The Last Travel List You’ll Ever Need: 150 Frugal Tips You Can Use Today


64 min read

Travel can be expensive. Are you eager to save a little money on your next vacation, without sacrificing your enjoyment? Whether you’re traveling by car, bus, train, plane or ship, we’ve compiled the ultimate list of frugal travel tips. Find out how to save money on everything from plane tickets, to insurance, to accommodations, food and more! Whether you’re a savvy traveler or preparing for that hard-earned dream vacation, we have the tips that will put more cash in your pocket.
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Frugal Air Travel Tips

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Frugal Air Travel Tips

Booking:

1. Search Incognito for the Best Ticket Prices

Airlines use browser cookies to increase ticket prices based on how many times you’ve searched for a flight. This is to scare you into booking the flight before prices rise even more. Don’t be a victim! To prevent inflated flight costs, browse in “incognito” or “private” mode in your browser. (Here’s how to do that in Firefox, Chrome and Safari). Use a new incognito session for each search. When you’ve really found the best price, go back to normal mode and book it.

2. Get Even Better Prices with a VPN

Many airlines charge different fares depending on which country you’re in. Many domestic flights are more expensive when booked outside the country! By using a free Virtual Private Network (VPN) like ZenMate, you can hide your location or pretend to be somewhere else.

3. Pay in a Foreign Currency to Save More

Before booking a flight, check to see if it might be cheaper to pay in a different currency. If your credit card allows you to use a foreign currency without an additional transaction fee, and if you can get a cheaper rate, take it!

4. Don’t Forget the Smaller Airlines

Local and small airlines are often not included in global search results, especially if your destination is somewhere off the beaten path. Instead of Googling for ticket prices and flight times, look for a local airline at your destination and check their website to see if they have any offers or competitive rates.

5. Compare and Save by Booking Flights Separately

When it comes to long-distance flights, you might save money by booking legs of the trip separately, instead of all together. Put those incognito searches to good use and see if booking several legs of a trip independently saves money over booking one long flight. Just keep an eye on those transfer times.

6. Mix and Match Airlines for Better Rates

Don’t feel you have to be loyal to any particular airline! If you can pull off the transfer and layover, switch up airlines when booking a multi-leg trip if it will get you better ticket prices. Some airline search engines and apps even have an option for this!

7. Save Hundreds with a Budget Airline

Low-cost airlines like Ryanair, WOW air, and easyJet have made it much easier to fly, especially across Europe. Although some still have some hidden extras like check-in and luggage fees, these can be worked around… and you still stand to save a bundle.

8. Save at the Source: The Airline Website

Did you know many airline website have exclusive deals and lower fares that can only be accessed directly from the websites themselves? You do now! After your comparison shopping, check out your airline directly and see what you can save.

9. Hit All the Flight Search Engines for Sure Deals

Sure, you probably have a favorite search engine you use for booking flights. But don’t let your loyalty cost you money. Many flight search engines don’t list budget airlines, and their rates can be biased toward certain airlines. Search around when you’re searching and use multiple engines!

10. Switch Up and Save: Change Connections

Using a little ingenuity and sites like Airfare Watchdog, you can connect through an arrival city that happens to have fares on sale. This is just like booking individual legs of the trip (see above), but with some extra deal-hunting added!

11. Fly Frugally into an Alternate Airport

Did you know that you stand to save some serious cash by flying into a smaller, alternative airport in your destination city? It might mean a longer drive or train ride into the city, but the savings could mean more fun once you get there. Do some research and find out!

12. Break up with the Family

Don’t worry, we don’t mean forever — just for the flight. You’d think bulk rate would mean cheaper prices, but that’s not true with airline tickets. Group discounts are often misleading, and a big family or group can actually prevent you from getting the best deal. When booking a trip, make sure the flight has enough seats to accommodate your whole group, but compare the prices for smaller groups before you buy. If they’re cheaper, buy in smaller numbers instead of one big group! It’s more time and work, but you could save some money.

13. Profit from the Mistakes of Others

Were you subject to a flight delay, overbooking, or cancellation? You don’t have to just shrug and move on. You could be entitled to monetary compensation. Sites like AirHelp can help you find out what you’re owed when your flight doesn’t go right. Airlines also make mistakes when posting fares, which can lead to serious discounts. Sites like Secret Flying can help you spot these and take advantage of them. You may have to keep an eye on prices, but the time spent could yield serious savings.

14. Take Advantage of Price Drop Payback

Some sites, such as CheapAir, Orbitz and Tingo, have programs that will pay you the difference if the price for an itinerary drops between the time of your purchase and your actual departure — often up to $100 per ticket. Some caveats apply, however, so check the fine print before you book!

15. Save on Seating

If you’re truly dedicated, you can even save a few bucks after you’ve booked your flight! Use Seatguru or Skytrax to find out if you can save some money by switching seats. If you’re flying with a budget airline and their are unassigned seats on the flight, show up early and see if you can make a deal.

16. Reap the Rewards of Learning Benchmark Pricing

To get a good deal, first you must know a good deal when you see it. Before booking, give yourself a crash course in understanding airline benchmark pricing. Knowing how airlines set prices for your destination will help you know if what you’re paying is reasonable.  Farely is a great place to start.

17. Fly Indirect

The math is simple on this one: flights with layovers are always cheaper than direct flights. If you’re willing to deal with the downtime between flights in exchange for saving money, pick an indirect flight and bank the difference.

18. Know Your Airport Hubs

All airlines offer deals for certain cities. These cities may not always be your destination, but you can probably get a discount if you take a layover in that city as part of your trip. Again, experiment with booking and see how the numbers roll out!

planner organizer on desk

Times and Dates

19. Know Your Travel Windows

Common wisdom says the best time to buy plane tickets is 54 days out. Wait too long, and the price will go up. Buy too early, and you might pay too much. You’ll always be taking a bit of a gamble, but apps like Hipmunk can help you sort out the best time to purchase a ticket.

20. Book in January! (And Other Off-Season Advantages)

Airlines usually offer their cheapest flights in January. This is the post-holiday lull when demand is low and most people aren’t traveling. Taking your vacation in January might seem counterintuitive, but you stand to save a bundle on ticket prices. Conversely, if budgetary concerns are foremost in your mind, stay away from major holidays, spring break, graduation dates, and other dates when the whole world is traveling. Demand, and prices, are always highest during these times.

21. Book on a Tuesday, Leave on a Wednesday

According to website FareCompare, the cheapest day and time to book a domestic flight is Tuesday at 3 pm Eastern… and the cheapest time to leave is Wednesday. This is because most airplane seats are empty on a Wednesday, which means lower prices.

22. Sleep and Save: Take the Red-Eye

The absolute cheapest times to fly? The red-eye flights, which leave late at night and arrive at their destination in the wee hours of the morning. Demand tends to be lowest at those times, and it’s likely many seats will be empty. A great time to catch up on your sleep!

23. Early Bird Gets the Worm: Shop in the Morning

The best time to get deals on flights is early in the morning, as the most tickets and discounts are offered early in the day and tend to disappear as the day goes on.

24. Take the First Flight Out

If you’re a morning person, good news! The cheapest flight time of all is the first flight of the morning. After that, the cheapest flight times tend to be just after noon or in the evening around dinner time.

25. Snatch Up a Last-Minute Trip

For impulsive travelers, last-minute trips can be a source of savings. Many airlines will cut prices when they can’t fill a plane, and will email serious discount offers to travelers who signed up for alerts. If you’re looking to book a last-minute weekend flight, head to the airline website of your choice and sign up to get notified.

Baggage and Parking:

26. Pre-Book for Cheaper Airport Parking

Airport parking is generally more expensive when booked the day of departure. Take a few minutes to call and pre-book your parking. You’ll probably get a better rate!

27. Avoid Costly Fees: Weigh Luggage at Home

Avoid costly luggage fees at the luggage check-in by weighing your luggage before you leave. You can buy an inexpensive home luggage scale if you’re a frequent traveler, or use this simple trick: weigh yourself on your home scale, then weigh yourself carrying the bag. Subtract the first number from the second and you have the weight of the bag (or at least a close estimate)!

28. Pack Light, Pack Smart, Save Money

The best way to avoid those luggage weight fees? Pack only what you need! Experts say to take about half as many things as you usually pack. Pack the items you might want on the plane (like snacks) at the top; pack items you won’t need until your arrival at the bottom. Having trouble narrowing it down? Consult this ultimate packing list or this page of space-saving tips when packing.

29. Beat Baggage Fees by Wearing Your Carry-ons

When choosing what to carry onto the plane, pick a soft-sided bag instead of a hard case. This will not only let you pack more, but is easier to fit under the seats or in the overhead bin. Take only one pair of shoes in your carry-on, and wear your bulkiest shoes to the airport. Wear your jacket or sweater instead of packing it in your bag. Keep items like your passport, ID and paperwork into your purse, laptop bag, or briefcase.

30. Bring Your Own Food

What’s the deal with airline food? It’s vastly overpriced and not worth it, for the most part. Unless you’re on a very long international flight, you can probably get by with your own fare, packed in your carry-on bag or even your purse. Take advantage of the free beverage service and pair it with a snack of your choice.

Discounts, Reward Programs, and More

31. Sign Up for Airline Affiliated Credit Cards

Travel a lot? Hate paying for airline tickets? Use one of these cards to buy your groceries, gas, and daily living expenses, and earn points to get free flights! Check out Nerdwallet’s great article on the best airline credit cards out there right now.

32. Earn Airline Miles by Shopping at Partner Stores

Many large chain stores, such as Amazon, Target, and Best Buy, have rewards programs that can earn you airline miles. Just shop at these stores as you normally would, and you can earn two to four miles per dollar spent — sometimes up to ten miles per dollar. A few months of shopping can earn you thousands of miles before you know it!

33. Join a Frequent Flyer Program

Frequent flyer programs aren’t for everyone, but if you spend a lot of time on planes (whether for business or leisure), there are many potential benefits. For business travelers, a miles program is best — the upgrades grant you access to great perks like lounges, rental car discounts, and more. For leisure travelers who stick with a single airline, a free flight program is better, as a few domestic flights can get you a free trip fairly easily. For travelers who switch airlines a lot, consider a credit card with a flight rewards program for maximum flexibility.

34. Save with Student Discounts

Fortunately, there’s more to student life than all-nighters and student loans. If you’re a student (or, in some cases, just under the age of 26), you may be able to find student discount codes for flights. Agencies like STA Travel can also help you find airfare discounts.

35. Stay Alert

If you’re the kind of traveler who can act quickly when a fare sale starts, sign up for fare trend alerts on CheapAir’s FareTracker. You’ll be notified first when a sale starts and can snatch up a cheap seat before they’re all gone!

36. Get Frugal with an AirPass

If you’re planning to do extensive traveling in a particular country or region, an AirPass is a great way to save both time and money. Many national airlines offer these special fare programs that let you fly to multiple cities at discounted rates. While some restrictions apply, it may be your most cost-effective option for backpacking across Europe or visiting many Asian countries. Check with your national airlines to see what they have available. w to find air passes?

37. Hitchhike the Skies: The Ultimate Money-Saving Tactic

Believe it or not, it is possible to hitchhike on small planes taking off from municipal airports. This isn’t a reliable means of travel — it takes flexibility, luck and patience. You’ll have to find a pilot willing to let you on board, and you may have to pay for fuel. If you’re the daring sort (or just out of other options), check out SkyPool for resources!

van road trip sunset

Frugal Road Travel Tips

Drive Yourself

38. Bring Your Own Car Seat or Stroller to the Airport

You can rent a car seat or stroller at most airports, but it tends to be expensive. Check with your airline beforehand, and if possible, bring your own to make sure your child travels safely (and without extra expense).

39. Drive or Fly? Cost-Comparison Made Easy

A road trip might seem like a money-saver at first glance — but take a good look at the math before you decide to forego that flight for the lure of the open highway. You can work out the mileage and costs for fuel / food / lodging yourself, or you can use free online tools like costtodrive.com to make it easy.

40. Road Trip! Rent a Vehicle, or Take Your Own?

When deciding whether to take your own car on a long trip (as compared to renting), experts say renting a vehicle of approximately the same fuel efficiency will cost you about the same over the long run. If you can rent a significantly more fuel-efficient vehicle than you own, you stand to save a little money. Finally, if you can combine increased fuel efficiency with a strong coupon or other discount, you could save quite a bit of money. In general, however, it’s probably easier and just as economical to take your own car — as long as your car is reliable!

41. Drive the Right Car for Maximum Efficiency

With the above tip in mind, remember that not all cars are created equal. If you have multiple cars to choose from on your road trip, discuss with your fellow passengers and pick the vehicle with the best comfort and fuel economy. That oversized SUV might seem like a great idea across the board, until you run the numbers on the fuel costs.

42. Prep Your Car for Savings (and Safety)

Doing a maintenance checkup on your car before taking it on the road is not only great for your fuel economy and peace of mind — it’s also great for safety! Before leaving on that trip, check your tire pressure, treads, headlights, brakes, interior and exterior lights, wipers, transmission fluids, and oil. It’s better to take the time before you leave than get a nasty surprise far from home.

43. Rent an RV

If you want to combine travel and lodging, renting an RV can be a great way to travel! Recreational vehicles can be rented at sites like RV Share and Outdoorsy, and you can check out RoverPass and Woodalls to find great places to stop, rest, and recreate nationwide.

44. Save Gas (and Money) with Fuel Apps

Saving a few pennies on gasoline might not seem like a big deal when you’re at the pump. But on a long trip, it can make a huge difference. Sites like GasBuddy (they also have an app) can be a great resource for comparing prices and finding the best rates on gas.

45. Drive Responsibly

Driving fast only burns through gas more quickly, and makes it tougher to enjoy the scenery. Also, nobody likes adding a big medical and car repair bill to their trip. Drive safely and arrive in one piece.

46. Night Driving Saves!

If you can manage it, drive at night! Granted, the scenery won’t be as nice, but you’ll use less gas in the cooler night hours, especially during the summer months, when you may not even have to run the air conditioning. Drive in shifts for maximum safety.

47. Don’t Pay for That Gas Station Burrito

Road fare tends to be overpriced and of low quality. Save a few bucks by packing a cooler with drinks and snacks before you head out. Bring food that won’t spoil for best results, and also bring along condiments or other ingredients to supplement what you buy on the road.

48. No Budget for a Hotel?

If you’re night driving across country, consider taking a nap at the various rest stops just off the highway instead of paying for a hotel stay. Just make sure to keep safety in mind while doing so!

49. Beat the Rush, Save a Bundle

If possible, time your travels to avoid rush hour in large metropolitan areas. Sitting idle in traffic isn’t just boring and a waste of time, it also burns up a lot of gas. Stay away from the major drive times and take some stress off your trip.

50. Keep a Steady Pace with Cruise Control

This is another small tip that can add up to big savings. Driving at a constant speed is more fuel-efficient than constantly changing speed. Using your cruise control also reduces the odds of speeding (and getting a costly ticket).

51. Avoid the Toll with an EZPass

Traveling through an area with a lot of toll roads? Toll passes such as EZPass, Fast Lanes or iZoom are electronic toll collection systems that use transponders to get you through toll lanes faster (and cheaper). Some (such as EZPass) allow you to connect several cars to your account via the phone.

52. Update Your Insurance

If you have a long trip coming up, now might be a great time to do some comparison shopping. Check into The Zebra to see how your current insurance racks up to competitors and consider switching to put a few bucks back in your travel budget.

taxis in big city

Car Rentals and Taxis

53. Rent a Car Round-Trip and Save

This may seem counterintuitive, but the numbers don’t lie. Renting a car one-way instead of round trip can cost more… sometimes over twice as much! If you can break up your rental period and arrange your trip so you can return to the rental facility, you can save hundreds of dollars by booking a round-trip car rental instead of a one-way rental.

54. Take a Cab Halfway

If weather permits and you’re traveling in a pedestrian-friendly city, you can save money by taking a cab only partway to your destination, then walking the rest of the way. Walking is great exercise, good for sightseeing, and the least costly way to travel.

55. Share a Car Instead of Renting

If you only need a car for hours instead of days, look into a car-sharing service like Zipcar. Zipcar requires a $25 application fee and an annual fee of $50, but you’ll get much better rates compared to car rentals. You could save hundreds on car rentals!

56. Join the Ridesharing Revolution

There’s a reason services like Uber and Lyft have traditional taxi services worried. Ridesharing services are quite often (though not always) less expensive than cab service. New York City is the only place where taxis have comparable rates! Just keep an eye on that surge pricing.

