How I Save Money While Traveling

Many people think travel is expensive, that it's too costly for the average person to enjoy. To many people, a trip around the world or a long vacation might seem like a good idea, but it simply isn't affordable. I'm here to tell you that view is wrong.

You can afford it. I know you can. I've been traveling across the globe for five years. I don't have some rich uncle, haven't won the lottery, and don't have my parents pay the bills, yet I've managed to travel debt-free for five years thanks to a combination of savings and working overseas.

Since I travel on a tight budget, I've found creative ways to keep my costs down without sacrificing comfort or quality. After all, what's the point of going to Italy if you can't afford the food? Why visit Brazil and not see the Amazon? I learned to dive before going to Australia; I wasn't going to miss the Great Barrier Reef.

Today I want to share some easy and practical tips that can be used to save money regardless of how long you're going to travel.

Saving on Accommodation
Couch surfing connects you with locals who are willing to let you stay with them for free. I've used this site multiple times. I've stayed with college students in England, in a mansion in Australia, and with a family in Denmark, just to give a few examples. I've slept on couches, futons, and have had private guest rooms to myself. Using this site, I've brought my accommodation budget down to zero. Though often thought of as a site for young people, you can find hosts of all ages, from young couples to seniors. If you're worried about safety, people leave reviews and profiles are verified by the organization.

WWOOF (Willing Work on Organic Farms) matches travelers looking for work with farms that need labor. In return for working on the farm, you get free room and board. This is a very popular method of saving money in Australia and New Zealand, although you can find WWOOFing farms all over the world. This is a great option for people who want to stay in one place for a while.

J.D.'s note: My real millionaire next door uses WWOOF for his three-month trips to New Zealand every year. In fact, he's there now working on farms.

You can also work for your accommodation at hostels throughout the world. It's not glamorous work, but at least you get a free bed in return. In Amsterdam, I worked for my bed by cleaning. I got free accommodation for about three hours of work per day. You'll find this type of work in places heavy with backpackers and where people tend to ignore visa rules. In Europe, that means in the east; in Lagos, Portugal; or Ios, Greece. In Australia and New Zealand, that means anywhere. In Central America, that also means anywhere.

Priceline and Hotwire are great sites for finding cheap hotels. If you really want to stay at a hotel but don't want to pay a lot, use these sites to bid on hotels at up to 60% off. Use Better Bidding to see what people have paid for hotels so you don't overbid. With the help of Better Bidding to research hotel prices in New York City, I got a room in Times Square during the Christmas season for $90 USD per night.

Saving on Food and Beverages
Cooking your food is the best way to cut down on your expenses. A week's worth of groceries is cheaper than a week's worth of restaurants. It's simple and easy, but it goes a long way when it comes to cutting down your budget. I find that I spend about $50-60 USD per week on groceries, as opposed to $20+ per day I normally spend on restaurants. That's a reduction of 50% (or more depending if I eat out at nice restaurants)!

In many parts of the world, especially in Europe, you can dine on dinner menus at lunch special prices. The plate of the day is usually the best bargain when dining out. For example, while I was in Barcelona, I went to eat at the seafood restaurants near the beach. However, dinner was around 40 Euros, which was more than I wanted to spend. Yet coming back the next day for the lunch special allowed me to get the same meal for only 15 Euros.

Though not as popular in America anymore, many supermarkets around the world still offer free samples of food. I time my food shopping for when I need a snack. It's a good way to kill two birds with one stone. While I was shopping in Bangkok, I ate tons of free samples and managed to save myself some money. In Norway, I moved from fish vendor to fish vendor sampling enough food to fill me up for breakfast!

One of the biggest expenses I have while traveling is buying water. You need to stay hydrated, and buying water everyday costs money. Get a metal water bottle or reuse your plastic water bottle a few times to save money. I usually use mine for about four days — more if I can find a place to clean it. Now, instead of buying three bottles a day, I usually buy one per week. It's a little savings that can go a long way.

Saving on Transportation
Forget the private coaches, backpacker buses, or whatever. Do what the locals do and take local buses or trains. It may be easier to get in that tourist bus, but it's more fun to figure out the local transportation system and save lots of money by doing so. Even in expensive countries like Norway or Sweden, the train is never more than 3 USD!

Vans are good for both having a place to stay and as a way to get around. The overall cost of renting a van or car while you are traveling is a lot cheaper than taking a bunch of buses. You can always find cheap transportation for sale online, along with other travelers willing to help share the cost of gas.

Taxis will eat into any budget. Take the bus instead! Taxis are just a rip off. In Stockholm, a taxi cost me 35 USD while the train was only 5 USD. In New York City, a cab will generally cost 20 USD. However, a 7 day unlimited subway pass is only 29 USD! And the trains run all night! For a little more than the price of one cab ride, you can ride the trains all week.

