Want to know how to save money on traveling? Looking for budget travel tips to help you travel cheaper? You’re in the right place!
- One month in Europe (including flight, lodging, food, and a majority of the trip in Paris and London) for a total of $1000.
- Seven days on an Alaska Cruise (with a spa pass and excursion) for $400*.
- One week in Oahu for $118 before food.
- Three days in New Orleans for $6 (hey, I wanted souvenirs).
And just I spent $88 on hotel and flight for a future trip to Kauai! Traveling is cheaper than living my every day life. None of these tips are rocket science, but it’s helpful to have them all together. Most take a while to build up to- these aren’t quick tips, but when they do pay off, it’s so worth it!
Disclaimer: I’m not a financial advisor. Please don’t rely on just me for financial advice.
In This Post
How to Save Money on Airfare
Fly on cheaper days and months
If you have a flexible travel schedule, consider flying during the weekdays or during off season to save money.
Generally flying on weekends is most expensive and flying on Tuesdays/Wednesdays is much cheaper– because most people can’t fly those days! Traveling in the the shoulder months of a destination’s peak months is cheaper since less people are going there!
But beware of a month being less popular/cheaper because of bad weather. I once went to Orlando during hurricane season because the ticket was so cheap– but it was also when Hurricane Irma hit!
For more general information on the cheapest times to fly, check out this article. And for exploring the cheapest time to go somewhere specific, I love using Skyscanner. But I personally try to buy from the airlines directly rather than third party sites.
Use apps to help determine when the best time to buy a ticket is
Whether you’re able to fly at a cheaper time or not, still make sure you’re buying your ticket at the right time– when prices are low for those dates.
Use apps like Hopper or Google’s / Kayak’s prediction tools to determine if it’s the right time to buy your ticket. A little preplanning here will help make sure you’re getting the best deal!
Get a travel or airlines credit card
Do you make every day life purchases? Consider getting an airlines or travel credit card! Every dollar you spend goes to future things to help you travel. It takes a while for the points or miles to rack up after the sign up bonuses, but this is the biggest way I’m able to fly for cheap.
Look up the best card for your lifestyle. Sites like this one review the best travel credit cards every year. I personally have the Alaska Airlines card because I used to live in Seattle and flew Alaska Airlines a ton. It also has a yearly companion fare if you’re in the right tier, meaning a friend can fly with you for $50! And the bonus miles after you first sign up with Alaska (and some other cards) are typically enough to get you a flight somewhere! Aka, you might be able to fly somewhere for cheap right after you sign up!
I’ve used this tip to fly to Kauai roundtrip for $11, out of Maui last minute for $16, and to New Orleans roundtrip last minute for $20 with just my Alaska Air card! But, it takes me a couple years to save up enough miles because I care more about my financial health than traveling cheaply.
Search for flight deals, glitch fares, and hacker prices
Sign up for websites like Scott’s Cheap Flights, Next Vacay, or Secret Flying. Sometimes flights have randomly cheap prices, whether it’s a deal, glitch, or some wonky temporary pricing thing. These websites are on the lookout for them. And they’ll notify you when there’s a deal! For some there’s a free tier, but the best deals are for members.
My ex subscribed to Scott’s Cheap Flights, and we bought tickets after they posted a flight deal from LA to Rarotonga roundtrip for $400, in a month where it’s normally $800! My best friend uses Secret Flying and bought a flight deal from Seattle to Nairobi for $600 when it’s normally $800 – $1000. The only caution is sometimes airlines won’t honor the glitch fares, so just be cautious with those ones.
Fly into cheaper cities, then head to your destination
If it works for your schedule, see if flying into a different airport, then taking a bus, train, or budget airlines to your final destination, is cheaper than flying directly. This works really well in Europe, where certain cities are major airport hubs and there are a ton of affordable ways to get to other countries. Plus, you get another city to explore!
