The most common excuse people give for not traveling is it costs too much money. But, we’re preparing to take a trip back to Europe and I am blown away by the multitude of ways to save on travel right now! Where some don’t suit every situation or preference, choosing any one of these methods listed below will save you money on your next vacation. Travel can be a lot more affordable than you may think. I know personally, combining a few of these tips can save you as much as 50% on travel costs. So read on and invent a cheap trip.
1. Look close to home
Are you short on funds and longing for an epic travel adventure? The adventure you desire might be a lot cheaper and closer to home than you might think! There are a lot of cool places in this world and I bet there are some just a short drive from where you live. Take a micro adventure! British author, Allistair Humphreys is an authority on these close, short adventures. He has great suggestions to create your own little escape on his website.
Try searching for ideas, Google “day trips from” your city and see what piques your interest. Contact your local tourism board and find out what they recommend. I bet there are some popular tourist spots in your hometown that you’ve never experienced.
2. Go where and when your money goes further
Look at cheaper alternative destinations or visit countries where your currency is worth more. Some places in Europe are super expensive to visit but there are lesser known alternatives to the popular overpriced European destinations.
Sometimes there are destinations where your home countries currency is worth more than other places in the world. That is not true for our home country Canada right now but if you reside in the United States there are lots of great places where the US dollar is a lot stronger.
Travel in the off-season or shoulder seasons. Flights, hotels, and restaurants will all be cheaper. You’ll see the same incredible sights with a lot more elbow room as well. Off season is generally the Winter months wherever you planning to visit. Shoulder seasons are Spring and Fall and high season is summer and holidays like Christmas and New Years.
3. Go all inclusive with a cheap cruise
Most times when you book all inclusive vacations like a cruise you’re saving money. But if you can get an all inclusive cruise vacation on sale even better! Vacations to Go is a great site to find cheap cruise deals to destinations all around the world.
4. Book flights on budget airlines
There are a few budget airlines in Canada and the US but the rest of the world has multitudes of low-cost carriers that offer travelers super cheap prices. However, make sure you abide by their stringent ticketing rules to avoid being slapped with additional charges. Check out this list of award-winning low-cost carriers from around the world.
5. Look for different routes for flights
Some airports are cheaper to fly into than others. Choosing alternate airports to fly into or out of can deliver deep discounts as long as the cost to travel to and from your lodging doesn’t negate your airfare savings. We’ve found these lists of US and European alternate airports particularly helpful (and money saving) when booking our flights.
If you need a little inspiration and want to see cheap airfares at a glance Skiplagged is an awesome website to use. Their aim is to help travelers see the world by sharing industry secrets delivering you deeply discounted fares not found anywhere else!
6. Fly during off-peak hours and on lighter travel days
We always look to book flights with these parameters because fares are always cheaper. Fly during off-peak hours between five and seven in the morning or after eight in the evening. Days of the week make a big difference for costs as well. Book flights on less popular (and lighter) travel days, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday and save, sometimes substantially.
7. Clear your cache
If you search the same site regularly some airline websites may mark up prices based on your visible interest. They view repeated searches by accessing your cookies. They justify the jump in pricing as an increase in demand. Clear the internet cache on your computer before you search for flights or use a Chrome incognito window to avoid prices increasing.
8. Get free accommodation
House sitting, care of a homeowners property and pets while they vacation in exchange for free lodging is one of our favorite ways to save on travel. It is the best thing for our budget (because accommodation is free) and we reap so many cultural rewards living like locals do! Other sharing economy sites that help travelers find a free stay are Couchsurfing and BeWelcome. If you’re interested in volunteering in exchange for free accommodation check out WWoof or HelpX. Or if you’d like an even exchange, you can swap homes with different homeowners around the world with Home Exchange.
9. Get free pet care while you’re away
If you have pets you know it can be expensive to board your pet at a kennel when you travel. Then there is the worry and often times expensive extra insurance you need to deal with if your home is going to empty while you’re away. These are big travel costs a lot of people don’t factor into their travel budget. Don’t worry, relax and save your money. Enlist a house sitter to take care of your home and pets for free while you vacation. Feel free to check out our references and house sitting schedule.
10. Take a ride sharing road trip and make new friends
Ride sharing with BlaBlaCar can save you a lot of money getting from A to B. It is a community that connects verified drivers with empty seats and fellow travelers that need a ride. A people powered transport network! Ten million people use the service every quarter, that’s a lot of affordable rides. Where do want to go? Maybe you can catch a cheap ride and make a new friend in the process.
11. Find the cheapest way to where you want to go quickly
Rome2Rio is an awesome travel search engine that provides itineraries for planes, trains, boats, public transit, and driving options to and from anywhere in the world. It shows a comparison of all methods and delivers you results for length of journey and best price. It makes our travel planning quick and easy.
12. Get more space, privacy, and still save money
Hotels can be expensive. Hostels seem like they would be a lot more budget friendly with dorm beds and access to a kitchen to cook some meals. But, the truth is if you’re a family a hostel can end up costing more than it’s worth. We think Airbnb is the best value for money. Booking an entire place rental gives us a lot more private space than a hotel room or a hostel. We save a lot of money cooking some meals in our own private kitchen and we feel we experience the places we visit on a deeper level. Staying in local neighborhoods with Airbnb rentals instead of hotels in tourist zones saves us money and helps us have authentic travel experiences.
