Easy ways to save money while traveling

Ways to save money while traveling

Last Updated on 8th January 2019 by Sarah and Justin

We are not budget travelers. We are a married couple approaching middle age, so hostels aren’t our thing. We like good food and drinks – and definitely won’t let ourselves go hungry to save money. But those who know us know we are extremely cost-conscious. And when we did the whole “quit our jobs to travel the world” thing, we needed to be even more mindful of our spending that year on the road. There are obvious things you can do to save money on the big ticket items like using miles for flights or booking hotels well in advance, but the little things also add up, especially over the course of a year. Based on our extensive experience being thrifty, here are some small, but really easy ways to save money while traveling.

1 – take advantage of transportation passes

Many cities all over the world have multi-day transportation passes. We always do a little research before arriving somewhere so we can take advantage of them from the get-go. We found the most economical options in Germany. For example, in Nuremberg, if you buy your “day-pass” on a Saturday, it’s good all weekend. We actually changed our sightseeing plans to take advantage of it. Throughout the country, they offer passes for groups of people or families traveling together which can save a lot of money.

Tips: Wikitravel has great public transportation information on many cities throughout the world. Also, if you Google the name of the city + public transportation, you’ll often find the official website, which usually has all fare options listed. 
U-bahn station, Nuremberg, Germany

2 – look for free museum days or hours

Free museums are our favorite types of museums! We were excited to find a whole bunch in Australia and New Zealand. While many museums may not be free all the time, quite a few offer free days or even free hours. When we got to Warsaw, we realized a whole bunch of their museums were free on different days of the week, so we planned our week around that. In Basel, most museums are free on the first Sunday of the month. We weren’t there then, but took advantage of the famous Kunstmuseum’s free “happy hour” two days in a row and saw everything we wanted to.
Mondrian room, Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland

Giacometti, Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland

3 – take public transportation from the airport

Taking a taxi from the airport can be a budget-buster. And in countries where you don’t speak the language, it can actually be stressful. Not only is public transportation typically much cheaper, but often it’s easier and faster. This is the case in most big cities. Do your research ahead of time via Wikitravel, Google Maps, or the airport website to figure things out before you land.
Subway home from JFK, New York, NY, USA

4 – pick a hotel with a fridge and a hot pot

A fridge and a hot pot are our favorite hotel room amenities. (And robes… Sarah loves robes.) If we’re going to stay somewhere for a while, they are absolute musts. We stock up on cheaper snacks and drinks from the local supermarket and can make coffee and tea and soup whenever we want it.
Instant noodles

5 – be like the locals and have a beer outside

In many countries, especially in Europe, drinking outside is legal. You don’t even have to be in a restaurant or bar. You can just find a park bench or scenic spot and enjoy. During the summer in countries like Germany and the Netherlands, you’ll find everyone in the cities’ parks doing just that. And of course buying a beer at the local bodega or supermarket is much cheaper than having one in a bar. One of our favorite spots in Berlin is a Spätkauf (convenience store that mainly sells beer) in Prenzlauer Berg which has a great selection and its own picnic tables out front.
Oudegracht, Utrecht, the Netherlands

Bonus tip – in Italy, eat aperitivo for dinner

So this one is pretty country-specific, but if you find yourself in Italy, you definitely want to take advantage of aperitivo – the best happy hour in the world. Most early evenings, restaurants and bars will offer food with their cocktails. The best ones have massive buffets. All the food is delicious and the cocktails are usually pretty cheap too. Many nights we told ourselves we were going to have a real dinner only to find ourselves on an aperitivo hop (along with many locals).
Aperitivo, Trieste, Italy

Aperitivo, Vicenza, Italy

How do you save money while traveling? Share your tips in the comments!

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42 thoughts on “Easy ways to save money while traveling

  1. Maria Teniente says:

    Great tips! I travel lots but in US. Rather than stay in high-end hotels, I prefer my Holiday Inn Express because of their quick breakfasts. Quick n easy.

  2. Stefan Sommerfield says:

    Based on your experiences we are about to stay at our 3rd AirBNB, in Rhinebeck, with a similar type of place booked for Verona in October (sorry about a/c in Nice). Saving money and getting small kitchen is tops.

