1. Save money with cheaper meals while travelling
The value of breakfasts
Many hotels provide breakfast for their guests; this benefit is included with the room rate or as a perk. For other establishments, an additional fee may be charged if you’d like lunch.
As for us, whenever there are additional costs, we always evaluate what the hotel offers; most of the time, a quick trip to the grocery store is necessary to save money while travelling.
Finding financial balance at restaurants
We, of course, have the habit of spending our time in restaurants when we are travelling. It’s a great way to indulge and disconnect from our routine of grocery shopping, cooking, and washing dishes.
However, this expense can get out of hand quite quickly. So, we often eat on the run at lunchtime and in restaurants during the evening. This way, we don’t waste too much time on table service since we want to see the sights while there is less traffic!
This is a great strategy to save money on meals and still treat yourself while travelling! A gyro in Greece costs 2,5 € and I still dream about it because it was just that good.
Cook your own meals
Finally, if your trip will last several months, it is more economical and better for your health to avoid eating out every day. Eating out every day on a 3-month trip is quite different than on a 2-week trip!
You might as well get 5 points per dollar with a card like the American Express Cobalt® Card !
2. Save money with booking platform loyalty programs
Loyalty to a third-party booking site (Booking.com, Hotels.ca, Expedia.ca,etc.) can pay off in the long run. This is because these platforms receive a commission from the hotel if you use their site to make your reservation. So, they want to encourage you to stay loyal to their platform since the prices are usually similar from one third-party site to another when you don’t have an account.
After some time and a few reservations, we’ll realize that the rates start to oh so slightly. You don’t need to do anything to get enrolled in the booking platforms’ loyalty programs; it happens automatically when you open an account.
For example, after multiple bookings on Booking.com, I reached level 3 of the Genius program. This way, I can save money all the time while travelling, as I get discounts between 10% and 20% on most of my nights.
On Hotels.com, you can receive a free night after paying for 10.
Book and stay 1 night at an eligible establishment and receive 1 stamp. Earn 10 stamps and you’ll receive 1 night’s reward* to use at any eligible establishment. The value of your reward night* is the average value (before taxes and fees) of the 10 stamps you have accumulated. You pay only the taxes and fees associated with your reward night*.
On our side, we prefer Booking to save on travel costs mainly because the discounts are immediate. The Booking.com and Hotels.com programs reward you in similar ways: it’s just the presentation and how they are applied that differs.
Finally, by going through Rakuten, you can go for additional cashback up to 10%. Rakuten is a shopping portal that gives cashback on your online purchases. Registration is free and you can even receive a welcome bonus by using our referral link!
And cashback is not the only reward you can receive through the portals! For example, consider Rocketmiles for Aeroplan points.
3. Save on travel
Discovering a place on foot or by bike is by far the best way to save on transportation and some cities are perfect for this. I think in particular of Istanbul and San Francisco, two cities I explored on foot.
Most large cities have a fairly well-developed public transportation system. A great way to save on travel costs is to get around like the locals; if the locals get around by tuk-tuk or on foot, it’s always best to do as they do!
Another good way to be efficient and save on travel costs is to take advantage of overnight transportation (trains, buses, and planes). You’ll save time travelling while you sleep and have one less night of hotel expenses.
4. Avoid bank fees while travelling
Foreign currency conversion fees
When you use your credit card to make a purchase in a foreign currency, the exchange rate used to post that transaction to your account is increased by 2.5%. On the other hand, some credit cards have the advantage of not increasing the exchange rate and thus saving money on each expense. These fees seem small and harmless but they add up quickly.
Fees on foreign withdrawals
Secondly, we recommend that you make your purchases on credit cards with no conversion fees and that you accumulate points in the process. However, it is not always possible to pay by credit card in some places or to avoid a merchant surcharge. Therefore, you will have to turn to ATMs or exchange offices. The fees to be paid are generally:
- fees imposed by the ATM for the withdrawal
- fees charged by your institution for the transaction
- conversion fees
However, agreements exist between many banks around the world where the bank teller and institution fees are waived. For example, Tangerine chequing account holders can make free withdrawals at
- Bank of America: United States
- Barclays: United Kingdom
- BNP Paribas: France, Italy, Luxembourg, Ukraine, Turkey, Poland, Morocco, New Caledonia, Reunion Island, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Guyana
- Deutsche Bank: Germany, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, and India
- Scotiabank: Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Guyana, and the Caribbean
- Westpac : Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea
For other withdrawals, the fees charged to Tangerine customers are minimal when compared to other institutions. Tangerine‘s promotions often recur for new chequing and savings accounts. Welcome bonuses are around $150 – $200.
