How to Save Money (Or Maybe Even Make Money) On Your Next Vacation

Feb 27, 2014    /    budgeting + saving

In my annual survey, I asked people to tell me their biggest challenge to living the dream life, traveling the world, starting that business, etc.

Nearly every single person said money.

Which is why this month I’ve been talking a lot about it. Telling you what expenses I have on the road. Giving you a glimpse into how I earn my living while traveling. And, today, throwing all the little tips and tricks that make travel more affordable together so that you can duplicate my own saving efforts.

All my tips are pretty simple things, but over time and in combination, they’ve had a huge impact on my travel budgets.

Some of them are things I did back when I traveled a little bit each year for vacations and friend visits. Others were things I did for my first few months on the road, before I sold my car and really released my old life. Others are things I do today as a full-time traveler. And one or two are things I haven’t done yet, but have been looking into.

Without further ado, then…

Saving or Making Money Back Home

1. Rent out your place.
Renting out your place—whether on sites like Airbnb or to friends—can more than cover your rent or mortgage while you’re out of town. And if you own your home outright, that’s just money in your pocket.

2. Put your phone service on hold.
Most phone providers will let you put your service on hold for up to three months. This means no cell phone bills while you’re out of the country. And the only catch is that if you’re in a contract, it extends it by the same amount that you’ve put your phone on hold for (e.g. if you are on hold for three months, your contract extends by three).

3. Rent out your car.
Have a friend (or friend of a friend) who needs transport? Rent them your car while you’re out of town. In addition to making a little money, you can save on insurance costs (since they’ll cover them) while you’re not using your vehicle.

Saving Money on Getting There

1. Be flexible with your dates.
Any time you’re buying a ticket, check the prices for a couple days before and after your ideal departure and arrival. Sometimes it’s a multi-hundred-dollar difference if you’re willing to fly on a Tuesday instead of a Monday.

2. Be flexible with your destination.
Instead of setting your heart on Puerto Rico, check prices for a few comparable places. It might just turn out that there’s a huge sale on tickets to Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, which also offers sunshine, sand, and cheap margaritas.

If you are flexible with place, try using an open flight search engine like Adioso. You can type in New York to Europe and it’ll show you all the best deals to any city in Europe. Last time I checked, people willing to visit Portugal instead of Paris in the winter would have saved $500 on airfare.

3. Watch the package deals on sites like Travelzoo.
Sometimes the airfare + hotel deal is actually cheaper than just buying the airfare, even if you don’t use the hotel. (Crazy, I know, but true.)

Saving Money on the Road

1. Rent furnished apartments.
Apartment rentals are often cheaper than a hotel room—and you’ll have a kitchen, which can save you tons of money by both allowing you to eat in and to take home leftovers when you do eat out.

2. Ask about discounts.
Many apartment owners will discount their places for longer stays. My month-long rental in the Italian countryside, originally listed for $1,500 for the month, was discounted to about $1,000 when I asked about long-stay and off-season discounts.

And discounts aren’t just for long-stays or off-season stays. If you’re booking at the last second, realize that many places would rather have someone in at a discount than no one in at all, and ask if they have a last minute deal.

This doesn’t just apply to housing. Seniors, military, small children, journalists, young adults (in many parts of Europe, this means under 26), groups (even just four or five people), and bloggers are often eligible for discounts on things like attractions, transportation, and even eating out.

As they say, you have not because you ask not. And the worst that could happen? They say no and you lose the 30 seconds it took you to ask. (In other words, the worst that could happen is not something that should stop you.)

3. Travel slow.
Not only will you find discounts on apartments if you stay longer, but you’ll also spend less on transportation. A whirlwind tour of Europe costs way more than a luxurious month in the Tuscan countryside.

4. Make your own food.
Take advantage of that kitchen and try your hand at cooking some local fare. It’s delicious, fun, and the savings really add up.

5. Explore on foot.
A single ride metro ticket in Paris costs 1.70 euro. Walking from the Sacre Coeur to the Louvre takes about 45 minutes, is better for your health, and gives you a richer, more complete sense of the bustling City of Lights.

Similarly, a train ticket from Latuerbrunnen, Switzerland to Wengen, Switzerland costs about $15 round-trip. The hike takes less than two hours and offers some really pretty forest and mountain views. You’ll also feel stronger and more accomplished when you reach the top.

6. Get a Capitol One credit card.
Other cards have hidden (and sometimes not-so-hidden) fees every time you use the card internationally. Capitol One generally charges no overseas use fees.

7. Consider a Charles Schwab bank account.
This is the only piece of advice on here that I haven’t taken myself (yet). But my research says that Charles Schwab reimburses its customers for international ATM fees. There’s another $20 – $50 in your pocket for every month you’re abroad.

