Kowloon, Hong Kong

Travel More With These Money Saving Travel Tips

If I won the lottery…the first thing I would do is travel.

We’ve all said this or heard this. It’s true that travel can be expensive, but it isn’t necessarily as costly as you might think. Not only that, but spending more money doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a better time. Thankfully there are a lot of money-saving steps you can take to help lower your travel costs. Here are some of my best money saving travel tips to help you realize your travel dreams, without the lottery.

Walking in Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Walking in Kowloon, Hong Kong. One of our favorite free things to do is just wander around and just take in the unique surroundings.

Saving on accommodations

vacation rental in Spain with pool

Our inexpensive vacation rental in Spain included this pool to cool off in. Plus it was pet-friendly.

Generally, if you stay in major luxury hotel chains, you will be surrounded by other tourists.The service will be efficient but impersonal. There will be lots of amenities in the hotel you may or may not need, and you won’t need to leave the premises to eat or shop. Sometimes we enjoy these hotels for a couple days, and some are destination-worthy in themselves. But the places most memorable to us are the smaller family-run hotels or independent vacation rentals. I remember the tea and greeting we received upon arrival at the small inn where we stayed in Istanbul,“Come in, sit down, you are at home now.”

  • Before booking a hotel, check for additional fees such as resort fee” or wifi fee. You are much more likely to be charged these fees at a luxury hotel than at budget or independent accommodations. We had a dispute at our hotel in Hong Kong at check-out, because we didn’t see the fine print that we would be charged wifi fees per device. With two phones and two laptops that would have come to $40/day! Luckily it was waived after a discussion with the manager.
  • If breakfast is included in your accommodations, it will save both time and money.
  • Traveling off-season, or even adjusting your dates by a few days can make a big difference in the price of flights and hotels.
  • Spend a week or more at each location to get a weekly/monthly rate. By spending more time at fewer locations you will have more time to relax and get to know the area, plus lower your transportation costs.
  • Consider booking a vacation home or apartment, especially if you are staying a week or more. It is often more spacious, and you can save more if it includes a kitchen. Try Airbnb, VRBO, or booking.com. Also try specialty sites focused on the region you are visiting (always read the reviews).
  • Stay part of the time in smaller towns or villages instead of only the major cities. You will have a great experience plus save money on accommodations. The culture of a place is often much more apparent in the smaller towns than the big cities.
  • For longer stays try house-sitting. We haven’t tried this yet, but many love it. In exchange for taking care of a home (and often a pet) while the owners are away, you get free accommodations. TrustedHousesitters.com and Housecarers.com are two popular sites if you are interested.

Saving on things to do

You’ve come all this way, so make sure to allow money for activities. But there are often deals if you look for them.

  • Visit museums that are free or offer free days, such as MoMA’s free Friday nights in New York City. In London, some of the best museums such as the National Gallery and British Museum are always free.
  • Event tickets: Sometimes tickets are available from more that one source. I was looking for tickets to Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil, and first checked Ticketmaster where the price was $223 each plus service charge, but I got better seats for only $132 each by calling Cirque du Soleil directly.
  • Check online for coupons or promo codes for attractions you want to visit.
  • Look for local free things to do, such as markets and festivals.
  • Check out city passes for your destination to see if what they offer is a good value for you. A bonus with these can be skipping the long ticket lines.
  • Spend time in the great outdoors! Visiting city parks or hiking in natural areas is usually free.
Near Windermere, in beautiful British Columbia, Canada.

Near Windermere, in beautiful British Columbia, Canada.

Transportation savings

Small cars are better for navigating narrow streets in Europe.

Small cars are better for navigating narrow streets in Europe.

  • If you’re traveling outside of North America, renting a smaller car will not only save you money on the rental and fuel; but will make parking and driving on narrow old streets much easier.
  • Car rental reservations usually have free cancellation, and prices fluctuate, so use this to your advantage. We recently reserved a car in Toronto for $325. When I checked a couple weeks later, it was going for $183 at the same rental location. So I cancelled and rebooked my reservation.
  • Walk or bike when you can, instead of always taking a taxi. You will see so much more, save money, and work off that extra croissant.
  • Saving money on flights is a big topic in itself. Here are some tips to save money on flights.
  • Avoid checked baggage fees by traveling light with a carry-on instead–but be aware of airline size and weight restrictions.
  • Don’t automatically rule out a farther destination because of the higher airfare. If the cost-of-living is lower, savings on accommodations and food might still make it a bargain.

