Most of want to book a ticket ASAP to travel around and see the world, but our bank account is like, “lol you need to pay your rent.” Traveling can be expensive especially if you have a mile-long list of visit — from Seoul, Korea to Budapest, Hungary, and Lima, Peru. You can’t get from one of those places to the next by walking and airfare ain’t cheap. But with the right strategy, you can make the cost of exploring the world much less expensive than you might think.
When it comes to saving money while traveling, you want to cut costs both in your trip preparations and during your daily activities while globe-trotting. With these tips, you’ll be able to get the most bang for your buck and make the most of your next adventure while sticking to your budget!
1. Subscribe to email alerts for “mistake fares” and flight deals
“Mistake fares” are when an airline or online travel agency sells a ticket for significantly less than they intended. These accidental fares aren’t rare, but they’re not very common either, according to Scotts Cheap Flights. Email alerts, such as Scotts or AirfareWatchDog, catch these mistakes and send them right to your inbox. Unless you’re actively looking, they’re pretty easy to miss. Signing up for one of these alerts will ensure you don’t miss out on any deals.
True story, human error once made return flights from Hawaii to the U.S. 7 dollars for two hours. These deals are no joke.
2. Set up an automatic travel savings account
If you’re someone who is looking to travel often, want to save up for a big trip or just want to save for one vacation a year, try setting up a savings account specifically for traveling. To make it even easier, set up an automatic transfer of money from your bank account to your travel savings account, so you won’t even miss the money. Make it a portion of your salary — who needs a 401K when you can make a travel savings account? (JK, you should also have a 401K.)
3. Start off with flexible plans
You’ve decided you want to take a trip. Before you solidify your travel dates, check out prices for flights and accommodations around your chosen time frame. Sometimes even one week can change the price of your trip drastically. Start flexible to get the best price!
4. Leave for your trip in the middle of the week
The days you choose to leave and come home from your trip actually matter because some days are cheaper for flying than others. Airfares tend to be lowest for flights that depart on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, according to George Hobica of Airfarewatchdog and CheapAir. The cheapest in-and-out combinations tend to include outbound flights on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday with return flights on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday, according to Expedia’s 2015 Travel Trends White Paper.
5. Travel during off-seasons
The time of year you travel matters a lot when it comes to prices. Traveling during the off-season will save you lots of money. However, you can’t really say when is best to travel because it varies by location. For example, going to Florida in the summer will cost you more than going in the winter.
Best time to go is a website that will tell you when the best time to travel to destinations around the globe. Check it out before planning your next trip!
6. Before booking a round-trip, look at the cost of two one-way flights
Always compare airfares! Comparing the cost of one-way tickets and roundtrip fares can save you some serious cash. You can do this on the FareCompare, Hotwire, and other sites. It is more likely that you’ll find a deal with booking two one-way tickets for domestic flights than you would with international but it’s never a waste of time just to check.
7. …Or flights out of nearby cities
If you are fortunate enough to have multiple airports near you, check out the prices for all of them and compare. Searching different flight combinations to different airports near your home and your destination can help to find the best deal. Listing out a variety of options of one way routes from different airports can help you to compare several combinations.
8. Research airline restrictions before you go
Lots of airlines differ in what kind of baggage they allow their passengers to bring for free, but others charge you BIG TIME. For example, airlines like WOW Air and Spirit charge for a carry-on, so pack light if they’re toting you for any leg of your journey. Ryanair allows a carry-on and personal item but they’re very strict on size, so if you’re backpacking, you’ll want to be VERY specific when packing your bags. Be sure to know exactly what the flights will allow before you fly because the price at the gate is always more expensive than doing it ahead of time. Avoid being blindsided by an additional cost!
(Also, some budget airlines like Ryanair will charge you extra if you don’t print out your ticket in advance… always look at the fine print!)
9. Check out Skiplagged and Rome2Rio
Skiplagged “exposes loopholes in airfare pricing.” This website will find the absolute cheapest flights available. They also show you hidden-city flights that you may not be able to find on your own. Skiplagged describes hidden-city flights as itineraries with multiple legs where the traveler exits prior to the final destination.
Rome2Rio is a similar site that finds the cheapest way to get from Point A to Point B. You simply enter your destination and Rome2Rio will show you every flight, train, bus, ferry and driving option with estimated travel times and fares. Using these sites could help save time and money! If you’re planning on taking a train from Rome to Florence, Rome2Rio might just show you that taking a bus will take the same amount of time and cost you a fraction of the price!
