Explore More, Spend Less With These Insider Secrets for Affordable Travel

Traveling provides so many breathtaking views and unforgettable moments. Although it doesn’t have to, traveling can also be very expensive. Saving money on travel isn’t something they teach in school. Savvy travelers know the best ways to save while still having optimal experiences.

1. Shop Local

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Immerse yourself in local culture by stopping at a local market. Pay attention to the kinds of items sold, which booths attract more locals, and which ones pique the interest of tourists. Local markets and grocery stores always sell items at a lower price than tourist traps because they know their audience. Residents don’t typically upcharge their neighbors.

2. Optimize Luggage

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Southwest Airlines is the only airline that allows flyers to check bags without paying extra. Each passenger gets two checked bags with a limit of up to 50 pounds per bag. Spoiler alert: Southwest is not a budget airline. Yes, it’s great you get to bring two full bags of luggage, though the cost of airfare undercuts the free bags. Seasoned travelers know how to pack essentials in carryons and don’t check luggage. You may want to bring your entire closet to Costa Rica, but you don’t need every outfit.

3. Negotiate

Beautiful woman negotiating the price at a local market.
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Many Americans don’t have experience negotiating in markets or stores because prices are usually fixed in North America. When I studied in Peru, our guide instructed us to negotiate when we market hopped since almost every vendor knows how to settle a deal. You can apply this to food and lodging when traveling. Depending on the country, you could save a ton of money.

4. Public Transport

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America lacks the public transportation system in which many European countries thrive. Of course, larger cities like New York City and Los Angeles have forms of public transportation, but they’re concentrated in localities. Traveling via public transport is a less costly transportation method compared to private rides in taxis or Uber. Buses, trains, subways, and ferries all provide affordable routes for the public.

5. Large Lunches

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It’s no secret that dinners cost more than lunches at restaurants despite offering similar portion sizes. Instead of dining out for every dinner, dine out for lunches. Order larger portions and save the leftovers for dinner that night. You cut costs, satiate hunger, and grant yourself more time to explore nighttime festivities.

6. Cook

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Booking a room with a kitchenette is a great way to save money while traveling. This way, you don’t have to overspend on meals. Shop at local markets or grocers for fresh ingredients and try local cuisine. Cook in bulk to portion meals for the next few days to save time and energy.

7. Free Activities

free entry to activities on vacation
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You don’t need to spend much money exploring even when traveling to new countries. You can find free activities to entertain and delight tourists everywhere you go. Cities are fabulous walking grounds, opening up minds to centuries of history. Find a free walking tour to immerse yourself in centuries of rich history. Museums typically offer free days throughout the year, saving potential customers a hefty amount of money as they marvel at iconic pieces.

8. Multiple Copies of Identification

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In college, my roommate forgot her passport in the dorm two days before she left the country. All of us had already gone on our winter trips, some visiting home, some journeying abroad, so no one could be her savior and ship her the passport. She had to visit the passport agency, plead her case, pay a lump sum, and hope everything fell into place. It did, but she lost a large portion of her travel funds.

Always have two or three forms of your passport and ID—digital and physical both work.

9. Leave in the Middle of the Week

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Experian says the cheapest days of the week to board a plane are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays on early morning or late night flights. Given that most people want to book a flight for the weekend, mid-day options have cheaper fares, plus fewer people trying to book them. Grumbling for a few hours about waking up at 4 AM to catch a flight beats spending $500 on a $100 fare.

10. Ask for an Airline Upgrade

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You never know if you don’t ask. When sitting in limbo—the airport tarmac—peek around the plane. Is anyone occupying those first-class seats? How about the business section? Do the curtains reflect a silhouette, or are they cracked and inviting? Ask a flight attendant about upgrading your flight. The worst they can say is no.

11. Emphasize Celebrations

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Is it your birthday? Maybe it’s an anniversary. Did you just get engaged at the hotel? Tell the people around you. You never know when someone will feel particularly generous. Tell the hotel receptionist, the restaurant’s hostess, or the tour guide if you’re celebrating a special occasion. You’ll be surprised by how many free items or discounts sneak in.

12. Bring Your Own Water Bottle

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Take-5 gives customers a free water bottle when they pull up for an oil change. Grocery stores charge patrons between $1 and $2 for a singular plastic bottle, while amusement parks crank the price to $6. Jetsetters know that tourist traps gain a lot of money from naive tourists willing to spend extra on necessities. Don’t fall for that game. Instead, bring your own refillable and reusable water bottle, fill it up at refill stations, and save on natural resources.

13. Bring Snacks

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You can’t always predict when you’ll get hungry or someone might have a dizzy spell, but you equip yourself to tackle the situation head-on. If you aren’t a huge snacker, bring some fruit or trail mix to quell hunger. Refill the snack bag as needed.

14. Opt For All-Inclusive Packages

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One of my favorite all-inclusive stays was in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. At age seven, I followed my mom on all her adventures since she worked for a travel agent company, and I fell in love with the idea of all-inclusive hotels. My young self floated in the pool all day as I drank a surplus of orange juice and devoured too many plates of butter noodles. After I scarfed down my meals, I’d bounce over to the trampoline park for hours of jump time while my parents enjoyed the included shows and watersports.

15. Travel Credit Cards

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Avid travelers need to research travel credit cards. Not only do these credit cards allow you to travel without annoying notifications from the bank confirming your whereabouts, even though you warned them several times about your travel plans. Various travel credit cards offer points and packages per trip, resulting in more affordable vacations later.

16. Avoid Tourist Traps

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If you see someone sketchily hanging out outside a restaurant, waiting for their next victim, or if someone tries to upsell you an experience at a staple attraction (i.e., a guide outside of the Eiffel Tower hoping to sell you an unnecessary tour), walk in the other direction. Tourist traps are pretty easy to spot. One way to determine them is with the absence of locals and the merchandise double the cost.

17. Travel Kit

Travel essentials
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I cannot express how often owning a travel toothbrush or hairbrush improved my mood after a long haul across oceans. Forgetting a tube of toothpaste or other toiletries can be annoying, especially with the overpriced substitutes in airports or convenience stores. Create a travel bag full of travel-size items like Q-Tips, tweezers, shampoo, and conditioner to circumvent the awful reality of walking through an airport with frizzled hair and morning breath.

18. Budget Accordingly

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Travel experts state the best activities to avoid are those you can do at home. Why go to the movies or eat at a chain restaurant when you can explore paradise and local cuisine? Find out niche activities only offered in the particular destination and budget from there.

19. Couchsurf

Couch surfing phone application
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Couchsurfing is a great way to cut costs on lodging, only if you’re comfortable staying in a stranger’s home. However, if you read threads detailing couchsurfing horror stories, you will never sleep anywhere except in your bed. Most people who couch surf don’t have an issue, yet they can report the host to the safety team if they do. The organization also compiled a guide to navigate the system safely.

20. Skill Exchange

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One of my former coworkers participated in a skill exchange program where he lent his animal-friendly skills and gathering techniques to a local village in Bolivia in exchange for room and board (he loved sleeping under tarantulas submerged in the forest). The exchange program focused on helping exotic animals out of toxic circuses or unsafe environments and re-introducing them to the wild. The program paid for his food and lodging while he only fronted the ticket cost.

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The post Explore More, Spend Less With These Insider Secrets for Affordable Travel first appeared on Thrift My Life.

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The content of this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute or replace professional financial advice.

For transparency, this content was partly developed with AI assistance and carefully curated by an experienced editor to be informative and ensure accuracy.