  3. tashyie says:

    Awesome tips! I am planning a trip to Italy and have never heard of aperitivo before, but now I am totally going to look into which places to do it! such a good idea!

    • Sarah and Justin says:

      If you search for “best aperitivo” in whatever city you’re visiting you’ll find a ton of good recommendations. Or just wander and pop your head in places that look your speed.

  4. Christina says:

    Totally agree on the usage of day passes and similar! I did that in Stockholm, and while 50€ for two days might seem a lot, they granted access to all public transport and ferries, all museums and even a historical boat tour – we had such a good time 🙂

  5. tashasoyster says:

    Lots of good tips, I try to follow most of these as much as possible but sometimes it’s just so tempting to take the easy option of getting a taxi from the airport! Great tip about Italy too. I’ll keep that in mind for next year.

  6. Marie says:

    Yeah I totally agree. There are so many free museums all over the place. Most of theme are actually really good as well. Thanks for the article, useful advice ~~

  7. paulinaontheroad says:

    Wow these are some very useful tips. I love having a beer outside with locals. Even if you don’t speak the language, beer breaks alk barriers 😉

  8. Kristen says:

    Great tips, girl! I find myself always having to be reminded to use public transportation instead of getting lazy and wanting to hop in a cab. It really is a huge money saver!

  9. carrieemann says:

    Great list! The museum tip just shows how much a little advance planning can help you save — I hate it when I get to a city and find out the museums are free the day after I’m leaving!

  10. Christina says:

    I loved these tips! We quit our jobs too, but only traveled around Europe for three months. We were rookies then and could have used these tips. Specifically the museum one – to this day we forget to check museum hours and ticket prices.

  11. Carina Covella says:

    These are such great tips! We are doing much the same– no jobs and traveling and too old for hostels, and I will definitely be trying some of these out to save some cash. Thank you for sharing!

  12. Amanda Blizzard says:

    These are great tips!! My son and I ARE budget travelers, and we use all of these methods- albeit in North America haha.
    Most recently I’ve been in love with Groupon… We’re eating full meals and then some for only a few dollars!
    I’ll be filing away that Italy tip for when we make it there 😉

  13. Amy Butler (@WayfarersBook) says:

    Museum Days are the best! Except once, in Montreal, I went to an annual city-wide museum day, and the places were absolutely packed. Weekly/monthly free museum days are usually much more chill.
    Public transport to the airport is a great way to save money, though I’ve learned to keep in mind their running hours. Sometimes having really early morning flights or late night flights means public transport isn’t running, so you’re stuck taking a taxi.

    • Sarah and Justin says:

      Agree – even monthly museum days can be rough. After waiting on line for over an hour for the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, we considered that perhaps our time was worth something too! But that was on an actual vacation. When we were traveling long-term, the value of our time decreased significantly!

  14. Karen says:

    I’d also add walking from the touristy parts of cities into the residential areas for better/cheaper food and reasonable accommodations!

    • Sarah and Justin says:

      Good one! In big cities, we often prefer staying in a less touristy/out of the way neighborhood. It lets us get a feel for what actually living there would be like.

  15. thesanetravel says:

    It’s always great to learn new ways how to save money when traveling. I use tbe most you are advising, but I didn’t know about eating aperitivo for dinner in Italy. It would be nice to try.

  16. Greta says:

    These are some great tips! Love the Italy aperitif one haha, we do some pretty big ones in Milan, they are most definitely enough food for dinner too!

    • Sarah and Justin says:

      We booked a lot of Airbnbs and hotels with kitchenettes this past year. Cooking saved us a ton of money and was really fun. We love going to supermarkets in other countries as well as local markets to get an even better sense of the local food.

  17. Vick says:

    Great tips! I`m just like you, not a budget nor a luxury traveler and even though I not always have a lot to spend in my travels, eating well and trying the local food and drinks is non negotiable.
    I love the Italian aperitivo, one of the best ways to eat well and cheap, and also to mingle with locals! The bars around Navigli in Milano are great for that!

  18. ellisveen says:

    I think I recognize Utrecht in one of your pictures. And you are absolutely right. In the Netherlamnds we sometimes buy drinks in the supermarket and just sit outside in a parc or on a bench overlooking the canals (if you are in Utrecht or Amsterdam)

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