57. Taking a Taxi? Know Your Fare

If you know you’re going to be in a cab at some point in your travels, and you’re not sure if you have enough money for a taxi, here are a few sites that can help you know how much it will cost: World Taxi Meter, TaxiMe, and Taxi Calculator.

58. Don’t be a Mark: Walk Outside the Airport to Get a Cab

The cab drivers nearest the airport are often best described as “predatory.” These “fly-catchers” depend upon the fatigue and anxiousness of travelers and can take advantage by hiking up rates and taking fares to selected hotels. For a better deal, get a cab on the street instead.

59. Renting a Car? Look for Full Lots and Small Cars

When choosing a car to rent, look for the agency that has the most cars in the lot. The rental agencies will be anxious to get rid of them, and be much more open to negotiation, if the lot is full. Also, smaller cars tend to be cheaper, so if size doesn’t matter to you, get the smallest car you can.

60. Negotiate for a Deal by Quoting the Competition

This is a classic negotiation tactic, but worth mentioning. If you have a rental quote from another agency, see if the rental agency you’re currently talking to can match or beat it. Quite often, they will do so without even verifying.

61. Rent Directly at the Airport for the Best Car

The rental agencies at airports tend to have the newest, most up-to-date cars, as they start there before being distributed elsewhere. If you want the newest car available, rent at the airport.

62. Pick Up Your Rental Car at Peak Times (No, Really)

If you reserve the cheapest car and pick it up during peak hours (such Monday morning or Friday afternoon), you increase your chances for a free upgrade. This is because the agency has rented out the cheaper cars and likely has a more luxury model to give you.

63. Just Ask for that Grace Period (or Upgrade)

Car rental agencies have a hard and fast 24-hour rule about charging for the full day, even if the car is returned after a few hours. However, if you ask for a grace period (usually up to two hours), many agencies will give it to you. But you have to ask. Similarly, see what happens if you just ask for an upgrade. The rental car agent wants to get you to spend money and rent the car, and you may get a much nicer car just by spending a few extra bucks.

64. Save With Weeklong Rates

Sometimes week-long rates are cheaper even if you don’t use the car for the full seven days. If you’re browsing a rental car website or app, experiment with the booking dates and see if a week-long rate is cheaper than just a few days. No one is going to complain if you bring the car back a few days early.

65. Use Your Own Insurance When Renting

Many credit cards and insurance companies have car rental coverage. When renting a car, check to see if you’re covered, and use your own insurance instead of the (frequently more expensive) insurance offered by the rental agency.

66. Combine a Rental with Your Flight and Hotel

Your travel agency, booking website, or the car rental agency might have some good deals for booking a flight, hotel and car rental together in one bundle. Ask at the counter or scout the Internet for deals ahead of time.

people sitting in a train

Buses, Trains and More

67. Book Trains in Advance

You can save a great deal of money by booking your train ticket in advance, rather than at the ticket desk. If you’re traveling in the UK, services like MyTrainTicket can help make this easy. For American travelers, Amtrak has a mobile app for all your booking needs.

68. Take Public Transport in Metropolitan Areas

For visitors to many large cities, taking public transportation is part of the experience. You’ll get an authentic traveling experience, have a chance to interact with the locals, and learn first-hand about the city. If you need help getting directions, Google Maps has a Transit feature.

69. The Cheapest Transportation of All: Just Walk!

Walking is great exercise, it’s free, and there’s no better way to see the sights. If you’re traveling somewhere that’s friendly to walking, consider taking the shoelace express and look forward to spending nothing on your transportation costs!

70. Consider Taking the Bus For Maximum Savings

For pure economy, nothing beats the bus. Bus travel is the cheapest means of transportation across the United States, hands down. Companies like Greyhound and Megabus cover the transcontinental United States, with reduced fares, unlimited travel passes, and other bargains for students and international travelers. Air travel is undoubtedly faster (and debatably more comfortable), but the bus has a more dynamic view, and you simply can’t beat the price. Book a ticket and find out!

71. Travel by Bike

If you have the endurance and the drive, consider touring by bike. You’ll save a ton of money on transportation costs, and it’s great for your health! For lodging, sign up to the Warm Showers community website, which pairs up shelterless cyclists with locals willing to give them a place to rest for the night. Warm Showers is a “reciprocal hospitality exchange” focused on sharing experience and culture.

cruise ship at sea

Frugal Sea Travel Tips

72. Airfare to Europe Too Much? Cruise Instead

Want to visit Europe, but can’t swing the airfare and hotel? Cruising is far less expensive than air travel plus hotel rates. Quite often, one up-front fee will cover your room, meals, and transfer costs.

73. Cruise for Deals (Get It?)

If you’re willing to consider out-of-the-way trips and smaller cruise lines, you can also find a great deal on unique cruise packages by talking to a travel agent, or browsing sites like Vacations to Go and Last Minute.

74. Don’t Park at the Port

Before leaving on the cruise, stay at a hotel that will let you park for free while you’re on your trip. You will have to take a taxi to the ship, but that will cost less than parking at the port.

75. Try Your Luck at Drawings and Raffles

Many cruise ships offer drawings and raffles onboard for things like spa packages and other prizes. Not everyone will enter, so take the odds and see if you can win some free perks!

76. Save Money by Booking Inside Passage

“Inside passage” on a cruise means your room won’t have any balcony or windows. But let’s face it — are you really going to spend a lot of time looking at the ocean from your room? The cruise ship will have plenty of observation decks and other ways to see the ocean. That money can be better spent elsewhere, like on room service!

