Guide on how to save money for travel
Wondering how to travel for cheap and save money while traveling? Then you’ve come to the right place.
From airfare and transportation to meals and accommodation, traveling can break the bank. Traveling gives us valuable life experiences, but the steep price tag sometimes deters us from booking that next adventure. Sure, it can be an expensive endeavor. However, with proper planning, there are so many ways to save money on vacation these days.
If you’re someone who dreads checking your credit card statement after a big trip, then you’ll want to pay close attention to these tips and strategies to save money on travel.
As a travel blogger who spends countless hours scouring the web for travel deals, I’ve found that it’s pretty easy to travel on the cheap. So let your inner vagabond shine and follow these 22 simple and effective tips to save money on travel.
Here are all the tips and tricks you need to know for how to travel for cheap in 2022:
1. Sign up for email alerts on cheap flights
There are several travel sites where you can sign up for free email alerts on discounted fares. My favorite one is Scott’s Cheap Flights, which sends flash sales and other cheap flight deals directly to your inbox. Another popular site to check out is Airfarewatchdog, which sends out low price fares and allows you to track flight prices.
All you have to do is input a preferred home airport and they will send alerts whenever there are flight deals. Scott’s Cheap Flights also offers a premium version for a $49 annual fee, which I’ve used for two years. Just one heavily discounted fare to California was enough to cover the annual fee for a few years 🙂 This is one of the coolest ways to save money to travel, hands down.
2. Be flexible with your flight dates and times
This tip will likely save you the most money during your travels. Here are some key strategies to consider:
Avoid traveling to a destination during its high season
Cancun during Spring Break week? Probably not the best idea.
Give yourself some wiggle room around your preferred travel dates
It’s always a good idea to give yourself at least a week buffer before and after your preferred travel dates to find the best flight deals. Skyscanner and other flight aggregators provide flexible search options that help you locate the best deals during a given timeframe. Typically, I begin my research with Google Flights to find the cheapest dates. Then, I pivot to Skyscanner, Hopper, and ultimately the airline website to find the best deal.
Fly midweek when possible
As a rule of thumb, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are much cheaper for flying than Fridays and Sundays. Recently, when I was scanning flights to Colombia, I saw 50-75% cheaper flights midweek compared to weekends. Needless to say, I booked the midweek flight.
Catch an early morning or late night flight
These flights are not always super desirable, but they are a great way to unlock discounted fares. Based on my experience, the cost savings typically outweigh the inconvenience. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, if you’re in Paris and need to catch an early morning flight from Paris Beauvais Airport, which is conveniently located just 54 miles outside of Paris (yikes), you’ll find that public transportation options are limited. When you can’t rely on cheap public transportation to get you to the airport on time, factor taxi prices into your airfare decision.
Choose another airport
Depending on where you’re traveling to, you may find a nearby airport that’s much cheaper than the one in your destination. For instance, instead of flying to Salzburg, consider flying to Munich, which has many more flights and better deals. Instead of flying to Sacramento, go to San Francisco and then make the 1.5 hour drive to California’s capital. Is this one of the best traveling on a budget tips? It sure is!
Read next: Cheapest European Destinations to Fly To
3. Fly with a budget airline
This kind of goes without saying, but it’s still important to mention as a budget travel tip.
Whenever you look for cheap flights, you’ll often find that there are a few budget airlines out there (i.e. Spirit, RyanAir, EasyJet) that offer the lowest prices. It’s no accident – as these are considered “no frills” airlines, and you get what you pay for. These budget airlines aren’t very glamorous, but they will certainly save you money traveling to your destination.
One important caveat about flying with budget airlines: beware of the baggage requirements! Usually, only a small carry-on and personal item is included. So, if you plan to bring larger travel bags with you, be sure to look closely at the baggage allowance prices. While the base airfare is typically cheap, prices can increase exponentially if you plan on checking a bag. If you plan on bringing more than one, I would consider a more premium airline, as the overall prices will likely be about the same.
If you value cheap travel over convenience, then this budget travel tip is for you. Flying with budget airlines is a great way to travel for cheap in 2022.
4. Join a frequent flier and hotel rewards program
This tip is extremely important for saving money on travel. In the short term, you won’t save much on loyalty programs, but you certainly will in the long term. Every once in a while, I’ll get free flights and hotels just by cashing out on rewards.
