Our interest in saving money for and on this trip runs deep. We were intense budgeters before we even had the idea to travel the world (making the decision that much easier with some money already in the bank), and that carried over into our trip planning and everyday life abroad. We’re always looking for ways to get the most out of our money, and we think you are too.
Travel costs money, but there are plenty of ways to make travel cost less money or get more out of the money you’re already spending. Some of these ways are complicated but yield huge payoffs (like the time we scored the Edithad Apartments by transferring Starwood Points to American Miles) but it doesn’t always have to be. My parents always say that saving money on the little things can really add up (thanks, guys!), and we 100% believe in that strategy. We save money every single day using the simple tips we’ve listed below.
If you want to save money on your next trip without even trying that hard, check out some of our favorite, easiest tips.
25 Ways to Save Money on your Next Trip Without Trying (That Hard)
- Overnight transit. Opting for the overnight flight/train/bus means you save your daylight hours for your destination (or your job, saving you the extra day of PTO) and you save on a night’s accommodation. Check out our daypack packing list for everything you’ll need to make overnight transit not suck.
- Limit luggage to your carry-on. You’ll save on checked baggage fees, you’ll save time in line, and you’ll always have the comfort of knowing that if your luggage gets lost, it’s your own fault.
- Take advantage of the lounge. There are lots of ways to get yourself lounge access, and when you do it will change how you travel. Lounge access should save you the cost of at least one meal and at least a couple rounds of drinks from plane pricing.
- Walk. We always, always, always choose to walk instead of paying for a ride if at all possible (and we have a pretty liberal definition of “possible”). If this makes your legs hurt just thinking about it, a good starting point is to take how long you’re usually comfortable walking and then add ten minutes to it. Even this small change will save you money.
- Master low-cost airlines. Travelers often hate on low-cost airlines, saying that they aren’t low cost because you get nickeled and dimed on everything. You can combat this by learning the airline’s rules and playing by them. If you’re prepared, you can avoid the extra fees and save serious cash. Even if you choose to add some extras (like we did on on a recent Scoot booking), you can still end up saving. Be sure to check out our sister-site’s survival guide for low-cost airlines for our essential tips!
Food & Drink
- Cook your meals. If you’re staying at an Airbnb, it makes this even easier, but there are options even if you’re not (we love this copycat “recipe” for Starbucks PBJ Bistro Box). This doesn’t have to be a drag and will yield serious savings! For more tips on cooking abroad, don’t miss my Recipes from the Road series, including my 10 best tips for cooking on the road.
- Choose coffee over beer (sometimes). After a day of sightseeing, you’re looking to take a break but want to stay out out the town. Instead of heading to a bar, make your way to a local cafe with some nice patio seating and save the beers for after dinner. Replacing a few beers with coffee, when repeated, will save you some serious coins (and calories).
- Take advantage of free water. We love having water with us at all times, but hate paying for it! When tap water is potable, we’ll keep our bottles filled with tap water and sometimes Steripen it for good measure. If we’re at a hotel that has free bottled water, we make sure to take the bottles with us every morning (whether we drink them or not) so we get the waters replaced by housekeeping.
- Eat local and off strip. Eating in the central tourist district always comes at a premium. Walk just a block or two out and you can find the same meals for almost half the price. We also tend to target ma-and-pa style restaurants which usually offer the best food at the best prices.
- Street food. Almost all cities have street food and I recommend trying everything you can get your hands on. Street food vendors, especially outside of the US, is where you’ll find the most delicious, authentic foods for super cheap. (All cities have street food but some have, like, really good street food that’s way cheaper and way better than a sit-down meal. I’m looking at you Seoul and Hong Kong!)
- Haggle. In most of South America and Asia, just about every price is negotiable, from taxi rides to souvenirs. Don’t be afraid to offer what you’re willing to pay; you’d be amazed at how often they’ll take it. Depending on where you are, you can sometimes get things for as much as half off from the first price they tell you.
- Research prices first and stay firm. This is sort of related to haggling, but more around “tourist prices”. Prices for things like tuk tuks from train stations should be pretty standard, but if you don’t know how much you should expect to pay, they will try to get you to pay more. Going into any situation, always know how much you expect it to cost and don’t pay more than that (within reason of course, don’t strand yourself somewhere because you refuse to pay the extra buck).