77. Drive to the Port

If you live near enough to the port, consider driving instead of springing for an airline ticket to the port. Driving will generally cost you about as much as one airline ticket, which means a full car of four will cut your travel costs for that leg of the trip by three-quarters.

78. Be Flexible With Your Departure Date

Prices on cruise ships are even more subject to wild fluctuation than airlines. Ticket prices can rise (or fall) to half or double within a span of days. Watch, wait, and look for details at websites like Vacations to Go, and don’t get hung up on a certain date (or even a particular cruise line).

79. Don’t Book Your Excursions Ahead of Time

Excursions are short (sometimes day-long) trips you take at port. Despite what you might expect, booking these excursions ahead of time with the cruise line is the more expensive option. Browse sites like Cruise Critic and find cheap excursions you can take when you depart the ship.

80. Take Your Meals on the Ship

Sampling the local cuisine while in port is great, and can be a wonderful part of the experience. But if you have a budget in mind, just know that food on a cruise ship is often part of your ticket price and won’t cost you anything extra. Find out where you can eat for free on the cruise ship and head back there at mealtime instead of spending a wad a local restaurant.

81. Ride-Sharing for Boats

The ride-sharing revolution has hit the maritime. If you’re looking to rent a boat for a day (or even a few hours), websites like Boatbound and Boatsetter have you covered. This is a perfect solution for fishing, sailing, cruising, or watersports.

82. Travel by Cargo Ship

Many global shipping lines offer paying passengers the chance to travel on a freighter. Despite what you might believe, this is not necessarily the most economical way to travel. But it is unique, and you will likely have an experience you can tell stories about. For about $80 to $140 for room, meals and travel expenses, you can get a cabin on a freighter. You should know that you must book well in advance, however, and many freighter companies have guidelines and facts to be aware of.

foreign currency

Frugal Accommodation Tips

How to Slash Hotel Prices:

83. Negotiate for Upgrades

If you are willing to go the extra mile (literally) to get a better deal on a hotel, and already have a reservation booked, try calling up other hotels and tell them you’ll consider changing hotels if you can get an extra night for free. Asking for upgrades and other perks (even free nights) only works if you ask!

84. Avoid Hidden Costs

Some hotels charge for items that aren’t shown in the room rate, like food and drink, internet, and other little charges. You may have to get tough with your negotiations to get these charges removed, or make sure they never appear in the first place.

85. Book Someone Else’s Hotel Room

Roomer lets travelers take advantage of a great deal by letting them book someone else’s non-refundable hotel reservation. The initial booker gets some of their money back, and you get a deep discount on a room!

86. Take Advantage of Last Minute Deals

Looking for a room on short notice? Hotels make money by filling as many rooms as possible, even if it means doing so at a discounted rate. You can often find a good last-minute deal with sights like Hotel Tonight and Last Minute, where you can search for amazing last-minute deals.

87. For Cheaper Rates, Pick a Hotel Away from the City Center

Hotels at the centers of major metropolitan areas tend to be the most expensive, mostly because of their proximity to attractions. For the price of a train or an Uber ride, you can get a much better hotel away from the city center, and save big on your hotel bill. For even bigger savings, look at the smaller towns outside the city.

88. Save on Transportation Costs with Shuttle Service

When booking a hotel, look for one that offers shuttle service. Shuttle buses can get you to and from the various attractions in many major cities with a minimum of fuss. You won’t pay for gas or parking fees, and you won’t have to deal with the hassle and stress of driving in an unfamiliar city. When you’re done, you’ll usually be dropped off right in front of your hotel.

89. Plan for a Long Weekend and Stay Over Sunday

It’s an open secret that most hotels get Monday through Friday business from corporate travelers, and weekend bookings from tourists and leisure travelers. That often leads to empty rooms on Sunday nights, which can mean a cheap or free upgrade for you if you ask at check-in!

90. Become a Fan for Specialized Savings

Sign up for your favorite hotel chain’s email list, or become their fan on Twitter or Facebook. Hotels often release special sales through these platforms, and a watchful fan can snatch up a great deal.

91. Attend a Timeshare Pitch

This is how many a sitcom plot starts, but if you are willing to endure (and resist) the sales pitch, attending a timeshare meeting can get you free hotel stays and other perks. Just don’t sign up for that condo at the end of the pitch!

92. Call the Hotel Directly to Negotiate a Deal

Depending on what kind of night they’re having, a hotel might be willing to offer discounted rooms or other perks at the last minute. Call them directly and find out what’s available.

car camping tent

Non-Traditional Accommodations

93. Swap Your Home

There’s no place like (someone else’s) home. For the ultimate in low-cost accommodation while traveling, you can open up your home to strangers, while likewise staying in someone else’s home. Sites like Knok, and HomeExchange make a no-drama temporary exchange of homes easy and affordable. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re comfortable with the idea, consider it for your next vacation.

94. A Hostel Instead of a Hotel

While traditionally aimed at younger travelers, hostels have since become more accessible to all sorts of budget-minded travelers. Hostels differ from hotels in that they cost less, offer fewer luxuries and amenities, and have dorm-style accommodations and a more social atmosphere. Travelers who are keen on their privacy might not be as excited about staying in a hostel, but if you want to meet new people, it might be the perfect choice for you and your budget.

95. Budget Hotels and Motels

Budget motel chains like Travelodge, Motel 6, and Super 8 get something of a bad rap, but a discount motel can be a great way to save some money. If you’re just going to crash for a few hours before heading out the next day, does the place need to be that luxurious? Just make sure to check the ratings on Tripadvisor or Expedia before you go.

