1. Book flights directly.
This is a big one for when something goes wrong and you need a refund. If you book a flight through a third party site, you are significantly less likely to get a refund. The third party site will often refer you to the airline and the airline will often do nothing since you didn’t book through their site.
To save yourself some potential headache, find the cheap flight and airline you want to book by using these third party sites and then book directly through the airline’s official site.
2. Get lunch at the market.
This is my favorite travel tips of all time ever. One of my favorite things to do when I get to a new destination is go to the grocery store! It sounds strange, but my reasoning is sound.
The savings you’ll get are expansive, especially if you’re in a capital city where everything is unreasonably expensive. The food is just as good, if not better. After all, who doesn’t love a picnic? Especially if you’re, say, sitting by the Eiffel Tower.
Another reason I love doing this so much is because you get a great sense of what life is like as a local. You get to taste the breads and cheeses and wines that go into daily life. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.
3. Bring a water bottle.
If you bring a water bottle (I recommend getting one with a filter for those iffy kind of places), you won’t be paying every time you’re thirsty. You also won’t be wasting plastic! It’s also good to note that many airports around the world have drinking fountains (this is especially true in the United States!) so if you bring a bottle and fill it up after security you won’t have to pay an insane amount for a water bottle.
4. Know the cheapest airlines.
There are some airlines that are downright dirt cheap. I recently took a trip from Rome to Brussels for $20 each way! It’s important to keep in mind that with these cheap fares, come very few benefits and often not enough basics. Here’s a great guide by Rick Steves on how to fly cheap and with which companies.
5. Pack snacks for your daytime adventures.
There are very few things worse when traveling than getting hungry, then becoming hangry and then not being able to find something to eat. Snacks, my friends! High protein things work best. They keep you full for a longer period of time. Peanuts, tortillas with some beans rolled in there, and cheese with crackers are all great choices.
6. Be okay with hostels and camping.
Hostels and campsites have become quite fancy, especially in Europe and parts of Asia! Hostels are a great solution for people who want to spend more time exploring their destination rather than in their hotel room. You get lodging, showers, bathrooms, staff (which means local advice), and often breakfast for one low cost. As a female, I usually try to stick with all female dorms which are a bit pricier, but so worth it to not have a guy hitting on you in his whitey tighties (true story!)
Camping is an even cheaper solution. Many campsites that you pay for will include the campsite, the option to rent equipment, a hot shower, sometimes breakfast, and a staff that you can hit up for advice.
If you’re thinking about going as cheap as possible, invest in some lightweight camping equipment. Everything you need you can buy for less than 200USD through amazon.com (provided of course you live in the US.) After that do some research about free campsites where you want to go. If you’re willing to go a little off your route and do a few days without showering, this might be your best option.
7. Pack light.
This is especially true if you plan on flying low-cost airlines. Many will only allow one carry on of a very small size. Packing light pays off! On top of that, you won’t be having to lug around all of your luggage. Perhaps that is motivation enough!
8. Eat street food.
As you may have read in my previous articles, street food is my favorite for so many reasons; the two biggest being authenticity and cost efficiency. Street food has this way of bringing out the very best recipes and the very best flavors. Head where all the locals are in line, you won’t regret it!
The cost is also a fraction compared to that of restaurants. I recently went to Florence in Italy, and got an absolutely delicious panino from a food truck for about 3.50EUR. So cheap yet so, so good.
(Pssst- you might be interested in checking out my guide on eating abroad!)
9. Ask your credit card and bank about what the benefits of your card are internationally.
Not all cards offer no foreign transaction fees. Check with your bank and card company before your trip. It could save you hundreds. I personally use an American Airlines AAdvantage card. No foreign transaction fees and great sign on bonuses… Which leads me to my next point!
10. Don’t be afraid to sign up for a credit card (one, not multiple.)
I’ve seen a lot of sites recommend signing up for multiple cards to get points. While it’s great to sign up for one, maybe two cards, if you sign up for multiple cards it will negatively impact your credit score tremendously.
Two years after applying for about 10 credit cards in a two week period, I got one of my hard checks off. It raised my score about 25 points, which made my score go from average to above average; a big difference if you want cards with high miles bonus sign-ons!
11. Compare means of travel.
A lot of first time European travelers assume that a EuroRail pass is the best solution. While for certain types of travel it is, many others it’s not. There are buses, trains, and planes that all are great options for different types of travelers on different types of trips. Think about the type of travel you want and find your best means of transportation based on that.
12. Bring mini toiletries with you.
Bringing some mini basics with you will come in handy every day. Shampoo, conditioner, soap… All the mini essentials. If you bring them from home, you won’t have to buy a big over-sized bottle once you reach your destination.
13. Don’t be tricked into thinking you need phone service while abroad.
I promise you don’t need your cell service from back home. You can easily get by with just wifi. You’ll be saving a significant amount of cash by not buying into your phone service provider’s sales pitches. Another bonus is that it’ll help you enjoy the moment with zero distractions, it’s a win-win!
14. Pick your destination based on your budget.
I’ve mentioned this before in previous articles because it is something that really needs to be stressed. You will not be able to fully enjoy your trip if you’re constantly restrained by your finances. You shouldn’t have to decide if you can afford that gelato that you really want, you should be able get it without thinking. If you go to a place like Rome and your budget is tight, this will be your reality. Instead, head somewhere where is just as spectacular with a much smaller price tag, like Eastern Europe or Southeast Asia.
15. Bring some medicine you’re familiar with along with you.
Not only is it harder to find the medicines you’re familiar with while traveling, but they can be more expensive and by prescription only. To make this easier, bring some little travel containers with essentials in them. A solid beginner list includes ibuprofen, any and all of your regular medicines, decongestant, cough drops, an antidiarrheal, and an antihistamine. These will cover your basics very well. This is a great resource to make sure you have everything you need!
16. Book your lodging based on kitchen availability.
Cooking at home is much cheaper than going out. It’s a pretty simple thing. Often times if you look around enough you’ll be able to find lodging (especially hostels) that provides a community kitchen for the same price. If you look up a local recipe beforehand, you can still taste the local cuisine with your own touch!
17. Travel solo.
When you don’t feel obligated to go places and do things you don’t have a super huge desire to do, you’ll save money. This is especially true for going out on the town. I’d say 90% of the time I’d much prefer a cup of tea and a book on a Friday night as an alternative to going out. To be able to enjoy my trip to the fullest, I prefer to travel alone so I’m not feeling bad if I say no to going out and spending money.
The only real disadvantage to solo travel is that you won’t have the option to split the cost of a room with a travel buddy if you plan on staying anywhere besides a hostel. But like I said above, hostels will almost always be your cheapest option no matter what.
18. Consider taking slower transportation.
There’s this negative perception about using buses as a means of public transportation. While I understand it, I don’t agree with it. It is commonly thought that they’re dirty and slow and not worth the savings, but sometimes they really are! The cleanliness has improved significantly as the years have gone on and the views are insane!
On top of a road trip adventure you could partake in, you’ll be saving insane amounts of cash! Many long distance buses can save you hundreds in comparison to trains and planes. It’s up to you to decide if you can fit a long bus ride into your trip!
If you’re traveling within Europe, I highly recommend using GoEuro to search for transportation options. They cover just about everything and make it super easy, all for free!