14 Ways To Save Money On Travel

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.

Related: Airbnb crack down: Short-term landlords beware

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.

Currency Exchange

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.

RelatedHow to save on foreign currency fees when travelling

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: 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.

Getting Around

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.

Related: 6 free mobile apps that make travel easier

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.

Related: Why you should travel for the experience this winter

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.

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  1. Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet on March 6, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Those are some good tips. I love to travel so I try to minimize costs whenever possible. I always avoid room service at hotels, I rarely rent a car from an airport (sometimes 30% more due to taxes), pack meals whenever possible to avoid high prices at airports, use free wifi at places like Starbucks to avoid the extra hotel charges, pack as many toiletries as needed to avoid high prices at convenience stores, avoid using our credit card due to the foreign exchange fee (2.5%), browse the Groupon of the destination city in case there are any deals and use public transit when sightseeing in an urban area (taxis tend to be the most expensive)

    • Barry Choi on March 6, 2014 at 9:34 pm

      Sometimes a good way to save on car rentals is to book at the same time as your flight via expedia. For whatever reason when you book them together I’ve found it to be cheaper.

      I use McDonald’s and Starbucks all the time for wifi! In Asia you can buy pre-paid wifi cards for next to nothing.

  2. My Own Advisor on March 7, 2014 at 5:28 am

    Great tips! Stay at B&Bs if you can when travelling abroad. You’ve got the bed, some breakfast, wifi, parking and much more all included! You can also get some great insight from the locals this way as well.

    No bed bugs like hostels 🙂


  3. Money Saving on March 7, 2014 at 6:21 am

    I still haven’t tried airbnb yet – every time the opportunity arises, I forget about it. I just missed another one yesterday. Thanks for the reminder, maybe I’ll give it a try next time.

  4. Michelle on March 7, 2014 at 6:40 am

    We always try to rent apartments or houses when we are on a vacation. It’s usually cheaper and more “homey.” I also like the extra space!

  5. Laurie on March 7, 2014 at 6:46 am

    I would have agreed about how easy ATM’s are until we found that only some machines in Guatemala would take our CIBC card in 2010. We returned with friends in 2013 and a glitch with their bank (TD) froze their card and without our cards, which still only worked at some machines, they would have been stuck getting costly credit card advances. It took several emails and a Skype call to their account manager to resolve. Make sure you have enough cash in your account to cover bank errors where the ATM transmits taking $ from your account but doesn’t advance cash (HSBC in Mexico in 2013). It took the CIBC 8 weeks to put the $1000 back in my account. As for exchanging cash, it can be a very long lineup at a foreign bank if you’re not an account holder and our experience in both Jamaica and parts of Central America the banks would not take foreign cash that was damaged in any slight way, including fold marks. In Buenos Aires last month I exchanged Arg. Pesos for CDN$ for a market vendor that she had taken as payment and was unable to exchange The cash at a bank. In Central and South Americas you can often pay in US$ and to an increasing extent Euros but would be out of luck or severely rate compromised with Canadian. Exchange money at a kiosk in your departing or arriving airport or find an ATM at the arrival airport. Try to use ATMs in bank lobbies of banks you recognize or are from the big name local banks.

    • Teresa on March 8, 2014 at 9:28 pm

      A teller I know at my credit union ( who travels frequently) suggested I carry two ATM cards from two separate institutions.
      She said if an ATM “eats” your card overseas you will be up a creek.

      Though I have never had my card eaten in my travels I have had it refused at one ATM than accepted at another in some countries.

      I always travel with individuals who carry their own /different ATM cards. If my card had not worked or vice versus one of us usually got money from the machine and “settled” up later with the other person.

      Recently though in my travels I have begun to carry two different AM and credit cards though at home I am partial to only one of each.

  6. Robert on March 7, 2014 at 7:43 am

    I am at an AirBnB house in Seville right now. Fantastic digs penthouse view WiFi private room and super friendly hosts for about 35 dollars Canadian per day.

    All of this is expensive after my first 2 weeks in Spain for free in 4 star hotels at the price of talking English to Spaniards.

    I avoid traditional B and Be which are often way overpriced compared to hotels, a depending on the country.

  7. David on March 7, 2014 at 7:45 am

    If you want to stay at a B and B, buy Bedandbreakfast.com gift cards from Costco. Cards cost $85 for $100, giving you an automatic 15% discount on the already generally inexpensive cost of a B and B. Not all Bedandbreakfast.com B and Bs accept the card, but the selection of those that do is wide.

  8. Catherine on March 7, 2014 at 10:45 am

    Metro stations are not ALWAYS listed in English…the Moscow subway is a perfect example. It’s a very large and complex metro so if you can, find a map on-line or on paper that lists the stations in Cyrillic so you can compare it to the listings in your guidebook. This also applies to street signs in Moscow. I would suggest doing this in any country that doesn’t use the Latin alphabet.

  9. chantal on March 7, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    I did use the site on airbnb for our Italy trip. Venice 6 days for 400$ canadian :). It was a beautiful B$B and the owners were great. Loved the experience . will use Airbnb again for sure.

  10. Joy on March 12, 2014 at 9:30 am

    I recently used Airbnb to find accommodations in the Caribbean. The host cancelled on us 3 weeks before the trip, with no reason given. Just that the place “was no longer available”. She offered another place she had for the same price – but it was way smaller. There was no way I was going to do that. So, I contacted Airbnb through Twitter and they got involved within a couple hours of the tweet. I got a full refund (including the Airbnb fee), they gave us a $200 discount on a future booking (didn’t expire for a year) and a $60 e-gift card for opentable. In addition, the host was kicked off the site. We ended up booking another place through Airbnb and using the discount, it cost the exact same as the first place. And the new place is way nicer than the first place.

    • @barrychoi on March 12, 2014 at 9:35 am


      Yes that is what I love about airbnb, their customer service is absolutely excellent.

      When I went to China part of the Visa requirement is that ALL guests need to be on the name of the reservation. Well normally hotels only list one name so I was a bit worried since I booked Airbnb. I contacted them and within a few mins they adjusted the info to reflect all the guests so I would have no problems getting my visa.

  11. Kelly Rogers on March 19, 2014 at 3:19 am

    Thanks for all these tips. It would be a big help if parks and other places that do not have entrance fees are listed. It would make life easier for travellers. 🙂

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