Frequent flier programs
If you haven’t already, I recommend signing up for frequent flier programs with your favorite airlines. You should also check to see which airline alliance they are a part of, as you’ll gain rewards for flying on partner airlines as well. The major players are One World, Sky Team, and Star Alliance.
Sign up for hotel rewards programs to save money on travel
In addition to airlines, some hotel booking websites have rewards programs that give you free nights and room upgrades. One of my favorites is hotels.com, which gives you a free night for every 10 that you book through them. For specific hotel chains, I’ve found that Marriott Bonvoy offers one of the best rewards programs, particularly for business travelers. It allows you to earn free nights and unlock low member rates.
In addition to finding great deals to save money for travel, signing up for these programs has other key benefits. For example, hotels are often willing to waive resort fees for frequent visitors. Flying with the same airlines will usually allow you to board earlier and get a superior level of service. Not a bad deal, especially if you frequently use these airlines and hotels anyway!
In the long term, points and rewards definitely add up. No matter how often you travel, you should join plenty of frequent flier and hotel rewards programs to maximize your savings. It’s no wonder this is one of the top travel saving tips.
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5. Find a job overseas
This is a creative way to fund your travels. Back in 2016, I taught English in Spain for a couple of months, and it helped subsidize my living there. I’ve met so many people on the road who have jobs overseas, and they also swear by it. Here are some ideas you might be interested in:
Find a gig at a ski resort, beach resort, or just about anywhere else. Employers around the world are always looking for seasonal workers, so this is a good way to fund your travels in a new place.
Looking to learn a new language? This is one of the best overseas jobs for that. Through an Au Pair program, you will live with a host family and look after their children and perform housekeeping tasks in return for a free stay and a small stipend. Since you won’t have to pay for an accommodation, this is a great way to save money on travel.
This is one of the most transient jobs out there, making it the perfect option if you’re looking to live and travel abroad on a temporary basis. It’s also a great way to meet people. Hostels typically let you volunteer in return for a free room, which is helpful if you want to avoid the visa application process. One website that I recommend for this is Workaway.
This is a popular thing to do if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty. If you want to learn how to travel for cheap, try Wwoofing!
Becoming a tour guide will help you save money when traveling
If you’re into history and culture and don’t mind speaking in front of groups, this travel tip is for you. Start by doing a free walking tour (where you get paid in tips). Then, when your tour guide skills are up to snuff, apply to be a guide with an established tour company. This is a great way to earn money and travel at the same time.
Even if you don’t have much money, finding a job overseas will help make your travel dreams a reality.
Read next: Coolest international traveling jobs
6. Set a daily budget and track expenses to save money while traveling
Begin by tracking expenses at home before traveling. That way, you’ll have a good idea of your spending habits and how much to allocate towards your travel budget.
There are many great travel apps for tracking expenses out there, including Trail Wallet and Splitwise. With these apps, you’ll have a much better chance at sticking to your daily budget while traveling. Is this one of the best strategies for saving money while traveling? 100%!
7. Pack as light as possible
Want to know the secret sauce for how to travel for cheap? Pack light.
Each year, airlines are charging more and more for checked luggage and cabin bags. Basic economy airfare allows you to save money on the base fare, but you’re often required to pay extra for a checked bag and in some cases, even carry-on luggage. Some airlines even make it difficult to find out their baggage requirements for certain routes. In my opinion, the situation is getting out of hand. The only solution, it seems, is to pack as light as possible.
Therefore, packing light is a great way to minimize the number of checked bags and carry-ons you’ll bring on flights. Baggage fees add up quickly, especially on budget airlines that charge extra for pretty much everything other than the base fare. If you’re looking for travel money saving tips, this is it!
8. Get a travel rewards credit card
This is one of the best budget travel tips out there.
If you travel more than a couple of times each year, it’s worth getting a travel rewards credit card. The basic ones have no annual fees, where you’ll get extra points on travel and dining-related expenses. Cards with high fees tend to give you much more in return, including airline lounge access and credits on incidentals (i.e. free checked bags). As such, having a travel rewards credit card is a great way to save money and travel for cheap.
