Yes, you’ll need some money if you want to travel but luckily I can give you some great tips on how to save money when travelling.
Most people have this misconception that travelling requires a lot of resources, especially money.
I’ve worked as a volunteer, and as we all know, volunteers don’t have a paycheck at the end of the month and I still managed to travel around Europe. Most of the time my problem was time, not necessarily the money to travel.
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And that’s how I learnt how to save money while travelling, because I’ve done it so many times and I’m always trying to get the most with the money I had.
This is how to save money when travelling:
1. Save Money On Accommodation
Whenever you are looking for a new destination, the biggest hole in the budget is the accommodation.
Remember that the more touristic is your travel destination, the higher the accommodation prices.
What do I do to save money on accommodation when travelling?
I check which of my friends live abroad and where are they. And if their location coincides with some of my destinations, I ask them if they could host me for X days. Remember you cannot be picky about the conditions, probably it will not be so comfortable as in a hotel. The goal is to travel as much as possible with as little money as possible and this is how to save money when travelling.
Edit: Due to the pandemic situation, it seems that Couchsurfing is asking for a small contribution to have access to the community. This wasn’t the case some years ago, but if the community is still there, then I can say that is worth it. However, I can understand why people would be more reluctant to have strange in their homes. Whatever you choose to do, please be considerate to those around you and stay safe. Check out this guide on how to travel with minimal risks after a pandemic.
I’ve met fascinating people using Couchsurfing and it made it so easy to connect with them because everyone has a public profile and most of them are travel addicts. This website helped me understand that most people around us are actually friendly and are willing to help. All you need to do is ask for help and someone will answer.
I’ve never hosted anyone, but I’ve met people just to hang out, visit a museum, grab lunch, and I also used it to find hosts for the cities where I had no friends.
I had only amazing experiences. Friends and Couchsurfing hosts are the reason I didn’t spend anything on accommodation during my 1 month of travelling in Europe. Cool, right?
2. Plan your holiday by yourself to save money when travelling
People who buy their holiday from a travel agency are lazy people. Sure, sometimes they get bigger discounts because of the higher number of tourists, but when you want to go somewhere specific, it may not always be the case.
Planes tickets can be expensive, and some countries don’t operate low-cost airlines.
How to save money when travelling? Before your trip, and before even planning your trip, take a look to the map and see where those places are situated and see if there are any alternatives to flights. Of course, If you want to go to some remote island, booking a flight might be your only option. But if you want to travel around Europe, this is how to save money when travelling.
Save money and travel on land.
Try taking a train to another city, instead of your final destination. Check the flights from there, if it’s still too far away. Try different routes and different means of transport. Then compare the prices and see which one is the most budget-friendly option.
In the end, it is a matter of money vs. time. Of course, time is the most valuable resource, but when travelling is the priority, you can spare some time and potentially save a lot of money while travelling.
3. Be flexible on your travel days to save money while travelling
Everyone is free on weekends and everyone has to go to work on Mondays. That’s why Sunday flights are mone expensive than the ones on Monday, or even Tuesday. That’s why I recommend keeping your travel schedule flexible and you will be able to save money while travelling.
Try to be as flexible as possible with your travel days.
Most flight search engines show you the price of the same flight, one to three days before or after the selected day. Some might show you the prices for the entire month. I recommend checking prices on Kiwi.com. I like their option ‘Take me anywhere’ which shows you the cheapest destination from your origin.
If you’re travelling on a budget, then I advise you to designed travels based on the cheapest flights, busses and trains, and where your friends are.
For instance, for my one month trip around Europe, from a few years ago, I knew I wanted to see Paris. But I didn’t set any number of days I wanted to stay in Paris, and I didn’t have a precise itinerary for my Europe trip. Having a flexible schedule for your entire trip is how to save money when travelling.
How to save money when travelling in Europe: (travel budget tips for booking your transportation)
- 6 days is the average time to stay in one city if you’re after cheap flights.
- The weekends are more expensive
- Book flights 4 weeks before your trip
- Book trains and buses at least 1 week before your trip
4. Travel with just a carry-on (preferably a backpack) to save money while travelling
Travelling cheap also means travelling light.
Low-cost airlines have extra costs for checked baggage. Also, pay attention to the carry-on allowed dimensions. If your carry-on doesn’t fit, you will have to check-in your luggage, and doing that at the airport is more expensive than if you would just buy the checked luggage online.
If you’re a budget traveller, it makes more sense to have less stuff and it also helps you be more flexible about your travel plans.
Let’s say you are visiting a city just for one day and have no accommodation there and everything you have, you must carry it with you. Not funny when travelling with a huge travel case.
The size of your luggage can also contribute to how to save money when travelling.
Let’s say you have a few extra hours to spend in a city and want to explore without carrying your stuff around. And you decide to put your luggage in a locker in the train station. Totally doable. The problem is that the bigger the luggage, the bigger the locker you need and the higher the price for the locker.
Always remember that bigger luggage always means more money.
I bet that you always realise after a one week holiday, in which you brought your entire wardrobe, that you didn’t use half of that stuff.
