Any advice to make travelling cheaper gratefully received, right?
Well, after four years of travel all over the world, here are my top travel hacks to help you have the money to travel for longer, deeper and further.
1. Book accommodation early
I’ve never seen accommodation get cheaper. The earlier you book your hotel / hostel / villa, the better the choice and so the better the deal. Use price comparison sites, like Google Search, to find the best deal for your date. Never accept the first price you see – make sure you do a bit of digging.
As soon as you book in your flights, get your accommodation booked too.
2. Choose good value destinations
Obviously, the cheaper the destination, the less you’ll spend in total. Sometimes it can be worth flying far, for the cheaper price of everything when you get there.
Much of Asia is cheap, compared to Western expectations, as is some of South America. Classics like Cambodia, India and Mexico are price favourites for a reason. Watch yourself if you’re planning a trip to Europe though, places that were cheap a few years ago have welcomed in the demand with open arms, and put their prices right up.
Croatia, I’m talking about you.
3. Cut down on the booze
I know, who even am I any more?
Alcohol is one of the most expensive daily treats money can buy when you’re on holiday. Don’t worry about cutting it out entirely, but cutting down can definitely help you cut the holiday bill down a bit.
In most places alcohol is expensive (although in Malawi, it was about 80p a glass of wine). There are a few crazy / awesome places around the world where a beer ends up being cheaper than a bottle of water, but in general, booze is going to cost you.
And the thing with drinking is, I’ve found, you have one and you want another, and then you make more friends and you want another. A night out can end up getting very expensive.
If you’re away for a long time promise yourself a few alcohol-free days to save up for more essential activities, like temples and watersports.
4. Eat like a local
If you follow the tourists to the English menu restaurants you’re going to end up with sub-standard food, for twice the price. Follow the locals instead.
Although, having said that, we tried to do this recently in Samos, in Greece, and ended up with what was surely out of date, over cooked fish, sloppy peppers, and manky taramasalata. So follow the locals… but check out what’s being served before you commit to ordering.
Look for street markets and shop at local stores. Eating the local food doesn’t always have to mean eating out either, you can eat the local food from the supermarket now and again and save yourself a few quid. Carry a spoon around with you to help spread cheese / drink soup / eat yogurt from a shop etc. This little trick saved me loads when I was backpacking Europe.
5. Walk when you can
I get it. It’s hot, taxis are air conditioned, and with the whole taxi app thing, so easy too, but NO.
Unless you have loads of luggage or it’s over three miles then resist the urge to get a taxi. Walk. You never know what you might find on a trek out into the wilderness. Or at least, into town. Or to a restaurant.
Walking far, with a purpose but not a schedule, is one of the best ways to discover a new place, and to save money on transport costs too. Who knows where the day will take you!
6. Take overnight transport
You can save on a night’s accommodation by checking out the overnight schedules to get to your next destination.
Word of warning from experience though – only do this if you’re good at sleeping on public transport, otherwise you run the risk of wasting the next day catching up on sleep when you finally get there. Total false economy, and sometimes not always worth it, depending on the country you’re in. Keep it in mind though.
I’ve saved lots of money doing overnight buses, trains and flights, and would do again.
7. Sign up for discount cards
If you’re an OAP, a student, have been in the Forces, or know of any other reason why you might be entitled to a discount – then take it!
An international student card can save you a good few quid on entrance into museums, especially in the western world. Also, a YHA card can help you save money on accommodation too.
Get your cards in order before you leave!
Check out misterhint.com for more money saving travel advice.
8. Always carry a reusable water bottle
I hate paying for water. Hate it. Stupidly expensive, and a total waste of plastic in the bottle too.
Obviously, make sure you can actually drink the tap water wherever you are before you go glugging. If you can’t, buy one of the larger bottles of water and decant.
9. Share food, drink, transport and accommodation costs
If you’re backpacking and you’re staying in a hostel, see if your new friends / roommates, want to cook a meal together. If you all chuck in a bit of cash you can save on costs, and have a feast too.
When it comes to accommodation pay for double, triple or quadruple hotel rooms with your new friends to get nicer places and not have to sleep with strangers.
If you’re planning on travelling a popular route check out the hostel notice boards to see if anyone else is going that way. Sometimes you can bag a place in a shared car in return for a small contribution towards the fuel.
