25 Smart Ways to Save Money on Travel

Updated March 25, 2023
About the Author: Denise Cruz has lived in 4 countries and visited 35+ others. After her second sabbatical, she began sharing travel advice at Wander Her Way.

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25 Smart Ways to Save Money on Travel

This post is all about the best ways to save money on travel!

Traveling can be expensive. If you’ve been saving up for a vacation for a while, you probably want your money to go as far as possible so you can experience everything you want to.

I can’t stand paying more when I don’t have to, and I am always looking for creative ways to save money while traveling. Here are my top ways to save money on travel that will help you save on flights, transportation, accommodation, food, attractions, and more!

I’ve been using the tips on this list for years, including now as I am traveling the world for a year in order to stretch my money and make it go further!

Tips to Save Money on Travel

1. Travel in the off-season.

One of my favorite ways to save money traveling is to visit a destination during the off-season. Flights and hotels are much cheaper, and you won’t have to deal with high-season crowds.

Some of my favorite travel experiences have been visiting popular destinations like Italy during the off-season (March and April) and saving SO much money.

One Week Italy Itinerary
Venice in March without all the crowds!

2. Book flights in advance.

Booking flights in advance can help you save a whole lot of money. The best time to book an international flight is three to six months out, while the best time to book a domestic flight is one to two months out.

3. Travel on less popular days.

Flights are usually cheapest on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Avoid traveling on or around major holidays when fares will be the most expensive. I always use Skyscanner to find the cheapest days to fly.

This brings me to my next tip…

4. Use Skyscanner to find cheap flights.

Skyscanner is one of my favorite travel tools for finding cheap flights and save money on travel. You can search for the cheapest flights on specific dates or anytime during a whole month if you have more flexibility.

Don’t have a particular destination in mind? You can use Skyscanner’s “everywhere” search feature to find the cheapest flights from your city to anywhere in the world.

5. Travel slowly.

It’s a lot cheaper to spend more time in fewer places than to try and fit a bunch of destinations into a whirlwind trip full of constant planes, trains, and buses. Traveling slowly will not only help you save money on transportation costs, but it also lets you get to know a destination better.

You can also typically get discounts for booking long-term stays on websites like Airbnb, VRBO, and Plum Guide if you have a week or more to spare in one destination.

Things to Do in Antigua, Guatemala
Slow travel – I spent four weeks in Antigua, Guatemala!

6. Stay in a short-term rental.

Short-term rental apartments and houses are a great way to save money on travel if you don’t want to splurge on a nice hotel but don’t want to stay somewhere super cheap, like a hostel.

In many cities, you can find very nice places for much cheaper than hotels.

Here are the websites I recommend for short-term rentals:

  • Plum Guide — My go-to after I had a couple of bad experiences with Airbnb. They handpick the best homes and apartments in an area, so it’s best if you’re looking for a more luxurious experience.
  • VRBO — Most similar to Airbnb. You can find amazing properties to rent at a wide range of prices.
  • Booking.com — Mostly known for hotels but has some incredible short-term rentals, and most are managed by companies (vs. individuals). In Milan, a representative of the company was there to greet us and show us around.

You will save even more money if you rent a room in someone’s home as opposed to a private apartment, and as an added bonus, it’s a great way to immerse yourself in the culture of a new destination.

I’ve stayed in tons of short-term apartments since I quit my job to travel for a year, and they’ve all been great. You also get a full kitchen and a lot more space than you would in a hotel room!

7. Stay in hostels.

Obviously, one of the absolute best ways to save money on travel accommodation is to stay in a hostel. But don’t worry—if the image you have in your head is crazy party hostels, and that’s not your style (it certainly isn’t mine!), I can guarantee you that has changed.

While some hostels are and will remain pretty rowdy, you can find some really nice, clean, and quieter hostels in many cities.

There are even even “luxury” hostel chains now — I stayed at the Generator Paris for a week and thought it a lot nicer than many hotels I’ve been in!

Many hostels also have private rooms with shared bathrooms, but many even have private rooms with their own bathroom. I’ve personally stayed in private rooms in several hostels, and it’s been a good way to save money if you’re traveling solo.

➜ Find the best hostels and budget hotels at Hostelworld

8. Book the nonrefundable rate for hotels.

If you are 100% sure that your travel plans won’t change, booking the nonrefundable rate for hotels can be a great way to save some money.

Of course, if you do end up needing to cancel, it will actually cost you a lot more than if you had booked a more expensive flexible rate, so be careful!

9. Book hotels with free breakfast.

One thing I’ve noticed while traveling is that many luxury hotels charge extra for breakfast, while more budget accommodations offer free breakfast.

Check and see before you book a hotel whether they have free breakfast. This can save a lot on going out to breakfast during your trip!

Guatemala Travel Tips
You might even end up with a delicious free breakfast like this!

10. Don’t buy snacks on the go.

No one enjoys spending five dollars on a tiny bag of chips at the airport. Prepare in advance and bring some snacks with you before heading to the airport or train station to avoid wasting money on overpriced food while you’re in transit.