96. Homestays: The New Way to Couch-Surf

A homestay is a scenario where you sleep in someone’s spare bedroom, or on their living room couch, for a fraction of what it would cost to stay in a hotel. Hospitality networks such as Servas International organize and rate homestay participants, and sites such as Homestay and CouchSurfing make it easy to book a room anywhere in the world.

97. Rent a Private Room

Many travelers are choosing to rent private rooms, apartments, or even homes when they travel, using services like AirBNB, Wimdu, and even Craigslist. This is often a more personal, friendly experience than a hotel, giving a sense of “home away from home.” Guests can find great deals in apartments and rooms all over the world, sometimes for as little as a third of what it would cost to book a hotel room.

98. Rent a Private Home

For large groups — or travelers who want the kind of privacy and quiet you can’t get from a hotel — renting a private home might be a great option. Amenities in private homes will vary widely (so make sure to read the reviews and do your research before booking), but renting a private home can be a unique, memorable way to stay at your destination. Check out VRBO — you might be surprised at what you can afford.

99. Nightswapping

Nightswapping is a network that facilitates a hybrid of private room rental and homestays. When someone stays at your house for free, you earn “travel capital,” which lets you stay for free at the homes of other people in the same network. In this way, many travelers can visit locations around the world for free, just by listing their own home as part of the night swap.

100. Spend a Night (or a Week) on the Farm

Farmstays are a form of niche travel where farm owners offer overnight stays to guests. Farmstays offer a variety of accommodations across the United States, Europe and Australia. Travelers might stay in farmhouses, converted stables, or camp out under the stars. Some accommodations are rustic, others luxurious — it depends entirely on the farm!

101. WWOOFING

No, WWOOFING doesn’t mean staying in a doghouse to save money on hotel bills — WWOOF stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. This is a situation where travelers trade four to six hours of help or fair exchange a day for food and lodging. The length of stay might vary from a few days to half a year. WWOOFING is a great way to save your pennies, have a great experience, and meet some new people!

102. Working for Accommodations

Similar to the scenarios listed above, many organizations and projects offer accommodations ion exchange for volunteer work in a variety of areas, from hobby farms in Canada to floating communities overseas. Stays can be as long as four or five weeks, or even longer. Check Workaway, Skillstay and Helpx for a wealth of opportunities.

103. Stay in Academic Housing

If you’re traveling during the summer, call up some of the local campuses or browse University Rooms to find basic, affordable accommodations in the empty dorms. Many colleges and universities open up their dorms to visitors over the summer when the students are away.

104. Seek Out Religious Accommodations

For those travelers looking to get in touch with their spiritual side, local tourist board or sites like MonasteryStays can point you to religious housing, such as convents, monasteries, and guest houses across the world. There may be a curfew and a minimum stay for some of these accommodations, but there is generally no obligation to participate in religious services.

105. For a Unique Experience, Camp Out in a Garden

If you’re looking for a quiet place to rest before hitting a festival, fair or market the next day, you can actually use a homeowner’s private garden as a campsite. Amenities will vary widely depending on the homeowner, but there are homeowners all over America and Europe listing their gardens for stays at sites like Camp in my Garden.

106. Camp Out Under the Stars

There are few accommodations more economical than camping, which goes great with our recommendation of renting an RV (above). Sleep under the open sky (or in a tent) and cook your food over a campfire instead of eating in a restaurant. The Internet has made it easy to browse campsite listings all over the United States.

107. Don’t Just Camp… Glamp

For many travelers, camping conjures images of mosquitos, discomfort, and inconvenience. But there are many luxury campsites out there that offer non-traditional accommodations that are unique and comfortable, yet still less costly than a hotel stay. From eco lodges to treehouses to yurts, there’s more to outdoor stays than just tents!

108. Become a Pet Sitter

Many pet owners need someone to look after their house (and their pet) while they’re away. Sites like Dogvacay offer listings where travelers can stay for free in a house for weeks or months in exchange for looking after a pet. For the “price” of feeding, walking, and playing with a friendly dog, you could stay in a nice house for nothing! Tough to beat that deal.

109. Share a Bathroom at a Bed and Breakfast

Many B&Bs are already less expensive than hotels, and B&Bs with a shared bathroom tend to be even less so. The thought of a shared bathroom might be off-putting to some travelers, but sometimes the B&B in question isn’t fully booked, meaning that “shared” bathroom is all yours! Sites like TripAdvisor often have listings of the most highly-rated B&Bs in the area.

110. Have Kids? Rent a Vacation Apartment

Many hotel rooms are not particularly friendly for kids. Unless you rent a costly suite, you’ll probably be making do without a fridge or microwave, and there won’t be enough space for restless kids to play. But renting a vacation apartment can give you a true home away from home, with all the amenities of a dwelling: kitchen, laundry, and separate bedrooms.

Miscellaneous Ideas

111. Make the Airport Your Hotel Room

If you have a flight early in the morning, there’s barely any point in paying for a hotel stay. When you consider the travel time to and from the airport, the hassle of getting ready, and the cost involved, it may be a better idea just to nap at the airport. Before you choose to stay overnight in the airport, however, just make sure it’s open twenty-four hours. Sites such as Lounge Buddy can help you find comfortable lounges where you can wait out your layover.

112. Sleep on the Go

While not much of an option if you’re driving the car, you can sleep while traveling if you’re taking a flight, train, or bus. This will be easier if you choose to travel at night — just make sure to set an alarm (or use the buddy system) so you wake up in a timely fashion.

113. Vacations with Friends and Family: The Ultimate Group Discount

If you get along with your friends and family well enough to travel with them — or if you thrive on the drama that may ensue — you can save a lot of money with group discounts, splitting the costs, and booking group accommodations. Renting an apartment or house will be much cheaper than booking several hotel rooms, and many attractions offer group rates for friends and family. Gather together and save!

