You can be cheap just like me!

Traveling can be expensive but there a lot of things you can do to keep costs down. This post is all about how to save a buck and travel cheap (so you can do more traveling) and what not to skimp on.

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Travel cheap money saving tip #1:

Bring your own water bottle!  I always carry my lame purple Target-purchased bottle with me while traveling.  Fill it up at the hotel, airport, or any place with potable water.  This doesn’t work sometimes when you are in developing countries without proper water filtration systems.  But then I just recommend to buy the most giant bottle of water at the grocery store (not from the snack bar at the tourist area, way more $$$) and keep it in your hotel room.  Each morning fill up your lame purple water bottle before you head out for the day.

purple water bottle Target

from Target

Travel cheap money saving tip #2:

Bring a stash of granola bars, almonds, or whatever floats your boat.  It must be sealed to get through customs and avoid those dog sniffers.  A granola bar and nuts have bailed me out of a lot of situations where the blood sugar was dropping but the tour group wasn’t stopping.

Also, you don’t have to spring for lunch in the overpriced touristy area if you can get by on a snack for a few hours.

Travel cheap money saving tip #3:

Airline miles.  Accrue them and then use them.  Pick a favorite airline or two and try to stick with them.  I know this doesn’t always work but my Airtran and United credits are plentiful and my latest flight to Bali are virtually free (you still have to pay those pesky taxes).  Pay attention when you book flights as well, you can use partner airline member numbers to accrue miles sometimes too.

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A trip to Tahiti is nice but a free flight to Tahiti makes it even better!

Travel Cheap money saving tip #4:

Be flexible.  BC and I wanted to go to Cancun during prime season of January or February.  I searched and searched and couldn’t find a decent priced hotel for the week I decided we should go.  Then looking for prices for the week earlier a huge deal popped up.  Sold!  $500 saved.  (oh yeah I went to Cancun last week and never blogged about it.  Blogging vacation I guess).


Aruba beach vacation picture from long ago.

Travel cheap money saving tip #5:

Hostels are not scary (well most of them aren’t).  Pay attention to reviews.  That is how I pick all my hotels and hostels.  They have to have a high rating and reviewers can’t mention “scary area”, “shady”, and “not safe”.  I am perfectly fine staying at a hostel especially in my own room (where you can lock the door) or in a shared room in a place like Iceland where everything is so expensive and crime is low.  Having travel buddy would make a shared room more bearable too.  Just be prepared for being woken up in the middle of the night by roommates coming home and early morning alarms to catch flights.  I definitely prefer hotels to hostels but in Iceland and most of Scandinavia hotel rooms are expensive and you risk blowing your budget on lodging.

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My awesome hostel KEX in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Travel cheap money saving tip #6:

Sometimes it is okay to book at the last minute.  Certain tours are reduced 15-25%, hotel rooms are cheaper, and the Hotels tonight app is your friend.  Priceline and Hotwire are a lot of fun when you are flexible on which hotel.  Groupon Getaways and Living Social Escapes are sometimes good deals.  Sometimes.

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All of my Southern Food Roadtrip hotels were booked with Groupon and Hotwire.

Travel Cheap Money saving tip #7:

Bring your snacks, peanut butter sandwich, gossip magazines, books, and travel pillow with you to the airport.  Your 50 cent pb and j probably tastes better than your $10 Chinese food Manchu Wok meal and will give you less indigestion. Airports are expensive and sometimes not very healthy.

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Probably a $12 meal.

Travel Cheap Money saving tip #8:

Pack less and carry on, at least on domestic flights.  If you are going to visit your sister, steal her clothes and use her washing machine.  If not visiting a family member, pack less shoes.  Shoes take up the most room when you really only need flip flops, sneakers, and dressy flats at the most.  Okay if you are going to Vegas, heels too but unpack the dressy flats.  My mom and BC are notorious for packing too many shoes.  One weekend when we were going to my beach house for 2 days, BC packed 5 pairs of flip flops.  My roommates and I made fun of him for a good while on that.

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I went to Russia for 3 weeks with only one carry on suitcase.  It can be done.

Things not to skimp on:

#1: Pay for the safe lodging.

Don’t a wuss but don’t be an idiot either.

#2: Beer

Local beer or wine can tell you a lot about the place your visiting and bring you into the local culture.  Keep it to one pint or one glass per day though- saving money and not being an idiot all at the same time.  No one wants to end up injured or in prison in Thailand.

(video by Joanna)

This is my tour mate and friend Dylan in the midst of getting stitches in his foot and balls (yes balls) after a wild night out in Ko Phi Phi.

Be thankful I didn’t embed the video of it.  It is hilarious but not safe for young viewers 🙂

#3:  Extra leg room

On the 15 hour flight from the US to China or the 14  hour flight from London to Singapore, do yourself a favor and pay the $100-$150 extra in Economy Plus if offered.  Trust.

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#4 Location of lodging

I’m all about location, location, location.  Yes sometimes it is cheaper to stay in Brooklyn rather than Manhattan or the BWI airport hotel rather than the in Inner Harbor in Baltimore.  But if you want too experience Manhattan truly, stay there.  I once traveled with some friends to Barcelona who were trying to save money by staying 40 minutes outside the city.  It was awful, never again.  Cheaper but not worth it.


Brother on the blog.

#5 Experiences

If it costs $50 to go white water rafting, do it.  Another $50 to go zip lining in the jungle, do it.  $50 for bus fare to the really cool castle in the next town over, do it.  Eat more granola bars for lunch and drink tap water.  Your vacation will be more memorable for it.


Dogsledding in –20 degrees in Chena Hot Springs, Alaska in December was not the best idea though.  Brrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!!  But it is a good story now.

Any one else out there have good money saving travel tips?  I’m always happy to hear new ideas.

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2 Responses

  1. Courtney says:

    Cute shirt (pic #1), that’s the same water bottle I currently have sitting in front of me (pic #2), Groupon treated us very well on the Great Southern Food Road Trip (whatever pic that was) and I just discussed you and your travels with some of your former patients about an hour ago. 🙂

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