Save money on travel may sound like a contradiction in terms, but these simple, basic tips will help you get your finances under control while on vacation. Do you have a tight budget or just want to get a very good price-performance ratio for your trip – but the money just seems to run through your fingers and you have to keep getting supplies in the holiday budget? It doesn’t have to be! Here you get my experience summarized in 25 basic tips for saving money DURING the trip.
What do you learn from this article?
Before we even start …
Save money when planning your trip
Saving money while traveling makes perfect sense, but if you want to get the most out of your travel budget, you should start one step earlier: When planning your trip! For this I wrote an extra article in which I summarized my experiences and best tips. Read on here: Save money on travel planning: 20 practical tips
#1: The basis: pack carefully and don’t forget anything
An important note in advance, essential to save money during the trip:
Have you thought of everything you wanted to take with you? It may have happened to you before: You forgot something that you absolutely wanted to take with you. The socket adapter for foreign power networks, hiking pants or the power bank for long bus journeys. And zack you have already spent the first money before you even really started your trip – “best” at the airport …
So that you don’t forget anything important, I have linked my article on the JOURNICATION professional packing list here.
Saving money on travel: Means of transport
#2: Find out about transfers before arrival
Who does not know it? You have a long and exhausting journey behind you, suddenly find yourself in the middle of a foreign country and just want to get to your accommodation as quickly and easily as possible? Absolutely understandable! First impulse at the train station or airport: Get into the taxi, give the driver the address and then don’t worry about anything – it’s vacation, money doesn’t matter!
The long journeys from the airport to the city center or accommodation can quickly become very expensive with a taxi. The first big issue without actually doing anything. Public transport is particularly cheap in many places – if you know which one to use where. And you can easily research that before you travel, write down a few bus numbers – or print out the entire timetable. Often the accommodation can also give you good tips on how to get to your doorstep as quickly and cheaply as possible. A short email for clarification in advance hardly takes any time and is worthwhile.
Depending on the destination, the choice of public transport can have a positive effect not only on the price, but also on the travel time: Instead of taking the full city highways or congested metropolises, there are often comfortable airport shuttle trains or buses with their own route that bypass the traffic jam can – to your double advantage.
You see: a little research or a few clicks on Google Maps or similar providers can already make a big difference. Ideally, you can also use Google Maps live on site, the next tip fits:
#3: Save money on travel: use a local SIM card
Stay connected with a local SIM card! They are already very, very cheap in many countries. With up-to-date information directly from the Internet or services such as Google Maps, you can easily navigate through unknown cities and identify the right mode of transport even without knowing the bus timetable – and save a lot of money in the process.
In the past, it used to deter me from traveling by bus in many cities, not knowing which number I had to go to which bus stop – in the worst case even with multiple changes. Not to mention if you can’t read the writing (characters) at all. No problem with a local SIM card (or EU roaming).
#4: Public transport instead of taxi
That should be obvious. In some cases it may be practical and useful to take a taxi – for example if you have very limited time. But it is usually many times more expensive. So if you have enough time and want to relieve your travel budget a lot: Public transport is the choice!
The real experience in a country is made in the public transport, which the locals also use. They will also be happy to help you out where you have to get off – if you haven’t already asked the (bus) driver to do so.
#5: Save money on travel: forego comfort
This tip usually goes hand in hand with the previous one:
The more comfort, the more it costs. This price curve can quickly become exponential, especially in poorer regions with little tourist infrastructure. You don’t have to make every trip in a comfortable, air-conditioned coach. Whether it’s a shared taxi, boat or rickshaw, you often experience the best stories while traveling together with the locals in the usual means of transport.
Sure, comfort suffers significantly. Busy buses, uncomfortable seats – the rule rather than the exception. But here you experience things that later become really exciting stories. I will never forget the taxi rides while backpacking in West Africa, in which at least 4 people take place in normal cars on the back seat, two on the front passenger seat and sometimes one passenger over the gear stick.
How often have you told your stories of normal, punctual and comfortable taxi rides after a trip? Right, nobody …
#6: Slow Down – Take your foot off the gas
This is not necessarily related to trips with the rental car, because the same rule applies: the faster you get to your destination, the more expensive.
Usually, you also pay more money for faster travel. Express buses, taxis and trains get you from A to B faster, but you usually pay for the speed.
#7: … or take a bike right away
In many metropolises there is now a well-developed network of rental bike stations where you can take a bike for little money and leave it at another station.
This has several advantages:
- 1. You often save money compared to several trips on public transport (we don’t even need to talk about a taxi here).
- 2. You perceive a lot more of the city and its surroundings. A subway is super practical and fast, but you just can’t see anything of the route on the way. With the bike you experience the whole route much more consciously, much more intensely.