114. No, Seriously, Read the Reviews

Marketing blurbs and star ratings are great, but nothing tells the truth about accommodations like testimonials from real people. Check sites like TripAdvisor and read the reviews on a place before you book. Not only will you find out if there are hidden problems or serious issues with the place, but you might discover handy tips and advice on the best rooms to ask for (or avoid), or how to get upgrades. Don’t trust tour operators, review organizations, or the hotel itself — go to the people who have actually stayed there.

115. Travel Agents: Still Relevant!

Some people feel that travel agents are no longer necessary in the age of the Internet. Not true! Travel agents have access to undercut rates not available to the general public. Do your own research, find those cheap flights, and then consult with a travel agent to see if they can match or beat it. You might be surprised at the deal you get.

people at hotel coffee shop

Frugal Food & Drink Tips

116. Get Connected to the Underground Food Scene

This is nowhere near as sinister as it sounds. Many cities (over a hundred and fifty) have communal or private dining options, where even chefs with Michelin stars host meals. Find a memorable meal and connect with locals by using Eatwith.

117. Save on Meal Costs by Eating Late

Who doesn’t love brunch? By doing some activities in the morning and then combining breakfast and lunch, you can save money by eating only two meals a day.

118. Go Out for Breakfast or Lunch

If at all possible, try to avoid the dinner menu at restaurants, where prices are almost always at their highest. Restaurants typically offer breakfast and lunch specials — or at least cheaper prices at lunchtime — which can save you a bundle over a vacation.

119. Get Breakfast Included With Your Stay

One big reason B&Bs are so popular? It’s not just the price — it’s the “breakfast” in “bed and breakfast.” A continental breakfast at a hotel is nice, but having a full, home-cooked meal (included in the cost of your stay) before you set out to see the sights can be great for both your pocketbook and your appetite.

120. Hit the Breakfast Buffet

For travelers with kids, a hotel with a breakfast buffet, or a restaurant that offers buffet-style dining, is a huge bonus. Nothing says “economical” like eating as much as you want before heading out for the day’s activities.

121. Go Off the Beaten Path for Savings and Authenticity

It’s no secret: the most expensive and least authentic food is usually centered on the “touristy” areas of town. Just as you can save money on hotels by driving outside the city center, you can save money (and possibly have a more authentic experience) by going a block or two over and eating at the restaurants away from the main drag.

122. Do Your Own Shopping and Cooking

If you’re renting a vacation apartment, or even a hotel room with a kitchen, you can take a huge load off your budget by doing your own shopping and cooking a meal or two at home. Restaurant costs are a big part of any vacation, and even cooking one meal a day means more money for something more fun. You don’t have to make a fancy meal three times a day — even having snacks and beverages stocked at the hotel (instead of buying them while out and about) can save a lot of money.

123. Find a Food Cart

For the ultimate in authenticity, freshness, and economy, try a meal from one of the many food trucks or street vendors in major cities. You can see your food being prepared and eat what the locals eat. Apps such as Roaming Hunger and Food Truck Fiesta make it easy to find popular food trucks.

124. Find Kid-Friendly Options with Mobile Apps

Having trouble finding a place to feed your kids affordably? There’s an app for that! Out to Eat with Kids and Kids Meal Deals can help you find dining spots with appealing, kid-friendly meal options. Find places where kids can eat cheaply, or even free!

125. Drink In, Go Out, Try Local

If you’re eager to sample the nightlife, but want to save on your bar bill, drink a toast to your evening before you hit the town. Then, take advantage of happy hours, and sample the local spirits or microbrews instead of the expensive import liquors. (Always remember to drink responsibly!)

126. Keep Your Bill Down: Leave Plastic at Home

Another great way to keep a cap on your bar tab is to leave the credit cards in your hotel room, and only take cash for your evening out. That way, when the money is gone, you won’t be tempted to open a tab or put the evening’s festivities on the plastic.

127. Talk to Locals for Recommendations

Few people know an area’s best spots better than the people who live there. Locals tend to disdain the expensive, touristy spots in favor of less expensive, choice restaurants and bars. Talk to the locals and see what they have to say. You’re likely to discover something wonderful you never would have known existed! If language is a barrier, download a translator app before heading out.

128. Hit Up the University Area

What’s the cheapest area to eat and drink? Almost invariably near the college campus. Why? Because students generally have no money! The restaurants, bars and stores around the university are the most likely to have great deals and inexpensive fare.

129. Say It’s Your Birthday

If you tell the server at the restaurant it’s an anniversary, honeymoon, birthday, or other celebration, you might get yourself a free dessert or other treat. Granted, you might also get people coming to your table and singing. You can do this even if it’s not your birthday… we won’t tell if you won’t.

130. Always Take the Leftovers

If your hotel room has a fridge — or if your restaurant meal can survive until the next day without refrigeration — have the leftovers wrapped and take it with you. The leftovers of a big meal can become the next day’s free lunch.

131. Memberships, Discounts, and Rewards Programs

Any frugal restaurant-goer knows about discounts for seniors, military service people, and students. But many restaurant chains have rewards programs for loyal customers that can eventually mean free meals. Another program, called Upromise, lets students (or aspiring students) register their debit and credit cards and apply a percentage of certain purchases toward their student loans or savings accounts.

gps map on smart phone

Frugal On-Location Tips

132. Avoid Massive Roaming Charges Abroad

One of the biggest problems for travelers leaving the United States is mobile Internet access without paying roaming fees. While you can probably get by using local wi-fi, this might prove problematic and time-consuming overseas. One of the best ways to save money is to get a prepaid SIM card before you go, and “charge” it with enough data access to keep you in email access until it’s time to go home.