Work for an airline for discounted tickets
Some airlines offer their employees standby tickets, which means they get to fly for a heavily discounted price when seats are available!
These works even if you’re not a flight attendant, which is typically who we picture traveling cheaply. My friend’s uncle works for Hawaiian Airlines as an engineer and we’ve visited Oahu for the price of taxes because of his benefit. One of my friends works for Alaska Airlines as a business analyst, and he got himself and three other friends to visit me in San Diego for the price of taxes!
Note: I’ve personally never worked at an airlines myself, only used other people’s benefits, so I only have this outsider perspective.
The caveat is if there’s not enough space on the flight, you may not be able to get there or back. This actually happened to us in Hawaii and we were “stranded” for a couple days. Stranded is in quotes because who wants to leave paradise? Just be aware and flexible or have a backup plan in case anything goes wrong!
How to Save Money on Lodging
Stay with friends or family in other cities
This was probably the biggest reason I was able to travel in Europe for so cheap. For two weeks I stayed with a friend in Paris and for three days we stayed with a friend in Vienna. Lodging is sometimes the most expensive part of travel, and if you’re able to stay with your good friends or family members, you won’t have to worry about it!
Couchsurf for free lodging
But, not everyone has friends around the world. If you’re not close to anyone in other places, consider couchsurfing for free lodging. This is an app/site where people offer their couch or spare bed for travelers. Make sure you go with positively reviewed people for safety!
Volunteer or work for “free” lodging
If you have time and want to do more than simply travel, consider volunteering abroad (but, be mindful), teaching abroad, housesitting, and all the other ways you can exchange your time and skills for a place to stay. Lodging should definitely NOT be the main reason for wanting to do one of these, but it’s a plus if you are interested in a more meaningful trip!
I’ve personally never done anything like this, but one of my friends is a therapist and volunteers at hospitals in Central America every year and always does homestays that her organization finds for her! Other US friends have no background in teaching or working with kids but can still get jobs teaching English abroad with a homestay as a benefit! These are a great way to get to know the culture and give back to the community as well.
Work for a hotel chain for discounted hotel prices
Hotel employees at some chains get a discount when they stay at hotels at their chain. I can’t speak from the hotel employee perspective, but I’ve traveled with friends who do have this benefit and were able to get us rates that were over half off!
Travel with your friends or family to split costs
Solo travel is so romanticized, but traveling friends and family is a great way to bond and share memories together. Plus, if you’re budget conscious, this can save you a ton of money!
Since you’re splitting everything from car rentals to meals, traveling in a group may save you money. And even bigger savings can be found if you’re splitting the hotel or Airbnb too! Lodging is sometimes the most expensive part of your trip, and sharing with a group will cut that down.
Four star hotel, one room with two king beds, with my friend’s hotel employee discount rate, split between four people.
How to Save Money on Food While Traveling
Cook meals where you’re staying
Making your own food is always cheaper than eating out. If you’re staying at an Airbnb or hostel with a kitchen, consider making a few meals at home to save on food!
Eat pre-made meals from the grocery store
If you’re just trying to save money, consider getting some pre-made meals from the grocery store. Sandwiches, fruits, salads, hot bars, etc. This is what my friend and I did during our four days in London because eating out was way too expensive and Tesco’s had such great sandwich deals.
Take the time to pack snacks and drinks
For the airport or for where you’re exploring for the day, don’t forget to pack snacks and drinks (or at least an empty water bottle to fill up later)! I know many of us are in a rush which is why this can get overlooked, but if you get prepared ahead of time, you can avoid buying pricey but convenient food when you get hungry.
Why buy the airplane’s $12 fruit and cheese platter when you can build your own from the grocery store for $2?? Why buy $3 drip coffee when your hotel probably has a coffee maker??