I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which offers no foreign transaction fees, 2x points on travel and dining, and 25% additional value when redeeming travel expenses (airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises). American Express also offers some great travel rewards credit cards, but they carry higher annual fees. I recently got the AMEX Platinum card and I absolutely love it. Sure, the annual fee is high ($695), but when you travel frequently, it’s easy to take advantage of all the points.
There are many great travel credit cards out there with no foreign transaction fee, so be sure to do some research and find one that best fits your needs!
9. Compare prices on multiple booking sites
Competition in the travel industry has never been fiercer, thanks to handy-dandy smartphone apps. There are too many booking websites to name, which bodes well for budget travelers. This showdown was further amplified when Airbnb entered the fray. Accommodation prices have never been cheaper than they are today, and it’s a beautiful thing.
If you’re looking to save money when traveling, I recommend browsing these websites and apps to uncover the best deals:
This is my go-to for the best accommodation deals. The concept of staying in someone else’s home or apartment was a bit strange to me at first, but I quickly warmed up to the idea and met some interesting locals along the way. In addition to the authentic experience it brings, Airbnb also offers the best deals on accommodations. [If you haven’t used Airbnb before, you can use my code and get up to $55 off your first booking. I get a small stipend as well, so we both win].
Read next: Top Airbnb Hosting Tips
This is my top choice for booking hotels. This website currently offers 6.2 million accommodation listings around the world. Not only does Booking.com have some of the best hotel deals, it also has a free cancellation policy on most properties. Traveling for cheap is easy with a platform like this.
Save money to travel with Hotels.com
In my opinion, this comes second to Booking.com for hotel bookings. However, it’s always worth checking just in case. Every once in a while, I’ll find a deal on here that beats Booking.com and our friend, Google. [If you haven’t booked with Hotels.com before, I have another referral code that you’re welcome to use. You’ll save up to $50 on your first booking, and I’ll receive $50 as well. Cheers!]
10. Don’t get the best hotel room
Can I save money on traveling? This kind of goes without saying, but if you want to save some serious cash when traveling, don’t get a premium hotel room.
Realistically, how much time do you plan to stay in your hotel room outside of sleeping, anyway? If you’re booking an all-inclusive in the Caribbean, then sure, it makes sense to splurge a little on the room. However, if you’re doing a city getaway to Rome, Paris, or Barcelona, you’re better off finding an accommodation that doesn’t have a zillion amenities, unless that’s your priority.
Don’t get the best hotel room, and you’ll be on your way to learning how to travel for cheap.
11. Stay in a guesthouse, hostel, or “couch surf”
If you want to be a budget traveler, you ought to get used to staying in hostels and other cheap (or even free) accommodations like couch surfing.
This tip is certainly not for everyone, but it’s a proven money-saver when it comes to traveling. In world-class cities like Prague and Rome, I’ve spent as low as $10/night on these types of budget accommodations. Here are a few websites that are worth looking into:
This website allows you to search hostels worldwide to find some of the best deals. Hostelworld usually has the most listings, but it charges a $2 service fee to book your accommodation.
This website is typically the cheapest option for booking hostels and guesthouses around the world. Though it’s cheaper than Hostelworld, there are fewer listings to choose from. Hence, it’s important to compare these websites prior to booking a budget accommodation.
Couchsurfing is a great way for saving money for travel
As its name suggests, Coachsurfing is a service that allows travelers to “crash on someone’s couch” or otherwise stay in a local’s home. It’s a great way to meet people and have an authentic experience. One of the best parts of all? It’s free!
Staying in hostels is one of my preferred ways of traveling. Not only is it cheap, but it also offers some amazing opportunities to meet people. Be sure to choose a large dorm to save the most cash, and bring earplugs just in case you have a snorer in the room!
In addition to the types of accommodations above, I recommend staying in a cheap vacation rental like an Airbnb. This is especially a cost-saver when you’re traveling in groups.
12. Eat out at restaurants for lunch instead of dinner
I’ll let you in on a secret on how to travel cheap: eat out as little as possible.
Buying food from a grocery store and cooking at your hostel or Airbnb is the most full-proof way to save money on traveling. Of course, if you’re a foodie, buying out probably can’t be avoided. In that case, try to eat out at restaurants for lunch instead of dinner wherever possible to save cash.