10. Create a budget before you go and stick to it
Once you have your savings account set up, make a goal to save however much you think you’ll need for your trip. After you have your budget, allocate your money to plane tickets, hotel, food, activities and whatever else you plan to spend your money on. Having a budget and an idea of how much you’ll be spending will help you to save money since you won’t be blindsided by extra costs. Also, when you’re in Paris and want to buy a designer purse, you’ll know for a fact that you can’t afford it.
11. If you stay in a hotel, try to book a room with refrigerator and/or microwave
Hotels don’t always come with refrigerators and/or microwaves, but if you can, try to score one that does. This way you’ll be able to store and heat food in your room during the trip. If you try to eat at least one meal from home, you’ll save quite a bit of money in the long run from expensive dining out. This little extra bonus in your room will be super helpful!
12. … But don’t worry about having the best room
Don’t stress about having the most amazing room or staying in the very best hotel. When you’re traveling, hopefully, you won’t be spending much time in the room anyway. You should spend most of your time out exploring the city you’re in. So, save your cash for food and activities rather than dropping a ton of money on your room.
13. Or try using Airbnb or Homeaway
If hotels aren’t your thing or you’re looking to live like a local, home sharing sites like Airbnb and Homeaway could be a good move. They tend to be less expensive than hotels and are usually a great experience. You can get tips from your host and learn more about the city than if you were to stay in a hotel. You feel less like a tourist and more like you live in the city. Plus, you usually have access to a kitchen so you’ll be able to store some food there!
Also if you’re feeling iffy about safety and reliability, AirBnb is usually really could about making sure your experience is 100% a positive one — and compensating appropriately if it’s not. There are also in-depth ratings for every host on the site, so just make sure to choose an established Airbnb if you can.
14. Better yet, stay in a hostel
Hostels have a strange reputation among Americans, but they are very popular among young people in Europe and other countries. They’re a great option for a solo traveler since you have the opportunity to socialize. You can easily find nice, non-sketchy cheap ones in many cities. Some places you can even stay in nice establishments for as low at 5 euro a night with free breakfast! It’s definitely worth it. Sites like Hostel.com or Hostelworld can help you find hostels to stay in! Again, just check the ratings and reviews before booking.
15. Research free museums & activities in the city
Every city in the world has free museums and activities. There are beautiful parks and historic sites that you tend to be able to find for free. Research these before you go on your trip so you already know your options. If you’ve still got a student ID card, take advantage of student discounts, too!
16. Make lunch your biggest meal
Having a light breakfast, heavy lunch and lighter dinner will save you money. Sounds weird, but Americans tend to eat their biggest meal of the day at dinner, when menus tend to be the most expensive. Making lunch your biggest meal instead, which most people in other countries do anyway, will be cheaper and you’ll totally fit in with the locals!
17. Bring snacks with you around the city
Food is such a large expense when you’re traveling. Since you’ll probably be on the go most of the time, you may get hungry faster than usual. Keep some snacks on you so you don’t have to constantly spend money on food. Nuts, granola, apples, or crackers are easy to keep in your bag to snack on throughout the day!
18. Use public transportation
(First just take a minute to realize how weird you’d feel if you actually spotted Kim and Kourtney Kardashian on the NYC subway.)
Transportation is a huge expense when traveling. Public transportation is pretty much always the least expensive way to get around any place unless you’re traveling in a group of four and you can pile into an Uber. If the city does have good public transportation, live like a local and skip paying for a rental car or taxi cab. (Word to the wise: some taxis in foreign cities will massively rip you off if they think you’re a “dumb American” so do your research on approximate prices and confirm with your cab driver before hopping in.)
If the city doesn’t have good public transportation, use ride-sharing apps like Uber pools or Lyft lines which have basically gone global. They’re definitely cheaper than cabs and you’ll get to meet locals and other travelers!
19. Use the “six-block rule”
The six-block rule is to never eat within six blocks of a major tourist sight. The food is usually double the price and not as good. For example, if you visit New York City, go as far away from Times Square as you can. The food will be overpriced and you won’t enjoy it as much as you would if you found a place away from it. Walk far away from the mass of people and get better food at a better price somewhere else. Use Yelp! or Foursquare to help you find good restaurants in your price range!