21 Little-Known Ways That Travel Pros Globetrot for Cheap

Rack up travel points—not debt.

Whether they want to admit it or not, most people are travel novices. They go on vacation once, maybe twice a year, and while they do their best to keep things budget-friendly, sometimes they succeed, and sometimes they don’t.

But what about people who travel a lot. Like, a whole lot. Do they know secrets the rest of us don’t?

Yup.

No matter the destination—the other side of the world or the next state over—travel can be expensive. But there are ways to bring down the price and still have a great time.

We asked 18 travel experts for their top tricks. Here’s what they recommend.

1. Search Incognito

Sam Williamson, WeSwap Travel Money

[U]se incognito searches when looking at hotels and flights online: People often assume that you’ll always find cheaper deals on flights and hotels online. However, what many people don’t realize is that travel sites will often use cookies to see if you’ve been on the site before, and if you have been on the site before they’ll show you more expensive prices because they know you’re interested in their offers.

By setting your browser to private or ‘incognito’ when looking at travel sites the cookies won’t be stored, so this will prevent the higher prices from being displayed and will help you to always see the cheapest deals available.

2. Travel for Longer

Chris Stevens, travel blogger at BackpackerBanter.com

Personally one of my top tips for travelling on a budget is to travel slow, but for longer. It seems like a bit of an odd tip—travelling for longer to save money—but it certainly works!

Most people piece together their dream trip and pack a lot into a short space of time, which ramps up your daily average spend. However, what they overlook is the basic costs for their day to day expenses—food and accom.

In spots like Thailand or Bali this can be extremely cheap (less than $15 USD per day even!), so by spending a little extra they spread out their big bucket lists spends (think dive courses, day trips, skydives, etc!) and reduce their daily budget whilst spending longer in paradise!

In Cambodia for instance you can grab a hostel room for as little as £2 a night, meals for £1-3 and a beer for 50p. So that’s a living cost of about £8 a day—based on a £2-a-night hostel, 2 meals at £2.50, and a couple of beers.

For a month of that you’d be spending around £250.

So basically for an extra £250 your two-week stay in Cambodia becomes six weeks.

You’ll still be doing all the cool stuff you were going to cram into 2 weeks, but now the pace of life is a bit more relaxed, you can explore each stop in more depth and of course that could well include lots of time topping up your tan on the beach.

Even if you don’t fancy staying in the cheapest dorm accommodation, a prolonged stay will also reduce the cost of your accommodation as pretty much everywhere (even accommodation in places like Australia and New Zealand) will offer a weekly reduced rate.

If you’re staying even longer barter it down even more.

Seems like a crazy idea—but it works!

3. Weigh Exchange Rates

Will Hatton, founder of Hotel Jules

If you’re in a foreign country already—i.e mid-travel—change the currency option on the flight website you are on. Sometimes it can result in a $20 to $50 difference if you get the best exchange rate.

4. Book Directly

Jill Douglas, general manager with the Commander Hotel

Booking directly with a hotel is always better than booking through third-party websites. The reason for this is because the third-party sites, which can offer great deals, many times don’t have guest-friendly cancellation policies. By booking your hotel stay via the hotel’s website or on the phone, you’ll usually have at least a 24-to-48-hour buffer before your check-in in the event that you need to cancel for whatever reason.

Also, when booking directly, you’ll have access to valuable unadvertised money-saving specials that the hotel may be running during the time period when you’re looking to visit, so be sure to ask what’s available.

Once you’re booked and checked in, ask the hotel if it has any discount partnerships with, or coupons for, area restaurants and attractions. At The Commander, for instance, we have a mobile app that entitles our guests to exclusive savings at mini golf courses, bike rental shops, and freebies at local restaurants (such as a free appetizer or drink with an entrée purchase).

Another secret perk is that guests can always request room upgrades if a hotel isn’t fully booked, which can be easily arranged based on availability. While hotels should offer this without being prompted, many don’t—so it’s definitely worth it for guests to inquire about it!

5. Track Price Drops

Doron Nadivi, chief commercial officer at Pruvo

Here is a less-known tip that can save you hundreds of dollars on your hotel reservations by just sending one email.

Travelers spend hours prior to reserving hotels in order to find the best price available. Once they book, they forget about their reservations (thinking that they got the best deal) till the date of travel. Big mistake! Hotel prices tend to drop 40 percent of the time AFTER hotels are booked and can drop up to 72 percent off the total reservation amount!

6. Travel During Shoulder Seasons

Anthony Bianco, travel writer and blogger at The Travel Tart

Unfortunately, summer in many places is the ‘peak season’ and it’s all about supply and demand—and that goes for all travel-related things, such as flights and hotels. When travelling anywhere, I try and avoid peak season like the plague. If there is a huge demand and limited supply of hotel rooms, the chance of you scoring a bargain is pretty slim, because
hotel owners know that someone else will come along with the money they want. Trying to book early can help, or trying to find a spot on either side of peak demand will reduce costs. However, going in low or off-peak shoulder seasons gives a lot more flexibility. The demand is down but supply is up and businesses are more ready to give you a substantial discount.

7. Swap Homes

Juliette Gebken-Mayí, brand publicity manager at Love Home Swap

A great option to save money and travel to amazing destination is home swapping. I work for Love Home Swap, a home exchange network with more than 10,000 homes to choose from around the globe. The founders of the site were inspired in the movie ‘The Holiday,’ and decided to create what has now become an online community of travelers looking to experience a destination in a different way—home swapping.

Members only pay the cost of membership (about $180 a year), and a $69 fee every time they do a home swap (our members save an average of $3,500 a year in travel), and are able to do traditional swaps (simultaneous), but for those that the travel dates don’t coincide, they can just obtain points to use at a later time.

8. Car Camp

Pete Ducato, CEO of Luno Life

We have a new brand that creates gear for vehicles that allows people to car camp more comfortably and save on accommodations. Not to mention when you’re traveling in the outdoors and it’s raining, snowing, or maybe around an area where dangerous wildlife is common, we have the perfect road trip set up.

We’re not trying to cancel out tents but rather offer a solution for people who enjoy traveling in their vehicle OR maybe it’s their first time in the outdoors and they’d like to approach an adventure in a more safe matter.

There’s a huge movement in wanderlust and a new community on wheels driven by this whole van life era. The Luno Life Air Mattress with our Base Extenders is something that has helped me often when car camping in California or when taking a road trip so I can lay full length in my Subaru Outback.

Car camping can save a lot of money while traveling, and you get to sleep in spots you never imagined you could! I like to think of getting our mattress as a one-time purchase with endless nights of sleeping on the road.

9. Rent an RV

Dan and Lindsay McKenzie, founders of Follow Your Detour

[C]onsider RVing as your means of travel! Gas prices are low, there are FREE spots to park all around the country, you can do many free outdoor activities, cook in your RV instead of eating out at restaurants, etc!

10. Confirm Baggage Requirements

Chad Stinton, The Luggage List

It is important to check the baggage requirements for the airline you’ll be traveling on. An overly large or heavy bag can result in extra fees which can be avoided with proper preparation.

11. Pack Light

Sharon Marchisello, author of “Live Well, Grow Wealth”

My best advice for saving money on travel is to learn to pack light (mix and match outfits, reduce pairs of shoes, wear the bulkiest items, leave unnecessary electronics at home, etc.). Because I worked for the airlines and flew space available, I learned to limit myself to carry-on luggage. Even when I’m going on a two-week cruise! Sometimes you end up having to fly to an alternate airport or reach your destination via a different city, so you don’t want your checked baggage going somewhere you aren’t.

But even if you don’t have to travel standby, you can save money by packing light: Most airlines now charge fees for checked luggage, and the weight restriction is not as generous as it once was.

When you arrive at your destination, you can take advantage of public transportation if your luggage isn’t too cumbersome. Buses and subways usually cost a fraction of what you’d pay for a cab into town.

If you do take a cab, some companies charge extra for more luggage. Also, if you travel light, you might be able to share a cab with other travelers headed for the same destination (e.g., fellow cruise passengers headed to the airport or train station). If you have too much luggage, you won’t all fit in one cab.

By handling your own luggage at the airport and carrying it to your hotel room without assistance, you save tips to porters.

12. Buddy Up

Shixuan Wang, PR manager at GAFFL

In my viewpoint, the best advice for budget travelers is to figure out what they enjoy most on this trip and what they don’t and try to be economical on those things that they don’t spend too much on. For example, if you travel from Cincinnati to Chicago by van, gasoline costs and hotel expenses are unavoidable. However, although you found that there is no discount on Airbnb, you could still save money by sharing the cost with your partners if you could find one.

Currently, sharing has become a popular trend as a way to travel. At GAFFL, there is a web platform that travelers could find each other who share the same destination and travel together. During the trip, they split rental car costs, gasoline, Airbnb, and everything needed. It is a very efficient way for budget travelers to save money.

