12 Clever Travel Hacks to Save Money and Time

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12 Clever Travel Hacks to Save Money and Time
Are you looking for the best travel hacks to save money?

Do you pour over travel blogs wondering how on earth long-term travellers afford to travel? Are they trust fund babies? Pretty much never. Did they win the lottery? Nope. Then, how?

It’s very simple. To travel full-time or long-term, one must step out of the realms of ‘normal’ and become highly creative with finances.

Most travel bloggers and full-time travellers are savvy money managers, able to stretch a dime as if their life depended on it.

For that reason, I reached out to some travel blogging friends to find out their absolute best money-saving tip for travel.

Below you’ll find tips for saving on accommodation, flights, pre-travel essentials and food.

12 Top Money-Saving Travel Tips

1. Use cashback sites to book travel

Join Rakuten before you travel and get cash back on travel gear plus hotel and trip bookings. Rakuten (formerly Ebates) has arrangements with Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com and Hotwire.

You can also use Rakuten/Ebates for travel gear purchases through brands like LL Bean, Dicks Sporting Goods and more. Plus you’ll get $10 FREE once you make a qualifying purchase over $25. Join Rakuten here

2. Use gaps in Airbnb calendars to nab a discount

One of my best tips for saving money with Airbnb is to actively search for gaps in the calendar of properties you like.

If you are prepared to be flexible with your check-in and checkout times, you might be able to negotiate a hefty discount with the host.

3. Stay in top hotels for a fraction of the price

Using Priceline Express Deals can save up to 25% on each night booked and sometimes up to 60%.

Express Deals are mystery hotels where you don’t know where you’re staying until after you’ve paid but with a bit of simple detective work, outlined in this post, you can quickly work out what hotel you’ll get before you book.

4. Use credit card balance transfers to front-load the big expenses

OK, so this tip requires a fair bit of self-control but done right, you can use credit card balance transfers to stretch your travel budget in the planning stage.

It’s a smart technique as many travel expenses (flights, travel insurance, hotel bookings etc) are front-loaded.

Read more about how to hack a credit card balance transfer and pay less for your travel here.

5. Stop buying bottled water

One thing I really miss when I’m away from home is being able to drink clean tap water.

We spend a lot of money on bottled water when we are in Mexico plus the environmental cost is huge, so I’m excited to learn about this tip to avoid buying bottled water when travelling.

6. Bring some kitchen tools

Preparing your own food is a great way to save money when travelling.

Bringing some key items with you when you travel (like a cooler bag, breadboard, and knife) means you can always make your own lunch and bring leftovers with you. Smart!

Read more tips for saving money on food when travelling here.

7. Look after other people’s pets and homes for free accommodation

If you have a flexible schedule and aren’t picky about location, house sitting can be a great way to travel the world and stay for free!

We plan to do this when the kids are older, although some families manage to house sit with kids too! Find out more about house sitting here.

8. Sing for your dinner and bed for the night (or work for it)

Another great way to keep accommodation costs down is taking part in a work exchange.

All types of work experience are needed from marketing and administration to labouring and skilled tradespeople. Go here for more info on how to work for your accommodation.

9. Be aware of cash requirements

It’s always smart to travel with enough cash to get you started in a new country.

If you are taking USD, be sure to get high denomination notes as these often get a better FX rate and are less likely to be rejected by FX vendors, says Melanie from Passport Amigo.

10. Two vacations for the price of one

Ever wondered how master travellers fit in so many countries?

By taking advantage of airline stopover policy. Many airlines including Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways and others offer super cheap stopover packages to encourage people to have a short stay en route to their main destination.

Utilising these offers can really help you to maximise your travel budget and see a new place for a fraction of the regular cost.

11. Use a VPN to avoid dynamic pricing

Did you know that many hotels and airlines quote you a higher price for exactly the same offering if you’ve searched their website previously?

Sneaky, huh? It’s called dynamic pricing and chances are, it’s happened to you. I know it’s happened to me. Read about how to avoid falling victim to dynamic pricing here. 

12. Keep a separate credit card for deposits

One of the most important things to remember when traveling is to keep your financial information safe. And using a separate credit card for hotel deposits is one way to do that.

Hotels will refund your deposit after you checkout and but it’s possible that by the time they have processed your payment and verified it with the supplier, it could take a week or more for the refund to show up on your account.

Some travelers like to use a travel credit card to cover their hotel deposit and other expenses while they’re on vacation.

This way, they don’t have to worry about being charged foreign transaction fees and they can earn rewards for their trip.

Travelling on a budget doesn’t have to mean surviving on ramen and staying in cockroach-infested backpacker hostels.

It’s totally possible to stay in a luxury hotel on a backpackers budget, or even stay for free in return for looking after homes or as part of labour exchange.

With a bit of savvy, some outside-the-box thinking and these nifty travel tips, you can stretch your travel budget further and have a great time for little money.

Do you travel on a budget? Got a tip to share? Let me know in the comments.

Want more tips for saving money to travel? Have a read of how to save money for travel here, and how we budget for travel here. Happy saving!


Travel Hacks to Save Money and Time

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About Emma Healey

Emma is a recognised family finance and budgeting expert and founder of Mum's Money. Her advice has been featured in Stuff, NZHerald, Readers Digest, Yahoo Finance, Lifehacker, The Simple Dollar, MSN Money and more.