Eat out for lunch instead of dinner
Lunch menus are typically cheaper than dinner menus. There are a few different reasons why. Abroad in Ecuador, a typical lunch would cost me $1.50 while dinner was typically $9. In the US, in cities like San Diego, you’ll see a lot of restaurants with $8-$10 lunch specials and $15-$20 dinner prices! If you can only afford to eat out once a day, try to make it for lunch to save money.
How to Save Money on Travel in General
Look up free things to do
Even if you’re headed to expensive places like London or New York, there’s typically a lot of fun, free things to do there! Skip the touristy sights where you need passes, and head to free museums, free activities, public parks, instagram walls, hikes, etc, instead. Doing an every day thing like a picnic with new friends can be more memorable than going up a random tower anyway.
Or look up activity deals before you go
If you do want to do pricey sightseeing activities, see if there’s some city pass that combines them at a discount before you buy each separately. Most major cities have these, from London to Seattle. Or check sites like Groupon to see if there are discounts for some local activities.
Another way to save on activities is getting creative with alternatives. Like instead of paying to see the view from some vantage point, see if there’s a rooftop bar or public park nearby instead. Going up Galata Tower in Istanbul for example costs money, but getting tea at a nearby cafe with an equally high up roof is cheaper, less crowded, and you get tea.
Work somewhere flexible or that offers travel
If you don’t want to work for an airlines or hotel, or in a position where your job literally is travel, you can still work somewhere that indirectly supports your travel!
There are some companies whose benefits include awesome travel perks. And there are some companies where you get unlimited time off and where everyone loves travel. The caveat in my job is that even when you’re gone, you might still need to do some work– but hey, answering emails is more fun in France than your office.
And don’t forget that across all industries from sales to science, some jobs do require travel– whether it’s for conferences, business meetings, trainings, etc. The ones where it’s a bigger part of the job will tell you. Take advantage of these trips! Yes, you don’t have as much time to explore since you’re primarily doing work, but you can always explore before or after work. Travel isn’t even a big part of any job I’ve had, but I’ve still been paid to go to Toronto, New Orleans, Boston, and Seattle- including meals, flights, and hotels!
Refer friends to apps with your travel credits (Airbnb, Bird, Lyft, etc)
This isn’t a quick fix to travel cheaply, but be that person who spams your friends with Airbnb credits and other discount codes, so you can get free stuff. They add up. I’m that person and have gotten hundreds in Airbnb, Bird, Uber, and Lyft credits– which helps save money on lodging and transportation for travel! Over three years of forcing my Airbnb links on my friends has gotten me $300 in credits!
Travel to cheap destinations
If you’re coming from a wealthy country, some places are cheaper to travel to than others. Consider checking them out instead of the pricier ones to save money!
Coming from the US, Ecuador and Thailand were some of the cheaper destinations I’ve been too. Eastern Europe is generally cheaper than Western Europe. For more ideas, this posts lists over 40 of the cheapest places to travel.
Remember to do math, because the cheapest thing may not actually be that cheap
If you’re truly on a budget, don’t forget to look at the overall picture when following these tips, to make sure you’re actually doing the cheapest thing. Like, does the flight deal balance out with how much lodging and food there costs? Does staying an extra day for a cheaper flight actually cost more becuase you’ll have to get another hotel? Are you thinking about your overall budget or just looking for deals?? Don’t forget the bigger picture!
Like, even though we scored that amazing flight deal to Rarotonga and bought it immediately, it turned out the island was super expensive, so it wasn’t a cheap trip overall. And even though Tuesdays/Wednesdays are cheaper to fly, I almost never fly on those days because I lose more money missing work than saving some money on the flight.
And those are the tips that I’ve used or seen my equally travel and budget savvy friends use to save money on their trips! What would you add? Which tips do you do? Let me know in the comments!
*JK. Someone I know actually won tickets from a casino for the cruise, which is why we only paid for the spa pass and excursion. They’ve even won us a free stay for us at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas from the same casino! But, I’m not going to recommend gambling as a way to “save money” on travel ;P