In touristy places, expect to pay a premium on dinner plates. Though these dishes could be identical to what’s served at lunch, you’ll always end up paying more because it’s dinner. As such, it’s a good idea to eat out at restaurants during the day instead of the evening, whenever possible.
Eating street food is another great way to save money while traveling. Additionally, many Airbnbs, hostels, and guesthouses are equipped with kitchens where you can cook in your destination. This travel saving tip will help you retain cash for the experiences you’re most passionate about.
13. Visit museums and tourist attractions on “free days”
Contemplating how to save money while traveling? For citygoers, this traveling on a budget tip can make a big difference.
Prior to arriving at your destination, I recommend compiling a list of sights you want to see. Museums and other major tourist attractions sometimes offer free or discounted admission on certain days throughout the month.
For example, at the Louvre in Paris, you can gain free admission on the first Saturday of each month from 6pm to 9:45pm. If you’re under 26, you can get free admission every Friday evening. It’s always worth doing some research online to see which attractions offer free or discounted hours.
How students can find great vacation bargains
If you’re a student, you should always bring your student ID on vacation. In many destinations, particularly in Europe, you can get free or discounted admission at major tourist attractions, including museums. In many cases, these discounts apply to senior citizens as well. This is definitely one of the best money saving travel tips for college students.
(Looking for the best places for students to travel in Europe? Check out my article: 14 Cheapest Cities in Europe!)
14. Walk as much as possible
Wondering how to travel for cheap? Cutting public transport costs is an easy and convenient way to save money on travel.
Some things in life are free, and walking is one of them. In places like London, where the Tube can be quite pricey, it’s a great idea to maximize your walking and save money on public transportation. Avoid taxis whenever you can, as this is the most expensive way to get around a place.
In cities where walking is not always possible, be sure to do your homework on public transportation deals. For example, the London Tube is capped at £7 a day, which would save you £3 over buying a day pass. In Barcelona, the T-10 pass is much more economical than buying single rides. It definitely pays to research the public transportation options beforehand, and to gauge how much walking you’ll be doing.
15. Visit hidden gems instead of hot destinations
It’s no secret that the most touristy places are also the most expensive.
If your goal is to travel as much as possible on the cheap, consider spending more time exploring the world’s best hidden gems over popular places. A cheap destination often has the most character (and authenticity) to it.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you should forgo places like Paris and Venice just for the sake of saving money. Of course, even the most touristy cities have some off-the-beaten-path spots where you can eat, drink, and go sightseeing on the cheap. Popular places are touristy for a reason – as they offer so much to travelers. But I think that discovering underrated budget places is conducive to saving more money. Such a cheap vacation can also give you a more local and authentic experience.
If you’re looking for the best ways to save money when traveling, you can’t go wrong prioritizing hidden gems over touristy areas.
Here are some of my favorite cheap travel destinations in Europe: Cheapest Cities in Europe in 2022
16. Top money saving travel tips: Learn from the locals
Along with visiting hidden gems, this is one of the most underrated tips on how to travel cheap.
The best way to avoid the tourist traps and expensive eateries is by talking to the locals. Not only will you cultivate interesting friendships, but you’ll also gain insider tips on what to see and do.
There are a couple of ways to do this. First, you can gather local insights through online research. Quora and TripAdvisor are excellent resources for getting your travel questions answered.
However, my favorite way to get advice from locals is by asking them in person. From O’ahu to Portugal, you can always rely on locals to give you the low-down on a destination. Whether you’re at your accommodation or on the streets, don’t be shy to strike up conversation with those who know the place best.
17. Longer stays tend to be cheaper than shorter ones
This may sound counterintuitive, but there’s actually a lot of truth to this.
Firstly, staying in a place for longer gives you added flexibility in finding flights, which allows you to save money traveling that way. In addition, you can stay in long term vacation rentals for cheaper nightly rates. Many Airbnb and VRBO hosts will offer heavily discounted bookings if you stay for multiple weeks (or even months). It’s a win-win situation, as hosts don’t have to worry about booking out their rentals and they can save on cleaning fees.
From tiny houses and treehouses to cabin rentals and cottages, you’ll find that long-term rentals are a great way to save money for travel.
