Last Updated 29 May 2020
Here’s something nerdy about me that you didn’t know: I love budgeting and spreadsheets! Which comes in handy since we love to travel… And travel costs money.
One of the main reasons we’re able to travel as much as we do is because we know how to save money, even while travelling.
I wouldn’t necessarily say we’re frugal, but we try to be smart with our money.
The big ongoing budgeting spreadsheet focus for my husband and I is on saving for our retirement. Before that, it was all about our wedding and honeymoon. Before that, it was buying our house and doing it up. Maybe not surprisingly, my husband is more than happy to leave most of the number crunching to me 😆 Although he’s good with money too, so that definitely helps.
But, despite having a big focus on saving we try to take at least a couple of big trips, and some smaller long-weekend type breaks, every year.
This is where having a realistic travel budget comes in. To me, this means both budgeting well before travel, and how you spend and save money while you travel.
Need to save money for travel? Check out these realistic ways anyone can beef up their travel budget!
As a side-note, it’s totally fine to spend money on things you want. After all, travelling is something we want to do, and honestly, it’s where a lot of our money goes!
But, I do think it’s important that you try to be clear on your priorities. This will help you decide when to save while travelling, and when to splurge.
PS – This post may contain affiliate links: That means that if you purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Of course, I only recommend products/services that I have used and believe are great! Please read my disclosure for more info.
Save Money While Travelling By Setting A Budget
We have various budgets at home for day to day stuff. But, we actually try to set a spending budget even when we go on holidays.
This is not to limit the fun! But, for us it helps to have a realistic view of what we can do while we’re there. And actually, it also helps us to realise that we can splash out on certain things if we want to!
Having a travel budget in order to save money while travelling is definitely NOT about limiting your experiences. Nor is it about living on water and bread for the duration of your trip. But, unless you win the lotto, you probably only have a set amount of money to spend.
You need to decide what your priorities are.
There are no right or wrong answers here, by the way! Everyone’s priorities are different and that’s totally fine!
For shorter term holidays, we usually prioritise the accommodation. We know what style we like and are ok with spending a little more in order to have that. (Having said that, we’ve been travelling full time this year and have definitely saved money by choosing more budget accommodation options!)
Location is important to us too. We want the convenience of good food choices nearby, and (if it’s a sun destination) preferably right on or near the beach and ideally, a room with a view.
Some other stuff is less important to us, and so we’re happy to save money on that.
Below are some of our favourite ways to save money while travelling, without limiting the fun!
Bring A Picnic
This is primarily on day 1 = Travel Day.
In case you hadn’t noticed, food at the airport, never mind on the plane itself (if you’re flying low-budget) is crazy stupid expensive.
I remember the last time I decided to be lazy and buy breakfast at the airport. A dry croissant with some ham and cheese cost me €4.50. Add a cup of coffee for another €3.50 and you’ve spent close to a tenner before you’ve even left!
So, if we’re travelling within Europe (= Budget airline = No food included) we tend to pack a sandwich for breakfast/lunch (depending on the time of day), plus a few emergency snacks like nuts and muesli bars.
I’m the kind of person who can go from not hungry to starving HANGRY in minutes. Snacks are a must!
Also – Bring an empty drink bottle! On the plane you can easily spend €3 or more on a bottle of water… Which is just ridiculous. Bring an empty bottle and fill it up at the drinking fountain after security.
Hey look! We’ve already saved €11! Way to go!
Pro Tip: I highly recommend investing in an insulated water bottle that can hold both cold and hot drinks. These days, I honestly don’t travel anywhere without my stainless steel water bottle by Balhvit! It keeps the water cold for hours on end, but it can be used for hot drinks too! Just remember to keep it empty for when you go through security.
Roaming charges can add up very quickly. I know that in Europe, roaming has become a lot more affordable in the past year or two. But you still need to be careful how you use your data and minutes. It’s easy to blow your travel budget on this without even having seen a thing!
There’s a few different options here that will help you save money while travelling.
If you’re going to be staying in a country for a couple of weeks at least, you might want to consider buying a local pay-as-you-go SIM card at your destination. Often, the SIM itself is free and you just pay for the credit.
If you’re ok with having more sporadic internet access, stick to using WiFi only.
Visit the local library. They usually offer at least 30 mins of free WiFi. Cafe’s and hotel lobbies are good alternatives for free WiFi too.
And actually, quite a number of cities now offer free WiFi in their downtown or large public areas! Although the quality and speed of the connection might not always be the greatest, it’s worth checking up on this ahead of time to help you save money while travelling there.
Another good tip is to make sure you have offline maps downloaded. This will make sure that you’re less likely to get lost and then having to rely on your roaming data to get on Google maps.
Check out my post on my favourite free Travel Apps which you might want to consider downloading before your next trip, where I talk about this in a bit more detail.
Book (Shared) Transfers Ahead Of Time
After a lot of trial and error, these days we almost always use Hoppa to book our transfers at our holiday destination.
You can choose between shared, semi-shared and private cars.
