10 Travel Rules That Will Always Save You Money

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When I first started traveling, I was completely lost. I had no idea how to find deals or even where to start looking. Being a noob, I’m certain I spent hundreds more than was necessary on those first few trips. Lucky for you, I’m happy for you to learn from my mistakes.

Now that I’ve got oodles of experience, I’m proud to say I’ve become one of the savviest travelers around. These days, I even get paid to write about saving money on travel. I’ve sure come a long way in just a few short years!

Finding new and creative ways to save on travel is actually how I relax. Lame, I know… but it’s helped me discover several techniques that help me save money on any trip. Using these tips on any trip will help you save enough so you can travel more often. Enjoy!

10 Travel Rules to Save Money

Whether you’re new to the game or were bitten by the travel bug years ago, here are 9 travel rules that will almost always save you some money.

1) Limit Your Meals Out

Remember, it’s not just flights and hotels that cost money. Failing to plan for meals could mean blowing through your travel budget on Day 2. That’s why I always plan ahead on food. Besides researching various restaurants in the area, I also decide how many meals we’ll eat out. Generally speaking, I try limiting our meals out to once per day. After arriving at our destination, I’ll hit a local market or grocery store to pick up some simple breakfast items. I may also get a few items for meals. Saving $50 (or more) a day on food adds up to a savings of $350 over a week. That’s money I can use for my next vacation!

2) Go Out for Lunch Instead of Dinner

It might seem obvious, but going out for lunch instead of dinner can save you gobs of money. Usually, lunch items are cheaper than those on the dinner menu. If you’re traveling with a group, those dollars add up quickly!

3) Eat Street Food

While food may be expensive, one of the best things about traveling is the culinary experience. I mean, you don’t want to travel across the globe and eat peanut butter and jelly for every meal, right? Eating “street food” solves the problem. When you eat like a local, you get to experience the local flavors for a fraction of the cost. Plus, if the locals are eating there, you know the food tastes authentic! It’s one of my favorite ways to eat, and it saves us all kinds of cash.

4) Use City Passes

One of my favorite ways to save money on sightseeing is by using city passes. Almost every large city has at least one sightseeing pass of their own. These passes typically come with paid-up admission to the city’s biggest tourist attractions while providing discounts on many others. More importantly, they usually offer “skip the line” access to the busiest spots. This can save hours of standing in line, and time is one of your most valuable items when you’ve only got a few days! Some passes are better than others, so be sure to know exactly what you’re getting and if it makes sense.

Related: Our Complete Guide to the London Pass

5) Check Out the Visitor Center

Can’t find a city pass? Try stopping by the “Visitor Center.” Many destinations, including most beach towns, have a welcome center staffed with locals who have “insider” advice. Better yet, these places are filled with free coupons to local restaurants, attractions, and more. Grab the free booklets and plan your outings around the coupons.

6) Shop Around for Lodging

When you travel as much as I do, you definitely develop a fondness for certain hotel brands. While loyalty occasionally pays off in points and benefits, most travelers are better off shopping around for the best price. (I give bonus points to those providing free breakfast!) Renting an apartment from a site like VRBO could also help you save. I’ve booked several condos over the years, saving me money while keeping my group close to the action. These units often have a kitchen, allowing me to save even more on food.

7) Pack Light (No Checked Bags)

I have a confession to make: I’m a serious over-packer. On a 5-day trip, I usually bring enough shit to last for 3 weeks – no joke. But, on my last several trips, I’ve started packing smarter. Instead of checking a bag, I’ve brought everything in a carry-on. Not only do I save money on the checked bag fees, I also save time by skipping the wait at baggage claim. For small items that I can’t carry-on, I’ll simply spend a couple bucks to get them once I’m there. Between the convenience factor and saving money, I’m not sure I’ll check a bag again any time soon.

Related: Traveling to Italy on a Budget (Part 1)

8) Maximize Credit Card Rewards

You knew this was coming, right? Credit card rewards have helped us see the world for pennies on the dollar – like making most of our travel FREE. Seriously, these rewards are that powerful. With that said, playing the game is not for everybody. It’s imperative that you don’t go into debt or spend more than you otherwise would have. If you do, you’re actually making it more expensive. But, if you’re already a seasoned budgeter and can trust yourself not to get into debt, credit card rewards can be a game changer for your travel life. Get started here, and I’ll even provide a personalized rewards plan for your next trip!

9) Travel Off-Peak

If you can, being flexible with your travel plans might save you up to 50% or more on your trip. Yep, traveling off-peak might mean you’ll pay half as much! It makes sense, right? When demand is highest, prices reflect that. But when demand is low, you can find great discounts almost everywhere. Generally, hotels and flights to European destinations are cheaper between November and March. When visiting the Caribbean, prices are usually cheaper from May through November. Check them out, and travel off-peak when you can.

10) Travel Mid-Week

Again, a little flexibility goes a long way. Just like certain seasons of the year are more popular than others, so are certain days of the week. Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be the cheapest days of the week to travel, both when it comes to flights and lodging. Choosing a Tuesday flight instead of Friday could save you hundreds (or more) per ticket! That’s big money, especially when traveling with your family.

Final Thoughts

When you’re a travel addict like me, every little penny helps. Although each destination presents different financial challenges, these savings tips are fairly universal. Of course, you should always do your own research before finalizing your plans. Combine these travel rules with what you find, and you may realize that traveling isn’t as expensive as you once thought!

Thanks for reading. Until next time, happy traveling!

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  1. So much yes on the street food! I lived off of kebabs while traveling Europe. I’d also add to carry your own water bottle. You can easily spend a lot of money on bottled water while you travel. I save money by bringing my own empty water bottle and filling it up whenever I had a chance.

    1. Absolutely agree. On my trips to Asia there have been several days where I didn’t eat a proper meal — just a series of snacks from street vendors. Even with that, I still ended up spending very little considering how much I got.

  2. I’m a little hesitant about the street food. If you travel to a relatively developed country such as Korea, France, or Singapore, street food is safe and finger-licking delicious. However, it is not so safe in developing countries and can cause diarrhea or other food-born diseases. I’d be very careful with that.

    Great tips overall!

    1. We have went to Belize twice and always eat the street food. Belize is still considered a third world country. Many of the street vendors have their cold side items in ice chests but no ice in the ice chest. We’ve not had any problems with that. I think if you see locals eating there, you can probably figure its safe. On tripadvisor (for the island we go to), people, including myself, encourage others to eat the street food, not the beachfront overpriced sit down restaurants.

  3. Frugal Living in the NW says:

    Totally agree on using VRBO/Home Away. We have rented condos/homes several times for vacations. We are usually able to find a place that rents for a price comparable to a hotel, and many times even less. This helps us save in several of the areas you mentioned: we have a kitchen for cooking (meal savings!), can pack super light and do laundry by getting a unit with W/D (no checked bags savings!), and lots of places have amenities similar to a hotel (rec room, tennis courts, pool) so we never feel like we are missing out. Plus, it is simply more comfortable. In a condo/cottage/small home rental we have more space to spread out and relax — 1 or 2 br’s with living room, full kitchen, and patio/deck -vs- feeling cramped with the 4 of us sitting in a 1-room hotel room.

  4. Stepping foot in a new place is akin to stepping into a different universe. The air carries the fragrance of the unfamiliar, tantalizing the senses and awakening a heightened awareness. Every sight, sound, and taste becomes a fragment of a newfound mosaic, stitching together memories that linger long after the journey ends.

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