Read next: Top Waterfront Vacation Homes in Destin FL
You may also like: Coolest Lakefront Rentals in Wisconsin
18. Follow your favorite travel sites on social media
Here’s a cool tip on how to travel for cheap (and even free!). I’m not just saying this because I’m big into social media. Following your favorite travel brands (or any brands for that matter) on social media is beneficial in many ways.
Many hotels and travel companies offer special deals directly on social media. For example, hotels like the Terranea Resort in Southern California offer exclusive deals and resort credits for their social media followers.
Some companies offer giveaways as well. I’ve won free trips to the Azores (islands in Portugal) and the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut through giveaways. In some cases, airlines will partner with destinations on social media to provide free flights and accommodations to the winners.
If you’re someone who’s looking how to travel cheap, then you should spend a few minutes a day scouring social media for giveaways and other promotions. Good luck!
19. If you really want to learn how to travel for cheap, start a travel blog!
For me, this has been the most effective way to save money on travel. Here are a few ways you can save big and learn how to travel for cheap as a travel blogger:
Sponsored trips: Tourism boards will sometimes pay you to visit destinations in return for coverage on your travel blog and social channels. Even if you’re not well established yet, you could still get a comped stay, which is another way to save money on travel.
Affiliate marketing: On your blog, you can include affiliate links to big travel brands like Booking.com, Airbnb, and Skyscanner. You’ll get a chunk of each referral. This is a great way to save money on travel if you already use the brands you’re promoting – it’s very natural!
Industry insights: As a travel blogger, you’ll learn things through deep digging, research, and networking that most other travelers aren’t aware of.
This budget travel tip isn’t for everyone, but if you want to do this as a part time hobby, it definitely has its perks.
Here’s my ultimate guide for how to start a travel blog.
20. Best travel tips for adventurers: Do a road trip instead of flying
It’s no secret that flights can be expensive (fly to Oceania and you’ll see what I mean). To cut that expenditure out, consider doing a road trip!
This is not always a cheaper way of traveling, but it is most of the time, especially in places where gas is cheap.
21. Don’t assume unwanted risk. Get travel insurance
This is one of the most overlooked tips on how to travel for cheap. Sure, paying for travel insurance might seem like an added (and unnecessary) cost, but it isn’t if something goes wrong.
Whether you’re traveling to Asia, Europe, South America, or anywhere in between, it’s a prudent idea to buy travel insurance. I have an article below on why this is so incredibly important (especially in this COVID-19 era):
Planning to visit Boston in the near future? Read up on local travel advisories in Boston MA
22. Be financially responsible at home
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the key to saving money on travel is by making sound financial decisions before and after your vacations. I rarely eat out at home, and instead spend that money on tapas in Spain, schnitzel in Austria, and beer in Germany.
The fact of the matter is that most people only travel 2-4 weeks per year, so the other 48-50 weeks are where the significant savings should occur. Even small lifestyle changes, such as bringing lunch to work rather than buying out, can make a huge difference over the long term and allow you to travel more often. If you wish to make traveling a priority, you sometimes have to make sacrifices in other parts of your life.
In my own life, this has been the top tip (by far!) on how to travel for cheap.
How to travel cheap and save money
Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive. On the contrary, it can be affordable and even cheap when you do it the right way.
I hope you’ve found this list to be helpful and effective in your quest to save money on travel! Happy Travels! -Jon
Planning an international adventure? Check out my international travel tips to make you a smarter traveler.
For further reading, check out my latest travel articles below.
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Definitely worth a read for avid travelers! Saving throughout the year for my trips, and using those savings to budget my trip accordingly helps most of all. Going on a trip without a budget can be very costly..
Understanding how much per day I can spend on food let’s me enjoy those costly evening dinners by avoiding that fifth gelato or extra drink at the bar!
Happy traveling 🙂
Great tips, thank you! Unfortunately not all museums offer free days. Lunch versus dinner definitely is cheaper, however at lunchtime si normally don‘t want to lose precious time for sightseeing whereas in the evening hours in a restaurant can be better enjoyed after a long day of visiting interesting places. But, as I said above, great tips! Keep on traveling and informing us!
Thanks Margit! You make some great points here. I appreciate your input!