You can’t imagine what fun it was to ride a rental bike through Chicago’s skyscraper canyons – or in the sun along Lake Michigan! More fantastic than any taxi ride could have been!
#8: Save money on travel: become an expert in hitchhiking
THE way to get from A to B cheaply – usually free of charge. In many cases with a nice chat with locals included.
There are countries that are more likely than others. In Albania, for example, it’s everyday life. It is best to find out about the customs in the destination country beforehand.
#9: Use car sharing apps / websites
With today’s technology and mobile internet, there are a multitude of apps, websites and (Facebook) groups that can save a lot of money with car sharing.
This doesn’t just mean Uber, which is often cheaper than local taxi companies.
Using car sharing services for a few hours at short notice is also an option in many places cheap alternative to all-day rental car offers.
The offer varies greatly depending on the continent or country.
It is best to find out before your trip which services you can use on site in order to be as mobile, flexible and above all cheap as possible
Save money on travel: Meals
A lot of traveling revolves around food. It is hardly easier to immerse yourself in a foreign culture than to try the local delicacies and to take a closer look at the rituals and habits related to food preparation and consumption. Depending on the country, it can quickly become very expensive to eat out in a restaurant every evening. Meals are one of the greatest levers for saving money during a trip.
#10: Save money on travel: learn from the locals
In many countries there are cheap alternatives to restaurants or street food instead of the big chains or upscale localities.
In addition to the often very low prices, this has another advantage: You dive much deeper into the country, its culture and the associated eating habits – in case of doubt, it tastes even better and more authentic! The typical street food at the hookers in Asia, small stalls in Africa, cantinas in South America – simply great memories, not just in terms of taste!
Don’t worry too much about hygiene, just because you pay more in upscale restaurants doesn’t have to be better there.
#11:A kingdom for your own kitchen
When booking, look around specifically for accommodation with a kitchen. Here you can – just like at home – prepare delicious dishes with cheap groceries from the local supermarket. Ideally, even with fresh ingredients from the market.
Doing all the work and cooking for yourself on vacation sounds like a contradiction in terms – it doesn’t have to be every evening 🙂
#12: Pre-cook for the next day
Works great at home, also works when traveling.
Once the kitchen is available (see tip # 10), you can easily cook more food that can then be taken in a suitable box on the next tour of discovery or transfer. It doesn’t just have to be pre-cooking, maybe there is still food left over from the restaurantyou visited, which you can then stow safely in your backpack instead of in a cheap plastic bag before leaking out.
These boxes are ideal for on the go: Be it the extended hiking tour, the long journey of discovery through the city or seemingly never-ending transfers through the country – you are already well looked after.
#13: Always have a drinking bottle close at hand
In many countries or cities, tap water is of sufficient quality that you can drink it without any problems. So you can save a lot if you have a suitable drinking bottle with you.
In cities like Venice or Basel you can even drink the water from the public fountain and refill your bottle again and again even on a long tour of discovery through the city.
Even in countries where you shouldn’t drink tap water or where you are just unsure and don’t want to take unnecessary risks, a bottle with a special filter system can help.
It’s not the ultimate amount, but buying new drinks over and over again adds up to the travel time. And just like the pre-cooked food, a well-filled water bottle in the backpack increases flexibility: You don’t have to keep looking for the nearest kiosk or restaurant.
#14: Does it really have to be another beer?
It’s a weak tip, of course, admittedly. When you’re out and about, you shouldn’t have to look at every euro, but rather enjoy the moment and be able to order / do whatever you want. It is all the more important to follow the other tips.
Nevertheless, there will come a moment when you can ask yourself the question whether this really has to be right now …
Saving money on travel: Activities
#15: Self-organized activities instead of guided tours
It is more comfortable to take a guided tour – and simply no stress with planning or organization. Absolutely true. Having to spend a lot of time planning a trip – especially when the time is tight – is really not a smart alternative. One or the other can, however, be researched quickly – before the trip or on the go.
A lot can then be handled very easily by yourself. A clever app, the Lonely Planet / other travel guide or a screenshot on the mobile phone quickly replace the tour guide. This saves you a lot of money.
Sure, as already mentioned in the “Means of Transport” category, you will probably have to share the normal bus with the locals instead of the air-conditioned tour bus, but even that is part of the experience.
#16: Save money when traveling: Research cheap alternatives
The first offers for activities at the top of the world’s search engines are certainly not the bargains. It’s no secret that the seats upstairs have been bought. These companies are welcome to do that – but not necessarily with your money that you paid too much. So invest a little time researching cheap alternatives. Where? Preferably on independent blogs or in travel guides.
