Saving Big Bucks on Big Adventures

One of the biggest stumbling blocks that people encounter when planning to travel is the amount of free cash they think they need.

Experienced travelers will tell you that you don’t need as much as you think if you plan it well. There is a big difference between going on a holiday and participating in all the tourist attractions or traveling for a while in the same location.

For a short vacation or holiday, you tend to pack heavy, book lush hotels, and spend a lot of cash on tickets to see things. With traveling, the focus is on experiencing the culture and getting stuck into the surroundings.

On vacations, you’re more likely to eat out every day, which is a huge cost – but when you’re staying a while, you’ll find yourself looking for local markets and cooking your own food.

So, where are the key areas where you can save plenty of cash?

Saving & Research

It can be challenging to set money aside unless you have a sizeable disposable income – or are a natural saver. To save money, make sure you are maximizing your coupon and voucher use on everyday items. Every time you save something, set it aside into your saving pot.

Regular life dictates that you will probably need some everyday home items, too, in which case can take the hard work out of finding things at a reduced price – including travel!

Have savings goals, and use everything you save to add towards it. It is a good idea to add a further 300 on top of your savings for emergencies.

It pays dividends to research the area that you are going to. Here are some of the cheapest places that you can visit:

    • Laos
    • Vietnam
    • Cambodia
    • Indonesia
    • The Philippines

Tip: Check out our favorite places to travel that don’t regularly make the tourist guides: Our Favorite (Lesser-Known) Cities on Each Continent

Eat out less

Cover this point in more detail because you might be surprised just how big the difference is between eating out and staying home to cook. When you are on a short break or 2-3 days, the cost of eating out feels like a luxury – and it is. By day 4+, eating out starts to cost more than almost anything else you do.

Keep in mind that some countries have notoriously cheap, delicious meals in carts along the street, and restaurants, Sri Lanka, China, Malaysia, and more all offer incredible cheap food.

It is still beneficial to you to carry fruit and water everywhere you go, though.

Traveling long term – opt for eating out as little as possible.

Tip: When you arrive at your location, open Google maps, look for the supermarket with a high rating, and check for food markets.

Hostel vs. Hotel vs. Airbnb

Hostels are no longer grotty spaces crammed with people and in a back street of a bad neighborhood. No, instead, hostels have changed in a big way in the last 15 years – some of them rival the costs of a hotel.

Airbnbs are often one of the best ideas and come at a much friendlier price for the same amount of days.

Hostels offer a way to meet people that hotels and Airbnb don’t cater to; the public areas seem to have a better vibe and more people around. If there are any amenities in the hostel, they will be in the community area – things like coffee machines. Hostels also offer a more cultural experience, and the people running them are more than happy to help you out.

You can choose to have a shared hostel room (and it is by far cheaper), or you can opt for private rooms, which are still affordable but offer more privacy.

Hotels are the pricier way to stay, and if you have the budget, great. If not, you need to make sure you look for coupon deals, special rates, and out-of-peak season. There is a lot to be said for a great hotel, but most of the time, you have one small room, and it can feel a little disconnected from the area.

Airbnbs usually put you straight into a neighborhood, rather than in the middle of the city like a hotel and a hostel. This can be an adventure in itself – experiencing the community while being in it.

In the end, the hostels will likely win out when it comes to budgeting.

Find the Free

There are plenty of free things to do in every city, which are usually regular annual events for the residents. You’ll find big parks, swimming areas, outdoor concerts, fairs and more. It’s your job to dedicate time to finding them before you arrive.

Most places have local websites that can give you the dates and locations for everything. Once you have your city or country in mind, head to Google and type ‘free things to do in <insert city>.’

Start making a note of where everything is in relation to where you will be staying.

And when it comes to activities, remember that taking photos is free, and that can be much better than splurging on shopping trips just to pass the time.

Ditch cabs

Many taxi firms can spot a traveler or a tourist with no problems and will often increase the prices – or take the long way on the meter. Of course, not all taxi services are like this. If you want to take a taxi around the city, only book them through your hotel and ask what the price should be before you head out.

The best way to travel around is by foot on public transport. In many European countries, hiring a bike can be the fastest and best way to get around – the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, and Slovenia are some of the best cycling. Many have bike rental companies or stands where you can rent and replace them when you’re done.

If you don’t want to cycle or walk, public transport in most countries is well organized and can take you where you need to go.

Google maps can usually ensure that you get the right bus, train, or metro-tram at the right time for where you are heading. Sometimes it is worth buying a travel card to make sure that you can use all transport.

Make Friends

If you are in an Airbnb or a hostel, making friends is much easier. However, there are still ways that you can meet people that can show you or tell you where the non-tourist trap prices are.

Before you jet off to your new location, check your social media for friends and family that might have connections in that location.

You never know how that might impact your trip – perhaps you will make new friends for life, enjoy a home-cooked meal, or have a guide for a few hours in the day.

Meeting people can add so much to your experience that you might find yourself extending your travel time.

Buy Local

There will be countless supermarkets of all sizes, and some of them will be smaller independent ones. Remember that a critical part of traveling is to give something back to the area. When you buy at a smaller independent grocer, you are putting money into the local economy.

If you are faced with a range of new and exotic fresh fruits and vegetables, don’t be afraid to get out your Google Translate or translation book and ask for some advice or help about what to buy. Often locals will love to tell you all of the best foods and will want to give you a sample of things.

Shopping seasonal will also help massively keep the costs down – and if you are away for a while, don’t be tempted to find the essential stores – they are expensive, and you don’t need to spend that money.


Every country will have a list of rules, and some of those rules will come with fines if you don’t adhere to them. One of the things to watch out for if you have rented a car is that if you are used to miles per hour, and when you are driving in kilometers per hour, the difference is something you need to take into account so that you don’t get a speeding ticket.

In some countries, like Argentina, you need to keep the daylights on the vehicle as you drive; if you are caught without them, you will get a fine. You might be surprised just how many people get a fine for that.


If you keep using your regular bank card, you will stack up fees between 2-3% per use, and it mounts up. Instead, opt to have an account that is designed to tackle multiple different currencies. Wise, formerly Transferwise, is a great option.

There are also credit card options that don’t charge travel fees and don’t have any foreign transaction fees either.

Are you looking for more tips about how you can get more from travel? Going Gypsy: One Couple’s Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All

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