13. Anticipate a Tourist Tax

Charish Badzinski, founder of Rollerbag Goddess Global Communications

Anticipate a tourist tax wherever you go. My husband and I travel a lot and we use this term to describe the upcharge tourists often pay without knowing there is another way. Be forgiving of yourself as a first-timer. Know that to much of the world, tourists from the U.S. represent wealth. Opportunists will always be there to wrangle unsuspecting travelers. The best thing you can do is to conduct some research on the front end so you know what you should be paying, and be diligent as you travel.

14. Use a Credit Card

Christian Eilers, writer for Dauntless Jaunter

Taking out cash is handy (and often necessary) when in another country. However, the fees you pay for exchange rates and international transaction fees for cash advances can be a small fortune. Instead, use your credit card to pay for all possible purchases. Most modern credit accounts (check first, of course) have no transaction fees and a very competitive exchange rate, a far tighter spread than the dubious tellers at the airport, oftentimes. And, if you earn cash back or points for your purchases, even better! Debit cards work, as well, but often don’t have quite the many perks of a credit card.

15. Travel Like a Local

Trent Hankinson, a touring musician with Aqua Seca

As a touring musician, I am constantly on the road, [so] it becomes important not to overspend at every destination. Hence I have adopted the mindset to always travel like a local.

What do I mean by this? Well, it is often times easy to spend a lot more money than you need to while on vacation. Between the hotel, transportation, and food, those will be some of your biggest expenses. But you can be sure that the locals will not be spending nearly as much as you. So in that case, just live as they do! Don’t take the taxi from the airport, take the bus. Don’t stay in a hotel, stay in a short-term apartment rental. Don’t dine out every night, go to the grocery store and find all kinds of things for super cheap.

Not only will this save your wallet from running dry, but the experience you have will be so much more authentic than the more luxurious option.

16. Find Free Tours

Ray Commins, content director at Freetour.com

[Freetour.com is] a platform for connecting travelers with top quality free tour providers and excellent local guides around the world. The free tour concept works on the basis that travelers are free to pay what they can afford or feel the tour was worth at the end of the experience. It’s a perfect way to stay in control of your travel budget without sacrificing on quality tour experiences, risk free.

We also have budget tours available and a wide range of activities and themed experiences in addition to the thousands of free tours on the FREETOUR.com platform and FREETOUR app.

17. Eat Street Food

Christian Eilers, writer for Dauntless Jaunter

Street food in another country may have you concerned about bacteria and disease. However, not only is it often the cheapest option, but you truly get a taste of the destination when trying street cuisine. Stick with the food carts which have the longest lines, as you’ll have the locals’ stamp of approval—if they keep coming back, it should be relatively safe.

18. Buy Memorable Gifts

Christian Eilers, writer for Dauntless Jaunter

Choose non-traditional memorabilia. If you need to bring home souvenirs for yourself or friends, avoid the tourist gift shops. A shot glass or t-shirt with Berlin on it doesn’t mean anything, and it’ll cost a pretty penny. Instead, bring your family local cookies from the supermarket or a bottle of the local spirits—cheap and authentic at the same time. However, don’t wait until the last minute and acquire your gifts at the airport, even at the duty-free shops. They’ll charge you an arm and a leg, and they just might not have what you’re looking for anyway. So, be on the lookout for appropriate gifts from Day 1 of your stay, and you won’t go wrong.

19. Set a Budget

Anthony Bianco, travel writer and blogger at The Travel Tart

In terms of saving money and financing any vacation, a budget needs to be set based on how long you will be away for and where. Once this amount is determined, regularly contribute the amount of money you need per week into a separate account over X number of weeks—calculate your savings time/schedule and stick to it. Be ruthless. Cut whatever you don’t need and add more to your account if possible until you reach your required budget.

20. Plan in Advance

Pedro Bone, co-owner of The Passport Office

If traveling weren’t so pricey people would probably get out more, but alas, airlines have to make money somehow.

If you’re looking to book a flight and want to save some money, you should naturally attempt to book as far out as possible. Preplanning will save you a bundle. Additionally, try to leave on a Tuesday and return on a Saturday or Sunday, airlines tend to have cheaper tickets available on those days.

If you don’t plan on traveling out of the country for months and don’t have a passport; go get one. If you wait until your trip is a month away the fees will begin to slowly climb up, especially if you don’t live near a U.S. Department of State location! Likewise make sure your passport hasn’t expired, no one likes wasting money on a trip you can’t even take!

21. Be Flexible

Neil Brinckerhoff, tour guide

After three years of nearly constant traveling, I have found ways to keep my expenses down while on the go. The biggest was my ability to be flexible. With transportation—planes, trains, buses, etc.—sometimes the cheapest price will be on a random day. The more open you are, the more likely you’ll be able to score a good deal!