If there’s a few of you and you’re trying to book a trip or activity, see if you can get some sort of group discount. Often they’re so desperate to get you on a trip, you can strike some sort of deal.
10. Haggle to save money
Whether you’re trying to book a trip, or buy a souvenir, if the price isn’t written down, then it’s not set. And that goes for many countries around the world. In some countries, even if it’s written down, it’s haggleable still.
You might be nervous to haggle the first few times, I know I was. I got my head round it by just thinking about what I’d actually like to pay for the item / excursion and then go to half, and work my way back up from there.
11. Know how much to tip
Eugh, I hate tipping for the sake of it. As a Brit it is just not in my nature. I like to tip for excellent service, and nothing more.
But it some countries, you’re just not going to get away with that.
Yeah, YOU, USA. In the US all activities, food and drink end up costing 20% more than the written price, because of tip and tax, and you have to pay both.
In places like Thailand and Cambodia tipping isn’t expected, but it’s nice. And in Japan, it’s just downright rude (one of the many reasons to love Japan IMHO).
Learn the tipping rules and laws of each place so you don’t end up wasting money tipping unnecessarily.
12. Sort your bank account and cards
I’ve done quite a bit of research now into how much travellers are wasting on bank fees, and the results make me sad. It’s silly to be doing all this haggling and researching best prices, and then end up forking out a fortune on withdrawing cash and currency conversions.
I currently bank with Tandem (credit card), Monzo (challenger bank) and Nationwide – thanks to the fact they all offer good currency conversions. In my opinion, they’re the best banks to go with.
If every time you take money out of the ATM you’re paying for the please, you’re wasting money. And, if you’re using a credit card abroad know your fees and fines.
Seriously, if you’re travelling for a long time sorting your bank cards and accounts could be the best hack to save you money.
13. Talk to people!
As in, actual real existing people. Not the people on the Facebook or the TripAdvisor.
Other travellers and locals can tell you about the best deals in the area, the best value restaurants, cheaper hotels and, maybe even let you come and stay at theirs when you travel. You’ll find that people who travel are very generous and some are very happy, honoured even, to offer you a place to sleep for the night, or at least on their aunty’s friend’s cousin’s sofa etc.
14. Ask if you really need it
Temptation is absolutely, definitely going to come your way when you travel. Whether it’s that top you saw, an extra beer, dessert, a fancy restaurant or hotel above your price range – you need to train your brain to question whether you actually really need the item or not.
I’m gonna guess you don’t.
And well done, you’ve just saved yourself enough for another night of travelling. Woohoo.
15. Pack light, but not too light
It’s so much easier, and more pleasurable, to move around when you’ve got less to carry. I’ve been that person at the airport struggling with luggage, I’ve learned from it. Now I like to be the one who glides on through, with space to spare.
If you have too much stuff, and then start buying more stuff, you’ll get charged. Like I was, twice. Once in the Philippines, where it was suddenly decided on an internal flight we were only allowed 10kg, not 15kg. And then coming back from Norway, where I’d been given a dressing gown as a gift and it ended up sending me way over the limit. Sent my budget all out of whack. Gutted.
On the same note though, you don’t want to end up as such a light packer that you have to buy things abroad you already have at home. No one wants that.
16. Download money apps
I love the banking apps. They make life so much easier. If you have accounts all over the place for this and for that, you can also download apps that collate them all together so with one look you know how much is in each account. Look at Bankin for this.
Also, get xe.com so you know the exchange rate, and how much things are going to cost at all times.
Knowledge is definitely power when it comes to travelling cheaper for longer!
17. Sign up to newsletters
Once you’ve found a website with good deals, even if they don’t have anything you particularly fancy there and then, sign up to the newsletter. Subscribers often get special deals in return for their loyalty and are the first to know about any competitions and upcoming deals.
18. Delete your cookies
Computer cookies are like markers that get left behind by sites as you browse the internet. Companies use these to collect information on you and to target online advertising. They can also use it to charge you more when it comes to booking.
For example, you want to book a flight with your friend from London to Paris. You go on the site and check the price before you ask your friend. You check again when your friend says yes. Then you check again as she wants to change the date. You wait a few days then search again. The flight company knows that you have checked a few times thanks to the cookies that have been dropped.
You’re now totally invested in the purchase, so they put the price up as at this point you’re almost definitely going to book. Cheeky hey?
If you notice a price has gone up, make sure to clear your browsing history and delete cookies.