13. Connect with experts
Connecting with locals is the best way to get to know about the culture the places you visit. They can show you the best things about their city which are cheaper and better than the tourist traps. Meeting people and making new friends makes travel better, more memorable. Book shared accommodation to meet fellow travelers or rent a private room Airbnb to meet local hosts. Using any of the aforementioned things like BlaBlaCar, Couchsurfing and BeWelcome also make it easy to meet and get to know locals.
Sharing a meal with locals or eating out where locals love to dine is another way to meet and get to know people. Vizeat and EatWith are two great sites that help travelers book a seat at local dinner tables. They bring home chefs and hungry travelers together in cities around the world.
If you want to learn about local favorites for restaurants and the best things in the places you visit connect with a Global Greeter. Greeters are people who love their cities so much they want to show it to travelers for free! We love taking a food tour at the beginning of our stay in a destination. Doing so helps us find great places to eat and we get to spend time with local guides who always love to share the best things to see and do in their cities.
14. Eat street smart
Go where locals go to eat. Choose restaurants, at least, four blocks outside the tourist zone. The food and the prices are always better. Recommendations on Yelp! and Foursquare will steer you in the right direction.
We love to shop at local markets and grab a meal while we’re there. Food is always cheap, fresh and delicious. We also always try to book accommodation with a kitchen to cook some of our own meals. Save more staying in self-catering accommodation by eating out at great restaurants for lunch instead of dinner and cooking dinner back at your lodging. Lunch is always cheaper than dinner in expensive restaurants but the food is just as delicious.
Choose hotels that offer a free hot breakfast with a booking. We will enjoy breakfast as late as we can and skip lunch. Then we’re only paying for snacks and dinner, cha-ching!
15. Book flights and accommodation at the right time
The truth is the best time to book flights and accommodation can vary greatly based on time of year, destination, and days of the week. But research by CheapAir has shown that booking flights 47 days (on average) in advance is the best time to book flights for the best price.
For hotels we have found booking between two to three weeks in advance delivers the cheapest room rates. Additionally booking longer stays with Airbnb search Airbnb Sublets. Hosts charge cheaper prices per night for bookings of a month or more than they do per night for shorter stays.
16. But if you can’t book ahead, look for last minute deals
AirfareWatchdog, The Flight Deal , and TravelPirates.com are the best sites to sign up for last minute cheap flight notifications. If we need to book accommodation last minute we use Priceline or negotiate with Airbnb hosts for better rates. If a hosts rental hasn’t been booked for a while and there are no bookings in the near future they are usually willing to discount a last minute stay.
17. Travel realistically, travel light
Most regular airline carriers charge you extra for bags over a certain weight and all discount airlines definitely do. Traveling for over 595 days consecutively taught us a lot of things! One of those lessons was you need to pack a lot less than you think you do to be comfortable traveling!
Keep track of all of the things (pants, shorts, dress style for women, and tee shirt style) you like to wear for fit and comfort. Pack those things to take on your trip. Granted we do pack for four seasons, we travel light and have never been unprepared for any situation. Most people don’t pack year round weather so our best advice to cut the chaff is skipping the “just in case stuff” and “extra choices” to travel lighter.
18. DIY your own walking tour
Download and take your own walking tour. Rick Steeves has some really good ones, seriously!
19. Get an unlocked phone and apps to text people anywhere in the world
We travel with unlocked cell phones and buy local sim cards in places we visit. This is a cheap and easy way to stay connected on the road. No roaming charges is a very good thing. They are ridiculously high for Canadians. Unlocked cell phones sell for between $49 to $800 depending on the functionality you need on your phone. We need to use Google Maps and a translator on our phones so we prefer a phone with at least 16 gigs of memory. They cost between $200 and $300. A lot cheaper than roaming charges.
WhatsApp and Viber allow you to text and call people around the world, free! Call or video chat with friends and family using Skype, Vonage or even Facebook. Skype helped Facebook build video calling right into the chat! One click on the call button in the chat window and you can make Facebook conversations live.
20. Try some of the money saving tricks we use most
- We always choose restaurants, accommodation, and shopping, at least, four blocks outside tourist zone. Everything is cheaper and the travel experience is more authentic.
- We make sure everything we want and need is within walking distance from our rental using the street view on Google Maps. We also ensure public transit is handy as well.
- We never rent cars and rarely take cabs. Walking and public transit all the way. We see the finer details of a destination and save money as well.
- 95% of the time we house sit or rent entire place rentals with Airbnb. The accommodation is great and free or cheap in comparison to a hotel stay.
- But, sometimes we need to stay in hotels and comfort and convenience is always the priority for us. Free or cheap breakfast, free airport shuttle or close proximity to cheap airport transportation, and clean comfortable rooms are preferred when we stay in hotels.
- We use unlocked cell phones and buy local sim cards. WhatsApp, Viber, and Skype are what we use most to talk to friends and family.
- We take a walking tour or a food tour soon after we arrive in a destination to get the lay of the land and learn about local favorites for restaurants and entertainment.
I hope you discovered a few new ways to save money on travel. Anything that can make your trips better and cheaper is a good thing, right? If you know some cool budget travel tips that weren’t mentioned above, please share them in the comments below.
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Featured image by Simon Forbes via Flickr