Let’s face it, travel isn’t one of the cheaper hobbies to have, but there are always ways to make it less expensive, especially as the world changes and things become more efficient by the day. It’s not about being cheap, it’s about being smart. Along my travels I’ve collected some of the best & lesser known tips to save money while traveling. This article will help your money go further on your holidays.
1. Look for alternative transportation options.
What’s cheap and efficient for your country may cost an arm and a leg at your destination country.
Try a plane trip instead of train or bus (in Europe especially), carpool with a van cab (also called a ‘colectivo‘ in South America), or use a ride share service like BlaBla Car instead of riding solo in a small cab.
Also try Uber or Lyft instead of a taxi, if it’s available in the country in which you’re traveling. No matter how many dirty looks you get from taxi drivers, keep in mind alternative taxi options are almost always cheaper, you won’t get ripped off like many of the horror stories you may have heard of or experienced yourself, and the car and driver are almost always more pleasant than what you’d get by using a taxi.
Also, when traveling throughout the city, consider walking, biking, roller blading, renting an electric scooter that are popping up in cities everywhere, or using other fun transportation options (like an electric unicycle). If you’re a lover of beautiful and unique views, seeing a city slow enough to see the smaller details is usually worth the extra time it takes to get to your destination.
2. Avoid foreign ATM fees whenever possible.
Open a free Charles Schwab bank credit card that will reimburse foreign ATM fees. Check out N26 of Revolut if Charles Schwann doesn’t work for you. Apply some months or weeks ahead of the date of your trip to ensure you are approved in time and receive the card before your departure date.
While Charles Schwab is the most generous with foreign transactions, other “banks” like Revolut and N26 will help you avoid fees, as well.
3. If, for any reason, you can’t avoid foreign ATM fees with Charles Schwab Bank or another applicable option, then only take out money when absolutely necessary.
In European cities, it will probably make the most sense to take cash out of the ATM only once during your trip, if at all. Most “developed” cities take cards for payment, and it’s usually the most secure option anyway. In countries less developed, in order to avoid foreign ATM fees, aim to take out larger amounts of money from an ATM only once (if you feel comfortable enough to do so), and use cards almost exclusively, whenever possible.
4. Ask your bank if they reimburse foreign ATM and foreign exchange fees.
While Charles Schwab automatically reimburses the foreign fees you acquire abroad, some other banks will reimburse you after you ask.
5. Opt for free tours instead of paid.
Many times these tours will be just as, if not more, worthwhile. Try freecitytour.com, freetour.com, freewalkingtour.com, or use my good friend Google to search for free tours in your desired city.
6. Check for alternative accommodation options.
Many Airbnbs and private hostel rooms are just as good as a nice hotel room, and in some cases even better. The perks and drawbacks vary with the price and destination, but with the huge range of rented-out homes and the plethora of hostels in a growing worldwide traveling culture, you should have no problem finding something that is both cost-effective and hits the mark in terms of comfort.
Try searching on Airbnb, Hostelworld, and Booking.
The above are some of my most used and recommended options because of price, option availability, and ease of use.
Camping is another great option if you’ve got the necessary supplies. There are lots of free dispersed campgrounds around the world, and views are often times better than a hotel room.
7. Bring snacks on the plane.
This one seems obvious, but sometimes it’s only after you spend $10 on snacks purchased on the airplane or at the airport that you realize you could have put that towards the cab ride to the hotel. Airport/airplane food is usually overpriced because they know if you’re hungry and you’re stuck in the vicinity waiting for your flight, a ride, or luggage, you’ll most likely pay whatever.
8. Take advantage of sign-up incentives.
Airbnb, Hostelworld, and Booking will give new customers credit toward their first stay with them by signing up through the following links and booking with them. I will also receive credit for referring any reader who uses the links below to sign up with a new account and book with their service.
Throughout my travels, I have used these services many times and trust them enough to recommend to my readers, with or without a sign up incentive. If you feel I have helped you in some significant way, I would be more than grateful if you considered taking advantage of these incentives with my links. You’re not only supporting your own travels, but also more helpful blogs in the future.
Personally, I like to use all of these services for one trip, depending on where I’m going and if I am looking for a hostel, hotel room, or my own space with a kitchen and everything I need. I recommend checking them all when going to a new city, because they all have a wide range of options based on what you are looking for.
REFERRAL LINKS (at no extra cost to you):
Airbnb.com you get $40 travel credit, and if you book a trip with them that’s worth $75 or more, I get a $20 travel credit: https://abnb.me/e/zDRHDG6hAS
Booking – you get a $20 travel credit, I get a $20 travel credit: https://booking.com/s/79_6/d5d5750c or use coupon code D5D5750C
Hostelworld currently doesn’t offer discount codes or links for referrals, though they’re still a great service.
10. Choose to pay with local currency.
These days, depending where you are, it’s common to see credit card billing machines that ask if you’d like to pay in the local currency, or your home currency, when using a credit or debit card. Because your bank will probably give you a better foreign exchange rate than where you’re making your purchase, it’s best to opt for paying in the local currency.
11. Find out when the local museums and other city attractions are offering free entry.
Many cities offer one free day per month (usually Sundays), or offer discounts for students/veterans/seniors/kids/etc. It may be worth it to plain your trip around these dates if you like to play tourist and go to the famous attractions.
12. Browse this article, “8 Great Tools to Find the Cheapest Flights” for some of the most efficient and cheapest ways to book flights.
13. If you’re traveling light, check the route you want to take on the websites of budget airline in your country of choice for some of the lowest prices.
Remember to read the rules of the airline carefully; some charge for printing out boarding tickets at the airport or for your second carry-on, but if you don’t have a lot to bring this is usually the most economical option.
14. Consider spending a little extra on a plane ticket to your destination.
It’s worth noting, sometimes it’s tempting to pay a lot less for a flight ticket, only to pay for it with your time. Sometimes the extra $50 is worth the time you save with an exhaustingly long layover where you’re forced to purchase airport food, but of course this depends on your mindset, the flight route, and how you could be using the time in which you “pay” for the cheaper flight you booked, so please do your research accordingly 🙂
15. Collect the tax refund on goods you buy from specific stores displaying the “VAT TAX FREE” sign in foreign countries.
If you’re a foreigner in the country you are visiting, some (but not all) stores will allow you a refund of the VAT (Value Added Tax) you pay on the goods you purchase abroad if you’re paying above a certain amount.
Standard protocol in the EU, for example, requires you ask the store for the receipt with the tax-exempt code present on it. Some stores may ask you to fill out a form, and provide proof you reside outside of the EU. Then you’d go to the customs officer, BEFORE checking your luggage, to approve the refund. Take your stamped document to the Bureau to choose how you wish to receive your money and you’ll be on your way. Processing takes around 3 months before you see your refund, depending on the country.
There are quite a few exceptions to this rule (such as what you buy, how much it is, if you leave the country by plane or ground/water transportation, and when you leave the country with your goods), and honestly you may have to jump through a hoop or five to get your tax money refunded, but it could be worth the extra effort, especially if you make a substantial purchase abroad, such as a car.
If you’re visiting the USA as a foreigner, you’ll have to contact state authorities, rather than national government, as sales tax is collected by individual states.
For more information, a good start is [https://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/individuals/travelling/travellers-leaving-eu/guide-vat-refund-visitors-eu_en]
These are some of my best tried-and-true tips I’ve learned from my travels to help your money stretch further and save money while traveling during some of the most memorable times of your life. Happy travels!