. Don’t worry though, we’re not talking about literal leftovers from people’s plates but rather things that didn’t get sold that day… so imagine fast food places with prepackaged sandwiches, etc.

What you get is of course a roll of the dice but the few times I’ve done it, I’ve been pretty happy with the value I received. You can get a pretty decent amount of food for less than 6 or 7 bucks most of the time and if you’re not too picky about what you get, it can be a great way to save big!

TooGoodToGo breakfast haul for £5.58

21. Prioritize free attractions

Another important tip for traveling on a budget? Doing as many free things as possible!

Most cities offer free or low-cost attractions, so the best way to cut costs is to just explore the museums, parks, and historical sites that won’t dent your budget. I know oftentimes the most famous sights in a place are paid, but honestly sometimes the free alternatives you can find are even better.

The amazing (free) V&A Museum in London

You should also be sure to…

22. Look for free admission days

And if there’s a big sight you really want to see, many paid attractions, especially museums, will have one day of the week or month where they offer free entry. Be sure to look into this and plan accordingly!

23. Check for museum reciprocity deals

A lesser known secret for getting free museum entry is to take advantage of museum reciprocity deals.

So, if you happen to be a paying member of a museum at home, oftentimes museums will have reciprocal agreements with other museums where you can get in free with your membership. Of course, this usually only applies if you’re travelling within your own country, but be sure to dig into the fine print of your museum membership to see if there are any hidden perks like this!

24. Always ask for potential discounts based on age/residency

Want to save money on attractions simply by existing?

Luckily, many places offer discounts based on either your age, residency, or student status, so keep this in mind and if you fall into a category that can usually get a discount (e.g. child, youth, senior, student), then be sure to inquire… after all, it never hurts to ask!

View of the Orsay museum in Paris
Photo by Johan Mouchet on Unsplash

25. Look into City Passes if you plan to do a lot of paid attractions

All that said, sometimes doing paid attractions is inevitable. And if you don’t want to visit a place without seeing its iconic paid sights, I’ve found sometimes the best value way to do it is to buy a city pass that bundles multiple attractions together.

NOTE: This only makes sense if you plan to do many attractions during your visit. A lot of people fall into the trap of buying these then realizing they don’t actually want to see most of the things on the pass.

So before you commit, definitely look at what’s included, check off the must dos for you and total up the amount it would cost to buy tickets for it separately. If this total is less than the price of the pass then yes it’s worth it, otherwise don’t bother.

the I amsterdam card for instance is excellent value

26. Look for self-guided tours

Finally, if you are really on a budget, then I’d say search far and wide for self-guided tours!

I love a good tour guide, but oftentimes guided tours can be pretty expensive. Luckily, travel creators like me have created DIY tours for every destination you can imagine so if you still want all the culture and history and fun facts, then just Google “destination + self guided tour” and take advantage of those on your next trip.

Example: my DIY Hallstatt walking tour

Did I Miss Any of Your Favourite Budget Travel Tips?

Let me know in the comments so I can add more to the list!

My Go-To Travel Favourites:

🧳 Eagle Creek: My favourite packing cubes

💳 Wise: For FREE travel friendly credit cards

🍯 Honey: For finding coupons automatically

🏨 Booking.com: For searching hotels

📷 Sony A7IV: My (amazing) camera

✈️ Google Flights: For finding flight deals

🌎 WorldNomads: For travel insurance

🎉 GetYourGuide: For booking activities

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