Your Ultimate Top 20 Tips for Making Travel Savings
Updated on February 2nd, 2023
The travel industry is in turmoil. When we will start to re-emerge, it remains unclear what the “new normal” will look like. Whatever your individual situation may be, you do not want to waste a single penny of the money you have been saving for that dream trip. Whether it’s spend less to go further or make your budget work better for you, here I give you my top 20 tips for making those all-important travel savings.”
Read on for lots of suggestions on cheaper destinations, all featured in the photos throughout.
With the travel industry in crisis, many of us are desperate for the world to reopen & allow us to get away again. Others may have been personally impacted by financial challenges.
Many of us had trips cut short, postponed or cancelled completely. If you were lucky, airlines waived fees, accommodation sites gave refunds, and vouchers were issued.
Holiday company TUI say that the prices of their getaways are 20% higher this year than in the summer of 2020. Some hotels are waiving resort fees to keep prices down. However, there are fewer airline seats & many people across the globe are unable or unkeen to travel overseas. Some tourism businesses will have had to close their doors for good. Ultimately this means less competition & choice for consumers. We do not know where all this turmoil will lead us but we want to spend our hard-earned cash wisely. If you want to save on travel in the future, look no further.
To see all my top tips for travelling internationally in this new world, click HERE. Packing light is also key to making travel savings, don’t miss my 20 Simple Hacks for Flying with Carry-On Only.
Your Ultimate Top 20 Tips for Making Travel Savings
1. Get a Travel Savings Account
While many of us are forced to do nothing but procrastinate & dream of better days to come, now is the time to start saving for that holiday occupying your thoughts. Why not set up a direct transfer every month into a special account which will accumulate for when you are able to use it? You will be surprised how much just £20 a month adds up over time.
2. Prioritise your spending
For many of us, things have got very boring, but they may also have become simplified. Now is the time to look at what expenses you had in “normal life” & work out what you really need to allow back in (once you’ve overindulged when you are able again, of course!). For some time, I have prioritised experiences over things. I don’t buy many clothes; I don’t own a lot of stuff & have considerably downsized my life.
So why not consider giving up that expensive daily coffee, the amazing TV package, choose DIY beauty treatments instead of visiting the salon? Then add what you save into the Travel Savings Account you have just set up!”
3. Join Loyalty Schemes
If you are serious about ways to save on travel, then make sure you sign up for some loyalty schemes. Even if you can’t travel, you can still earn! I’m not a fan of big hotel chains & they will cost you more to stay in, but they do have loyalty schemes which means you can collect points for free accommodation. Some may offer credit cards, allowing your grocery, petrol & general shopping to add up to free hotel stays.
Many airlines also have similar schemes such as British Airways where you can collect points from flying & shopping to get free or money off future flights. Up-to-date information on the best schemes is complex to find but check these links with the UK, or US-based details.
4. Check your credit cards
Many credit card companies are offering miles & travel bonuses for switching your balance. For example, British Airways use the Avios Loyalty Points program. This means you can shop in many different stores & gain points to spend on flights. Follow this link to find Credit Cards which offer Avios.
5. Avoid bank charges
From a banking perspective, how does yours compare for withdrawal fees & usage overseas? The costs can quickly add up. In the UK, I currently use Monzo which allows £200 free withdrawals overseas each month. I also have a Post Office Travel Money Card which gives me free withdrawals on 13 different currencies.
The best deals tend to change regularly but there is a great article on spending money abroad if you follow this link.
While we’re on the subject of money, a few more top tips:
- When stores give you the option to pay in your own currency or local money always opt for local currency.
- Never withdraw money from an ATM on credit cards as they charge much more than banks.
Always make sure you have at least 2 cards at your disposal from different banks. I often have security alerts placed on a card when I arrive in a new destination…always useful when you desperately need to get cash!”
6. Book ahead
One thing I have missed since the start of the pandemic is the excitement of booking a trip & planning ahead. The added bonus is that the expense is spread throughout the year. Booking ahead can also allow you to take advantage of sales & offers, leading to significant savings on the complete cost of your holiday.
7. Keep an eye on the sales
There are currently numerous promotions from airlines, hotels, tours & holiday companies aiming to get us booking. Now is the time to take advantage, but always check the cancellation policy beforehand. In less turbulent times, be clear about where & when you want to travel & keep an eye on flight deals. Many of the big airlines have sales at the same time each year.
