Travel is easily the thing I love to do most and last year I talked about Money Savings Tips From A Budget Savvy Traveler where I covered pre-trip planning. This is long overdue but I’m back with more travel saving tips to help you hit the ground running.
Here are 14 ways to save money on travel:
Accommodations will be your biggest expense after airfare so here are some options to save.
Airbnb: This has become my preferred choice when it comes to accommodations. Airbnb allows you to rent rooms, apartments or even entire houses directly from owners. Finding a great apartment is easy and you get to deal directly with the owners.
I’ve been able to book apartments in prime locations at about 40% of the cost of a hotel.
Hostels: When you’re in your early twenties and backpacking this is an obvious choice, but don’t rule it out as you get older. Many hostels especially in Europe borderline a 2-3 star hotel, locations are usually in great areas and it’s very common now to find rooms with a private washroom.
If you’re travelling with kids or a couple of friends consider renting an entire room even if you have to pay for extra beds. This ensures you will have the entire room to yourself and odds are it’ll still be way cheaper than a hotel.
Priceline / Hotwire: These are sites that allow you to bid for the price of your room at unnamed hotels. You choose the star rating, and the hotels are usually a combination of well known chains and independent ones. Check out betterbidding.com which has detailed forums about how to maximize your bids and what the likely hotels are.
Hotels: If you prefer hotels be sure to sign up with their loyalty program. When it comes time to claim your rewards research and compare the different reward tiers to find out what gives you the best return. Using cash and points might score you a better return compared to getting a free room all on points.
Always exchange in advance just enough money for a taxi from the airport to wherever you are staying.
ATM’s: Just like at home, ATM’s are the easiest way to get money abroad. Generally speaking when using ATM’s abroad you’ll pay the spot exchange rate plus a fee that the bank charges which is about $2-$5. Just withdraw the maximum allowed for the day to minimize the fees.
By getting cash from an ATM as you need it you never have to worry about carrying too much cash around with you or running out of it. Before you go check with your bank to see if they charge you any extra fees and find out which international banks are compatible with yours.
Cash: If you still prefer to bring cash and exchange it as you need it, banks in the city tend to have a better rate than at the airport. Cash is universal these days so there is no need to convert to U.S. Dollars first unless you enjoy paying exchange fees twice.
Eating is one of the best things about travelling. It’s definitely worth trying out some nicer restaurants so here’s some tips to help balance your food budget.
Street Food: Street food is quite possibly the best way to get real authentic local food and it is always cheap. When I was in Thailand you could get a full portion of pad Thai for a dollar. If you’re worried about the cleanliness just look at the line. If the locals are eating there, consider it vetted.
Grocery Stores: Find out where the local super market is once you’ve checked into your location. Picking up staples like water, fruit, and snacks can easily save you from eating out every meal.
McDonald’s: Just about every McDonald’s in the world you will find clean washrooms, air conditioning, and free wi-fi. The McCafé brand is huge globally. It’s just a place I know where I can catch up with friends online while enjoying a nice drink in a relaxed atmosphere. As an added bonus you can try different menu items you wouldn’t get at home. I’m frugal but I would pay good money to for a McArabia right now.
Public Transportation: This should be a given, taking public transportation is a convenient and cheap way to get around. Instead of buying one-way tickets every time, take a look to see if there are any multi-day passes or electronic cards that offer a discount per ride.
Don’t be intimidated by some of the metro maps around the world. There hasn’t been a single metro in the world I’ve been to where the stops are not listed in English.
Taxis: Generally speaking I prefer to avoid taxis at all costs since they are expensive, but to be fair in some cities it’s actually quite cheap to take taxis compared to North America. Tripadvisor.ca is a great resource for information, at the minimum find out how much a taxi from the airport to your hotel should cost. I’ve come across cities where running the meter is not the norm.
Rental Cars: When making car reservations make sure you book a rate that is fully refundable. Once you have your reservation number register it with autoslash.com. This site will monitor your rate and as soon as a cheaper rate becomes available they will e-mail you.
Being creative with your car rentals can save you big. Normally when you drop off a car at a different location you’re going to have to pay a pretty healthy drop-off fee, however if you make 2 separate reservations with a break somewhere in the middle, there might not be a fee at all.
This is really dependent on the route and the rental agencies but I was recently able to save $300 when I booked a car from Portland to San Francisco and then San Francisco to LA. Not only did I save on the one-way fees, I was able to drop off my car in San Francisco and use public transportation as it’s more convenient there, and it saved me more.
Free Attractions: What’s better than free? Not much especially when travelling. Quite a few attractions around the world are free. Parc Guell in Barcelona, The British Museum in London, A Symphony of Lights in Hong Kong, are just a few great attractions that are free; wherever you’re visiting, be sure to look up what’s free.
Passes: Many cities offer attraction passes that will give you big savings if you plan on visiting all the sites included. Be aware that not all passes are worth it so be sure to check out what sites are included and how much you would actually save. It’s usually not worth getting a pass if you only plan to visit two attractions.
I would love to hear about your tips to save when travelling! Tweet me @barrychoi
Barry Choi is a DIY Investor with no formal training. During the day he is a Director for CityNews Toronto. He also blogs about money at moneywehave.com.