I won’t bullshit you: Traveling is not cheap. This isn’t news to you. When I talk to folks about travel, that’s usually what they say: “Oh, we don’t have the money for that,” or “I don’t know how you guys afford it.” And I’ll be honest, my husband and I are extremely fortunate that we have jobs where we earn enough to take all of these awesome trips. But I have a secret for you: Traveling does not have to be expensive, either. There are things you can do to make it more affordable. Here are a few things I enlist when planning a trip that helps keep the cost down.
1. Utilize search engines that compare prices across all airlines and set up price alerts.
This may seem a bit obvious, but a lot of people don’t want to put in the effort to make all of the comparisons. And you know what? I totally don’t blame you. It can be daunting. But there is no shortage of websites out there that will do all of the scanning for you, like Kayak, Google Flights, Skyscanner, and Hopper.
Kayak is the site I use most often, but I’m using Google Flights to track flights to Denmark for next year to see how it compares. Both sites allow you to set price alerts, so you get an email each time the price changes. You can also use the +/- feature to see if one day is cheaper than another to fly. We used that feature when we were buying our flights to Hawaii earlier in the year; it was a several hundred dollar savings if we flew home on Monday instead of Sunday.
2. Stay at an Airbnb or a hostel rather than a hotel.
Oftentimes I’ve found that you can find an Airbnb for half the price of a hotel in a similar area. For example, you could stay at this charming Airbnb for $62 per night. I’m not saying you can’t find similarly-priced hotels—you absolutely can—but most are going to run you a minimum of $100 a night.
All right, so I might have a slight affinity for Airbnbs. They’re always right out of an Ikea catalog and the hosts are always so friendly and helpful and you get a more authentic experience that way by staying in neighborhoods versus the super touristy areas. But still, in some cases, you can save money by staying in one of these bad boys. Just do a little comparison shopping and see which one makes the most sense for you.
If you want to save even more money, you could opt for a hostel instead. Don’t think about the movie The Hostel. Just don’t do it. Nothing good can come of it. Actually, the hubs and I stayed in a few hostels the first time we went to Europe. A few of them were actually nicer than the hotels we stayed in. Granted, that was a budget Contiki tour, so we were staying in some sub-par places, but the hostel we stayed at in Berlin was actually super nice. You save even more if you opt for a “dorm” room versus a private room. If you stay in a “dorm” room at the Archi Rossi Hostel in Florence, it’s only $37 a night. It’s a little utilitarian, sure, but it’d get the job done, right?
And let’s be honest: If you’re traveling right, then you’re literally only going to be in your room for sleeping and getting ready the next morning. So as long as it’s clean, who cares if a place is fancy or utilitarian? You’re not there for the fancy hotels! You’re there to gain life experiences!
Take the Metro instead of cabbing it everywhere.
Even with the advent of Lyft and Uber, cab rides can still be pretty taxing on the pocketbook. However, you can get train tickets relatively cheaply, especially if you buy day passes that give you unlimited access to trains and buses. In most cities, public transportation is easily navigable and will get you where you need to go. Just make sure you validate your tickets—especially on the buses.
Avoid the super touristy areas when dining.
This may seem like another obvious tip, but it’s truly amazing how much a meal is marked up when it’s within view of the Trevi Fountain versus a lovely restaurant that you can find along one of the alleys that shoots off of the square where the Trevi Fountain resides. Plus, the restaurants around the touristy places don’t tend to have the best or more authentic food. (Look out for that fake gelato!)
Sign up for a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees.
We figured this out the hard way. We were young and stupid when we took our first sojourn to Europe. I brought my American Express card, not realizing a lot of places over there don’t accept American Express. I also knew nothing about foreign transaction fees, so we got hit with quite a few. Now we use the Bank of America Travel Card, which has no foreign transaction fees. The Amazon credit card is actually great for this as well.
Also, if you plan on doing a lot of traveling, it might be worth getting a card that offers bookoo cash back or airfare miles, like the Capital One Venture card and/or stay loyal to one airline and sign up for their rewards programs. Can someone say “free flight”?
Bring some euros with you, but also know which European banks are affiliated with yours in each country you visit.
I totally understand the concept of not taking out too many euros because you don’t want to be stuck with them by the end of the trip. I’ve heard those rumors that the euro is going away, too. BUT a lot of people in Europe don’t love it when you use cards; I’ve found it’s just easier to pay with cash.
However, if you don’t want to take out a large sum before you leave or at the beginning of your trip and instead would like to opt for taking out small amounts at a time, then do a little research and find out if your bank has affiliates overseas. Our Italian BofA affiliate, for instance, is BNL. We can withdraw money there with only a 3% transaction fee. For comparison, the hubs and I were charged $20 every time we withdrew money on our first trip. That’s no bueno. (Don’t forget to bring your debit card with you!)
Do you have travel money-saving methods that I haven’t mentioned here? Tell me about them! I want to know! The hubs and I are always looking for ways to maximize our travel experiences without depleting our wallets!
Pin for later: