I am obsessed with traveling. I recently came back from Israel and already have a trip to Portugal and Croatia planned for June. But traveling means you have to spend money. Money can only be spent once, so spending it wisely is important. I have traveled to 22 countries, 23 if you count the country I grew up in. So I’ve picked up a thing or two on how to save money while traveling. There are many ways that you can travel without breaking the bank. Some of these things are not so obvious but can save you quite a substantial sum.
1. Be Smart About Your Lodging
A lot of people think the cheapest way to stay in a city is to book a hostel. I’m here to tell you that I don’t agree. A lot of the time, especially if you’re traveling with someone else, staying in a hotel can be cheaper or the same price. The website my partner Kevin and I use the most for booking hotels is booking.com.
For example, my friend and I recently traveled to Dublin, Ireland. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in the center of Dublin for 4 nights. We paid a total of €334,94 / $370 (or €167,47 / $185 per person). That price included breakfast. A hostel would have cost nearly the same amount but without breakfast. So in the end, we saved money by staying in a hotel.
If you’re traveling with multiple people, consider renting a house. I have done this many times while traveling. My friends and I or Kevin and our friends and I will find a house on Airbnb. We save a lot of money on lodging that way. In addition, then we have a full kitchen. So we’ll cook a few meals at the house, and eat a few meals out. This way you’ll also save money on food. You can still enjoy eating out, just not for every single meal.
2. Do Not Tip Unless It’s Expected
The USA has a major tipping culture because a lot of service workers are not paid a living wage. However, this tipping culture has gotten out of control. Even in states where the minimum wage for such workers is the same for any other type of work, people are still expected to tip service employees. The whole point of tipping was to supplement the hourly wage that wasn’t a living wage. But if it is a living wage, tipping isn’t necessary. So the next time someone asks you to tip your barista or cashier at the grocery store, I say don’t do it. That’s your hard-earned money. Baristas and cashiers, etc. typically make the minimum wage, if not more. So tipping shouldn’t be required.
Make sure to always check what is expected wherever you’re traveling. If the employees make a living wage at Starbucks in Oregon, you do not need to tip. The same goes for traveling internationally. In the Netherlands for example, service employees make a living wage, so tipping isn’t a thing. What is acceptable though, is if the bill is for example €19,10, just pay €20 and don’t ask for change. In some countries, it can also be considered very rude to tip. Not tipping when it isn’t necessary can save you quite a bit of money.
3. Be Flexible With Your Dates
The more flexible you are with your dates, the more money you can save. However, be smart about it. If you stay one extra day in a place to get a cheaper flight, but the flight is in the morning, don’t take that flight. Why? Because you’ll have to spend money on an extra night of lodging, so you won’t actually save any money. You might even end up spending more money by taking the cheaper flight.
4. Consider Less Popular Destinations
I know that visiting places like Paris, France, and London, England is what a lot of people want. But if you’re trying to save money, consider visiting less popular places. The more popular the place, the more expensive it’ll be. Instead of visiting Madrid or Barcelona, visit Pamplona or Bilboa, Spain. Consider visiting countries like Moldova, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and even Ukraine when things settle down. Moldova was the least expensive country I’ve ever been to and it was so gorgeous.
5. When to Buy Souvenirs
I know that buying souvenirs is a way to remember your travels and perhaps get a cool item you wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise. But before buying any such things, think clearly. Will you actually use this item? Will it break on the way home? Will it fit into your suitcase? Do you already have several of the items? Did you already buy other souvenirs?
For example, I have a cabinet full of coffee/tea mugs. I’m a huge mug person. But now I can honestly say that I don’t have the room or the need for any more mugs. So I will not buy another mug unless it’s something extremely special.
This is the same if you’re buying gifts for people. Only buy things people will realistically use or appreciate. And you don’t need to buy gifts for every single person every time you travel. I hate it when I buy things for friends or family and then it’s broken easily or not something that will be used more than once a year. You work hard for your money, so be smart about how you spend it.
6. Get Out of the City Center / Tourist Hubs
Let’s say you’re visiting Paris. Visit the Eiffel tower and whatever for two days or so. Then leave Paris. Drive or take a train at least 1 ½ hours in any direction and you’ll end up in way more affordable places. Don’t stay in the tourist areas too long. They are the most expensive. The difference in pricing between Paris and more rural areas of France is mind-boggling. This is the same for a lot of other places in the world. Kevin and I once paid around €30 / $34 TOTAL for a 3-course lunch in some random small town in Spain. I mean, that’s nuts!
7. Be Honest With Yourself and Who You’re Traveling With
One of the things I hate the most is when my friends or family feel pressured to spend money they don’t have or just don’t want to spend. This is for traveling but also just for daily life. You have got to be honest with yourself and the people you surround yourself with.
If you’re traveling with someone or even by yourself, don’t spend money on things that aren’t in your budget. If a super popular Instagramable thing is too expensive for you, don’t do it. If your friends/family want to go out for a super fancy dinner and it’s not in your budget, be honest with them. Tell them why you’d prefer to eat somewhere else or for example, only get dessert or a drink at that fancy restaurant. If they can’t be supportive and understanding, then maybe you shouldn’t be spending time with them.
My Final Thoughts
If you’re a travel lover like me, then not traveling is hard for you. If it’s your first or second time traveling, then you may not know how to navigate the travel world. At the end of the day, you have got to be honest with yourself. Don’t go into debt when traveling. Travel on your own terms. The most effective way to save money is to create a budget and plan ahead. If you’re planning a trip and have some specific questions, feel free to reach out. I’d be happy to give whatever advice I could.
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How do you save money while traveling?
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