There are a million ways to save money on the cost of day-to-day travel expenses if you watch out for common mistakes that many tourists make when they don't plan ahead. Here are a dozen different tips for how to avoid overpaying for things such as baggage handling fees and restaurant meals and snacks.
Budget-Friendly Travel Tips
Saving money on travel expenses is easy to do when you plan ahead. Check out these tipx, videos, and links on how to save money on your next vacation.
Turn your photos into e-postcards and send them to friends and family to save money on the cost of souvenirs.
Drink water instead of soda, juice, or other bottled beverages. Take a thermos and make your own coffee each morning. Make sure that your thermos or water bottle can be tightly sealed and put in your bag, just in case an attraction, such as a museum or theater, prohibits drinking and eating inside their premises. By not ordering soda, juice, or alcoholic beverages with your lunch or dinner, you’ll save money and enjoy a healthier, more energizing diet.
When dining out, have an early dinner. You’ll get a table sooner and enjoy more attentive service than if you were eating during the premium dinner hours between 6:30pm and 8:00pm. Here’s why: When restaurants know their tables are in demand during the dinner rush hour, they want to either flip your table as quickly as possible or they’ll try to up-sell you on more appies, more drinks, more desserts. If you are going to take up prime dining real estate, they’ll try to find a way to make you pay for it.
Eat in for dinner and pack picnic lunches for day trips. This is one of the best ways to save money on travel. If you’re staying in a room with a kitchenette you can save a lot of money on food, even if the cost of the room is a little bit higher than a regular room. A room with a kitchenette means you can pack lunches for day trips, make your own breakfast, and drink your own store-bought wine as you unwind at the end of the day. From having a stash of midnight snacks to being able to brew a full pot of coffee, you’ll save money by not using vending machines or drinking expensive gourmet coffee from the café across the street. For people with special dietary requirements, eating in gives you added peace of mind. You don’t need to worry about whether the chef will understand or honor all of your special dietary needs. Preparing a simple meal in a kitchenette takes the guesswork out of what you are eating.
Think twice before using coupons from hotel brochures and travel guides. The coupons featured in those free travel magazines displayed in the hotel lobby aren’t always a good deal. The businesses that have coupons in those travel guides have paid a fee (usually a hefty one) to advertise their restaurant and bring in tourists who are lost when it comes to finding a good place to eat. Instead, pick up local community paper and clip coupons for restaurants that are favored by the locals. The service will likely be much better because they don’t know whether or not you are a tourist or a local. And giving lousy service to someone who lives close by is always bad for business.
Make a souvenir shopping budget and stick to it. Have a list of people you want to buy gifts for and set a maximum dollar value for each gift. This will help you avoid impulse buys. If you really want to simplify your souvenir shopping, buy gifts in bulk. For example, many gift shops in Hawaii offer multi-packs of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. One simple purchase and you’ve covered everyone on your list! Postcards are another fun and frugal way to create an inexpensive souvenir of your trip. For less than a dollar, you can send an artfully written postcard to a friend who would be delighted to hear from you. Think about buying things that are not marketed as tourist items and choose things that reflect local customs and traditions.
Sightsee by foot and take public transit whenever possible. Walking is the best way to take in a new city. Put on some comfortable walking shoes, grab some tourist maps and bus schedules, and get ready to explore. Many modern cities have updated their transit systems to be much more accessible for wheelchair-users and people with mobility challenges.
Even though it’s fun to just wander around and discover new sites, it is wise to have a basic plan for where you are going. Tourists who look lost and confused as they stand on a street corner studying a map can be targeted by pickpockets and scam artists. All the money that you saved by walking could be quickly wiped out if your wallet gets stolen.
If you do choose to travel by foot, make sure you take good care of your feet. For more tips on how to keep your feet and ankles from getting sore, read How to Reduce Foot and Ankle Pain When Traveling.
Research weather trends at your destination and pack accordingly. If you don’t plan ahead and figure out what kind of clothes you’ll need at your destination, you might end up having to spend some of your travel money buying a jacket to keep you warm, or sandals and shorts to keep you cool.
Buy adequate travel insurance before you leave. Any money that you save on food, hotels, and attractions will be wiped out if you get sick or injured and end up in a local hospital without adequate travel insurance. Buying sufficient medical and travel insurance is a must!
Give your car a thorough tune-up and top-up before heading out on a road trip.If you plan to save money on your next trip by driving instead of flying, make sure that your car is in good condition before you leave. A breakdown, or worse, and accident caused by a mechanical failure, can cost you triple, even quadruple, whatever money you saved by driving instead of flying. Also, if you plan to take your car into another country, be sure to consult an auto insurance broker before you go to make sure your policy provides sufficient coverage away from home. Buying a bit of add-on insurance to cover you is much cheaper than being wiped out by an accident your policy doesn’t cover.
Be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice if you spot a great travel deal. The great thing about working from home or being a freelancer is that, unlike people who work full-time and have to book time-off in advance, you can take advantage of deeply discounted vacation packages. Being ready to leave at the drop of a hat means you could save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on a great holiday getaway.
Walking or riding public transit is a great way to save money while on vacation. Taxis and shuttles can be expensive.
Be adventurous when it comes to choosing your travel accommodations. One way to save money while travelling without feeling like you are depriving yourself of a nice getaway is to choose both modest and budget accommodations for your overnight stays. For example, if you are doing a multi-city tour or going on a road trip, stay in a budget-type motel every other night. Then switch to moderate (semi-fancy) hotel every other night. And if it turns out that budget motels are just too threadbare for you, you only have to make it through one night before moving on to a fancy-pants hotel.
Other ways to save money while traveling include staying at hostels, renting dorm rooms on university and college campuses in the off-season or pitching a tent in a national park campground and enjoying the great outdoors!
Buy locally made souvenirs and support hard-working artists.
How much money do you budget for gifts and souvenirs when you go on vacation?
Avoid paying extra baggage handling fees by packing lightly. Some airlines charge extra money to check your luggage. Carry-on luggage is usually free, and you'd be surprised at how much you can fit into your bag. If you and your partner limited yourself to one carry-on bag and one purse or briefcase each, you could save as much as $40.00 - $50.00. For tips on how to pack lightly, check out the travel tips video on the right.
Here are a few more ideas on how to pack your bags so that you don't waste money on extra handling fees or buy supplies that you don't really need. Packing like a pro is the best way to avoid spending money on hotel services that can be quite expensive.
- Make a miniature laundry kit. A spot remover pen, a few dryer sheets and a small plastic bottle of fine washables liquid, and a small spray bottle of fabric refresher are all that’s really needed for the kit. The dryer sheets will help keep clothes fresh. I also use slightly dampened dryer sheets to remove static cling on my skirts and blouses. I just rub them down quickly with the dampened sheet and the static electricity disappears. Instead of a lint roller, I put a roll of office tape in. Wrap the tape around your fingers, sticky side out and brush your hand over your clothes to remove lint, fuzz, and hair. The tape is also handy for quickly fixing a dropped hem when you don’t have time to use a sewing kit. (Put a small sewing kit in your laundry kit.)
- Pack a small first aid kit. I like to top up store-bought first aid kits with a few extra things such as blister bandages, antibiotic ointment, lavender essential oil and tea tree essential oil. If I happen to get a blister on my feet from walking all day, a blister bandage will help protect the sore spot so that I don’t miss out on the next day’s travel adventure.
- If you are traveling with your spouse, coordinate your toiletries and pack your bags together. That way you won’t bring two of everything with you. Your bags will be lighter, and roomier, making them easier to travel with, and less likely to incur overweight surcharges. I don’t mind using my husband’s shaving foam on my legs. I actually really like the smell of his brand—fragrance, and the fact that his foam comes in a blue can rather than a pink can is about the only difference.