Budget Travel Hacks That Every Traveller Needs To Know
From our early days of living the hostel life to our current mid-range style of travel, Rick and I have spent the better part of the last 8 years on the road. Over that time we’ve made countless mistakes and learned some valuable lessons when it comes to saving money while travelling.
Although it’s taken us a while to figure it all out, we now have it down to a fine science. These budget travel hacks have literally saved us hundreds – maybe even thousands over the years. We implement these hacks every single time we travel, allowing us to maximize our travels and minimize spending extra time, money and stress whilst on the road!
Would you believe it if I said that these budget hacks don’t require you to sleep in a 24 bed dorm in a hostel or eat beans on toast for every meal? We often get asked how we can afford to travel so often, well our secret is now out! Continue reading to find our tried and true budget travel hacks below.
Table of Contents
1. Off-Season Travel
It’s no surprise that we’re starting this article off with our best money-saving travel hack. After living in Europe over the past 2 years, this tip alone has probably saved us hundreds!
Not only do flights lower their fares during the off-season, you can also find much cheaper accommodation (I’m talking the exact same rooms for less than half the cost of high-season).
This is our favourite time of year to travel and the benefits extend much further than just saving on flights and accommodation. From less crowds and more flexibility to friendlier locals and getting better travel photos, the list goes on! Find more info on travelling Europe during off-season here.
Off-season doesn’t have to mean the middle of winter and awful weather, we try to travel in what is known as ‘bumper season’, the transition between off-season and high-season where you get some of the benefits of each and less of the downsides!
Note: This doesn’t just apply to Europe travel! The benefits of travelling during this time of year applies to pretty much any destination, just run a few Google searches to figure out exactly when it is for your destination of choice!
2. Use a VPN/Incognito Mode
When you use websites to search for deals on flights, you may have noticed that over time the price increases each time you search. Flight booking websites actually save a cookie in your browser which tracks your browsing history. If you continue to return to these sites without making a booking, they will notice your interest and increase the price to force you into booking a flight quickly.
This is 100% true and we’ve seen it happen many times. We’ve now switched to using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for all flight bookings. A VPN basically allows you to browse the web with a different IP address which prevents websites from identifying and tracking your search patterns based on the unique number your internet provider assigns you. You can even make it look like you are located in a different country.
For example, if you’re located in London, a VPN can make it look like you’re searching from Germany (or whichever country you choose!) This is a really handy travel hack that allows you to bypass those sneaky flight website’s tactics of trying to over charge you!
Aside from booking flights, we think a VPN is something every traveller should have to protect your data and privacy online. As travellers, we constantly rely on unsecure free Wi-Fi networks which put us at risk of becoming a victim to online crime. We use Nord VPN for a number of reasons and can highly recommend them. For more information and to create an account, check out their website here.
Alternatively, you can just open a new window in incognito mode which doesn’t allow cookies when browsing. Either way, you are guaranteed to save money on flights by private browsing. Give it a try next time and see what happens!
3. Use Booking.com
If you frequently book your accommodation using Booking.com, you will eventually get “Genius” status which can save you a ton of money when making a booking! We’re not just telling you to use Booking.com because we’re affiliates.
We’ve been using Booking.com for years (long before our blog was ever created). It’s a quick, simple and affordable way to find any type of accommodation you could ever imagine. It helps you to find the most conveniently located rooms in any city for the best prices, perfectly suited to your needs and travel style.
One tip we use is to find out where the best area is to stay in a city, then set the search filter to your budget, you can now view all these properties using the map view and see which ones are located closest to where you want to stay.
Their app also stores all your bookings and provides all the contact details for the property, including a taxi view of the address. This has been a lifesaver in places where a non-Latin alphabet is used!
We’ve saved a lot of money using this website over the years and we can highly recommend it to anyone planning their next trip!
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4. Pay Cash
To avoid racking up those insane overseas ATM fees, withdraw large amounts of cash in one transaction; you’ll want enough to last you at least a few travel days. Not only does this save you from accumulating a ton of fees, it also allows you to physically see what you spend in a day.
Instead of casually tapping your credit card each time you make a transaction, seeing exactly what you have left to spend helps you to stick to your daily budget and not get too carried away.
5. Find an Online Bank
If you don’t feel comfortable carrying wads of cash around with you, run a Google search for online banks in your country. We’re currently living in the UK and we can’t recommend Starling Bank enough! This tip alone has literally saved us hundreds by now.
Starling has no physical branches, it doesn’t charge for overseas transactions or ATM fees, and sends you instant notifications when you spend. It also comes with a super handy app which breaks down exactly what you’re spending your money on so you know where to cut back.
All you have to do is download the app and then you can open an account in minutes. So far we’ve only used our Starling account for travel but we think it’s perfect for everyday use as well.
Most countries now have some sort of similar system, as more people realize the value of branch-less banks. If you are unable to find one that suits your needs then it’s worth researching travel credit cards which don’t charge on overseas transaction fees or ATM withdraw fees. Another great option so long as you pay the balance off before the end of each month to avoid those awful interest rates!