8. Shop around
Take the time you have now to hunt down the best bargain by shopping around. For flights, I check Skyscanner, Expedia & then the individual airlines to see which has the best offer. For accommodation, I use Booking.com, Airbnb, & Trivago among others for comparisons. If I see a place I like in a guidebook then I’ll go through them directly. You will be amazed at how much the prices can differ across platforms.
For a comprehensive list of travel websites & apps, check out the post on my favourites.
9. Go Direct
Going direct to the accommodation or tour operator can sometimes give you a better discount & provide more flexibility. Speaking to the supplier themselves enables you to negotiate which could mean money off, a room upgrade, free breakfast, WIFI access etc. Give them a call & try your luck!
10. Travel agents
Reputable travel agents may come into their own in the future by offering an extra layer of protection to your booking. In the UK, Trailfinders are my favourite as they specialise in independent travel itineraries & have very knowledgeable staff. Multi-stop itineraries for example can be very complicated to organise & way more expensive online. Although I would prefer to book my accommodation separately, moving forward “packages” could also offer your money more protection.
11. Support local business
Nowadays local tour operators will be desperate for your business but using them could also give you huge savings too. When I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for example, I saved over 40% on the sale price of a large tour company. The service from the agent in Tanzania was backed up by excellent communication & exceptional Trip Advisor reviews.
12. Be flexible
Flexibility is the buzzword right now but can also help you save money on travel. Peak season will always be considerably more expensive. Just checking the days & weeks before your ideal time, could offer big differences in flight price & availability.
Many airlines & comparison sites offer a month’s view, so you can see the cheapest times & make your decisions from there. In addition, the day of the week can have an impact. Travel on Tuesdays & Wednesdays is often cheaper.”
13. Choose a cheaper destination
Where you go is all-important. If that dream destination is the Gálapagos Islands or a luxury safari, then it will take longer to save money to travel. In the meantime, consider some of the less expensive destinations across the world.
There are many places in Europe which don’t have the price tag of cities like London, Paris or Rome. For a much cheaper option, consider Greece, Turkey or Croatia for a bit of sun. The costs also seem to go down the further east you travel, so how about Romania, Georgia, Poland, Ukraine or the Balkan (Albania, Bulgaria) or Baltic States (Lithuania, Estonia & Latvia)?
South-East Asia has long been the perfect gap year destination for generations of backpackers & there’s a reason why. It’s very cheap to travel here. Therefore, why not give Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam or Indonesia a try? High on my list are the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India & Nepal.
In the Americas, how about Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala or further south for Colombia, beautiful & fascinating Bolivia or Ecuador? Finally, in Africa, South Africa & Namibia are great options.
14. Save on accommodation
Big chain hotels can be expensive & take a huge chunk of your budget but there are many other more budget-friendly or even free options which can enhance your travelling experience way more. If you do choose to stay in a hotel, consider one that is independent or locally owned instead. Selecting a place further out of the centre can help save some costs. Airbnb is often a cheaper option & has so many choices that can lead to really unique stays. However, read the cancellation policies carefully to make sure you are covered.
For free accommodation, then staying with friends or family is the obvious choice. However, you could also try Couchsurfing where you can have a bed in your hosts home.
Their strapline is “You have friends all over the world, you just haven’t met them yet”. I haven’t tried it so far but hope to give it a go in the future.”
Housesitting also offers travellers an opportunity to gain free accommodation while living like a local in locations across the world. The website puts animal lovers in touch with people who are travelling & would like someone to look after their pets. To read all about my experience in the Cayman Islands, check out my blog post.
15. Getting around
There is no better way to get to know a new destination than to walk…& that’s free! But the next best thing is to use public transport instead of taxis. I love using the local networks as you can get a real feel for somewhere just by watching how people interact on the bus. Or even better, how about a tuk-tuk, rickshaw or whatever the local transportation on offer is?
Always check the cost beforehand & don’t be afraid to negotiate. A bit of haggling before a journey can be fun but don’t overstep the mark.”
I also use the Rome2Rio App which gives all the transport options from A to B along with costs & how long it will take. Taxis from the airport can be very expensive so find out & if there’s a passenger shuttle instead. Some hotels out of town may even offer the service for free.
16. Where you eat
Self-catering is a big opportunity to make travel savings. You can’t beat a stroll around the local supermarket to see the fascinating array of different foods on offer. If you like to go out, then consider tucking into the local street food rather than a sit-down restaurant. Buying endless bottles of water is expensive & very bad for the environment so always make sure you have a reusable water bottle with you. Refill it wherever you can for free, as long as you know you can trust the local water supply. Or opt for one with an inbuilt filter, even better!