133. Put Your Travel Info in the Cloud

Lost phones and lost laptops happen — especially on vacation. Don’t trust your valuable travel data (passport copies, travel insurance info, policy numbers, etc.) to just one device. Use a cloud storage solution like Evernote, Dropbox or Google Drive to keep your data safe across multiple devices, so if one is lost or stolen, the data is safe. (Just make sure to keep those passwords secure!)

134. Phone Home with Skype or FaceTime

When you’re checking in with friends and family, don’t spend money on long distance calls or messages. Use Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts or other free software to talk over the Internet. Just make sure you’re connected to the local wi-fi and not digging into your SIM card data.

135. Don’t Buy That Local Map or Travel Guide

If you have a smartphone, there’s probably no need to spring for that local map or travel guide — you have all the information you need right on your phone. Triposo is one of the best travel apps around, and Fodor’s makes city guides in app form as well.

136. Minimize Cash Exchange Abroad

Sadly, using cash overseas is often a losing proposition. Many businesses abroad will take advantage of clueless tourists who don’t know exchange rates. Using American money overseas often means artificially inflated prices. Buying foreign currency in advance often means a lousy exchange rate no matter when and where you do it. Some travel experts advice using ATMs while abroad for your cash needs; others advise against it. Do what fits your own needs best, but be advised that cash abroad can be a bit of a minefield.

137. Spring for the Travel Insurance

No one wants to think of the worst-case scenario while they’re on vacation. But spending money on travel insurance can make sure you don’t lose the cost of your trip if something happens and you’re unable to go. Sites like Insure My Trip can help you find the best deal on travel insurance. If you’re a frequent traveler (more than once a year), consider an annual multi-trip insurance policy, rather than buying new insurance with every trip.

138. Buy and Sell Items on Vacation

Local sites like Craigslist or Gumtree make it easy to buy and sell nearly anything. If you need something for your vacation (such as a bike or other piece of equipment) but don’t want to rent it or take it home afterward, consider buying it locally and then selling it back before your vacation or stay is over.

139. Keep a Record of Expenses

Making a running tally of your travel expenditures is not only helpful for budgeting a trip, it will also make you less likely to overspend or make frivolous purchases. Take a small notebook along with you and jot down every purchase you make. That data might come in very handy on your next vacation!

140. Consider Souvenirs Carefully

Many souvenirs end up unloved, put on a shelf collecting dust, or even thrown out. Think carefully before dropping money on that keepsake. Will you really use it or display it lovingly? If it doesn’t bring you joy, leave it behind.

141. Take Advantage of Possible Tax Refunds

Many foreign countries have sales tax, but you can get some or all of that tax back by filling out some additional forms at tax time. Depending on how much money you spent while on vacation, you could save quite a bit of money. Just remember to keep the receipts for any large purchases.

142. Find Free Festivals, Concerts and Museums

Almost every city and town has free museums and festivals happening year-round. The best place to start is usually the Chamber of Commerce or city tourism website for your destination, although there are even mobile apps to help you find museums and events near you. Websites and apps like Eventful and Gigbox help you find concerts and performing arts happening nearby.

143. Shop Duty Free

Before you head home, check out the prices at the duty-free shops at the airport. They’re not always the best prices available, but might save you money when you take the local taxes into account.

144. If You Must Use Cash, Exchange With Locals

Getting a good exchange rate overseas is one of the biggest obstacles a traveler can face. If you know your exchange rate, your best bet is to exchange with a local or another frugal traveler. Not everyone will have this opportunity, of course, but definitely take it if you can get it!

145. If You Must Use the ATMs, Take More Than You Need

This one might seem counterintuitive, especially when it comes to safety, but ATMs charge you a fee every time you draw out cash. Overseas, fees can get exorbitant and add up quickly. If you absolutely need cash and must draw from the ATM, take out more than you need so you won’t have to come back and draw out more (thus incurring more fees).

146. Connect with Locals for Great Experiences

Sites like Vayable make it easier to find unique opportunities offered by locals that go beyond the typical tourist experience. Locals know an area better than anyone, and can offer an experience you might not find with a corporate tour guide or stale travel book.

147. Don’t Be Afraid to Haggle

Many countries outside the United States have a venerable tradition of haggling for goods and services. This won’t be the case everywhere, but in some places, you can treat the listed retail price as a suggestion and get a much better deal with some spirited bargaining. Many goods are artificially inflated to take advantage of clueless tourists, so brush up on those negotiation skills before you leave!

148. Use Mobile Apps for Daily Deals

Sites like Groupon and Living Social can be a great source of coupons, deals, and discounts on activities. Check them out on your smartphone while traveling and see if there’s a great deal near you!

149. Pay Your Way by Working Abroad

Working for your vacation isn’t an idea that appeals to everyone — but if traveling means new experiences and new friends as well as new environs, a different kind of “working vacation” might be for you. For longer stays, a side job at a bar or restaurant could not only earn you some money, but get you in touch with the locals and connect you with the local culture in a whole new way.

150. Never Forget the Budget

Planning your travel budget ahead of time, but the longer you stay away while traveling — especially when traveling abroad — the more critical it is to keep an eye on your money. Never let a vacation get out of control. Consult your budget often and make sure you’re within your means to stay secure and get back home safely.

 

So that’s it — our ultimate list of frugal travel tips! Not sure where begin? Just pick one of the items from the appropriate section and take the next step. You’ll be saving money on that upcoming trip before you know it!