7 travel tips to save money that will finally get you adventuring

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7 travel tips to save money that will finally get you adventuring
Adventure Awaits Necklace

Like many of us, I love to travel and don’t do it nearly as often as I’d like. Most of my traveling for pleasure is linked up to an event (like, say, a wedding for a coworker in Northern Cali. Thanks for that incentive, Megan!). It’s always interesting when I meet people who don’t have any interest in traveling at all. I guess it’s just one of those things that hits for some and not for others.

For most of us with a regular job, a family, a busy life, and not enough money, travel can seem pretty out of reach. But if you’ve decided to make traveling a priority in your life (which is the trick!), these are the travel tips to save money that can help you get there.

Catch flights, not feels: travel tips to save money
“Catch Flights Not Feelings” Shirt

Make travel a priority

Traveling is almost never free, so to actually make it feasible for most budgets, you’ll have to start thinking of it as a priority. If you’re making your budget and can handle giving up something else (new clothes, eating out more), that extra savings can go straight into your travel budget.

There’s totally nothing wrong with liking more stuff (I personally love having stuff!), but know that travel might make you choose between them sometimes. One tip is to have a travel savings account that you are funding consistently and make a trade-off to fund it. Maybe it’s nixing the daily Starbucks in favor of coffee at home or a lower phone plan.

Look for bonuses to make travel more affordable

Your job, AAA, credit card points, and more can make traveling more accessible. If you’re a student, check out sites like STA Travel and Student Universe for cheap travel deals and tips for students only.

Look closer to home

If international travel just isn’t doable, budget-wise, look for avenues closer to home. See if you can crash with some friends and explore another city. See if there’s a work conference in a city you’d like to visit that your job could help fund. Or do some research on your general area to see what haunts you haven’t yet haunted. Trips don’t have to be huge to be awesome.

Travel by train or bus

It’s not a good time to be an airline these days, as I’m sure you already know. They’re also super expensive most of the time. If you’re traveling over land and not sea, consider giving trains and buses a shot. Bus companies like Megabus, Boltbus, and RedCoach and many trains are available in most major cities and can get you a scenic route to where you’re heading.

Look for local street food and produce

Not only will local food stands and markets save you some money, but, depending on where you are, you’ll find some of the most interesting foods that aren’t available in your hometown. We forget that other areas of the world have climates that grow dramatically different types of produce, so try them! Better yet, buy a bag of whatever looks interesting and go have a picnic/taste test.

Load up on freebies when you can

If your hotel or rented room has a free breakfast, eat heartily in the morning to make it last until dinner. When you’re booking your hotel/AirBnB/hostel, look to see which has free internet and other amenities. A concierge can be immensely helpful.

For an awesome tour with a local, check out sites like Global Greeter Network who offer free tours by the natives. Caroline once used a tour like this in Chicago!

Check out if there are any free national parks and local museums you can visit, too.

Use online apps to find deals

Apps like Hopper and Skyscanner and sites like Momondo can give you a leg up in finding the best deals for travel. Sign up for deal alerts, too, and be open to time-flexible deals if your job and lifestyle allow for it.

Comments on 7 travel tips to save money that will finally get you adventuring

  1. One thing that I do when I travel is to try to mix experiences and meals so that my money is doing both. When in Peru, I took a cooking class that included a visit to the local market to buy ingredients, tasting of local fruits, and learning to make a three course meal with recipes to take home for later. The whole thing was about 3.5 hours and cost about $40USD. So it covered a touristy activity with a guide, a meal (which was enormous) and also a takeaway in the recipes to recreate the experience at home.

  2. Don’t be scared off by the “high costs” of international travel. The biggest cost is usually the plane ticket, especially if you travel in summer. So, don’t travel in summer, & then look for deals. Get on airline’s email lists & learn how to game frequent flier programs & use credit card points. Try all the different websites listing cheap fares & always use an incognito browser window. There are tons of advice columns about searching for cheap flights, & with diligence, you can knock 30% or more off typical rates even to “pricey” destinations like Europe.

    Another tip: go in with friends. Rent a house with 4+ people in some fabulous location, & it’ll be cheaper than a hotel. About the same cost as a hostel but private w/tons more amenities. You’ll have a kitchen so you can trade off cooking meals, thus saving more money, & use it as a base for site-seeing. I’ve rented a 16th-c. moated Tudor house in England one year & an 18th-c. French chateau another year with the same group of friends. These places were out in the countryside, they were gorgeous & filled with antiques, had HUGE rooms, & were within walking or driving distance of amazing things to do/see. Best vacations I’ve ever had, & I can’t wait to do another one 🙂

    • I totally agree! And this works even if you’re traveling alone or as a couple. If you’ll be somewhere at least a week, then renting a flat can be a great money saver and let you experience local life a little bit more. It usually also allows you to skip breakfast out (I abhor a gross free hotel breakfast), saving money on overpriced eggs you can now cook yourself and enjoying shopping at the local market and having breakfast the way the locals do .

