Save money on travel planning: 20 practical tips

Save money on travel planning, i.e. even before the trip – sounds wonderful! You want to travel more and you are always short on money? Then pay attention!  When it comes to the valuable travel budget and the cheapest possible final invoice without missing highlights, the foundation stone is laid during the planning – BEFORE the trip itself. It makes sense that the most expensive expense blocks when traveling are the means of transport for the outward and return journey Accommodations that add up to a pretty amount depending on the length of your trip Here are 20 basic and practical tips for saving money BEFORE you travel that you can use right away.

What do you learn from this article?

Save money on travel planning: The travel destination selection

#1 Find cheap alternatives

… instead of traveling to the more expensive mainstream destinations.
How about South Spain instead of South America, Albania instead of Greece, Montenegro instead of Croatia?

If you look a bit to the left and right of the typical tourist trails, the accommodation, transfers and sights are often much cheaper, as are the costs for meals. You almost automatically save cash without having to be particularly strenuous – both before and during the trip.

So make it clear what you want. A cool beach vacation? Wonderful, in which cheap country are there great beaches? Hiking in the mountains? Nice, but does it have to be the Swiss Alps? – This is where the travel budget siren wails for sure 🙂
If traveling to such an “alternative destination” seems a bit more expensive, look around for mainstream arrival points (e.g. airports) in the vicinity. Due to the higher demand, there are usually more offers and better conditions.

To the examples mentioned in the introduction: Albania is located directly on the popular Greek holiday island of Corfu. So the sea is the same, great colors, pleasant temperatures. Depending on the offer, you don’t even pay half the Greek prices in the rather unknown Albanian beach strongholds of Saranda, Vlorë or Durrës. The same applies to the coast of Montenegrocompared to the very popular destinations in Croatia or Italy.

#2 Travel to visa-free countries

There are many countries that require a valid visa to enter the country. And that’s not always a bargain.
As a German, I am lucky enough to be able to travel to many countries around the world without a visa. But: For only 4 countries during my backpacking adventure in West Africa (link article) I paid more than 260 euros / ~ 300 dollars in visa fees in 2019 alone. Additional costs without even having set foot in the country.

For example, you can check here whether you need a visa for a specific country with your passport.
From a German perspective, I use the Federal Foreign Office’s website for this research. The entry requirements are usually the first search result on Google when you enter “Entry [… your destination country …]”.

#3 Save money on travel planning: take advantage of the low season

Traveling in the high season is expensive, so I’m sure I won’t tell you anything new. For those who are not tied to specific vacation times or vacation of colleagues, it is worth taking a look at the recommended travel times for the chosen travel destination. That makes general sense, you don’t want to end up e.g. in the Caribbean during hurricane season.

Around the main season there are usually a few weeks or even months in which the weather is very likely to be suitable – but the prices for travel and accommodation are noticeably cheaper. This not only has financial advantages: it is usually just not that crowded and your trip is much more relaxed.

Save money on travel planning: The route selection

#4 Travel focused and conscious

The more places you visit, the more transfers and transportation you have to pay for. Logical. This also saves you money if you limit yourself to a certain travel region. Day trips are particularly expensive, as they take you to a different, sometimes distant region, but also empty your travel budget just as quickly.

Here you have to defeat the notorious “FOMO”, the “Fear of missing out”, the fear of missing out on something.

You have to get used to the idea of ​​not being able to see everything. It also costs me a lot to overcome personally. For several hundred dollars for a day in another country or on exciting jungle roads – I’ve already done everything. Certainly worth seeing and exciting, but for the money I would certainly have been able to live a whole week on only small tours through the region.

The focused trip not only saves you money, you also experience certain places much more intensely and have more time to immerse yourself in local structures. Away from the “quick-shoot-the-photo-and-go” tourism.

That also leads to the next point:

#5 Define MUST and CAN in advance

It also helps to clearly define before the trip which places and sights are absolutely a MUST and which are more optional, i.e. a soft CAN.

So you can quickly decide what you are going to do and what can be skipped if you are tight on money or time, without you having to mourn the miss (ahhh, that’s it again, the FOMO :-)) long afterwards .
It’s best to make a list with two columns: MUST and CAN!

With the must-have list you can already make a rough estimate of what all the fun will cost. This way you can quickly see when your budget is starting to get tired …

#6 Research cheap alternatives

Have you already used travel guides and blog articles to get a rough overview of what there is to see and experience in your designated dream travel destination? Wonderful, then you can do a little research about what offers are available and what the fun should cost.

As a rule, the first prices higher up in the Google ranking are not necessarily the bargains. That makes sense: Sponsored articles cost money, and where do you get it from? Right, from you! But there are usually cheap alternatives. A little research on travel blogs, for example, can easily help you save money.

