How to Save Money During Travel and Spend Less Than $50 Per Day
Raise your hand if you like to save money during travel... *TWO HANDS GO UP* If you're like me, you want the money to go as far as it can and never have to look at your bank account or go to the ATM while you're traveling. It's such a buzzkill!
I'm alllll about saving money during travel and I want to help you do the same. As a frequent traveler, I've come up with a few ways that you can make sure your travel budget goes as far as possible so that you never have to hit the ATM for extra cash (unless you really want to). Let's jump right in!
Start With This Formula to Plan Your Budget
In order to save money during travel, you have to have a target budget in mind so you can keep yourself on track. Start with this formula to plan how much you'll want to put aside:
Airfare & Transportation + Accommodations + Daily Allowance = TRAVEL BUDGET
- Calculate your airfare and average transportation costs first. Try to find cheap flights (check this post for tips), plan out how to get to/from the airport (public transit, taxi, or rental), and how you'll be getting around every day (public transit, taxi, walking, or rental). Public transit will always be the cheapest option for getting around in a city, and you basically get to live how the locals live!
- Calculate your accommodations next. You can save money by staying with a friend, Airbnb, or Couchsurfing.
- Last, give yourself a daily allowance. Are you going to spend $20, $50, or $100 per day? It's actually not that hard to only budget $30-50 per day anywhere in the world (check this post for the Top 12 Cheapest Destinations that cost < $50 per day). Sometimes I even manage to spend less than that! You just need to know when to save and when to spend.
Now that you've got your budget, I'll show you ways to save on your daily allowance! I've gotten really good at spending only $15-30 per day sometimes on my allowance, so it is possible.
1. Use Cash
You know what sucks? Seeing cash leave your hands. It sucks a lot. There's some sort of mental trigger that happens whenever we fork up the money to physically hand over to someone. When you see the money actually leave your hands it's much worse than swiping a credit or debit card. Amirite?!
To save on your daily allowance, consider using cash only (or mostly cash) in order to be conscious of what you're spending. It allows you to have the exact amount of money you're willing to spend and ensure that you don't go over budget.
2. Take Advantage of FREE Stuff
Who doesn't love free stuff?! I freakin' LOVE free stuff! There are so many ways to take advantage of free things while you're traveling to make sure you stay on budget. Here are some tips:
- Check to see if your hotel or Airbnb offer breakfast or appetizers for free. Most places do, you just need to take advantage of it! *I'll even snag a few apples, snacks, or whatever else for later in my room so I can snack when I'm hungry!
- Check to see if your accommodation provides free shuttle transportation to/from the airport to help you save on transportation costs
- See if any museums or attractions you want to visit offer free (or discounted) admission days. A lot of major museums offer at least 1 "deal" day. All you need to do is check their website!
- Look for free events happening around town during your visit. So many cities often have free street festivals, concerts, or events going on throughout the year. You can check Thrillist, Timeout, or other similar websites to see if there is anything worth attending.
3. Go to the Local Market or Grocery Shop
You can save a boat load of money on food just by shopping at the local market or grocery store for basic needs. As soon as you arrive to your destination, find a local market where you can buy fruit, veggies, and other snacks to have during your trip. You can also hit up the grocery store's deli to get less expensive meals or snacks.
I also love buying simple stuff for sandwiches or salads (especially if there is a fridge in my room) so I can make easy meals during my stay. Imagine: You'll be saving $10-25 per meal just by doing this! Using this tip will help cut back your food costs by a lotttt.
PRO TIP: Are you heading to Disney, Universal Studios, or another theme park that allows you to bring food into the park? Pack your lunch before you go! You'll save SO MUCH by doing this! Rent a locker when you arrive and store your lunch box in there. I do this all the time!
4. Walk Everywhere
In my opinion, the best way to get to know a new city is by walking. Walk everywhere you can! Skip the cabs, trains, or buses and take a walk. You'll probably stumble upon something you wouldn't have seen from the inside of a taxi. Plus it's FREE!
