How to Save Money When You Travel

My husband, Nate, and I have been traveling around the world together for the last couple of months. Today marks the start of our eighth and final week of our adventure. We were both at a transitional point in our careers, so we wanted to take advantage of the time and opportunity we had to do something like this. We had been saving our money for a while, but still wanted to make sure that we were making our way around the world in a smart and cost effective manner.

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Traveling together has been a learning and growing experience in a variety of ways. We aspire to always live a life full of adventures like these and hope that others might feel inspired to do something similar. One of our main reservations going into this trip was money. Based on the response we’ve received from family and friends, we know that a lot of people feel the same way. People who have an inner desire to travel, never feel like they have “enough” money to do it. So, we wanted to share with you some of our tips that we have used to save some money while traveling. The experiences you will have and the appreciation for different cultures you will gain, will be well worth the investment.

Save Money - Ahlambra

First and foremost, you need to decide what is most important to you. Nate and I can pretty much sleep anywhere, so spending money on nice places to stay wasn’t a priority to us. However, using our budget to stretch over a two month period of time was. Determine what kind of experience you want to gain out of your travels and go from there. You don’t need to have a lot of money to see the world, you just need to be smart with how you use it.

Here are some of our tips to save money when you travel:

  • Go to the local grocery store or market

Eating at restaurants for every meal can become very expensive. When you get to a new city, be sure to visit the local grocery store or market. Nate and I usually like to buy food for breakfast and lunch, but there are even times when we would plan ahead to make dinner. We found that we could buy enough food for a whole week, at a comparable price to what we’d spend on a couple meals at a restaurant. It is fun to shop with the locals and the food is really good and fresh. If you can, find a place to stay that has a kitchen. You’ll save money and feel healthier!

Save Money - Strawberries

  • Do your research on transportation

This is very important! Make sure you do your research on the cheapest and most efficient way to get around. It is usually the best idea to travel like a local would. Most cities have public transportation set up that will save you a lot of money if you know how to use them. In most cases, it is smarter to take a bus from the airport, rather than taking a taxi or Uber. Uber isn’t available in all international cities, and taxis are almost always overpriced. Even though they are usually more convenient, they will drain your transport funds fast! Nate and I would recommend, above anything else, to walk whenever you can. In our opinion, it is the best and most cost effective way to see a city.

  • Find a good travel card

We found a site called, thepointsguy.com that was super insightful. We recommend you check it out for more in-depth information on this, because we were able to learn a couple of really helpful tricks. We used the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and were able to cover a large chunk of our flight home using our travel points. The card even includes rental car insurance, which you might need if you’re like us and get your side mirror smashed in by another driver in Spain. You get 3x points on travel, a $300 travel credit every year, and $100 towards global entry and TSA pre-check. We also opened up a checking account with Charles Schwab. Their debit card has 100% reimbursement on ATM fees and no foreign transaction fees. As a side tip, when given the option to use your credit card, always charge in the local currency because some places will do their own exchange rate.

Sometimes this website seems too good to be true. It is extremely easy to use and you will always find the best rates. We found the filters to be very beneficial to find what we needed within our nightly budget. In our experience, the reviews that customers had left were always accurate and we knew what we were walking into. If you have the ability to be flexible on where you stay, they sometimes offer last minute discounts as well.

  • Always pay to check your bags online

If you are traveling with luggage, then this one is pretty straight-forward. It is never a good feeling when you make your way to the counter and it costs more to check your bag than what you paid for your actual ticket. Make sure to read the fine print when you buy your airline tickets, because they usually don’t include a checked bag. You will save a lot of money if you pay to check your bag online before you drop it off at the airport.

  • Pack smart

Make sure that you are prepared for the weather conditions where you’ll be traveling. If you pack efficiently, you won’t be required to spend money on clothes and things that are necessary for your well-being during your trip. If you know you’re going somewhere cold, then pack smart. Bring gloves, hats, scarves, wool socks, and anything else you might need. Try not to buy anything that you already have at home.

Save Money - Colosseum

  • Buy snacks in bulk

Nate and I found that traveling takes up a surprising amount of energy. Walking all day and making your way around a new city can take it out of you sometimes. It is nice to have some fuel in your backpack to give you a little boost of energy. Before you leave for your trip, head to a Costco and buy snacks in bulk. That way you have a quick bite to eat on hand, rather than having to buy food throughout the day. We brought several bags full of granola bars and they ended up being life savers.

  • Bring a filtered water bottle

You would be surprised by how much money you may have to spend on water when you go out to eat. Avoid buying water whenever you can, as they always bump up the price at restaurants. In places where it is sanitary, ask for tap water. If it isn’t, be sure to bring your own filtered water bottle and you will save on staying hydrated every day.

  • Take advantage of “free”

If you can find a place to stay that offers free breakfast, take advantage of it. Nate and I are not ashamed to admit that we sneak food out with us for the day. If they have extra fresh fruit or bread, bring it with you in your backpack to snack on. Do your research on free tourist sites. There is usually one day a week or month when tourist sites offer free entry. It is unbelievable to me how much these sites will charge for everyday entry. Choose wisely what sites you are willing to pay to enter and be sure to always check if you are around during the free day and plan accordingly.

  • Talk to the locals

The locals know all the hot tricks. Don’t be afraid to talk to people and ask the best way to get around. They also have good recommendations on where to eat and what is most affordable. Tourists are a target to make money, so go about your way as a local the best you can.

Save Money - Dome

These are just a few things that we learned through our experiences and they worked really well for us. There are numerous other ways that you can save money, all you need to do is find what works best for you. We believe that you don’t need to have a lot to travel. It is possible for everyone if you plan smart and find a cost effective way to make your travel dreams come true.

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