Related: The Best Airplane Snacks for Long Flights

11. Limit going out to eat.

Going out for every meal can quickly eat into your travel budget (pun intended). So to save money on travel, make sure you plan your meals ahead and limit how often you will go out to eat while on vacation. Whether this means going out for just one meal a day or only a couple of times on your whole trip will depend on your individual budget.

12. Go grocery shopping.

Stopping into a local grocery store or market on the first day of your trip to pick up some snacks is a great way to save money. Buying snacks at the grocery store is usually much cheaper than anywhere else, and it’ll help you cut down on going out to eat.

13. Eat where the locals eat.

Don’t get caught in the trap of sitting down to dinner at an overpriced restaurant on the main tourist street in the city you’re visiting.

Do a little research beforehand on where locals eat, whether it’s street food or a little hole-in-the-wall café. Not only will it be cheaper than the tourist trap restaurants, but it will also probably be a million times tastier too!

Related: How to Avoid Tourist Traps in Europe

Ways to Save Money on Travel
Grabbing some cheap street food in Cartagena, Colombia

14. Take public transportation.

Taking public transportation will save you a ton of money while traveling, especially going to and from the airport. Figuring out a new city’s public transportation can be a hassle at first, but it’s worth it for the huge amount of money you will save in the end!

15. Rent a bike.

Another great way to get around on the cheap and save money on travel is by renting a bicycle. Most major cities have inexpensive bike rental programs that only cost a few dollars.

16. Better yet, walk everywhere.

If you’re staying somewhere walkable, then let your own two feet take you everywhere you need to go. I try to walk as much as I can when I travel.

In addition to being free, walking is also a great way to get some exercise and see more of a destination.

17. Order water only.

I never spend money at restaurants on sodas or other beverages when I’m traveling. The costs can add up fast! Instead, I always order tap water at restaurants and bring a refillable water bottle with me everywhere.

If you’re visiting a place that doesn’t have drinkable tap water, I highly recommend bringing a filtering water bottle like this one.

If you want to buy drinks other than water, get them from a corner store, and don’t order them at restaurants where they’re going to be triple the price or more!

18. Take free tours.

Did you know that most major cities across the world offer free walking tours? Before I go somewhere new, I always check to see if there’s a free walking tour I can go on.

Free walking tours aren’t totally free since the guides work for tips, but it’s still a cheaper option than many of the paid tours out there!

One Week in Croatia Itinerary
I loved the free walking tour I did in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

19. Skip the souvenirs.

Souvenirs can be a huge expense while traveling, whether you are buying them for yourself or friends and family back home. A lot of the souvenirs you’ll find at gift shops are also mass-produced in China, Taiwan, or another place that is not the destination you’re in.

So instead of buying poor-quality trinkets, consider sending postcards instead. Postcards are a fun, unique travel memento and much cheaper than souvenirs!

20. Bargain.

In many destinations, bargaining in local shops or markets is perfectly acceptable and even expected. Don’t be afraid to haggle for a better price if it’s common in the destination you’re visiting.

21. Get a card with no foreign transaction fees.

There’s nothing I hate more than paying foreign transaction fees when I travel (that and hoards of tourists arriving by bus somewhere at the same time as me…)

Make sure you use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees and, preferably, travel points or rewards 😉

19. Use free museum days.

Another way to save money on travel attractions is to visit museums on their free days. Most museums in places like DC and New York have at least one day a month where admission is free.

➜ Check out my complete guide to all the NYC museum free days you need to know about.

Panama Canal Museum
What could be better than visiting a world-class museum for free?

23. Get a local SIM card.

My American phone carrier charges $10 a day for me to use my cellphone plan abroad. It’s usually much cheaper for me to buy a local SIM card instead and get access to plenty of data, text messages, and phone calls for a lower price.

24. Pack an umbrella.

It’s embarrassing how many times I have gone on a trip, forgotten my umbrella, gotten caught in the rain, and then wasted ten bucks on a cheap umbrella that breaks the next day.

If you have a small, lightweight travel umbrella like this one, make sure to pack it wherever you go. If you don’t have one, it’s a great travel investment to make!

25. Make sure to pack carry-on safe items.

Another way I’ve wasted money before is by packing things like a too-large container of shampoo, toothpaste, or hairspray in my carry-on bag.

These items got confiscated at security, and then I had to spend money buying new toiletries once I got to my destination. Avoid my mistakes and be sure to pack travel-sized products in your carry-on luggage!

Final Thoughts

So those are my top 25 tips for how to save money on travel. I hope these tips will help you save more money on your next trip!

📌 Check out my travel resources page for more ideas on how to plan and book your next trip to make the most of your travel budget.

For more travel tips, be sure to read the following:

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25 Ways to Save Money on Travel

Denise, travel blogger at Wander Her Way

About Denise Cruz

Denise is a marketing executive who escaped corporate to travel the world… twice. A Brazilian native living in the U.S., she’s lived in 4 countries and visited 35+ others. After side-hustling her way to financial independence, she curates solo destination guides, slow travel tips, and travel blogging advice on Wander Her Way. When she’s not on the road, you can find her in Miami with her dog Finnegan.