5. Choose less expensive excursions and activities
Freebies and group discounts
Most larger cities have free walking tours; in fact, there are tours guided by a local where you can choose to donate or not.
In our experience, they have been excellent at showing us the best sights. They also advise us on places where we can eat well for less. Very important tips for saving on travel costs!
It is also a great way to meet people and share costs for other activities. In fact, operators occasionally give discounts for groups compared to a single traveller.
Then, ask about free days! Admission fees for certain attractions are sometimes waived on specific dates.
Autonomy and resourcefulness
Is it really necessary to have a guide to visit the Louvre with you? Fees for guided tours can go up very quickly.
For out-of-town adventures, consider doing it yourself instead of booking an organized tour. For example, most of the 7 Wonders of the World are accessible by public transportation. So instead of booking a tour to see the Great Wall of China, you can easily go there without!
For all the activities where you have to pay, the strategy is the same as finding low-cost accommodations. You must see what travel points apply to which expenses.
Some activities and excursions can be booked on the Viator platform.
Finally, since these costs will be in foreign currency, you can save an additional 2.5% by using a credit card with no conversion fees.
6. Save money in the off-season
Savings on all categories are reflected in the budget when travelling in the off-season. Although the weather is not always on our side, the low tourist traffic is to your advantage. Plus, the chances of not being interrupted are much greater!
During the off-season, airfare and hotel rooms are usually cheaper.
A compromise would be to travel during the transitional or shoulder seasons. In fact, during this period, the majority of the experience will be almost identical to the high season’s peak. We actually always prefer to travel in this time window because it is less expensive and the weather is more pleasant.
7. Save money by being flexible about where you travel
We usually start by choosing our destination before looking at how to make the trip more economical. On the other hand, by doing the opposite, we immediately cut what is usually the biggest cost when we go on vacation: the airfare. In fact, the ways to save on accommodation costs are less limited than those for flights.
First of all, the Google Flights tool allows you to see all the prices of a plane ticket from an airport; use the filters to adjust the results according to what you’re looking for! This is the best tool to use if you want to pay as little as possible and use your travel points while purchasing the plane ticket.
Secondly, Air Canada also has an interactive map to determine the cost in Aeroplan points for multiple destinations at the same time.
8. Save on luggage
No luggage, no fees!
When you travel with only a carry-on, you save the baggage fees for each flight. So, if you pack fewer clothes, you can avoid checked luggage; when travelling, laundry facilities and washing services are very accessible!
Checked baggage fees can easily be bypassed with certain credit cards, such as an Aeroplan credit card if the flight is operated by Air Canada. Alternatively, other travel cards provide credits to reimburse your baggage fees.
9. Save on your insurance
When booking a trip, whether during a pandemic or not, one should always carry travel insurance. However, we are often already insured for the unexpected by having paid for our trip with our credit card.
Many credit cards have the advantage of offering comprehensive travel insurance when the trip has been charged to the card in part or in full. In the event that something goes wrong and you are unable to start or continue your trip, the travel insurance will be able to cover the costs incurred.
We generally have the reflex to purchase a travel insurance policy with a private company (Blue Cross, Manulife, etc.) when our credit card may already be sufficient for this purpose. Like with the National Bank’s World Elite Mastercard®, the best credit card for travel insurance.
To avoid duplicating costs and being over-insured, check what you already have covered on your credit card and with your work or school insurance.
10. Have no regrets!
This is a tip that I find very important for saving on travel costs. When you are vacationing on a tight budget, feelings of regret or unfinished business shouldn’t happen. You are where you are because you wanted to be there, and because there were things you wanted to see, do, and experience.
Never leave a place with unfinished business just because of the price. If you truly have unfinished business, you will want to go back and you will once again be paying for airfare, lodging, etc.
I don’t encourage travelling on credit, but rather prioritize what you really want. I didn’t do the Franz Josef Glacier hikes in New Zealand because it was too expensive for my student budget. Of course, I returned to Franz Josef later, but I paid the price! In retrospect, I should have opted to cut out more restaurant meals at this point instead of opting out of that adventure.
Even now, my goal is to have a trip that is rich in experience, but low in cost. However, I adjusted my strategy so I could continue to travel on a budget by coming up with creative ways to do so.
What about you, do you have any tips for saving money while travelling? Share them with us in the Milesopedia Facebook community!