Save money on travel planning: booking your flight

#7 Be flexible when choosing the airport

You can often save a lot of money when booking a flight if you don’t choose the direct arrival airport. There are often great offers for the airports in your area. This is especially true for low-cost airlines. In many cases the main airport is not necessarily better located – save money without wasting too much time? How easy is that ?!

In order to identify these rather unknown alternative airports, I usually do a short online research with search terms such as “Airport [destination: city / region / island]”.

#8 Be flexible with the travel dates

Flexibility also pays off when it comes to precise travel dates: flight prices vary from day to day. A flight package can be much cheaper one or more days earlier or later.

Many platforms and comparison sites now use practical monthly overviews with which you can see at a glance when a flight combination is particularly cheap.

If this data can then be implemented in the personal vacation planning, the first few beers at the destination are already “earned” 🙂

#9 Plan and book in advance

When is the cheapest flight to book? – The mother of all questions when it comes to vacation planning.
The best time to book a flight is 2 – 3 months in advance – as far as the statistics. Of course there are still cheap last minute offers here and there, but you can’t necessarily rely on them – unless you are really very flexible.

You can find interesting statistics on the best times for flight bookings worldwide, for example at Opodo.

The best thing to do is to watch the flight prices to your desired destination several months in advance and get a feel for what is really cheap and what is expensive.
However, this does not protect against being annoyed later about missed bargains when the cheap contingents are full and there are only the more expensive seats.

#10 Don’t shy away from long stays

Extended flight times with changes and sometimes longer stays often lead to a low price – but who wants to spend too much travel time at the airport? Right, but if the times are long enough, you can use your stay to take a look around the city – and add another exciting destination to your trip. Check beforehand what the entry requirements are – you may need a separate visa.

Attention, second criterion: When is the lay-over? If you arrive late in the evening or at night and don’t necessarily want to spend the night in a disco and have to book a hotel, you don’t really save money when in doubt …

My personal “longest flight” was on paper 56 (!) Hours to Costa Rica – with almost 20 hours each in Dallas and Miami. Sure, I’ve been traveling forever, but the flight to Central America was incredibly cheap – including a great time in downtown Dallas and South Beach Miami!

Even if it is not worth leaving the airport, you can use the time wisely. Either there is a lot to discover at the airport (such as at Changi Airport in Singapore), you use the stay for a good meal or hot drink or a good book / personal development on the journey.

The website “Sleepinginairports.net” is a great place to find out about airports before a long stay.

#11 Save money on travel planning: Save on luggage

Hand on heart, how much luggage do you really need? Often the tariffs without additional luggage are very cheap – and depending on the travel destination (keyword “warm countries”) and duration, you may need to pack a little less.

Google the keyword “Capsule Travel Wardrobe“. Here you will find great inspiration on how to get a variety of combination options for every occasion with as few items of clothing in your suitcase.
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#12 Use the miles programs of the airlines

Ok, that had to happen 🙂

All airlines offer bonus and frequent flyer programs. This will give you miles on every flight. Cleverly saved and used on potentially expensive flights, they are a real gold mine.

Save money on travel planning: Find cheap accommodation

#13 Stay for free

Ok, that sounds very flat … doesn’t it work? Goes yeah With platforms like Couchsufing or Workaway, you can actually stay overnight with locals for free. For me personally, the perfect combination of maximum experience and saving money. Who knows better than the locals what to see and do in the district, who will take you to local parties or events?

I’ve already had great experiences here, and in some cases a good step out of the comfort zone. Living with the locals doesn’t always mean a villa with a garden gate and driveway. In West Africa in particular, the everyday world looked a little different. But honestly: who remembers their “special” night in a standard twin room of a large hotel chain?

#14 Use the big booking and comparison sites

The prices for accommodation and hotels are constantly changing, so it’s worth checking out regularly. In the end, hotels want their beds to be full. At Booking.com or other platforms you can make your life very easy with a clever choice of filters and quickly filter out the accommodation that exactly matches your individual needs and framework conditions of the trip.

Another option is to first book accommodation with free cancellation until relatively shortly before arrival. On the one hand, this gives you the relaxation not to be standing on the street when you arrive, and on the other hand, it also gives you the opportunity to look for a cheaper alternative and book it if something should arise (e.g. due to the cancellation of other guests in Meanwhile).

I usually use the platforms Booking.com and Agoda.com for my bookings.
Should it be something unusual and special, I use the Secret Escapes website with great offers for luxury accommodation.

