Going on a vacation? There’s no reason you have to spend a fortune to enjoy a great getaway! A few money-saving tactics can really stretch your dollar and give you a more authentic-to-the-country experience. Here are 15 great ways to budget your trip.
Travel in the off season
One of the biggest ways to save serious money while traveling is to visit in the off-season. In most places, this is October to April. You’ll get cheaper airfare, hotels, and sometimes even cheaper tickets to attractions. Cities are calmer and more laid back, so you’ll end up spending far less time in line.
It’s always cheaper to stay in a B&B or a rented private residence than it is to stay in a hotel, and with homestays or apartments you typically get a more authentic experience. Time spent with locals exposes you to the language, food, and traditions of actual citizens of the place where you’re traveling, and you can make some great friendships to boot!
Avoid tourist restaurants
Any establishment catering to tourists will almost always upcharge their products to travelers who don’t know any better, so visit local establishments to get authentic tastes at lower prices. A good tip off is to avoid any place that advertises English speaking servers or menus.
Can’t read the menu? Just ask for the daily special!
Pay in cash
A quick stop at an ATM can save you a ton of money in international currency conversion fees. It’s also faster to pay in cash, and small stores and restaurants really appreciate it. When you’re getting cash, try to withdraw as much as you’re comfortable with at a time, since ATMs charge a flat withdrawal fee.
Exchange currency at your bank
Exchange bureaus charge a fee for their services, and they’re often not up front about what exactly you’re paying to get your currency. There’s a buying and a selling rate, and some bureaus don’t show you both. Get your currency from your bank before your trip and save yourself money in fees.
Skip the rental car
Renting a car is prohibitively expensive in most urban areas, and on top of that, it’s just inconvenient. Between finding parking and the potential for costly repairs if you’re in accident, it’s just not worth the effort.
Instead of renting a car, hop on a train! Railpasses can save you tons here if you’re traveling a lot, but if you’re just taking one short trip, stick to a point-to-point ticket. And don’t be lured in by first class tickets: second-class tickets get you there just as fast and cost half as much.
…Or take the bus
Some cities with expensive train tickets have much cheaper options for local or inter-city bus travel. Britain is a prime example of this; bus tickets are generally available at around a third of the cost of a train ticket! Reserving them in advance online can bring down the cost of travel even more. That said, buses are much slower and don’t give you as much of a chance to see the countryside, so spending the extra money might still be worth it.
Buy souvenirs where they’re cheap
If you’re on a multi-stop trip, get your souvenirs wherever they’re cheapest. Countries with open air markets often have a huge range of gifts for purchase at extremely low prices, and the offerings are usually more memorable than store bought ones in larger cities that are massively marked up. Plus, at markets you can haggle!
Don’t overtip at restaurants
Americans are used to tipping around 15 to 20 percent, but in most other places, this isn’t the custom. While your server will certainly appreciate it, know that it may not be expected. Check online to find out if your destination expects tips. Don’t ask an employee at the restaurant.
Skip hotel food
Eating in your hotel can be convenient, but you’ll be upcharged like crazy for the convenience. On that note, skip room service and the minibar in your hotel room.
Buy your own food
Very few things beat a picnic, and you can have a grocery store feast just about anywhere at a really low price. It’s a great learning experience to shop at a grocery store, and you can stock your hotel fridge up at the beginning of your trip to save time and money.
Eat what’s in season
This is true even when you’re not traveling, but produce that is in-season is both cheaper and better tasting. Take advantage of daily specials for great deals and fresh produce. Local farmer’s markets are a wonderful source of cultural color, tradition, and delicious native goodies, too– see our complete guide to some of the world’s best food markets for inspiration.
Drink at the bar
If you’re stopping for a drink, order at the bar rather at a table. Prices are usually lower because there’s no server to attend to you. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to make friends with the people around you– especially if you’re traveling solo! While you’re at it, order what the locals drink. You get a sample of what’s popular in the area, and locally popular drinks usually come at a cheaper price. Think Sangria in Spain, rum in Cuba, and regional wines in France. You get the picture!
Get a museum or city pass
We’ve talked a lot about city passes here at Loftus, and for good reason! Travel passes can save you a ton of money if you’re visiting a lot of attractions, and you only have to buy the travel pass once and get access to all the sights without waiting in ticket lines.
Because the passes can be expensive, it’s worth it to check your itinerary to make sure that the pass is actually cheaper than buying the tickets individually. Note that they almost always come with a few days of unlimited public transport in the mix.
Have a clear budget
Sometimes the best way to save money is to keep track of it. Having a daily spending plan for your food, hotels, attractions, and incidentals can be a huge money saver. There are some great apps you can get to log your spending and make you aware of where your money is actually going, and having a plan will help you to feel way less guilty about the money you do spend. Happy travels!