How to Save Money for Travel

Planning your next trip overseas is exciting, but it can also be pretty stressful as the costs start to build up. You might find yourself with rapidly depleting funds as you fork out for flights, visas, vaccinations, new gear and insurance – and that’s before you’ve even left home!

Save Money For Travel - money

The last thing you want is to arrive at your dream destination and have no money left to experience it properly. Here are a few tips to help you to save money for travel, both before you set off and when you’re on the road.

Before You Leave

Give Up Bad Habits: Use your upcoming trip to help you give up those bad habits. Whether it be drinking too much, smoking or grabbing a daily caffeine fix on your way to work, when you figure out just how much money you could save by changing your routine, you’ll wish you’d done it sooner. Similarly, if you start running home from work instead of catching public transport, you will be healthier and richer by the time you set off on your trip. Visualising which amazing experiences that money would be better spent on might just be the extra kick you need. 

Save Money For Travel - rappelling

Plan Ahead: The more you plan, the less likely it is that you will make costly mistakes when you’re overseas. Read your guidebook and blogs and discover location-specific tips on saving money. I’ve read a lot of travel-focused personal memoirs and I’m always amazed by the haphazard routes the authors have taken (The Gringo Trail and Red Rucksack come to mind). Of course it’s great to be flexible with your plans, but deciding on a potential itinerary and knowing ahead of time which places you simply can’t miss will prevent you from needing to backtrack or zigzag through the country/continent, saving you transport fares and leaving you with more time.

Find Alternative Ways to Socialise: It’s difficult not to become a bit reclusive when you’re planning a big trip abroad. The money from that friend’s birthday meal in the fancy restaurant could buy you a paragliding flight over a Chilean beach at sunset… But there are ways to save money without cutting off all ties with your existing friends. Suggest meeting up at someone’s house instead of a bar; join people for drinks after they’ve eaten; have a DVD night instead of going to the cinema; or find out where free daytime events are taking place.

Save Money For Travel - free fun

Order a Travel Money Card: Travel money cards are a great way to keep your savings secure, should your card or its details fall into the wrong hands. They also have far better withdrawal and conversion rates than most debit and credit cards. Do your research on a price comparison site before you choose and make sure you go for one that will be accepted in all of the regions you plan to visit.

Research Discount Codes: If you’re buying travel gear for your upcoming outdoor adventures, do your research on discount codes for the popular brands. For example, grab some Live Out There coupon codes and shop from top-quality outdoor lifestyle products from The North Face, Patagonia and Merrell. Live Out There specializes in outdoor apparel and equipment that would be perfect for backpacking, hiking and other adventurous pursuits.

Collect Air Miles: Earning air miles is as simple as using a particular credit card for purchases or shopping in the same supermarket all year. It usually doesn’t even necessitate a change in your behaviour. You just need to have the initiative to set it up in the first place. If you sign up to a frequent flier programme, not only can you save a chunk of cash on your next flight, but you’ll be the first to hear from the airline about any great bargains they have.

On the Road

Take Night Buses: When travelling around Asia and South America, I’ve often chosen night buses over any other form of transport. They’re much easier to book last minute than flights, so you can make spur-of-the-moment decisions. They’re almost always the cheapest way to cover long distances, and usually the terminals are in the centre of town. What’s more, they are surprisingly comfortable and, best of all, you save on a night’s accommodation.

Save Money For Travel - buses

Use Hostel Comparison Websites: Compare prices and check hundreds of reviews to determine if a place is for you. Don’t book ahead because your plans may change and you’d lose your deposit. I have only ever reserved a room for the first night of each trip or if I knew there was a big event scheduled.

Buy Your Gear Abroad: Especially if you’re travelling long-term, there really is no need to stock up on high-tech gear for every eventuality. From clothes to toiletries and even malaria tablets, you will probably be able to buy them cheaper overseas. Carry cheap items and you won’t be upset when they go AWOL at the lavanderia or you leave them behind in a messy dorm room. As you move from one climate to another you can discard/donate your old clothes and pick up new ones for next to nothing. On top of all that, if you want to earn yourself some serious traveller street cred, an inca-patterned llama jumper with baggy traveller pants combo will always gain you more respect than a wardrobe of labels. By nature, travellers will appreciate that:
a) You appreciate the value of money and would rather put it towards more time on the road than material items; and
b) You’re helping to support local small-scale businesses.

Save Money For Travel - llama hat

Eat Like a Local: Don’t be tempted by the Western restaurants. Some of the best, most authentic and fresh food can be found in small cafes and on street stalls where the locals tend to eat. If you’re concerned about the quality, a great tip is to go to the places with the longest queues. They’re popular for a reason.

Couch Surf: Couch surfing is a fantastic way to save money and meet new people. Staying with a local will enable you to see a place through the eyes of someone who’s lived there for many years. If you’re lucky, they’ll show you around, introduce you to their friends and other international travellers and encourage you to practice their language. Just be sensible about who you stay with. Choose someone who’s registered and who has plenty of reviews on their profile. Message them before you visit to determine whether they’re genuine.