Eat, drink, and be merry by saving on dining

menu del dias (set menu of the day) in Spain

The first courses of our menu del dias (set menu of the day) in Spain. This is a full meal, usually including beverage, that is meant to be affordable for the average worker.

  • Go to that fancy restaurant you wanted to try, but save by eating at lunch time instead of dinner.
  • Walk a couple blocks off the main tourist strip and you will find restaurants that are cheaper, and with better food and service.
  • Eat like a local – because eating the same foods you do at home can cost a premium. And this is part of the adventure!
  • Shop at the local market or grocery store for a great picnic.
  • Ask for tap water in restaurants, unless the water quality is questionable. Also save by bringing a refillable water bottle.
  • Look for happy hours, pre-theatre or prix fix menus for great dining deals.

Saving money on money

  • Use a credit card with no foreign exchange fees. (We use a Chase Marriott Visa for this)
  • Check into your banking options before you go. See if they have international partners, or a plan that will allow you to reduce ATM fees.
  • Pay in local currency. Some larger stores will ask if you would like to pay in Canadian dollars or US dollars, and then charge higher than average exchange fees.

More ways to save

  • Bring proper ID for senior, student and member discounts (such as AAA).
  • Sign up for a travel rewards credit card, or two or three…
  • Choose a less pricey destination with a favorable exchange rate.
  • Cell phone – check before you go. You can adjust your plan to include long distance or data, rent a local cell phone, or stick to wifi and Skype or FaceTime.

Do you have any money saving travel tips to share?


Top 3 Secrets for Saving Money on Flights

Tuscany, Italy – One of our favorite places in the world.

Sometimes people raise their eyebrows when they hear we’re going on another trip, or wonder how we can afford to travel often. I’m a travel bargain hunter, and while we want to splurge now and then we are always looking for ways to cut our travel expenses. Saving on airfare is the first thing we look at, so here are our top 3 secrets for saving money on flights.

1. Travel Flexibility

The way I’ve saved the most money on flights is simply by being flexible:

  • Flexible travel dates I know that’s not always possible, but flying outside of peak periods can save you 50% or more. That could be June instead of July for Europe, and January instead of Christmas week for a beach getaway.
  • Flexible location If your vacation dates are fixed but you can be flexible with your destination you have a better shot at finding a deal. Maybe your beach vacation could be in Hawaii or the Caribbean or Mexico?
  • Acting fast When you hear about extreme deals (like those we hear about through sites like Ydeals.com below) making a quick decision is vital as these are snapped up quickly or only offered for a short time.
The Summer Palace, Beijing

2. Flight Research

Beyond the big websites such as Expedia and Travelocity, there are more tools than ever to research flights. Whatever site you use, check at least one other to compare and make sure you are paying a fair price. if you have narrowed it down to a specific flight, check it on the airline’s own website as well.

  • Google Flights can help you find the cheapest flights with exact dates, flexible dates, or with a calendar option. You can the cheapest dates to fly within a given period, and potentially save hundreds by adjusting you dates by a day or two.  Once you select your flight, use the booking info provided to contact the airline direct, or travel agent, or another booking service to purchase tickets. I use these when first starting to plan a vacation just to see what options are out there.  The Explore destinations map is also fun to use if you are flexible with your destination.
  • Follow someone who monitors flight deals from your area – If you find someone that is monitoring flights deals from your location, you can really find some amazing deals. For me in Canada that’s Chris Myden at Ydeals.com. You just go to ‘Y’ deals for your city, and signup to be notified by email whenever there’s a really hot deal. For these type of deals you need to act fast or they will be gone. We got flights Calgary to Tokyo return for less than $500 return including taxes and fees. I don’t have info on sites like this outside of Canada but they’re probably out there for you too.
  • Kayak is a great tool well known for comparing multiple sites. Your can search +-3 days for the best flight deals, which can save a lot if you are flexible. I like its price trend feature, with a recommendation to BUY or WAIT for a better price. There is also has a fun explore feature, where you enter your origin and month, and it shows you a map with the price of airfares to get you to destinations all over the world. Warning: exploring this feature could lead to a spontanious vacation when you see that flight to Hawaii is only $479!
  • Hopper can help you save money by predicting when to fly and when to buy your ticket. The Hopper Flight Explorer  lets you discover flight deals with flexible dates and destinations. For example, try New York City to Europe or San Francisco to Anywhere. You can also set up deal notifications to be alerted to great deals as they happen.
  • Follow you favorites If you frequently travel on a specific airline, follow them on Facebook or Twitter to be the first to hear about deals.
  • Check the discount airlines Sometimes we take a long haul flight on a major airline to a hub like London or Paris, then use a discount regional airline to get to our final destination. They can also be good for short hops within a region. You can get these great deals on airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet in Europe, but be sure to compare both flight costs and added fees. These fees can be significant or even ridiculous. Carefully check their carry-on baggage dimensions to be sure yours qualifies. You can save a lot of money on these airlines, but don’t expect the level of service as the major airlines. Also note that these airlines often fly to smaller airports that are some distance from the major city you may be trying to reach. Great deals are possible, but do your research.
Tangier, Morocco