We tried the cheapest (shared) option a few times but found it often became tediously long. Semi-shared “speedy shuttle” means there is a maximum of four stops within the area you’re going to, so it’s much faster. With the private option, you pay more but it’s a direct route to/from the airport and your hotel.
Hoppa often have pretty decent discount coupons (10-30%) that they send out via email. It’s definitely worth signing up to their mailing list as it will help you save on travel.
Hoppa normally work with a local company. So, you get the peace of mind of booking on a trusted website, and getting their customer support, but also the benefit of having local drivers take you to where you need to go.
When you book your transfer, Hoppa will send you a confirmation email with detailed instructions of where to go in your arrival airport to find the relevant counter and meet up with your driver.
Easy and secure!
Save Money On Accommodation
Sure, sometimes splashing out on a fancy hotel is great! I highly recommend doing that once in a while!! We might choose to stretch our travel budget on more luxury accommodation when we feel like it is worth it. Maybe it’s a special occasion or we might simply be looking to recharge, with our main priority being to spend most of our time at the hotel and soaking up the sun.
We stayed in an amazing private villa with our own swimming pool and stunning sea views for our honeymoon. And, although it was expensive, it was a special occasion and so our priorities were different.
But, when you’re planning to be out and about more than at your accommodation, I highly recommend staying in and AirBnB apartment (use this link to sign up and get €30 off your first Air BnB booking!)
We always opt for booking a full apartment/house rather than a room in a shared accommodation. While going shared is likely cheaper, the full apartment usually means you have… well…. a full apartment! You get it, a living room, a kitchen, your own bathroom… We prefer the privacy of having our own place.
Not only is AirBnB often a (much) cheaper option than hotels, but if you do book a place with a kitchen, you can opt to make your own breakfast or even pack something easy for lunch.
Plus, there’s the added benefit of being able to enjoy a glass of wine in a homely setting in the evening. Not always eating and drinking out will definitely help you save money while travelling!
I would suggest that you make sure that the apartment you choose isn’t too far out of the way though. Saving money on the accommodation only to spend it on getting to where you want to go obviously defeats the purpose.
You’ll probably want to be able to easily walk to most places. Also look up what the public transport is like near the accommodation so you can get out and see the sights you came to see without getting frustrated by being too far away from everything.
Save Money On Food
This kind of follows on from what I was saying about having your own kitchen in a rented apartment….
Depending on where you are, food can get expensive when you’re travelling. It’s easy to blow your whole travel budget on food and drink!
In some cities, simply walking a bit further and going to a restaurant a few blocks away can really make a massive difference in restaurant prices. Eating right in the centre, or near tourist attractions, will normally be more expensive simply because they can charge more. People will come anyway.
Also look out for menu specials!
Even in places like Spain and the Canary Islands, where food can be pretty cheap on the whole, you can often get great deals for lunch or dinner, saving you a tonne of money!
We had this amazing seafood platter on a trip to Tenerife. It was absolutely divine and only cost us €25 in total including a bottle of wine!
Heading to Tenerife yourself? Check out my guide on where to eat & where to avoid!
Save Money On Activities
I often like to pop into the local tourist office when I’m visiting a new place. There’s loads of helpful, free advice to be had from those who work there. They’ll be able to tell you whether the city offers tourist cards, multi-day transport passes, and maybe even some free activities like walking tours.
Tourist cards are available in most major cities like London, Paris, Barcelona and New York.
These cards can give you either free entry or very decent discounts on attractions like museums as well as on public transport. You might have to choose the number of days that you want the card to be valid for. Prices will vary, but it will definitely save you money while travelling!
The Barcelona card, for example gives you free transport on the train from the airport to the city centre as well as unlimited transport on the Barcelona Metro, bus and tram systems.
Having said that, many big cities offer quite a good selection of museums that have free entry regardless.
London, for example, has lots of really good, free museums. If you feel like there are enough free things to see, you might just opt for a multi-day transport pass. Again, this will likely save you money compared to paying per fare as you go.
Free walking tours are a great way to familiarise yourself with a new city and can give you a different perspective than simply exploring on your own. And, you might even make some new friends in the process!
The last time I was in Exeter in the south of England, I joined the Ghosts & Legends tour, one of the many free Red Coat Guided Tours that the city offers.
It was a really fun and alternative way to see the city from a new perspective. And, totally free!
So there you have it!
There are plenty of things that you can spend your money on when you travel. The main thing is to know when to save, and when to splurge.
Make sure you balance treating yourself with looking for easy ways to save some cash, even while travelling.
Holidays should definitely be fun! Being prepared and working with a travel budget can help make sure you have fun without coming home to an unplanned crazy credit card bill…
What are your favourite ways to save money while you’re travelling? Let me know in the comments below!
Related Posts You Might Like
20 Realistic Ways To Save Money For Travel
15 Sneaky Travel Costs That Could Accidentally Blow Your Travel Budget
Travel Like A Pro – 21 Secret Travel Tips
How To Create A Travel Itinerary You Will Love