Save Money For Travel - couch surfing

Consider City Passes: Most major cities have city passes, enabling you to get money off a selection of the popular attractions, as well as transport and sometimes accommodation and restaurants. If you plan on spending long enough in one place, these are great little packages. They also usually come with a booklet informing you of the best things to do in the area.

Research Group Bookings: Most tour operators are open to offering discounts if you can convince more people to join your group. If you’re interested in an activity, put a notice up in your hostel to see who might want to accompany you. It’s also a great way to meet new people.

Save Money For Travel - group bookings

Sell Your Skills: Do you have stunning photographs of your trip? Are you good with words? Plenty of travel-related publications and tour operators are interested in paying money for your services. Start your own travel website and exchange experiences for coverage, or build up rapport with an existing site with high readership that might be willing to accept guest posts. Teach a skill or volunteer in return for free board. There are plenty of exciting and rewarding ways to make the pennies last a little longer, and they don’t hurt your future job prospects either.


  1. Charlotte Dee says

    Great tips for saving money just a shame to see a traveller promoting loan companies which often subject their borrowers to high interest and bad practice. I saved for 6 months for a short trip in Europe and a loan would be my very last resort.

    • says

      Hi, thanks for your comment. I’m sorry if you thought it was bad to promote a loan company. The way I saw it, I was offering advice on saving money and trying to avoid the necessity of borrowing, but for people who still can’t make the funds, it might be their only option and whether or not its worth the interest rates in the long term is their choice to make, I guess.

    • says

      Yes, agreed! I think the only downside to planning is that, if you do too much, you don’t save yourself as many surprises for the road. I’d already seen photos of pretty much all destinations I visited in South America. Luckily, though, nothing compares to actually being there and everyone’s experience is different :)

  2. says

    Yes, I’m all about selling your skills. It’s almost like trying to make your travels pay for themselves! Also, eating like a local — local street foods tend to be so cheap! And it’s what the average person eats in a foreign land — not at some fancy restaurant (though it’s nice to experience maybe one on a trip)!

    Love this post!
    Kae Lani | A Travel Broad recently posted..Selfies at the StratosphereMy Profile

    • says

      Selling your skills is a great idea, but in reality, it can be time consuming and frustrating. I still think it’s worth giving it a go though. You don’t know unless you try. As for the food thing, I’m not much of a foodie. I eat to live, so when I’m travelling, I’ll just live off snacks! At least in many foreign countries, a cheap roadside snack can actually be a fairly decent balanced meal!

  3. says

    There is a unique technique: the -10 % on all expenses (all that are possible, because some are fixed, though…). Think about how much you can save if you save 10 % on just about anything. Food, drinks, transportation, consuming less utilities (shrinking the utility bills), less spent nights out with friends, 10 % less spent on parties and so on… then put it all into traveling!

    • says

      Yes, I think if you really focus on each aspect of your spending, it’s possible to cut at least that much out of your outgoings, and it does all add up to a significant amount of money. I’m always shocked by the amount some of my friends spend on food, coffees and taxis, in particular. Taking a packed lunch to work and getting public transport (even after a night out) can save a fortune.

  4. says

    Great tips – I must admit Couch Surfing does sound a little scary (a young girl alone in a strangers house!). However I do like the idea of house sitting whereby you have the house all to yourself – I’ve signed up to a couple of these house sitting websites and have had offers in already from people in NZ and America wanting to ‘house swop’

    • says

      I think the house swapping is a great idea too. And definitely less scary. Having said that, you don’t get the same immersion into the local culture as you do with couch surfing. I did couch surfing with a guy in Medellin, Colombia, and it was a great experience, but it took me a while to find someone who I felt I could definitely trust.

    • says

      It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but generally, the travellers I know who’ve tried it thought it was great. It’s luck of the draw who you get. I received a lot of messages from guys who were clearly looking for a hook up, but the serious hosts have a long list of great reviews and are genuine, good people who enjoy socialising and acting as tour guide for a couple of days.

    • says

      I think it’s important to do some planning. It doesn’t mean you have to stick to a rigid itinerary. It just makes you more prepared and generally saves you time and money on the road.

    • says

      I’m planning another long-term trip and realising that I actually do a ridiculous amount of planning. I have Google maps with stars drawn on them already and I don’t leave until August! Despite clearly overdoing it, I stand by my belief that planning goes a long way to enhancing a trip and saving you time, money and stress. I’m glad you agree!

  5. says

    I loved the part about changing bad habits. It’s so true, so obvious, and actually not hard to do, if you have good motivation (like a nice trip abroad!). Awesome article, many real, practical advice. I never thought about “selling my skills” before, but It’s definately a good idea. Thanks for the tips and inspiration Arianwen! :)

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