How to Save Money on Vacation: 10 Ways to Travel Cheap!
So you want to take that epic trip, but you want to know how to save money on vacation? Well, you came to the right place. I’ve traveled extensively – both on the luxury end and as a backpacker. And to tell you the truth, I prefer somewhere in the middle.
I’ll keep this simple and give you 10 ways that I have learned how to save money on vacation.
- Carefully select a “hub” city that you will fly in and out of. This will be a city you will begin and end your journey in, so make sure it is interesting and cheap. If you were visiting Southeast Asia, for example, Bangkok would fit the bill much better than Singapore. Fly Monday through Wednesday for the lowest rates.
- Travel during the low or shoulder season. High season tickets and hotel rates are often double or triple the price to major destinations. St. Tropez in October is gorgeous, while the stifling heat of Provence in August will cost you double. Who needs that? If you want the main secret of how to save money on vacation, this is it.
- Buy your ticket online through one of the discount sites like Travelocity or Priceline. Open an “incognito” window on your web browser when you are ready to make a purchase just to double check prices against what you’ve found on your “cookied” browser. You might be surprised at how much you can save. (Click the ad below to find out how to save even more on your travel costs.)
- Consider buses, boats, trains, or a private driver for traveling between cities instead of short flights. In Thailand, for example, you can hire a driver to take you several hours from Bangkok to a jumping off point for several great islands to the east for less than $50. Buses in most countries are similar to Greyhound buses in the U.S., though rickety old beaters full of goats and chickens may be your only choice in more rural areas.* In Australia there are several companies that offer a “kilometer pass” that allows you to get on and off at will for a certain distance, as long as you use it up within a certain time period.
- Skip the souvenir stands and shoot lots of pictures and videos instead. These memories are far more valuable than a mug with the logo of some local beer on it.
- Pack light, meaning NO CHECKED LUGGAGE. Many North American carriers are charging extra for checked luggage, though that still hasn’t become the rule for Asian and European airlines. This can save you $100 easily. It will also make moving from place to place more enjoyable and easy.
- Eat like a local. Check Lonely Planet’s website and see what other travelers are saying. Check out the hidden gems people are talking about. The food will be not only authentically local, but cheaper. Avoid chains and touristy spots. This is one of the best ways I know of how to save money on vacation on a daily and consistent basis.
Tip: If a taxi driver wants to take you to a certain restaurant, it’s likely he gets a small commission for taking you there.
- Consider a youth hostel or AirBnB when visiting an area for only a night or two. You can often find a single room or a room for two, but at a more reasonable rate than the hotel chains. You’ll also find that the guests in youth hostels and the hosts of AirBnB rooms are very knowledgeable of the cheaper things to see and do, very excited about traveling, and pretty fun to be around.
- Self guided tours. With a map and a guidebook, you can see most cities on foot or figure out how to use public transportation on your own. Hiring a driver or taking tours everywhere you visit will eat into your budget pretty quickly. The exception to this rule might be in huge cities where English isn’t even a consideration, like Tokyo or Beijing. But it might still be a fun challenge to expand your comfort zone.
- Set a daily budget and stick to it. Know that you will probably spend more money in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, than you will in Chiang Mai, Thailand, so set your limits accordingly.
Above all else, have fun. Travel is one of the most enriching things a person can do for himself. Take it all in and try not to think about money too much.
Now you have a few more ideas of how to save money on vacation. With the money you save, you may be able to add an extra city or splurge on a special day trip. Go for it!
In my 13 years of living abroad and traveling extensively I have found that the main things to remember when on a vacation are to keep it simple and live in the moment.