So when in doubt, leave it at home. Whatever you need, you can buy it at your destination. And you always need free extra space in your luggage if you want to buy something. Read more about the things I’ve learnt in 1 month of travelling.
And even if money isn’t that much of a problem, carrying a huge suitcase when travelling is so uncomfortable. I have this personal rule to never travel with more luggage than I can handle myself, without help.
5. Use public transport and walk more to save money while travelling
Travel is not supposed to be comfortable. I’m talking about the kind of travel that helps with personal growth, not the kind of travel in which you sit in a seaside resort for 7 days, eating and doing nothing.
How to save money when travelling? You walk more to observe the every day life of locals. You get the public transport when you can’t walk.
Do you want to learn something about that city or country or the people living in it? Just live the way they do. Listen to them speaking, ask for directions. Are they friendly or not?
Travel is about getting out of your comfort zone.
Bus and train station are usually in the city, so it’s easy to get the subway from there. But airports are outside the cities and taxis are expensive. Like one-night-in-a-hotel expensive. Set your priorities and take the bus to get to the city.
Every airport has at least 1 express bus line to the city. Ask around in the airport or just do your research online before landing there. Some airports are connected to the subway. Even better.
I highly recommend researching your destinations online before you get there, and see the public transport connections. If the airport close to the city’s public bus or do you need to get an express bus to get to the city? If there is an express bus, in some cities it’s cheaper to get that ticket online, than to buy it on the spot. But if the airport is right next to a bus station that’s part of the city’s network, then it would make sense to buy a city pass before you get on the bus. These are all things to consider and research before you reach your destination and it’s one of the main priority when I think about how to save money when travelling.
Every city has its own transport system, and they each have multiple transport ticket options. That can include a 1-way ticket, 1/2/3 days ticket, 1 week and 1 month. Check the different prices and see which option is the most convenient for you.
If you plan to explore as much as possible, you will save a lot of money if you get a 3/7/30 day transport pass, instead of buying a ticket each time you use public transport.
Some cities have a City Card, which is a combination of museums and entries to touristic attractions in the city, public transport and some other discounts. That usually can be bought for up to 5 days (but it varies for each city), so check that out, it could be one of the things that you can do to save money while travelling.
Whenever the weather is nice, and I what to discover a new city, I walk. I save a bus ticket and I explore as much as possible. That’s another reason for which I like to travel light.
6. Skip the restaurants and bars
Yes, it would be a pity not to taste the local food, observe how people cook, and stuff like that. I try to do it once in every place. But it’s crazy expensive. The more central that table is, the more expensive the price of it.
Look on the map and search for the nearest supermarket to your accommodation. Most hostel receptionists will give you a map to show you a bit around and also point out on the map where is the supermarket. Go there, take a look, but something for the next morning if you don’t have breakfast included.
Or wake up and go buy something and enjoy a nice breakfast in a park, on a bench, watching the swans on the lake, the people running. Find a nice spot and make the most out of this experience. It requires a little planning, but it will help you save money when travelling.
At some point on your travels, you will meet people and they will invite you to a bar. That’s nice but the price for that beer in that bar is crazy. And who drinks only one?!
What can you do to save money when travelling?
Buy some drinks from the supermarket (pay attention to the opening hours, because in some countries they close early and aren’t opened on a Sunday) and enjoy them at your friend’s place. Or in a park, if the laws of that country allow it. In Germany and Belgium, you’ll see a lot of people drinking beers in public parks and even walking on the street with an open beer in their hand. That’s how to save money while travelling and still have a good time.
7. Drink tap water
If the water is drinkable.
Most European countries have good quality water running out of the tap. Have a bottle with you and just refill it when you get the chance. Buying bottled water every day can be the price of another day of travel, so why waste the money?
Some cities even have water points on the streets, and everyone is taking water from those. Using a refillable water bottle is how I save money while travelling. It comes in use when travelling by plane (bottled water in airports is crazy expensive) and in cities. However, I don’t recommend drinking tap water if that country is known for bad water.
Research online to find out if the tap water is good because you wouldn’t like to get sick during your travels. In Europe, I’ve never had this problem. But I don’t recommend drinking tap water in India, Bali or Morocco. Actually, I had food poisoning in Morocco because of their bad water.
And here’s a tip for saving money when travelling, that you might not be aware of.
You can go through airport security with an empty water bottle. It can me plastic or metal. It doesn’t matter as long as it has no liquid in it. I have filled my bottle in airports many times.
8. Check out age, student and membership discounts
Whenever I hear discount, my eyes sparkle. If you like to save money while travelling, yours should too.
Every country has different laws regarding discounts. In France, you get a free pass in most museums if you are under 25 and in Belgium everyone under 26 gets 50% off train tickets. Nice.
Most museums and touristic places have discounts for students and seniors. So take your passport and ID and student cards with you. Some places offer a discount if you have a certain credit card.
I used to get the museum discount ticket with my volunteer ID. Why waste money?
I hope that all these tips will help you save money while travelling. Do you have any other tips? How do you save money when travelling?