Indeed, for some goals or activities, there may be no cheap alternative. In this case you have to decide how much it is really worth to you (see “Define MUST and CAN” in the planning BEFORE the trip)
Inexpensive alternatives for city tours are the “Free Walking Tours“, which are now available in most large cities. The guided tour, usually lasting 2-3 hours, is free of charge; you later choose the amount to tip the guide. Here you often learn not only an incredible amount about the city from motivated local guides, but also get to know nice other travelers.
Tip: You can then speak to the guide about other tours or activities and how you can organize them yourself as cheaply as possible – they know their way around.
#17: Throw in lots of free activities
Every travel destination has a variety of free(or at least very cheap)activities that you can easily identify in advance with a little research.
The more of these points you include in your daily schedule, the cheaper the stay will of course be.
But hand on heart, free activities alone are often hardly possible, as the great highlights of many destinations simply cost money – and you don’t want to miss them! Nevertheless: a little research is always worthwhile!
#18: Save money with a City Pass
Depending on how long you will be in a city, a City Pass or similar offers can be worthwhile.
The passes usually pay off once a certain number of sights and attractions have been visited. But if you want to make a lot of it anyway, why not save money right away? It is best to get an overview of what you absolutely want to see before the trip – the BIG5 overviews from JOURNICATION are a good indicator so that you can quickly check on the spot whether these points are included in the passports.
#19: Find out about possible discounts
You can’t even imagine where and for what discounts are available.
A short research is also worthwhile here. Just google it for a few minutes … again and again you will surprisingly find something that will help you a lot.
#20: Save money on travel: Be careful with the “small” issues
One euro here, one euro there … or sometimes only 50 cents … but it is precisely these small expenses that suddenly exceed the budget when you lose sight of them.
On the one hand, a small “travel finance budget book” helps (a simple cell phone note does it too) so that you don’t suddenly be surprised by the nasty credit card statement.
The classic question “Do I really need this now – and if so, at this price?” has not harmed anyone either.
Save money while traveling: Money & Finances
#21:Withdraw money on site at the ATM / cash machine
Fortunately, the days when you ordered your money from the bank weeks before the trip and had to change with high fees before you even started your trip are over. If it’s reassuring to have a little money in the local currency in your pocket when you start your journey for the first transfers – that’s fine, but I only recommend manageable amounts.
The course is usually much better on site than if you change money in your home country.
Personally, I only have “emergency amounts” in euros and / or US dollars with me, otherwise only my credit card (s). Because instead of looking for the best exchange rate in dubious or less dubious exchange offices – which in itself can be exhausting – it is best to withdraw your money at the local ATM / cash machine.
If you withdraw the local currency at the ATM, you usually get a very good, updated exchange rate and you don’t run the risk of being ripped off by money changers.
Withdrawing money only on site as needed has a second advantage: You don’t have to take your entire travel budget for a walk. Sure, you should always have a little “emergency money” with you, but I wouldn’t be relaxed if I carried several hundred euros / dollars with me.
The next tip is required so that the costs for constant money do not spiral out into infinity:
#22: Use a credit card with free withdrawals
Many credit card providers still take money for withdrawals abroad. And if you often want to withdraw money on site (as described in the previous tip), the amount quickly adds up to a large sum – completely unnecessary.
There are now many good banks whose credit cards give you free credit abroad – I’ll write it again: free of charge! – can withdraw money. Saving money is hardly easier.
My personal favorite is the DKB, whose card I was able to use plus minus in all 99 countries, from Nicaragua to Togo to Myanmar.
#23: Save money on travel: always use the local currency
In most countries it is possible to pay in euros or US dollars, but you have to pay a surcharge, which can be considerable.
On the one hand, because you can be clearly identified as a tourist without local currency and that alone “justifies” higher prices. On the other hand, because the locals also have to pay fees to change your foreign currency – and factor these costs and the effort of changing into their prices.
Save money on travel: Shopping & Souvenirs
#24: Be informed about local prices
Knowing local prices is incredibly helpful, especially as a clearly identifiable traveler.
Again and again, the locals tend to charge significantly more, especially when prices are not listed. This not only has to be the case with a taxi or other means of transport, but also in the market, in the restaurant, in the kiosk or at entrance fees.
For basic things, you should roughly research what the price should be. A little over it is okay too. But as a traveler you don’t even notice how badly you’re being ripped off … I especially often ask about taxi prices for certain routes in my accommodations. Knowing roughly what it should cost makes the negotiation a lot easier.
Which brings us to the next tip:
#25: Improve your negotiation skills
Negotiating prices when shopping at the markets isn’t your thing? Using the right techniques when negotiating can save you a lot of money – and your nerves!
Now you have specific points at hand for your next travel planning, with which you can save money DURING the trip.
At least as clever as saving money when traveling, you can already consider a lot in the planning. You can read about how to do this in my article Save money on travel planning: 20 practical tips
Do you have any other good tips for saving money on vacation? Let us know in the comments!