How to Save Money on Just About Every Major Travel Expense

The key to successful travel, no matter whether you’re staying in hostels or living the life of luxury on a resort, is to keep to your budget. Regardless of what this is, there are plenty of ways to cut it down – everything from comparing hotel costs to relocating cars across the country. This guide covers it all.

Hotels

I like Hotels Combined, but everyone has their favorite comparison site. Simply put it, it compares multiple hotel websites to find the cheapest deals. I might then try and use a voucher if I can find one – the Fat Wallet travel section has some great hotel vouchers.

Flights

Again it’s a comparison of comparison sites (excessive maybe, but it’s worth it) combined with keeping an eye on the latest flight deals and coupons.

Hotel Alternatives

Hotels are one way to travel and are definitely one of the easiest going, but there are a few other options as well. I’ve tried Couchsurfing (staying with locals for free), but there’s also Wwoofing (working on an organic farm) or paid stays with locals such as AirBnB. The difference between sites like AirBnB and Couchsurfing, apart from the payment factor, is that with Couchsurfing you usually end up sleeping on a couch or floor whereas with AirBnB you’re usually paying for a room in someone’s house.

Pet Costs

You’re going away, but what do you do about Rover and Kitty? The easiest option is to ask a friend or family member to help out, but that isn’t always an option. If you have a big dog that requires a daily walk it isn’t always easy to convince your ninety year old neighbor to take on the task. The daily rate for a kennel can often cost you as much as a cheap hotel room.

Enter pet and house sitters. Now there’s the traditional pet and house sitting agency where you get charged a daily rate, but there’s also plenty of house and pet sitters like me who offer their services for free. Why do we do it? Simply because we, like you, love to travel and house sitting helps cut down on our costs as well as yours. (If you’re wondering where to find all of these charitable pet lovers I’ve listed a few of the main websites here.)

Often the service is actually better (I’ll admit I could be biased) as your pet gets individual care and attention as opposed to having that attention shared between all of the other pets at the kennels or cattery. And, having these sitters live in your home means they will help to deter burglars or will fix problems (such as leaky taps) early on – all of which saves you money in the long-term.

Be sure to do your research though; check for references and previous experience. House sitting depends a lot on trust and in these kind of situations there are always those that would like to take advantage of that.

Car Rental

As with flights there are plenty of comparison websites out there. Simply enter the dates you need the car for and click the compare button and voilà, all of the cheapest options are there before your eyes.

Think that’s it? If you’re a frugal Dougal like myself that’s just the first step.
From there I would look to see if any of these car hire companies or travel comparison websites offer cashback.

What is cashback? Simply put they give you ‘cash back’ when you use their service.
Fat Wallet offers cashback on a number of travel websites including Expedia, Orbitz, Cheap Tickets and Hotwire. Their car rental cash back offers can be found here.

Food

Food is another big cost when travelling abroad. Because you’re not on your own territory and don’t know where’s cheap, you often end up spending double or three times what you would normally spend on food at home.

Here’s some ways to change that:

  1. Take advantage of group-buying websites. Visiting New York next month? Take a look at sites like Groupon to see what deals are coming up now. Often these will be valid for a month or two and very often they’re food related as well. (Top tip: Fat Wallet often has Groupon and Restaurant.com vouchers.)

    Note: I’ve actually managed to save on hotels, activities and all sorts of other travel expenses simply by keeping an eye on these sites before I go.

  2. Look out for online vouchers/deals. Fat Wallet has a dedicated restaurant vouchers section, but OpenTable can also offer some good deals internationally (including in the US).
  3. Ask locals. The options above tend to specialize in deals for chains or larger establishments (not always) and often, when travelling you want to eat the local cuisine. I usually ask on the Couchsurfing Forums or on Chow. Chow tends to have a more affluent clientele, but they’re usually better verses in the best places to eat whereas couchsurfers who are living in a city usually know the cheapest eats. Combine the two and you’re onto a winner.

Domestic Transport

If you’re travelling within a country, the options are usually flights (same techniques as international flights), rail (there are now rail comparison sites), bus (try cheaper options like Greyhound and Megabus in the UK/US and look for equivalents in the country you’re visiting) and car (car hire has been covered as well).

If you’re travelling within Europe for a number of months an Interrail pass can offer some cost-savings, although I have found this is more suited to Western European countries (France, Spain, Germany etc.). Eastern European rail is already quite cheap.

Other ways to save on travel include road trip car pooling with sites like Share Your Ride or relocating cars or motorhomes. For the second option, this is simply where car or motorhome companies (mainly in Australia and the U.S.) need a vehicle relocated to another part of the country. In return for free transport, you drive the vehicle across the country. Gas and expenses are usually covered, but you will need to double check with the individual company. I have never done this but I know that Stand By Relocations is a good example.

Insurance

Again, do your research and use the comparison, voucher and cashback sites. You can sometimes get your cover for mere pennies this way, although the insurance companies are starting to get wary of this now.

Cruises

A cruise no longer has to be expensive as Erin Gifford has written about previously. Looking at off-speak dates, opting for less popular routes and most importantly keeping your eyes on the latest cruise deals are all essential tips for getting the best price possible.

Entertainment

Depending on where you’re visiting, it’s usually possible to find deals on tourist attractions. In most cities, a city pass can offer some decent savings if you’re planning on visiting a number of attractions.

Aside from that, it’s best to research online. Fat Wallet has some excellent restaurant and entertainment deals, especially for advanced purchase of tickets for sports games, concerts, theatre and Vegas.

Everything Else

These were all of the main categories I could think of. Anything else, just ask in the comments and I’m sure someone, or myself, will be able to help out. The travel forums here are also an excellent treasure trove of knowledge.

Having lived in Edinburgh for nearly 5 years, James appears to adopted the thriftiness of the Scots when it comes to travel ☺. You can find him over on Twitter or follow his house sitting blog that he maintains with his partner Jemma.

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