How to save money while travelling


Photo credit: _Hadock_ via photopin cc

We all love to travel, right? The very fact that you’re reading this blog would suggest this to be true and I’m also going to assume that you like to get the most for your money.

Travelling is not a cheap hobby, but I would contend that the return on investment is phenomenal. The experiences gained from a weekend away are infinitely more worthwhile than investing the cost of said weekend in shares or leaving it in the bank – but of course there are other unfortunately many other necessities in life we have to pay for too.

This is not a budget travel website but it is about getting the best bang for your buck when you do get away.

If you follow at least some of the advice in this article you’ll be able to save money you can use to have more fun so listen up!

Buy an annual travel insurance policy

You’ll save a lot of cash by having a long-term travel insurance policy rather than buying cover for each trip. Check the small print for exclusions and if necessary buy extra insurance for ‘hazardous activities’ (think extreme sports, travel to certain areas) and for expensive equipment – that camera gear can add up.

If you already have home insurance, life insurance etc. check if your provider will give you a multi-policy discount. But let me reiterate that the cover is the important part, not the cost so don’t just look at the cheapest option or you may have a shock if you need to claim

Get a good credit card

Find the cheapest card for cash withdrawals and use abroad – fees can vary widely and these add up if you use cards a lot. This depends where you are going but plastic is becoming ever more ubiquitous and convenient – some cards also provide insurance when paying for flights or package holidays.

Never opt to pay in your own currency with a credit card

I’m sure you’ve been offered the ‘convenience’ of paying for your meal abroad in your own currency when presenting your card – this is essentially a scam by the card providers to make more money by stinging you with a bad exchange rate. Just pay in local currency.

Do not change money at the airport

In this day and age it’s amazing that many people (especially those of a certain age, it has to be said) still continue to change wads of their own notes into local currency at the airport when they land. The rates are always awful and additional fees can be crazy too.

The same applies to changing all your holiday money at home before leaving – you’re likely to lose out and do you really want to be carrying all that case on you?

Just take a small amount with you in case of emergencies and use ATMs when you arrive to withdraw local currency, having secured the cheapest card for doing so as per the point above.

Do your research when booking flights

This is particularly important when using low cost carriers – is the arrival airport a two-hour journey from the city it’s named after? That would be Oslo-Torp, a classic example of borderline deception employed by RyanAir and WizzAir.

The same holds true for the ‘alternative’ airports for Stockholm, London and a bunch of other places so check this before booking or you may find the transport to the city costs more than the airfare.

Roaming is still hugely expensive – don’t do it

The cost may have fallen within the EU, but using your mobile phone abroad is still disproportionately expensive. Make sure mobile data is switched off (most new models do this automatically when they realize you are in another country) or block it via your provider.

If you are going to be in one country for some time consider a local SIM but remember that you will then have a new number making it harder for people to contact you in an emergency.

Use WiFi to keep in touch – with Skype, messaging etc.

In many places free Wi-Fi is becoming extremely common, and even where you have to pay for access (some hotels refuse to budge on this) it will often be cheaper than calling. I swear by Skype to phone which is a paid service but allows me to call using Skype from my computer, tablet or mobile phone to a regular telephone or mobile number.

The quality is excellent these days and costs are extremely low. It’s very useful when calling people who don’t have Skype themselves or are not in front of a screen.

Buy quality luggage to avoid expensive damage

Good luggage isn’t cheap but cheap luggage isn’t good. For hold luggage a hard suitcase is essential and get one with clasps, not zips as the latter can be cut open and also get stuck.

Even at the best airports cases get rough treatment so don’t scrimp on your luggage or you may find those wonderful souvenirs little more than expensive jigsaw puzzle versions of their former selves when you get home.

Book a couple of months in advance

An oft-quoted theory is that eight weeks out is the perfect time to book. I can’t say that this is true but booking flights some time ahead makes sense. Most airlines now use dynamic pricing models so fluctuations follow supply and demand.

Get in early and get some peace of mind. It may also be cheaper to book in the afternoon as it is widely believed that business flights are usually arranged in the morning – but again I have yet to test this one.

Buy a multi-day travel pass

You’ll need to research this for the destination you are visiting but in almost all cases you will save money with a pass valid for several days. Assuming you will be in a city for more than a day you may also be able to save by purchasing a pass in advance, and there may be additional savings included in a ‘tourist card’ or similar.

Eat at lunch time for gourmet bargains

If you want to experience legendary restaurants but can’t get a dinner reservation, try eating at lunch time instead. Many of the top eateries around the world have far better availability during the day than in the evening and prices can be much more agreeable too.

The food is just as good but can be half the price or less than at night.

Do your research – before you travel

For a huge number of ideas on how to save money on the road, check out these frugal travel tips.

Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs

I know what it's like to go from being a crazy backpacker without a care in the world, via being a vaguely sensible parent to being an adventurer once more. In other words, evolving into a Grown-up Traveller.

Like everyone else, I love to travel, have visited a lot of countries and all that but my big thing is Africa.

I also own and run The Grown-up Travel Company as a travel designer creating personalised African itineraries for experienced adventurers

Articles: 1259


  1. Good tips Andy. I learnt not to exchange money at the airport the hard way.

    Whatsapp is also great for texting via wifi too 🙂

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