Most people believe that travel is an expense. And oftentimes, it is. But it doesn’t have to be! In fact, this summer my wife and I spent three months living and working from Costa Rica. What was our total cost of living? A mere $4,000 – including airfare, lodging, food, and activities! That’s not too bad for a quarter of a year for two people. And I’ve actually met many other people who have been able to travel for far less than that. If you are able to plan ahead, make smart money decisions, and have a bit of flexibility; travel can be incredibly inexpensive. Here are 7 money saving travel tips to save money on your next vacation.
Best 7 Money Saving Travel Tips
1. Sign up for a travel credit card to get free flights
One of the best money saving travel tips is to sign up for a travel credit card. Not only will these cards give you 1-3% cashback on your purchases, but many offer a signup bonus that can pay for an entire round trip ticket to many parts of the world. Plus, with the travel insurance and rental car insurance that most travel credit cards provide, you can save even more on your next vacation.
It was a travel credit card that paid for my roundtrip airfare to Costa Rica.
2. Get cashback on all of your travel purchases
One of the smartest ways to save money on any trip is to use the cashback shopping portal, Ebates, before making any reservations. You can receive anywhere from 3-10% cashback on popular travel sites like Hotels.com and Groupon Getaways.
In fact, if your hotel is on Hotels.com, you can get 6% cashback by shopping through Ebates, 1-3% cashback from your travel credit card, and receive a free night for every 10 that you book through Hotels.com (an additional 10% savings)!
From airfare to rental cars, to lodging, if you check out Ebates before booking any travel plans, the savings really add up.
3. Avoid unnecessary “add-on” costs
From extra baggage fees to rental car GPS units, try to skip as many add-on costs as possible. Don’t spend $50 to check a bag just because you need to bring shampoo – buy shampoo at your location for $10 and you’re still coming out ahead.
Meanwhile, rather than paying for a GPS unit from the rental car agency, download Maps.me on your smartphone. This free app turns your smartphone into a GPS – even when you don’t have service! Just download the map for the country that you’re visiting, and you’re good to go.
4. Find free and discounted activities
Thanks to sites like TripAdvisor and Groupon, it’s easier than ever to find free and discounted activities, restaurants, and events. Avoid booking activities through your hotel or any speciality travel websites until you’ve had the opportunity to do some research. Sometimes, if you are flexible, showing up in person can get you the best deal on an activity (provided it isn’t sold out). This is definitely one of the most spontaneous money saving travel tips that will benefit the most flexible travelers.
While in Costa Rica, my wife and I found free hot springs that were beautiful and uncrowded – saving us $50 each compared to the commercialized locations just down the road.
5. Travel during the low season
Whenever possible, travel during the low season (provided it’s still a pleasant time to visit). Not only do you miss out on the massive crowds, but everything is cheaper! You can save 25-50% on just about any outing (boat tours, rentals, etc), because the tourist operators have plenty of boats/cars/boards/etc.
Because the summer is the low season in Costa Rica, we saved hundreds on our car rental, lodging, activities, and food.
6. Use an affordable phone provider
Some people will pay an extra $50-100/month to take their phone with them to another country. And there’s no need for this! First off, if you have a service like T-Mobile you may be able to use your phone for free. Secondly, most parts of the world have free WiFi available now, so you may not even need a regular phone. Finally, if you do need a phone, make sure that your phone is unlocked and buy a local sim card.
Depending on where you travel, a $5 sim card can easily cover your talk and data for a week or two vacation.
7. Start a blog
What does starting a blog have to do with saving money when you travel? Plenty! First off, if you develop a blog with a decent following, you may be able to get free travel. For example, in exchange for writing a blog post about the country, my wife and I received 4 free nights of lodging in Costa Rica! That’s not too bad.
But that’s not all. If your blog starts making money, you can actually write off travel related to your blog as a business trip. In other words, if your blog makes $2000 next year and you take a $1500 vacation, your taxable income will just be $500! Although you want to keep it legal so that you don’t end up like this guy, if you never expense more than you earn, and you actually write about your trips, you should be fine.
Finally, if you’re real, lucky, you can end up like Allan and make $23k in 9 months off blogging! There’s really no reason not to start a blog.
What’s the next step for you?
There you have it! From cash back to free activities, to the most ambitious activity (starting a blog), you can save anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on your next vacation by following the steps outlined above.
But for some people, a two-week vacation just isn’t enough! If that’s the case for you, check out my series on how to quit your job and become a digital nomad in 90 days. Becoming location independent is easier than you might think.
For the comments: Although we’ve shared a few great ideas in this article, I’m sure that many of you have great money saving travel tips that we missed. We’d love to have you share your experiences and advice in the comments section below.