6. Use Public Transport and Uber
Ever get the feeling that you’ve been over charged for a simple taxi ride whilst overseas? Chances are you have. Taxi drivers are notorious for over charging tourists simply because they don’t know better. This app has been a life saver for us on many occasions.
Not only is Uber cheaper than most taxi companies, it’s so much more convenient. Since all payments are done through the app, this means no cash is physically exchanged between you and the driver. This way, you don’t need to worry about being robbed, or not receiving your change back etc.
You can also see the approximate fee before you travel taking the stress out of arguing rates or feeling like you’re being driven in circles!
We often find that one Uber trip is equal to the cost of both of us taking a train/bus to where we need to go. Cheaper and more convenient, what more could you ask for?
All you have to do is download the app and then find out if Uber is available in the city you’re in. If it is, we highly recommend using it as you will save yourself a ton of money and hassle!
Public transport is another great way to save money on getting around. It used to be a major adventure before the advent of smart-phones. Now it is usually as simple as a quick search on Google maps to plot an efficient and affordable route.
Even in countries where google maps is unreliable, we have found that guest house owners, random locals on the street or restaurant staff are all super helpful and happy to point you towards the right bus or train!
It’s also a great way to get a more real feel of a place and sometimes tickets can be less than a dollar for a trip that would run a large bill by taxi.
7. Stay In Apartments
We almost never stay in hotels when travelling. Renting an apartment is a great way to book cheap accommodation while allowing you to live like a local. Having a kitchen to cook and store your own food will save you a lot of money!
Over the years, we have noticed that the two biggest expenses of travel are accommodation and dining out. By making your own food (even if it’s just breakfast), you will be surprised at how much money you’ll save.
We live by the rule of making our own breakfast, having a cheap lunch on the go and then finding a decent restaurant to sit down and enjoy for dinner. In the past, we’ve made the mistake of dining out for every single meal while travelling and it’s a quick way to blow the budget!
Staying in a guesthouse is another great budget travel hack. Try and find the ones that include a breakfast. We’ve had some amazing breakfasts served in guest houses (along with some below average ones too), but it’s all worth it for one less meal to buy.
Apartments and guesthouses are often conveniently located, come with good Wi-Fi and other perks like washing machines, free tea and coffee etc. It’s easy to find them on websites like Booking.com.
8. Put On Your Walking Shoes
Walking is always the best way to see a new city. Skipping out on public transport will kill 3 birds with one stone. You’ll save money, burn the calories from those extra few croissants you had at breakfast, and get potential photo ops you never would have gotten.
It’s a great way to see a side of the city you might not have planned to see if you had just taken the bus or train to get where you’re going.
If you’re not keen on walking a million steps in one day, rent a bike. This allows you to cover more ground while avoiding pricey sightseeing tours and having the freedom to go whatever you want. In cities like Amsterdam that are set up well with cycle paths, this is an absolute must!
Tip: Take advantage of free walking tours that a lot of cities offer. It’s a great way to see a new place, get some background history from a local guide and not have to plan it out yourself. All you have to do is Google the city you’re visiting + free waking tour, and you should see results!
9. Travel Light
The less you pack, the less you pay. There is truly an art to packing efficiently and light all at the same time (something that’s taken me longer to learn than I’d like to admit).
When we first started travelling Europe, I was checking in my large suitcase for every flight. It’s great to have 3 pairs of shoes on a trip, but it sucks to fork out an arm and a leg for checked in luggage (never mind waiting in giant queues at the airport).
Cut out the costs and queues by fitting everything you need into a carry on bag! As soon as we found Cabin Max backpacks, our lives were changed. It’s the best £30 we’ve ever spent, plus it’s probably helped us to save hundreds since we stopped checking our luggage. It’s surprising how easy it is to fit everything you need in them, I’m never going back.
→Click here to browse through the many colourful options of Cabin Max carry on backpacks on Amazon.
Using carry on luggage also massively saves on time at the airport as you can walk on and off flights with your luggage, skipping queues and not having to wait for your luggage on the other end!
Now all you have to do is practice not over-packing 😉
10. Stay Outside of the City Centre
When you book a room outside of the city centre, often times you’ll find the prices to be much lower! This might mean more walking to and from the main sights, but it’s definitely worthwhile if you’re on a tight budget.
Not only will you save on accommodation when you book in the suburbs, you’ll find the cafés, restaurants and bars to be much more affordable than the tourist traps in the city centre. You will also have a better chance at finding more authentic local dining experiences than choosing the main restaurants who cater primarily to tourism.
11. Experiences vs. Things
Prioritizing moments and memories should be at the top of your list when travelling. Forget about stocking up on souvenirs and focus on savouring that precious holiday time which is all too rare.
At the time it can feel like having a souvenir to remember a place is cool. Unfortunately once your back home they usually end up collecting dust in your basement. It’s just a fact.
We’re a big fan of collecting travel photos as souvenirs. They freeze those special travel memories for life, don’t take up space in your bag and best of all they are free! One can never have too many photos 😉
Budget Travel Hacks For The Win!
We hope you found these budget travel hacks useful and they save you $$ on your next trip. Got a favourite money-saving travel hack that’s not on our list? We’d love to hear it, let us know in the comments below!
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