- Know when to book in advance and when to wait. There’s always a sweet spot, and sometimes it means waiting until you show up to get the best deal. In Southeast Asia, many hotel and activity prices will be substantially cheaper if you book same day.
- Street beers. In many parts of the world, drinking beers on the street is totally allowed and normal. Many street vendors and convenience stores will sell beers to go, and you can usually grab one for a fraction of the price that you’d find in a bar. So grab a couple beers, head to the main square, and watch some street performers. It’s not as tacky as it sounds, I swear! We fell in love with “park beer” nights in Medellin.
- Shoulder season. Most destinations have a high season and low season for tourists (based usually around weather or activities), and shoulder season is right in the middle. You can usually score better deals and have fewer crowds to deal; it just might come at the price of a marginal risk of worse weather.
Cards & Points
- Get your 4th night free. The Citi Prestige card comes with at the amazing benefit of 4th night free at most hotels and hostels. We saved over $2,000 within 24 hours of having our Citi Prestige card, and we take advantage of this perk regularly on the road. Remember to always check sites like Expedia and Agoda to make sure you’re getting the best deal, though.
- Room upgrades. The Ritz Carlton Rewards Visa card earns the cardholder gold status at Ritz Carlton, which automatically earns you gold status at Marriott, which you can (with a few clicks) match to get gold status with Starwood Preferred Guest. The statuses get you, among other perks, free room upgrades when available. We’ve been upgraded several times, including the time we got upgraded to the executive suite at the Sheraton in Nha Trang, one of the best hotel rooms we’ve ever stayed in.
- Get free lounge access. We love airport lounges and have been really spoiled by almost always having access to one. We use the lounge to save on food and drinks before most flights. There are so many ways to score lounge access, including Priority Pass which comes with five of our current credit cards, so we don’t see ourselves giving up this perk anytime soon.
- Earn points for travel. The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3X points on travel, and the points are worth 1.5 cents each when used toward future travel. This is like getting 4.5% cash back — more than the standard 2% you’ll get using the best cash back cards.
- Book with points. Whether you’re using your 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for $1500 of hotel stays or to fly first class in the Singapore Suites, booking with points is one of the best ways to save on travel.
Odds & Ends
- Amazon everything. This is also just a life hack, but our Prime membership has paid for itself time and again. You can score travel gear and accessories (like my daypack, travel pillow, travel towel or travel rain jacket) for cheap, which means you can be prepared for whatever your trip throws at you.
- Rewards programs & sales. If I’m not buying travel gear on Amazon, I’m buying it from eBags. If you subscribe to their email newsletter, you can usually get up to 50% off with a little patience. You also get points for everything you buy. We saved $72 + free shipping when we ordered our Osprey backpacks on eBags. We then used the rewards points we earned on that purchase to buy packing cubes and ExOfficio underwear for essentially free.
- Free photo books. I have all of my travels documented in Shutterfly photo books and haven’t paid for a single one. (Well, I’ve paid $8 for shipping, but the books themselves have been free.) Once you’ve joined their mailing list or liked them on Facebook, you’ll get promotions for one to two free photo books a year.
- Think outside the luggage box. Our favorite luggage isn’t luggage at all, it’s a JanSport backpack for about $30! You don’t need to spend big bucks on fancy luggage, you just need a simple backpack and some strategic packing.
- Buy (& print!) tickets in advance for activities. Look into your planned activities and see if you can purchase tickets in advance. Some places will offer a discount (like pre-booking the glass bottom cable cars in Hong Kong) and some will offer you premium entry (like the museums in Paris). Before you buy, be sure to verify if tickets need to be printed (in which case, be sure you can print) or if an eTicket will be accepted.
- Take all the hotel minis. I think everyone already does this, but don’t waste money on buying shampoo minis or even the little empty plastic bottles before your trip. We always snag a bottle every time we’re at a hotel, and use it when we find ourselves in hostels or guesthouses without it down the road.
And that’s just the easy stuff! What’s your favorite way to save money while traveling?