  3. Be ready to travel on shorter notice – if it is possible to travel at some future date especially if you are flexible, do regular searches on sites like Skyscanner (remember, Skyscanner has a “go anywhere” function where you enter dates but not a destination, and it lists possibilities in order of price). Keep in mind that some international destinations are actually cheaper than traveling in your own country as you search – for example, it is often cheaper to fly down to Central America or Mexico or up to Canada than it is to fly from New York to Colorado.

    Look for cheap onward tickets to places you can get to on a budget airline. I can’t give specific advice for this for the USA because I live in Asia, but for me this means – it’s super cheap for us to fly to Hong Kong, Osaka, Tokyo, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Surabaya, Jakarta and Bangkok, and occasionally Kuala Lumpur and Singapore if there’s a deal on. From those cities, there are so many more amazing options than I could get simply searching for budget flights out of my home base (Taipei), and they are fun to visit on their own too. If I want to go to Sulawesi, my best bet is a budget ticket to Surabaya and then another to Sulawesi – just keying in “Taipei-Makassar” is going to bring up all sorts of ultra-pricey options that are on average four times pricier than Taipei-Surabaya-Makassar. (I know I sound like a privileged travel brat, but I’ve made Taipei my home for a decade and one of the perks is that we can take super exotic sounding vacations on the dirt cheap. It is cheaper for me to spend two weeks in Myanmar than it is for the average America to fly to another American city a moderate distance away. My BUDGET trip this year was a ten day jaunt in southern Vietnam).

    Also, look for airlines that offer great layovers and extend them to get more out of your travel budget. Again I can’t help much with this in the US as I don’t live there, but I am typing this from a cafe in Athens, Greece (really!) right now, and we are only in Greece because we found out that an affordable way to get to our first planned destination (Yerevan, Armenia) was to take Aegean Air via Athens. BAM, plan that with a stop in Athens, done. We did the same when we were going from Mumbai to New York – Egypt Air was cheapest, so a week in Egypt was ours (this was in 2009 before the political situation got super dodgy). We have spent weekends in Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing and Shanghai simply because we bought flights through there and arranged the trip so the layover was long enough to do that (China is a prime candidate for this, because the visa which costs around $200 for Americans is waived if you stop for up to 72 hours on an international transit, and Chinese airlines, while kind of terrible, are also cheap. The downside is that you won’t get to explore outside of those cities, which is a shame.) A friend of mine found that the cheapest tickets to London were on Iceland Air and they actively *encourage* you to layover in Iceland for a few days – so if you can, do it.

    Look for trends – airlines compete like rabid animals for business, which means they are always undercutting each other (moreso internationally, in the US they are just uniformly bad). Right now China is trying to horn in on the trans-Asia market, and so their fares are super dirt cheap – Taipei-New York cost me $700 (for what is usually a $1200 ticket) on Air China, and I managed a weekend in Beijing too. This won’t last, eventually Korean Air will try to fight back, and then it’s a weekend in Seoul, and then maybe Tiger, Dragon, Jetstar, Cebu Pacific, Peach or Scoot (Asian budget airlines) will want some action and will expand their destinations.

    Look for budget airlines that don’t service your airport. If your goal is Prague, don’t search Your Airport –> Prague. Search Your Airport –> Whatever European city is cheapest to get to at the moment (lots of good deals via Germany these days), and then look at European budget flights to Prague.

    But I have to say, don’t give in to the same old “stop drinking Starbucks!” advice – do most of us even do that? How many Millenials still think that’s the answer? Don’t we all make coffee at home because we’re a broke generation?

    Naw. I know your budget is already tight. Bite the bullet and get a 2nd job if you can. That’s how I got to Taipei in the first place. Make travel your priority but instead of giving up the “Starbucks” you aren’t actually buying, sacrifice your free time.

  4. On our recent honeymoon to the UK, the most affordable option was:
    Traveling by car (sub-compact, stick shift).
    Staying in Air BnBs instead of hotels.
    Only eating two meals a day (breakfast and early dinner) and snacking as needed between (which happened rarely, as we spent the bulk of each day touring places).

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