5. Bring A Water Bottle
Tip #1 of traveling is to always stay hydrated. But don't waste your money on buying tons of water when you arrive (or even when you get to the airport). Always bring an empty water bottle with you to refill and reuse. As a professional traveler, I recommend these 2 types of water bottles for very specific reasons:
1) SmartWater - You're probably asking, "Why? Why would I use SmartWater over any other regular bottle of water?" And no, this isn't a plug or a sponsored mention at all. I choose it FOR THE BOTTLE ITSELF--that's why! Have you ever traveled with a bottle of Ice Mountain or any other brand of plastic water bottle? They crinkle up in like 2 seconds! It drives me nuts! You throw it in your bag, it crinkles instantly...and then you can't fill it up properly anymore, there are too many crinkles in the bottle, it's a mess. With SmartWater, the bottles don't crinkle as easily and you'll always get the exact amount of water you want. See? There's a method to the madness!
2) A Water Bottle With an Integrated Filter - I freaking love how technology is advancing daily conveniences for us. There are water bottles with integrated filters in them now so that you can ensure all the water you drink will be purified and rid of toxins. I personally love LifeStraw's Go Water Bottle (and no, this isn't a plug. I legit love it) because of their filter system and quality bottle. You can literally get water from a pond and it will filter it for you! How cool?!
6. Eat Tapas Style
Another dining tip: try to eat "tapas style" wherever you go. So I don't necessarily mean only go to Tapas style places (although I could totally get down with that). I mean opt for appetizers instead of expensive entrees, share your plates, and cut back on your portions. Maybe you can try 2-3 appetizers for less than or equal to the price of 1 entree. It's definitely worth looking into!
7. Avoid Tourist Traps
Did you know that restaurants near tourist sites tend to be twice as expensive and half as good? These places know that tourists probably don't know any better and will rip people off by offering cheap quality goods at high prices. Avoid tourist traps by searching out great local places to eat and things to do.
Sure, you can still go see and do the touristy things (hell, I even love doing that every once in awhile), but don't get sucked into the traps surround the sites. Use the 6-block rule, Yelp, or Google to find other places to eat. Hint: If there are pictures of the food on the menu, you might want to think twice...
8. Use Public Transit
Public transit is the cheapest and one of the best ways to get around any city. You're paying way less than a cab or rental, and you get to see the city how locals see it! Google Maps makes it easier than ever to map out a route to your destination, so take advantage of this! You can get by with spending $2-10 per day by utilizing public transit wherever you go. I freaking love it.
9. Skip the Booze
Alright, so I know I'm going to lose some of you on this one...but hear me out! Alcohol is the biggest rip off and money suck when you're traveling. Trust me, I love a nice, well-deserved cocktail at the end of the day, just like any other person; but you will save SO MUCH money by skipping the booze when you travel.
Most places charge $10-20 per drink now, which can make a huge dent in your daily allowance very quickly. And what's the purpose? To feel a slight buzz (or maybe not even that if it's a shitty drink)? Why not spend that money on experiences or things that will help you create memories from your travels?
The Only Exceptions: (1) Obviously, if you're celebrating something and you want to have a drink, do it. Try to set a limit or budget before you start. (2) Take advantage of Happy Hours! HH is a great way to save on having drinks. (3) Buy alcohol from the liquor store or grocery store to save on the markup costs. You can make your own bevvies in the room at a much cheaper cost.
10. Search Out the Deals
If you haven't caught on already, I'm all about finding the deals. There are always deals to seek out when you travel! Restaurant specials, hotel deals, happy hours, museum discounts, etc. are always going on! Check out Groupon or Living Social, ask the concierge, ask people on social media, or even do a simple Google search for great deals happening around you. There are always special things to be found and ways to save money by just setting the intention to seek them out.
What are other ways you like to save money during travel? Comment below with more tips!