January 25, 2022
Most of the clients I speak with list travel as one of their top goals, but there’s always concern around the cost of travel. Fortunately, there are several ways savvy travelers can save money on their next trip. This isn’t an all-inclusive list, but here are some of our favorite ways to save money while traveling. Whether it’s a short vacation or a trip around the world, these tips will help keep a little extra cash in your fanny pack.
As with most things, you can save money on traveling by planning ahead. Obviously, the small details of travel are important, but so are some of the big planning components, like meeting with a financial planner to start saving ahead of time and making sure you aren’t sacrificing to your other financial goals.
There always needs to be a boring disclosure when it comes to credit card reward points. Although travel rewards can be amazing, credit cards can end up costing you much more than you save if not used responsibly. Never put money on a credit card that you can’t afford to pay back just to get reward points! They work best when they are used for expenses you already have and when they are paid off every month.
Two of the biggest expenses you’ll have when you travel are transportation and accommodation. Fortunately, there are great reward programs that can reduce or even eliminate these costs! I’ve been able to take several free or cheap flights, like the time I flew to BuenosAires for $5.60. Although I use most of my rewards for flights, I have also saved thousands of dollars on accommodation with points. My favorite was the swanky hotel my wife and I stayed at in Paris for our one-year anniversary (total cost: $0.00).
If used wisely, you can save substantially on your next trip. (Don’t worry—a blog post is coming soon with my favorite travel-reward credit cards.)
A note about using credit/debit cards on your trip: It is important to review the fees on credit/debit cards before you travel. The main fees you want to stay away from are ATM fees and international transaction fees. It’s pretty easy to find cards that don’t have these, but failing to check before you travel can be costly.
Travel to places where your money goes further. If you are flexible and open to explore spots you might not have previously considered, you can save money by traveling to places where your home currency can be stretched. For example, we’ve gone on luxury vacations in Southeast Asia (think: Thailand and Vietnam) for less than a moderate trip in popular European destinations.
You should also consider flying to a cheaper airport. I’ve added a stop into a trip before and end up saving money. Whenever I fly to London, I always look at flights to Dublin. I can usually find a much cheaper flight, plus I get to explore Dublin for a day or two (usually drinking beer and listening to live music) before heading off to London. Doesn’t that sound like a fun way to save some money?!
You may not always have the flexibility to choose when you take a vacation, but if you do, traveling during non-peak times can be a good way to save money (and see a new place with fewer people clogging up your pictures). A shoulder season can be a really good time to travel. For example, my favorite time to visit London is in October. The weather is still great, it’s less crowded, and it’s less expensive overall.
I know this one seems a little backwards, but slowing down when you travel can end up saving you money, especially on a per-day basis. When it comes to accommodations, some options, like Airbnb, give discounts when you stay a week, a month, or longer. Beyond the discount on housing, you can also save money by having the time to experience traditional life in the city. If you’re staying somewhere for a month, you can cook some of your meals to save money and (bonus!) experience the markets like a local.
Although COVID hasn’t made this an easy time to travel, the pandemic has changed the way we work. When it’s safe to do so, a lot of folks are going to have the opportunity to mix travel and work. Remote work is a trend we are going to see continue and it’s a great way to extend your travel plans. There are also other creative ways to work while traveling, like housesitting, pet sitting, or even working on a farm!
This is actually my favorite piece of advice to give travelers. Most major cities around the world offer “free walking tours.” I put it in quotes because while it is free, you are expected to give your guide a tip based on what you think the tour was worth. This is one of the first things I do when I land somewhere new; it’s a really great way to get acclimated to a new city. The tour guides are thorough and entertaining, and they often offer local tips you won’t find in any guidebook. This one is easy—definitely try it on your next trip!
There are plenty of opportunities to visit free attractions while you’re traveling. Sometimes this means taking in the natural scenery of your new location. Other times it means wandering around beautiful churches that are older than your brain can comprehend. And sometimes, with a little luck, you can see some of the world’s top attractions for free, like the time we saw Michelangelo’s David on a free museum day in Florence.
This is a good rule not just for saving money, but for finding better food while you explore new cultures. The “five-block rule” means you don’t eat at a restaurant within five blocks of a major tourist attraction. Those restaurants have great locations, but the cost is generally a lot higher and the food quality tends to be a lot lower. I’ve even heard of travelers who won’t eat at restaurants in other countries if the menu is in English! If you’re looking to save money while eating better food, consider the five-block rule.
Not only is walking good exercise, but it’s also a great way to get off the beaten path and wander (while saving money)! I love just walking around cities and towns across the world. You run the risk of getting lost in an exciting way. When you don’t have the time or energy to walk everywhere, another great way to save money and experience the local life is by taking public transportation. It’s usually not as hard as it looks once you get the hang of it and you can always ask a local for help if you get lost.
These are just a few of the ways you can save money to make your dream of traveling a reality. With a little creativity and a solid financial plan, the possibilities are endless. For more ideas and tips, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Ready to take it a step further and get your finances in order? Schedule a call today and let’s talk about your next adventure.
You wouldn't wait until the morning of a flight to plan a trip.
Don't wait until retirement to make a financial plan.