Contributors

Charish Badzinski is founder of Rollerbag Goddess Global Communications. Her twin passions are writing and world travel, and she has a goal of visiting 100 countries in her lifetime. She blogs about travel, and the deeper lessons gleaned from the travel experience, on her website.
Anthony Bianco, aka The Travel Tart, is an Australian travel blogger and writer who writes about the funny, offbeat, and weird aspects of world travel today. Travel wasn’t meant to be taken too seriously! Strangely enough, he’s appeared in reputable publications like USA Today, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and is a member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers.
Pedro Bone has been co-owner of The Passport Office for the past 10 years. In his time working in the field, he has gained a wealth of knowledge concerning all things travel related. When he’s not aiding travelers in attaining their passports, he’s spreading the information he’s learned to those across the world. You can learn more about Pedro Bone and his company at thepassportoffice.com.
Neil Brinckerhoff is a tourism professional currently based in the Prague, Czech Republic. Working for many years as a tour guide, he has been able to see all aspects of the travel world and now advises others on their best travel opportunities. He has visited 30+ countries and supports travel that allows visitors to invest and learn in the local culture around them. No matter the budget, if there’s a will, there’s a way!
Ray Commins is a founder of the FREETOUR.com platform, with extensive experience in the budget travel sector. Having cut his teeth in the backpacker industry as a hostel Operations Manager in Dublin, Ireland, he went on to co-found what have become multi-national tour and activity outfits, a budget accommodation booking platform, and the aforementioned free and budget tour booking platform. The ambition he and his colleagues share is to make authentic, quality local experiences and top-class tour guides available to all travelers, regardless of budget.
Jill Douglas is the general manager at the Commander Hotel & Suites in Ocean City, Maryland.
Pete Ducato is a design entrepreneur residing in Santa Barbara, California. He is passionate about building iconic brands in the outdoor, sports, and lifestyle industries. His background as an industrial designer has led him to create Luno Life, an outdoor brand built on exploration and innovation. Luno Life creates gear, equipment, and accessories that help travelers explore the open road.
Christian Eilers is a native New Yorker, frequent traveler, and writer for the cultural and educational website, Dauntless Jaunter. When not planning his next excursion, he works as a career advice writer, helping job seekers make sense of the employment process.
Juliette Gebken-Mayí is the brand publicity manager of Wyndham Destinations in Orlando, Florida. She is a well-traveled, creative and results-driven bilingual public relations professional with 10 years in the travel and tourism industry.
Trent Hankinson is the frontman of the psychedelic rock band Aqua Seca.
Will Hatton is an intrepid and determined traveller, runs a travel blog (The Broke Backpacker), teaches SEO, and has an adventure product line. He caught the travel bug at a young age and has experienced so many amazing things and made heaps of lifelong friends. In the future he plans to open a commune in the jungle.
Sharon Marchisello, author of “Live Well, Grow Wealth,” became interested in personal finance at an early age and was a long-time member and officer of the Marathon Investment Club. She earned a Masters in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California and has published travel articles, short stories, book reviews, and a murder mystery (“Going Home,” Sunbury Press 2014). She also writes a personal finance blog, Countdown to Financial Fitness, with tips about saving money in all aspects of life, including travel.
Lindsay McKenzie is a writer, adventurer, and the co-founder of Follow Your Detour, a top RV travel blog. Originally from Colorado, Lindsay travels with her husband and two dogs. They are currently exploring the U.S. while living in their Winnebago. You can follow their adventures and enjoy their travel photos and advice at FollowYourDetour.com and on their social media channels.
Doron Nadivi is the Chief Commercial Officer of Pruvo, a free service and app that saves you money on hotels you ALREADY booked.
Chris Stevens is a surfer, blogger and videographer who has been on the road since 2009. Whether it’s travelling the East Coast of Australia, surfing in Indonesia or island hopping in the Philippines he shares reviews, advice and stories to inspire other people to see the world, as well as giving them the tools to to do over on BackpackerBanter.com and StokedForTravel.com
Chad Sutton is the creator of TheLuggageList.com, a travel site that focuses on providing travel tips and product reviews. Chad and his wife Rachelle are travel enthusiasts based out of Chicago, Illinois. They also run a successful Airbnb business and website at TheIncredibleHost.com which helps educate short-term rental hosts.
Shixuan Wang is a PR manager and Marketing Data Analyst at GAFFL. He is currently a senior student at Miami University with Math & Statistics and Economics major. He loves swimming, doing meditation, and mountaineering.
Sam Williamson is part of the marketing team for WeSwap Travel Money and a keen traveler.

How do you cut costs when planning a trip? Share your tips with us on Twitter at @OppUniversity.