8. Go where the locals go.
A little research before a trip can give you a good sense of the restaurants, shops, and parts of town that are super touristy and those that are more local. Usually the local parts of town will have cheaper (and better) food, more interesting shops, and will offer you another perspective on the city you’re visiting.

9. Take advantage of the outdoors.
Parks, hiking trails, or walking paths offer a great way to spend an afternoon and mix with the locals. Plus, 99 out of 100 times, they’re free. And even when they command a fee (as is the case for some government funded spaces), it’s usually a small one.

Resources

Finally, a few budgeting, saving, and spending resources I like:

Financially Sustainable Travel: My Cost of Full-Time Travel in 2012

How I Can Afford My Life of Constant Travel (by Wandering Earl)

My Own Budgeting and Saving Posts In One Place

How to Make Money While Taking a Vacation

A Tale of Two Vacations by Mr. Money Mustache (my favorite money blogger)

Money: A Love Story

The Truth About Overnight Success

The Key To Making More Money

Round the World Expenses (From a Traveling Couple)

Okay. Your turn. How do you save money while traveling?


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8 Comments
  • Rebecca
    February 27, 2014

    I have not done any travel overseas but, I will use your tips and tricks to save money.
    When I went to visit my dad it was basically couch surfing but, with the use of an air mattress. I also purchased food to cook which saved money even if we did eat out a bit. As for seeing things or attractions I did find a few places that were free so that helped and even the ones that were paid for were not that bad.
    I only brought a few changes of clothes so had to use a laundry mat but, again to avoid luggage fees and just deal with a small backpack it was worth the money spent.
    The other ways to save money is to use the hotels shampoo, conditioner etc instead of packing all of that stuff of course this depends on if you stay in a hotel.
    Rebecca recently posted…One project doneMy Profile

    • gigigriffis
      February 27, 2014

      Excellent points. Couchsurfing and staying with friends can save you a ton on short trips (though I’ve sadly had a few bad couchsurfing experiences, so I don’t recommend it anymore). And yes – nabbing soap and shampoo from the hotel can help…and I find that very often Airbnb apartments provide soap and shampoo as well.

  • Emily
    February 27, 2014

    Hello, all!
    This is awesome advice. Probably every single time we take a trip, I hear people say some variation of “I’d love to do that, but we can’t afford it.” Aaahh! For most people, this is just not true. My husband and I operate on a very moderate monthly budget, and our frequent traveling and adventuring is part of that.
    Anyway, I just wanted to leave a few more tips based on what has worked well for us:
    1.a. In the months (or year) before you hope to go on a trip, write down every single thing you buy, and look it over at the end of the first month.
    1.b. Be honest with yourself about what you’d be willing to nix to be in Switzerland next summer (because we know we all want to go see that gorgeous valley where Gigi is camped out). Average cost of 6 moderately priced drinks at a restaurant (or 6 coffee drinks ending in -cino) per week for eight months = a round-trip ticket from Denver to Zurich in May… and plenty of trips are less expensive than Denver to Zurich in May. Granted this is not all-inclusive, but you see my point.
    1.c. Move that money into a separate account, and think of it as “already spent.” Don’t touch it until it’s time to travel. Bon voyage! :)
    2. If your job requires continuing education of any sort, looks for classes, conventions, or workshops held in awesome destinations. Many parts of your trip (including airfare) can be tax-deductible and this makes a HUGE difference!

    Okay that was a long post. Happy travels, everyone!

    • gigigriffis
      February 27, 2014

      Thanks, love!

  • Kelly Rogers
    March 19, 2014

    True. Preparing our own food is much cheaper than eating out. But this can only be done in apartments. So, I better look for nice but cheap ones in our travels.

  • Ali
    March 19, 2014

    I don’t necessarily go out of my way to be a budget traveler, but Andy and I certainly use a lot of these tips. Especially renting apartments, by far our favorite way to travel. It’s so nice to have that extra space (as compared with a hotel room) and we like being able to cook instead of eating every meal out.

    I’ve been keeping track of our travel spending for months now, and though I really hope it helps my readers, it also helps us to see what we’re spending and we actually spend less because of it. Being aware of where our money is going while we’re traveling makes us pay more attention and not waste money so much. It’s kind of like a game to hit or stay below that budget!
    Ali recently posted…The Trappings of a Resort on Koh SamuiMy Profile

    • gigigriffis
      March 19, 2014

      Excellent point. I’ve been much more detailed about tracking my own spending this year and I think it’s helping a lot.

  • Lazaro Silva
    May 1, 2017

    Hi. Gigi, I want to say that I really enjoyed your tips on how to make money and even how to save money during the vacation period, very soon, my wife and I will be on vacation and we will follow their recommendations. Thank you very much for sharing your ideas.

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