15 Ways you can travel and save money
Traveling is a good way to relax and leave the daily worries back home. For those that know us (or have been keeping up on our blog) know that we love to travel at any chance we get, but it’s hard to do so on a limited budget. We aren’t the only ones with a limited travel budget and so we wanted to share some of the ways you can save while traveling (this can be traveling abroad or just a neighboring state). Here are 15 ways you can travel and save money:
1: Be patient when buying airline tickets
Airline tickets may be the most expensive part of your trip if you’re planning on going around the world. Some round trip tickets can go for over $2,000 or more depending on when you buy. That is why patience is the most important thing when buying airline tickets, and can be one of the the most rewarding with how much money you can save. We bought tickets to Europe for under $200 for one way. Which leads to the next part of buying airline tickets….
Do research! Don’t just buy the first ticket you see after deciding you are going somewhere. I looked for months! Once I found a budget airline I waited for a sale, and was so glad I did. We knew we wanted to fly late spring so I started looking in October and November, and by January I got my sale.
Make sure to use aggregate sites like Google flights (this one is my favorite site), Kayak, Momondo and any other one out there (there are plenty of options). A good trick too is to search in incognito. I read somewhere once that some airlines track when you are looking for flights on their site and if you look up the same time every time they might boost the price because they know that’s when you want to fly.
2: Buses, trains and budget airlines
In Europe it’s really easy to get from country to country with all the options they have. Look around for more than just flights and you may be surprised with how much you can save. First off, you can get really cheap flights around Europe. There are plenty of budget airlines, but you need to be careful with all the fees they have. In order to keep it cheap on flights you need to book ahead and limit your bags to one backpack of 10 kg (22 lbs). We’ve used a few flights and it can definitely save time and money, but only if you don’t have to pay extra for check on baggage and seat reservations.
We’ve used the train to get to a few destinations. The train is fast, safe, fairly cheap and fun to ride. We’ve had a small 4 hour train ride and an 8 hour night train. The night train was nice since we didn’t have to pay for a place to stay and we were heading to our next destination.
Buses can be cheap too, but I don’t think I would recommend it for longer rides. They are not as comfortable as trains and some are really old and stuffy. There are some really fancy buses, but you may be paying as much as trains. Buses can be your cheapest option, and might be your only option if there isn’t a direct train route.
3: Rent a Car
Don’t rule out renting a car! In some cases renting a car can be more affordable. While in Pula with friends it was cheaper to rent a car for the 4 of us instead of paying for 4 bus tickets to go out site seeing. It depends on how far you need to go, availability of public transportation to where you want to go and time frames. When depending on buses you are tied to their schedule, whereas renting a car lets us stop in small towns and go at our own pace. Also, gas isn’t too bad if you get a small car.
This may be a hard one for many of you; limit your drinking to just water. Yep, that’s right, plain old water. We save a lot of money by just drinking water. We see a lot people drinking a lot of soda, beer, wine or anything in between. We usually carry a bottle of water with us which is a good way to stay hydrated, but helps when we stop and eat too. If you’re in a country where you can drink the tap water, just fill up the same bottle and don’t pay for every bottle of water you get. Having your own beverage makes meals cheaper and drinking lots of water keeps you healthy.
5: Low cost accommodations
Another high cost on your small budget is accommodations. Trying to stay in a 5 star hotel your whole vacation can blow your budget right out of the water. You don’t need 5 stars, you don’t really need any stars, just a bed and pillow you can rest your head on. You’re traveling so you can see the world! Not to see how nice the inside of a hotel looks. Of course you don’t want to stay in a dump of a place either, but you can find a nice place for a good price. Look past the hotels at hostels. Hostels can be cheap if you are okay with staying in dorm rooms. Our first time wasn’t bad, but you do get to meet some interesting people. If you’re traveling by yourself this is a good way to meet people and keep it cheap.
Airbnb (follow the link for a $25 credit!) has been really nice for our travels. With Airbnb you can look for an entire place, a private room or a shared room. We’ve been doing private rooms and have had a pretty good experience. Staying in an Airbnb also gives you a chance to see how the locals live. If you’re traveling with a group, than this is probably the best option. We have a family trip planned and for a two week trip we are paying a total of $400/each for all our accommodations! Not bad at all for a family trip to Europe!
If you’re lucky enough to have friends or family where you’re going this is obviously the best way if they’re okay with it. You don’t want to impose on anyone, but it’s a good idea to let friends and family know you’re coming to visit. They may ask where you’re staying and you can let them know you’re still looking which might get you an invite. You can also ask and offer to pay them some money. In our experience even after offering to pay to stay they usually don’t except the money, and that’s why they’re friends and family right? We stayed with both some friends and family while traveling in Peru and it made things so much better. Plus we got to eat local food and enjoy good company!
6: Use public transportation
Taxis are a good way to lose a lot of money. Some taxi drivers will even take a longer route to add more to your already expensive bill. It’s better to just look up the bus route and to walk. It can be pretty scary to try and figure out where you’re going in a foreign country with a language you don’t understand, but you can save a lot of money if you put a little time into figuring it out. Use Google Maps to get a route by looking up where you want to go. Change the directions to the public transportation and voila! Google Maps works in a lot of countries. We’ve had a few cities where Google Maps doesn’t work but they usually have a local mapping service that works just as good with an English option.
