Money Saving Travel Hacks Everyone Should Be Doing
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Everybody loves to travel. But traveling can be expensive. Since quitting my job end 2013 to do my own thing and travel the world with SGD$16k of savings, I’ve been to 16 countries, completed 24 trips, and spent a third of my time away from home (Singapore).
How did I do it without breaking the bank?
Yes I’m a budget traveller (see: 76 days in South America for $4.8k), but this post isn’t about that. This post is about simple money saving travel hacks that everyone should be doing to stretch their dollar. Budget traveling isn’t for everyone, but we can all benefit from money saving tips to travel more and spend less.
Here are 10 of my favourite money saving travel hacks. Hope it helps!
Flights & Accommodation – The bulk of the cost
(1) Check currency conversion
Interestingly, different sites use different rates for currency conversion. Compare different currencies with the existing exchange rate of your credit card to see which currency to pay in makes the most sense. When booking flights and accommodation, a slight difference can be pretty significant!
An interesting trick that usually works is to book it in the site’s local currency. This is often the cheapest option!
(2) Use Meta Search Engines and Price Alerts
Gone are the days where we have to manually search every airline daily to check prices. I relish in flexibility, so sites like Skyscanner are perfect because they automatically find the cheapest flights for me. If you’re flexible, there’s also a month view on that informs you of the cheapest tickets around your period of travel.
What I like most though, are monitoring apps like Hopper. Apparently Hopper “analyses billions of flights to help you find the best deals and the best times to fly and buy.” The interface is a joy to use and the notifications makes monitoring painless so you don’t have to return everyday to monitor prices.
Some say that the best time to book is 7-8 weeks in advance. But my personal experience is that it’s so volatile and dependent on so many factors that I rather just monitor prices with these tools.
(3) Subscribe to Airline Newsletters or like their Facebook Pages
Airlines and travel agencies often have special promotions or sales to get rid of unwanted tickets during the low season. I’m guessing it’s just better to sell them at cost than to leave the seats empty. Personally, I subscribe to the email newsletters of my favourite airlines and like their Facebook Pages. So I’m always in the know of special time sensitive deals.
My biggest bargain was a 2-way flight to Seoul (Korea) from Singapore for only SGD$195 all-in on Scoot. It doesn’t get cheaper than that!
(4) Use Coupon Sites
Similar to group buying sites, coupon sites often have discounts and promo codes available for free. You might think this sounds too good to be true, but it’s simply another form of lead generation for marketers. More than just fashion labels, sites like Cuponation even have travel deals and coupons for Expedia and Hotel Club.
I’ve just started making it a point to visit coupon sites before booking flights or accommodation. I mean it’ll be silly not to use a discount when there is one available right?
(5) Clear your browser cache
I’m sure you have experienced this. Despite searching for a flight and checking for days, the prices of the flight you want never goes down. Airlines and booking engines save cookies on your browser and know that you’ve been returning everyday to check the price.
Although we can never confirm this, there are strong suspicions to prices being jacked up depending on your search behaviour. So remember to clear you browser cache before booking a flight. Better still, book on incognito!
(6) Last Minute Booking Deals
An unbooked room means a loss of income for the hotel. Rather than make a loss, hotels rather let the room go at a price below market rate. Most online hotel booking sites have super value for money last minute deals when you book 1 to 7 days before. If you’re in the USA, try HotelTonight.
Sometimes, it pays to leave your planning till the last minute.
Activities – The fun stuff
(7) Research on activities
I’m not talking about extensive research here. This is a list of simple and actionable travel hacks so I’m simply referring to basic search. Simply Google “(Name of Destination) on a budget” and look out for tips and tricks from other travel blogs. They often contain insider knowledge that isn’t readily available in guide books and destination guides. I’ve even written a few budget guides myself!
(8) Leverage on activity booking apps
We live in an age where there is an app for everything, even booking activities! If you need to plan ahead, activity booking apps like Klook make it very convenient for trip planning. No need to deal with traditional travel agents that might charge you excessive commissions and take a long time. The mobile app also makes booking a breeze with instant confirmations via e-tickets.
Pro-tip: Keep an eye out for unique hand-picked activities that can’t be found elsewhere too. Shipwreck diving in Bali? Yes please!
(9) Use your student card
Image credit: Kilroy
Even though attractions might not advertise it, many of them have discounts for students. 20% off a $15 museum entrance fee might not sound much, but imagine how the savings can add up over a long trip!
Here’s an additional tip for the morally grey (I do this sometimes too :P). Most ticket sellers do not require an International Student card. So even if you have graduated, your old normal student card should still do the trick.
(10) Go for Free Walking Tours
In many European cities and increasingly in Asia, you can find Free Walking Tours available for anyone. Instead of exploring aimlessly or signing up for city day tours, these Free Walking Tours give you a quick insight into the city.
They generally work via a tips basis and by up-selling their other paid tours. So don’t worry if you’re afraid of being cheapskate. There’s usually a big group, so even a small tip will go a long way in helping the tour guides.
Not to mention, these tours are also great for discovering local gems that a generic tour might not provide. Just look out for notices at your accommodation or google them beforehand!
(11) Make friends to share costs
Exactly 135 days ago – Getting into a hot spring at an altitude of 4,400m during our 3D Uyuni Adventure. It was like -5 degree celsius outside, but we felt super warm inside. Super surreal, super crazy. But the stripping down before getting in was the worst feeling ever. D: #uyuni #travel #gopro #hotspring #PeopleWhoDoFunStuff
A photo posted by Hendric Tay (@pohtecktoes) on
This isn’t exactly a travel hack, but it’s useful to keep in mind.
Many activity packages require a minimum number of pax to run, so you’ll have to cover the cost for the rest if you don’t have the numbers. Private transport also becomes significantly more affordable when you can share. Because I usually travel alone or in small groups, we’ll always try making new friends to save money. It’s also more fun and a great way to meet people from other countries!
Food – Everyone’s got to eat
(12) Eat Local
Random super tasty set lunch at Nazca in Peru for US$2. Rice, potatoes and chicken.
They say that you never know a country until you have eaten local. Other than the really unique restaurants, I try to walk a little further from the main streets and dine at places where locals eat. These are usually cheaper and more authentic. Although I may not understand what’s on the menu half the time, it’s super fun guessing and hoping that whatever you ordered tastes good! Mix this up with the safe choices if it’s too much of an adventure for every meal!
(13) Wake up early
Although I’m not a morning person, I try to make it a point to wake up early enough for the complimentary breakfast at my hotel or hostel. The quality of food varies, but at least it fills me up a little before the start of the day. Waking up early also leaves more time for exploring wherever you are at in it’s full glory!
Do you know of any other money saving travel hacks to add to this list? Share them in the comments section below!