It’s no secret that travel can be harsh on the wallet. The cost of hotels, flights, meals, drinks, and days out can quickly lead to a hefty credit card bill in just a few days.
This is a topic we’ve written plenty about in the past. We’ve shown you how to find more affordable travel deals and how to land cheaper airfare. We’ve even explained how to travel for free by collecting Air Miles, and how to find the best last-minute travel deals.
If any of those topics interest you, go ahead and save them for later. But there are even more tips, tricks, and resources to help you travel more often, on a budget, that I couldn’t help but share.
If there are any other tips, secrets, sites, apps, or gadgets that you use to save yourself some money while traveling, please share them in the comments!
1. Save BIG on Local Transport
When most people go on vacation, the most convenient option is usually the only option that’s considered. In the case of transport, that’s often taxis or VIP tourist buses.
Instead, you should research the public transport networks at your destination. A quick Google search like “public transport in London” will pull up all the introductory information you need. This is where you’ll learn about single- and multi-day public transport passes. Almost all major cities have these, and they work out a lot cheaper than buying single tickets. Plus, traveling like a local gives you a more authentic take on your destination that you wouldn’t experience otherwise. Wikivoyage has much of the same transport information (and more).
Once you’ve figured out the best public transport tickets for your trip, you need to know which public transport to catch.
For inner-city public transport, Google Transit gives pretty reliable instructions for catching buses, trams, and trains in a good number of locations. Here you’ll also usually find alternatives to the standard (expensive) airport shuttle to get you from the airport into the city.
For inter-city transport, Rome2Rio may not yet be perfect, but it’s the go-to site for finding national and international bus and train information and schedules. You’ll soon wonder how you ever lived without it.
2. Explore Like a Local
When it comes to finding things to do in a city, most people turn to Expedia, Trip Advisor, or the Google Trips mobile app (definitely worth checking out). These are great for finding a rundown of the most touristic sites at your destination. Being touristic, however, they’re usually pretty expensive and super-busy.
By all means, go out and explore these attractions. They are valued for a reason. But there’s usually a hell lot more to each location than solely what’s listed on these sites.
To uncover alternative (and, generally more affordable) attractions there are a few resources to turn to. These are packed with little-known tips from locals and seasoned travelers who want to share their secrets spots with you.
My personal favorite is Like a Local. Search for your destination, and you’ll find plenty of insider tips to check out once you touch down. You can also book interesting tours from real locals via the site. That being said, you can find free walking tours in most major cities these days.
Atlas Obscura and Foursquare are also worth checking out. Otherwise, Google for “alternative things to do in San Francisco” or “free things to do in New York.” Plenty of bloggers will have a ton of great recommendations for pretty much any budget and any destination, which would be tough to find on your own.
3. Pick Your Restaurants Wisely
If you’re only spending a few days in a place, it can be all too tempting to eat in those pretty squares and bustling streets filled with other tourists. But resist.
Since tourists usually only eat at each restaurant once, standards tend to be low. Avoid the main tourist centers and venture just a couple of blocks further. Look out for restaurants filled with locals. Often they won’t be quite as fancy, but the food will be a fraction of the price, and a whole lot tastier. If they don’t even have a menu in English, chances are, the food will be even better.
Again, Like a Local and Foursquare are useful for finding recommendations for some of the tougher to find places (especially for vegetarians). But I tend to find these sites more useful for pointing out areas of a city with lots of restaurants to choose from (avoiding the tourist spots). Head to those areas, take a look around, and you’re sure to find something amazing to eat.
All this information is useful for finding quality bars, as well.
4. Be Flexible With Flights
I’ve written before about how important flexibility is when it comes to travel. The less restricted you are, the better deals you will find. This is especially true if you choose to fly off-season, or outside of school holidays. It’s also true if you’re open minded about your destination.
When it comes to flights, Skyscanner is king. You can search an entire month to find the cheapest flights from hundreds of airlines. This makes it incredibly simple to find the cheapest dates to fly. Being able to search for flights from a specific airport to “anywhere” is also one of my favorite features.
Hopper is another great option. This is a mobile app that compares billions of flight prices a day to predict the right time to book your flight. Enter flight routes you want the app to “watch” and you’ll be alerted when prices drop (and before they rise).
5. Be Flexible With Accommodation
Accommodation will be one of, if not the, most costly part of your vacation. So to really save on your next trip, be sure to think outside the box.
Pretty much everyone now knows about Airbnb. This is a site where you can rent rooms and entire apartments all over the world, usually for less than the cost of a hotel. But beware, Airbnb prices are notably increasing.
That’s where all of Airbnb’s competitors come in. There are a ton of other sites out there offering a similar service, only more affordable. My personal recommendations would be Wimdu and VRBO. But Booking.com now also offers a massive range of rooms, dorms, and apartments to suit most budgets.
If I’m traveling for over a week, I’ll only book apartments with a kitchen. This costs a little more per night. But shopping at a local supermarket, and eating a few meals in, can quickly save a decent amount of money. Plus, you get to try out all those exotic delicacies you see on the supermarket shelves.
If you’re looking for a more budget friendly idea, how about house sitting? This is where you look after someone’s house (and sometimes animals) while they’re away. You get to live like a local and don’t have to pay a dime! Trusted Housesitters and MindMyHouse are two top choices for this option.
But if you’re pretty set on staying at a hotel, check out HotWire. This site is where last-minute hotel rooms, car rentals, and flights are sold at (sometimes) incredible prices.
Spend Less, Travel More
The true cost of vacations for most people can be pretty daunting — so much so that most people assume they can only travel once or twice per year if they’re lucky.
But if you use the resources at your fingertips, it’s not as hard as you think to save money on flights, accommodation, transport, and food. Yes, it may mean you have to say no to a few things on your vacation, but it’ll also mean you can say yes to more destinations in the future.
As always, I’m sure there will be a ton of other resources I’ve yet to come across that will add to these savings. If you know any of these, please let us know in the comments below!