Unconventional Budget Travel Tips: Save That Money!
Unconventional Budget Travel Tips To Save Your Money
If you’re looking for some unconventional budget travel tips you’ve come to the right place. In the immortal words of the unconventionally frugal rapper Lil Dicky:
Ay, we gon’ save that money
Ay, we gon’ save that money
Ay, we gon’ save that money
What we do? We gone save that money
Budget Travel Tip #1: Skip Breakfast
Don’t waste your mornings figuring out what to eat for breakfast. Before you know it you’ll have blown a bunch of money on a forgettable meal and it’ll be nearly noon. While you should experience and enjoy the local cuisine, save it (and your money) for meals later on in the day.
As an added bonus, skipping breakfast can improve your mental clarity, help you lose weight, and increase your energy. It’s called intermittent fasting, and if you haven’t heard about it, we recommend this podcast. Also, if you haven’t had the chance to read Chris’ eye-opening (and stomach-emptying) experience skipping breakfast (and lunch and dinner) for three straight days, check it out here.
Tip: If you must eat breakfast, pack some homemade granola or snacks to tide you over in the morning. I like to roast almonds and cashews and put them in a few Ziploc bags. Many hostels/hostels have free tea and coffee too so take advantage of this.
Budget Travel Tip #2: Travel With Carry-On
Traveling with one carry-on bag (plus a purse or small bag for the ladies) will allow you to travel by public transport and also share rides. You’ll also reduce the risk of any lost luggage and eliminate baggage fees.
Take it from me: You rarely regret the things you don’t pack, but do regret packing things you don’t need. If in doubt, leave it at home. You can always do laundry and buy small items while you’re away.
Check out Chris’ ultimate minimalist packing list post here. And ladies, I’ll be posting mine soon!
Tip: If you can’t put your bag(s) in the overhead compartment of an airplane yourself, you’re carrying too much. Or you need to hit the gym more!
Budget Travel Tip #3: Drink Tap Water
Unless the country you’re in has serious water sanitation issues, don’t be afraid to drink tap water. It may not taste the same as home but you’ll be saving money and the planet. If you need to buy bottled water, stock up on a large gallon jug for your room and fill up your own reusable bottle.
Budget Travel Tip #4: Take Public Transport
Or better yet, walk!
I’m not sure why people who use public transport at home feel like they have to use taxis while on vacation. Sure taxis can sometimes be faster and more convenient but it’s also an incredibly easy way to blow through your hard-earned savings.
Spend a bit more time planning where you want to go and save money using public transport. You’ll experience more local culture, get a better idea about where you are in the city, and maybe even get some helpful recommendations and budget travel tips from locals riding with you.
Tip: Check to see if there are any discounts for foreign travellers before you leave. Chris and I saved lots by purchasing the JR Pass a couple weeks before our trip to Japan and saved hundreds on this train pass only available to tourists.
Budget Travel Tip #5: Book Your Hotels Direct
Did you know that sites like Booking.com and Expedia take a 15% (or higher!) cut from each booking? It’s true. Chris owned a hostel himself and knows all too well. Everyone who owns or manages a hotel feels taken advantage of by these enormous commissions and will much prefer you book direct. They’ll even pay you to do so!
Instead of reserving on sites like Booking.com, email the hotel and ask if they’ll give you 10% off for booking direct. Throw in an offer to write them a review on TripAdvisor or Google if they hesitate. You’ll be surprised at how many are happy to take you up on your offer.
Bonus Airbnb Tip! Don’t try this for Airbnb. We used to rent our second bedroom on Airbnb and frequently get asked by potential guests if we can negotiate a cash deal to avoid Airbnb’s commission. We always turned them down because it’s not worth the risk or hassle.
A more effective strategy for Airbnb is to book properties with little or no reviews. These properties are often under-priced because the hosts are just getting started and looking to get traction and get some positive reviews.
Budget Travel Tip #6: Do Free Walking Tours
Free walking tours are available in almost every major city and taking them is one of our favourite budget travel tips. While they’re not truly free (you should generously tip the guide afterwards), they are a fantastic value. Take full advantage of your guide’s expertise by asking about their favorite local budget tips too.
If the free tour timing doesn’t work with your schedule, don’t be discouraged. You can almost always find free, self-guided tours which you can do too! These guides are easily downloadable to your phone and are a fun way to explore a certain neighbourhood while learning a little bit of history & culture. Plus they really are free.
Budget Travel Tip #7: Look Up Happy Hour Specials & BYOB Restaurants
Take advantage of your flexible travel schedule and research the best happy hour deals in the city you’re visiting. We’ve managed to eat at fancy restaurants we couldn’t otherwise afford and get ridiculously cheap ( but delicious!) $4 cocktails at some of the coolest bars in towns like Portland and L.A. As an added bonus, the people who frequent these happy hours are, well, happy! You’re likely to meet some cool locals and fellow travellers while all the while, “saving dat money”.
While you’re googling happy hours, also check if any restaurants allow you to bring your own booze (BYOB). You might be surprised at how many do. Even in L.A., Chris and I found quite a few excellent restaurants that let us save tons of money by bringing our own drinks. One example was Masa in Echo Park. The Chicago deep-dish style pizza was deliciously full of hearty toppings and cheese and went perfectly with the bottle (ok, bottles) of wine we bought at the corner store down the street. Highly recommended!
Budget Travel Tip #8: Get Local Currency Cheap
Don’t fall for the trap of withdrawing local money from the first ATM you see at the airport. You’ll almost certainly be dinged $5 or more for the transaction and also get charged another 2-3% in exchange rate spreads.
To save money, before you leave for your trip note down what the market exchange rate is, google where you can find the best rates in the town you’re visiting, and bring a good amount of US dollars with you. (I usually go with $400 for a two-week trip.)
Don’t exchange your money at home before you leave. People in many countries, like Egypt and Mexico, are so eager to trade their local currency for more reliable US dollars that they’ll pay you a better rate than the market! Chris even wrote how you can pay for your flight to Mexico by taking advantage of this.
What Are Your Budget Travel Tips?
Do you have any budget travel tips we didn’t mention? If so, comment below. We’d love to hear from you. (And more importantly, save more money.)
Meanwhile, we’ll leave you with some Lil Dicky for inspiration. Save dat money!