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Tips for saving money while traveling

Hey, the more money you save while traveling means more money later for more travel. You get it, right? I am all about saving money if it means I can travel more. Here are a few tips that I hope encourage you to save while you travel.

Tips for saving money while traveling

Saving Money on Lodging

Before you book, make sure you know the exact location

Transportation can add up quickly, so you may want to choose a location in the city center, or close to a train station (if you are day-tripping). Booking a place that’s far away may seem cheaper, but you’ll literally pay for it later. A friend of the family booked an awesome villa she thought was within walking distance to a nearby village, only to find out her idea and the owner's idea of walking was completely different. Once they arrived and saw how far the village was, she had to hire a van with a driver for the entire week. That was costly, to say the least. Ideally, book somewhere you can walk everywhere from and confirm with various sources the “walking” distance.

Compare lodging with transportation costs

Staying in a busy touristy city center isn’t for everyone. If you do need to stay steps away from the center, chances are the lower nightly rate may offset the cost you will incur should you need transportation into the city center. Of course, if you are able and willing to walk, staying outside the center will definitely save you money. The added benefit (besides your health) is you never know what you will see and experience on your daily walks.

Rent An Apartment/Room with A Refrigerator and Microwave Or even better a Kitchenette

Apartments for families or those looking for extra living space offer kitchens so you can save on food. Airbnb is a good way to get low-cost vacation rentals and sublets from locals. While the fraudulent nature of these third-party rentals is way down, proceed with caution. Everything is not always as it appears. Pictures, descriptions, and location details can all be deceiving. Make sure you do proper research before you book.

Some hotels offer family suites, that might be another option. Always mention that due to your dietary restrictions, you need to have a refrigerator. Sometimes they will provide them free of charge, but you have to ask. Another way to save money by using a hotel is some provide childcare services. If you are bringing a family along, it is nice to be able to have an adult-only dinner. Some hotels offer this service for free or at a nominal price. Check before you book.

Also, when speaking with a hotel, ask them if they offer any apartments. Most of the larger cities will have hotels that have an apartment either on-site or close by. This way you can still take advantage of the hotel amenities and have your own kitchenette, kitchen, etc.

Saving Money on Museums, Events, and Activities

Look For City Tourism Cards To Save Money While Traveling

Depending on the card and the location, you can gain free entry to top visitor attractions, discounts at restaurants and shops, skip-the-line options at busy attractions, free public transportation, and even free guidebooks. Depending on your itinerary, it might be worth the money.

Spend More Time in Fewer Places And You Will Save Money While Traveling

I am a big believer in slow travel. It is really the only way to truly experience local culture and the people that live there. For cost reasons alone, the longer you stay in one place the lower your cost will be on lodging, transportation (long-distance), and activities. To take advantage of the money-saving option above you must be in the same city for 3 to 4 days. And lodging prices decrease the longer you stay. Some hotels offer 4th or 5th night free. Apartments offer discounted rates if you stay the entire week (if they don’t, you should ask). Regarding long-distance transportation, if you are staying in a new location every couple of days the cost of transferring from place to place adds up. If you are exploring one city for a longer period of time that cost completely goes away (unless you add in a day trip or so). Besides the joy of taking it easy, undertaking too many flights, bus trips, and driving long distances can really eat into your budget. So slow down, take more in, and discover all the cool free stuff.

Look for Free Things to Do

With the internet at our fingertips, it is easier than ever to research free things to do in any city. For the best free activities to plan ahead of time, ask your travel advisor. If you are a "fly by the seat of your pants" type of traveler, ask the locals you meet what free activities they recommend. Grab a local paper or look for event flyers posted all over the city. You will be able to figure out if it’s a concert, parade, protest, etc., and the date and time. If not, pull out your phone and use Google Translate, or take a photo of the flyer and ask your hotel staff to interpret it. I have found some of the best concerts in the most beautiful settings by looking at an event flyer on a church door.

Saving Money on Food While Traveling

Is Breakfast Really Included in Your Room Rate?

Skip the continental breakfast if it is not included in the hotel price. A lot of hotels are now offering breakfast for an additional price. One price for just the room and one price for Room and Breakfast. In Italy, I have seen the price difference be between 25 and 35 dollars per person. If this is the case with your hotel, skip breakfast and head to the nearest Caffe for a cappuccino and cornetto. This traditional Italian breakfast will cost you no more than 5 dollars a person saving you 20-30 dollars a day. If in a day or two you need an American Breakfast fix, you can always find a few places in the city center. I recently had an American breakfast in Florence’s Piazza Repubblica. Granted I was paying extra for sitting out in the piazza AND for the touristy location, but for 18euro (20 dollars) I got coffee, juice, scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, cheese, bread, and jelly.

Eat a Big Lunch and Go Light on Dinner

You can really catch a good value if you know where the locals eat for lunch. Italians generally eat a large afternoon meal and eat lighter in the evening. Even fancy restaurants will have a less expensive lunch menu but the same quality food as dinner.

Make It a Picnic

In Italy, you can drink wine and beer in public. If it is good weather, why not grab a bottle of wine and a sandwich or pizza from a local grocer or cafe and have a picnic. Head to the closest bench in the piazza or the town park.

Saving Money while traveling pin
My mother and I enjoying a Prosecco and Paninni in Circus Maximus

Saving Money on Transportation While Traveling

Look for local metro cards

Most cities that have mass transit systems will undoubtedly have a card you can purchase for multiple rides at a discounted price versus paying as you go. If you know for sure you will be using the metro system on multiple days, this is a good bet.

Train versus Car Rentals

You really are getting a better deal on trains when you consider the price you will pay for gas (currently astronomical), purchase of your international driver’s license (mandatory in most countries), and angst of driving in and out of large cities to pick up and return the rental. If you will be traveling for an extended period, you can also save money on trains by purchasing a myriad of bundled offers train companies offer.

Electric Bike and Scooter Sharing are in Every Major City

If you are the adventurous type, download the local app (In Italy – Helbiz, Lime, and Bird), scan the reader on a scooter or bike parked literally anywhere in the city, and away you go. Scooters are easy to navigate through and around crowds if you know how to ride them. And it definitely gets you from point A to point B in a shorter amount of time as well as making a lighter global footprint.

Additional Ways to Save Money While Traveling

Look for Free WI-FI

Now more than ever before wifi is widely available and free. It can be found in your hotel, trains, public libraries, restaurants, cafes, stores, and even museums. Don't forget WhatsApp, Skype, and Google for free talk and text services.

Travel in the Off-Season

Off-season or low-season travel (if such a thing still exists) is key if you truly want to save money while traveling. Prices jump up considerably during the summer months when kids are out of school. And it’s not just the summer you should avoid – don’t forget Spring Break, Fall Break, Easter, Christmas, and many of the other holidays are likely to be more expensive. Traveling out of season will mean cheaper lodging costs, air and train tickets, and fewer crowds while traveling!

Enlist the help of a Travel advisor/agent.

I may be tooting my own horn, but the money you spend paying a travel advisor to help you plan your trip pays off in the long run. Think of all the time, worry, and energy you save not having to sift through all the information that is out there. And then deciding what part of it is right for you. Then, how do you put it all together, and in what order? A good travel agent spends time getting to know what you want and works with you to make your trip both affordable and valuable at the same time. I might suggest spending extra money on a private car and driver from the airport, so you don’t have to worry about navigating a strange land as soon as you arrive, but I also share pages of free things to do in each of your destinations to offset that cost if that’s what you want and need. I hope your travel advisor does the same.

Now it's your turn, please share with all of us how you save money while traveling by posting in the Comment section below.

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