3. Reward Points Travel

There are websites that specialize on this topic and it can get pretty complicated. But basically, the fastest way to earn reward flights is through credit card bonuses. By getting several cards with high signup bonuses, you can earn enough points to be on your first reward flight in a few months. To do this you need an excellent credit rating, and you need to be diligent about tracking your cards and paying them in full each month. Obviously if you are carrying a balance, the interest will defeat the purpose of saving money on flights. I use a spreadsheet to keep track of it all. You can build up your points further by putting all your expenses on your cards as well as earning points by actually flying. By remembering to show your member card and taking advantage of bonus offers with purchase you can multiply your points. For example, Safeway (in the airmiles program) regularly gives large bonuses for both dollars spent and specific purchases. When it comes to using your points it helps to research how to get the most bang for your points. Here are a some resources I’ve used for more info on travel hacking and using points for travel:

I’m always looking for more tips like these. How do you save money on airfare?

10 Ways to Love New York Without Breaking the Bank

New York City is one of the most captivating cities in the world—and one of the most expensive. Fortunately there is an abundance of things to see and do for free or a reasonable fee. For me, exploring one of the distinct neighborhoods is a great way to spend an afternoon. Here are 10 more great things to see and do in New York without breaking your budget.

1 Bike, walk or row through Central Park

For the best escape from the city, rent a bike, take a walk, or rent a rowboat from the boathouse in Central Park.



2 Get up close and personal with the Statue of Liberty

A visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are a must on any trip to New York. The $18 ticket including both is already good value. But for only $3 more for a crown access ticket, you will receive priority entry, saving you wait time, and given access to climb the 393 stairs up inside the statue for an unforgettable view from the crown. These tickets go fast and must be booked in advance.



See a Broadway play for half price

For same day tickets at up to 50% off, head to the official TKTS booth, located “under the red steps” on
Broadway and 47th Street. It helps to be flexible, but there is usually a good selection of plays available.

Times Square


Walk the High Line

The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long new urban park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. Day or night, the park is a place for running, walking, eating, or just relaxing.There are food kiosks on the High Line between West 15th and West 18th Streets. See the High Line website for access points and more info. The High Line is fully wheelchair accessible. Note that dogs and bicycles are not allowed on the High Line.

Visit a world-class museum for free

NYC has some of the best museums in the world, and several offer free entry certain days of the week. Here are just a few examples: Fridays: Museum of Modern Art (4 to 8pm) and The Whitney Museum of American Art (pay what you will, 6 to 9pm) Saturdays: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (pay what you will, 5:45 to 7:45pm) Sundays: Frick Collection (pay what you will, 11am to 1pm)

Head to Chinatown for deals and dumplings

Check out the deals then try some authentic dumplings, in the home of the largest population of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere.

Watch a taping of your favorite show

Jimmy Fallon, Live with Kelly and Ryan, The View, Saturday Night Live, and more all have live audiences that you can be part of for free. You have a better chance of getting in with advance tickets, but you can try arriving early and joining the standby lineup.

Visit the Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo is the largest urban wildlife preserve in the United States, and offers pay-what-you-wish admission every Wednesday.

Walk across the Brooklyn bridge

Walking the Brooklyn Bridge (from Manhattan to Brooklyn) is one of my favorite New York activities. There’s a dedicated pedestrian walkway above the car traffic and you will have the best views of the city . While you’re in Brooklyn, get a pizza at Grimaldi’s or hot chocolate from Jacques Torres Chocolate.



10 Hit some golf balls at at Chelsea Piers

Located on a scenic Hudson River pier, this four-tiered driving range features a 200-yard fairway, and an automatic ball tee-up system. Starting at $25/148 balls, off-peak hours.