17. Avoid expensive breakfasts
If this is included in your accommodation, check the prices before you opt-in. I love a big breakfast buffet, but they can add a lot of money to your daily expenses. Buying a few items for breakfast in the supermarket or local bakery will save valuable funds. In addition, if breakfast has to be included, make sure you grab a few snacks to save a bit of money on food during the day, after all, you will be paying for it somewhere on your bill.
18. Hunt for discounts & voucher schemes
Check out the local magazines & collect voucher books if you can. Many attractions will offer discounts & museums may have times of day when the entrance fee is cheaper. If you plan to visit a few then buying a bundle ticket could also save you precious pennies.
19. Don’t skimp on travel insurance
Wherever you choose to save money, do not travel without insurance. The last thing you want when you have saved so hard is to discover that the money you have spent has been lost. And especially nowadays, check all cancellation costs before booking.
20. Always have an Emergency Fund
Finally, when budgeting for a trip always make sure you have an emergency fund. Taking the budget to the wire is a dangerous game, particularly in these uncertain times for travel. We are hearing constantly about borders closing & quarantine requirements changing. Always make sure you have something in your back pocket should you need to change plans at the last minute. Or to enjoy a bit of luxury by treating yourself at the end of your trip.
With so much uncertainty in the world right now, you need to make sure you spend your money wisely. I hope my top tips will help you to make the most of your travel savings in the future…when we can. I for one can’t wait!
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This is so useful Sue. I was thinking of contacting you last week. I’m planning my long haul trips for next year and wondered how you managed and budgeted for all that you do. Thank you x
Thank you, Merryn! So lovely to hear from you & I am really pleased to have helped. If you need anything else, please give me a shout…you know where I am & I’d be happy to help. Sue x
The new normal sounds scary, but I can’t wait for it to get here as soon as possible so that we can go back to exploring the world.
But for right now I would settle with just being able to book a trip and have something to look forward to 🙂 Stay safe!
Thank you, Ann & me too! Sue x
Great tips! Cannot plan ahead now in these times, so best is to watch out and book tickets as soon as the flights open. Do road trips – cheaper. ‘Go direct’ is definitely the best tip in Pandemic times or otherwise. Why pay travel agents and tour operators? 🙂
Thank you, Jan & agree with everything but am still tossing up whether travel agents can offer another level of protection too, should plans change. Sue x
Both 16 and 17 are at the heart of my pet travel peeves! I totally agree about self-catering and markets. I do love a good restaurant but I’d rather eat on the cheap a few meals and then afford one big blowout. As for 17, hotel breakfasts kill me! Many hotels include it in the price but when they don’t, it can be huge. I was recently offered a stale croissant, some cheap jam and a coffee for EIGHT EUROS. I declined.
Thank you, Leyla & I feel your pain re breakfasts, even worse when they are bad ones! Sue x
We do love to travel in luxury. But we balance this with being “thrifty” on some things to save for the splurges. Loyalty programs often give us a boost for a better experience. Very early we prioritized savings and saved for travel. We also downsized to a small condo when the kids left home. Luckily we have the flexibility to adjust our travel plans and save some money that way too. Love Rome2Rio to help us assess transportation options. Good tips!
Thank you, Linda & agree about balancing the savings & the splurges. I use Rome2Rio too – really useful! Sue x
These are some good tips. For me, travelling and getting to know countries and people is the main focus. At my age, I want some comfort and privacy, yet I don’t need luxury. I have a day job and spend as much money as possible on travelling. Eventually, as I quit my day job, I will do more long-term travel and then I’ll probably have to watch the budget more…and then I’ll refer to your post 😀
Thank you, Renata, glad you found it useful! Sue x
You have compiled a list of very useful tips. Camping can be a also a great saver on accomodation costs, especially in Europe. There are some big cities like Amsterdam, that have campsites quite close to the city center. And I always carry a small water heater, some cutlery and a cup.
Thank you Natascha & agree about camping – great tip! Sue x
Great tips here, these are all the sort of things I would put into practice when trying to get the most for my money as I book trips.
Thank you, Nicole, glad you found it useful! Sue x
I always love to read about people’s travel tips for saving money! There are some things I hadn’t thought about before in your post so thank you!
Thank you, Krista, glad to have added a few to your list! Sue x
Great tips on saving money and I too always check some deals running on or some offers through credit cards. If getting around through foot tours is my choice too and not having expensive lavish breakfast.
Thanks, Yukti, good to hear we are on the same page! Sue x