#15 Stay cheap with Airbnb

Airbnb is a great online portal for finding cheap apartments as well as unusual places to stay.
Here you will definitely find the right one, from entire apartments to single rooms to tents and nomad yurts, there is something for everyone here.
Here you get up to 40 euros discount for your first Airbnb.com booking.

A big advantage of Airbnb is that you often have access to a kitchen, washing machine, or living room. During a New Year’s Eve stay in Oslo, we lived as a family in an Airbnb like at home in our own apartment, a world of difference to two simple hotel double rooms next to each other.

#16 Save money when planning your trip: book directly at the hotel

Instead of using the large booking platforms, it can also be worth calling the hotel directly or visiting their website. Often you get a cheaper rate because the hotel can save the fee for the large platforms.

#17 Now we’re here already …

For those of you who are very spontaneous and willing to negotiate, there is another option:
Goes to a hotel / accommodation on the day of the night and asks for the current rate. According to the previous tip, this should in itself be cheaper than the offers on the major booking platforms.

Now you can try to negotiate and get an even cheaper rate:

“Dear receptionist, we are already here and would take the room for … euros. Then you will have occupied the bed for today and the sales in the cash register.”

Depending on how high the likelihood of giving the room to someone else on the same day at a higher rate, this can be a pretty simple calculation – win win 🙂

This tip is particularly well suited for larger cities, where you are sure to find other accommodation for the night and go into a negotiation accordingly relaxed.

#18 Book night trains / night buses

In many countries, trains / night buses are a great alternative to staying in a hostel / hotel.

The obvious first: You can get from A to B in comfort AND save yourself the cost of accommodation. This type of travel is particularly recommended for long stretches where there is generally little to see. These modes of transport are also often very cheap. Twice as good for your travel budget.

Anyone who immediately thinks of an old rumbling bus with uncomfortable seats and practically zero sleep: There is another way! Depending on the country or region, the night trains and night busesare extremely comfortable, almost comparable to business class in airplanes. The seats can be set back far or completely horizontally, there are blankets and pillows. What more do you want?

So you save valuable travel time, ideally “sleep through” boring sections of the landscape and save money at the same time – access!

#19 Save money on travel planning: Try wild camping

Wild camping? That sounds so … wild and forbidden! Yes, it sounds strange, but in your own countries that is absolutely welcome! Holidays in a camper van or with your own tent on your back are standard, especially in northern European countries such as Sweden and Norway.

Imagine: just stop at a place you like and set up camp here … maybe by a picturesque fjord. Everything doable! Find out beforehand which camping regulations apply to your travel destination.

#20 Live for free / cheap in the long term

Accommodation for work

What talents do you have and how can you skillfully use them in exchange for accommodation in the sense of “win-win”? Think about what you are good at and offer that as a service on site. It doesn’t cost anything to ask. Would you like some examples? Offer … to correct errors in translations of restaurants, hostels, etc., to build / improve the website, to support the accommodation, etc.

Use platforms like Workaway to find suitable ways to swap your workforce for accommodation.

WWOOFing or similar programs

WWOOFing stands for “World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms” and should basically serve to bring people with a nature-loving lifestyle together

It is about helping with agricultural work on farms and receiving food and accommodation in return.
The network exists worldwide, but is particularly popular with travelers in Australia and New Zealand.

Here you come to the official website.

Try your hand at pet sitting / house sitting

Another great way to get at least free accommodation is so-called “petsitting” or house sitting. Does that sound like “baby manners” to you? That’s exactly what it is!

You can officially register on websites such as Trusted Housesitters in order to look after the animals of those who are traveling when you are traveling. Who can naturally stay comfortably in their familiar surroundings – and so do you.
House sitting in general is less about animals and more about other activities that become relevant when you are away for a longer period of time in a house or apartment. This ranges from watering flowers to gardening to …
So if you have fun with animals or have a green thumb, these concepts can be exciting alternatives for you.

 

Now you have specific points at hand for your next travel planning, with which you can save money BEFORE you start and plan with a small travel budget.

 

Now you know the 20 basic tips for saving money when planning your trip. Have fun with the practical tips that you can apply immediately! The euros not spent can be a great way to improve the travel budget.

 

Do you have any other great tips for saving money when planning your trip? Let us know in the comments!

 

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20 practical & effective tips on how to save money on travel planning to create a bigger travel budget

4 Comments

  1. Kevin Foodie

    Thanks for sharing these great travel saving tips. I find that when i purchase flights between the night hours of 1am to 5am, I get the cheapest deals.

    Reply
    • Phil

      Sounds great, thanks for the recommendation Kevin!

      Reply
    • Phil

      Thanks a lot Enrico!

      Reply

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