Look for deals by finding weekly passes. If you’re planning on staying for a week, look up a week pass. We bought a week pass in Vienna and in Budapest and it’s been a life saver. We can jump on and off any bus, tram, or metro with our pass. Usually you start saving after your 3rd or 4th day depending on how many times you jump on. There are also 24, 48 and 72 hour buss passes.
Please make sure you buy a pass. Some cities require you to buy before getting on, I’m talking about you Prague, and others you can buy on the bus. Always buy a ticket! They have people randomly get on the bus and ask for tickets with a hefty fine for not having one, no questions asked! They target foreigners because we don’t know the system. Ask your hostel or Airbnb host how it works.
Walking is probably the best way to get around, and it has so many benefits. First, you get to see random streets and find hidden gems. You can stop at small bakeries and get delicious pastries on your way. As a side benefit, you get to stay lean and fit while you travel. We’ve put in way more walking hours then I have for a long time! It feels good to stay active and it also helps us sleep at night. Just be careful of where you are walking. Be aware of your surroundings and stay off of small empty streets at night. Always walk on the main streets at night!
A lot of cities have some type of bike sharing or rental program. In Vienna you could have 1 hour free if you signed up on their site. From there you pay in increments for how ever long you have the bike. We didn’t end up using the bikes, but if you want more details click here.
In Pula we did rent some bikes which helped us get around the city, and make it over to the beach (which was a lot further away than we thought). We were staying a little far out so it helped us get back to the city center quickly.
9: Eat like locals or buy groceries
This is the best way to get to try some good food. Eating from food trucks and small mom and pop restaurants will help keep food costs down. It’s okay to try something fancy from time to time, but it will add up fast. If you plan on staying somewhere for more than a few days, than look into buying some groceries. Eating out everyday while traveling or even when at home is expensive, so go to the local grocery store and buy some breakfast foods and cheap meals like sandwich supplies. Airbnb hosts usually let you use their kitchens unless stated otherwise on the site. Make sure you check this before booking! The two hostels we stayed at had a kitchen and supplies, but not all do.
10: Low season
Low season will make your whole trip cheaper. From cheaper airline tickets to better prices for accommodations you can find deals on everything during low season. Why is it low season? Well, usually because it’s winter and nasty weather. Some places are just low season because school’s in session. Summer months for the northern hemisphere are big time travel months and known as high season.
Other benefits of traveling during the low season is that you can get a lot of sites to yourself. This means better photos and personal guides for the same price as groups. If you can deal with bad weather or if you’re out of school and don’t have to work around classes and finals, then I highly recommend it.
11: Use Credit Card Rewards
I only recommend this if you’re good with your credit cards and pay off your monthly balance. If you can stay clear of high interest rates then using cards with rewards points can be beneficial. We have used Capital Ones Venture card which gave us traveling points. When you sign up they give you 40,000 points which is equal to $400 you can redeem on anything travel related. We used ours on our accommodations and and airline tickets.
If you’re traveling for more than a week there’s a good chance you’ll need to do some laundry. We only packed a weeks worth of clothes and we’ve been on the road for over a month now. We’ve only had to pay for laundry once and while it isn’t too bad it’s more than we want to pay. You have a few options when it comes to doing laundry: You can take it to a laundry mat (which will probably be the most expensive unless you can find a do-it-yourself one), you can hand wash your clothes, or (our favorite) machine wash them at your Airbnb for free! Yep, all the places we’ve stayed offer the use of their washing machine. From there we just have to hang up our clothes and we have nice clean clothes. All of our hosts let us use their soap too, but make sure you always ask first.
13: Staying in touch
Staying in touch with loved ones is important while traveling. Its good to let people know where you are and what your plans are (plus it’s nice to say “hi” to loved ones). Calling home can be very expensive, but you can find free ways to do it with internet. Finding free Wi-fi is pretty easy, and most places you stay at has it. With Wi-Fi you can call home for free using Skype, Google Chat, and many other online companies. We’re even able to send texts for free with Google Chat!
Sending a postcard is also a fun way for your friends and family to stay in touch with you. We know that our family has loved receiving an old fashion method of postcards with a handwritten message on it. Plus, they’re really cheap to send too!
14: Free stuff
Look for the free stuff! Every city has free things to see and do, ask around and you’ll find something amazing to do for free. A lot of cities in Europe have “free” walking tours… These are not really free, but are a good way to pay what you want for your tour. They say if you didn’t enjoy it you don’t have to pay, but be nice. The guides are paid on the tips you give and are worth learning some history and getting to know the area.
15: Sign up for Emails
The best way to know about deals is to sign up for company newsletters. You can get great flight deals on Norwegian by signing up. There are plenty of other sites and companies that send out special deals to those that are willing to give up their email addresses.
If you try to use as many methods as possible from this list, than you’ll be able to travel more than you thought you could. Get out there and start traveling!
What other ways have you saved money while traveling?