It has a bad reputation in the United States, but in many parts of the world it's still safe to hitchhike. It's a popular thing to do throughout Central America, New Zealand, parts of Australia, and Central Asia. While in Belize, I did like the locals and hitchhiked all the around the country. All the locals did it and one time my friends and I shared the back of a truck with a little old grandmother.

Saving on Activities
Many cities have museum passes that are good for multiple museum entrance fees. If you're planning to see a lot of museums, the math will always work out in your favor. For example, in Oslo, the VisitOslo card was 60 USD. However, each museum in the city is between $12-15 dollars. I saw 9 museums in the city. I saved 30 dollars with the pass plus got free transportation. By buying the Paris museum pass, I saved $85 off the normal price of the museums.

Most museums have special discount times or free nights. Before you go anywhere, make sure you look on the museum website to find out if they offer free visiting hours. Even famous museums like the Louvre and the Guggenheim offer free entrance. If I don't have a tourism card, I always look up the museums I want to visit to see if they offer free entrance.

We often watch ads for fancy cruises, expensive resorts, and luxury holidays. These ads give us the impression traveling is expensive but it's not. People around the world don't spend lots of money, and you shouldn't have to either. Using the tips from above, you'll find that any destination you visit can be done cheaply without sacrificing comfort or fun.

More about...Travel, Frugality

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LisStan
LisStan
8 years ago

I read this and began daydreaming about a trip of my own but then…I am a woman, not sure I’d feel comfortable with most of these great ideas. And one question, were you traveling alone while couch surfing? Thanks, I envy you your trips.

Leah
Leah
8 years ago
Reply to  LisStan

@LisStan, I’m a woman who has traveled extensively. I’ve found that, for me, the safest way to balance cost and accommodations is to stay in hostels. Some hostels have women-only rooms, if that is important. You do stay in bunk bed rooms with other folks. But you’re all travelers in the same situation, and I’ve never had a problem with people bugging me. If you still want a single room, some hostels have those for more money (and still cheaper than hotels). In Spain, there are lots of homes that just have a few rooms to rent that are tiny… Read more »

Nomadic Matt
Nomadic Matt
8 years ago
Reply to  LisStan

I traveled alone a few times on Couchsurfing and a few times with people. Many hosts take couples and families. I’ve hosted groups of people before too. It all depends on how much space people have. You definitely don’t need to be a solo traveler to use the service.

Chris
Chris
8 years ago
Reply to  Nomadic Matt

I have been a host on couchsurfing for a couple of years now and the majority of the people I get are single women. They gravitate to me home because I am a single woman with 3 children. There are definitely ways to ensure you are safe while couchsurfing even if you are a woman.

And, my kids have absolutely loved the experience of having couchsurfers. We still keep in touch with many of them on social media sites. What a great experience.

Chris Gadient
Chris Gadient
8 years ago
Reply to  LisStan

My wife and I travel a lot!. Have homes in MX and FL. We find that stoping at the first rest area in each state/providence/etc you can find a coupon book that has really good deals on motels, etc.Some coupons offer rates at $25-$40 a noght when the usual rate is 3 times that! Try it.we use it all the time.

DreamChaser57
DreamChaser57
8 years ago

I appreciate Matt’s nomadic musings; I picked up a couple of great tips. However, I think GRS is starting to be co-opted by people with comparable lifestyles or worldviews. Travel is strictly a leisure activity for a lot of people. For us, comfort and quality are irrevocably compromised if you are working on a farm, sharing a bathroom in a cramped hostel, or hitchhiking with strangers. I view vacations as a reprieve from work and stress. Also, I think there are a host of travelers whose needs are not being addressed. How do married couples successfully reconcile two different vacation… Read more »

Annelise
Annelise
8 years ago
Reply to  DreamChaser57

THANK YOU! I have been trying to get this point across for months and have been angrily shouted down and branded “judgemental” each time. Not all GRS readers are of the ultra-frugal, liberal-left, hippie, extroverted, let’s-make-friends-with-the-locals-and-eat-street-food persuasion that the writers seem to assume. When I travel I want to relax in luxury and privacy, and certainly don’t want to be bitten to pieces by bed bugs, get sick from insanitary local “delicacies” or have my sleep disturbed by the sound of a sordid “peace-and-love” couple having a one night stand in the dorm bed beside me (all of which happened… Read more »

Sonja
Sonja
8 years ago
Reply to  Annelise

Have you ever hitchhiked? It sounds scary, but I’ve frequently gotten a ride in a much nicer, much more comfortable car than I would ever have in a touristbus. It’s not necessary to sacrifice comfort to save some money. Sure if you couchsurf you might get into a terrible bed. But then again, you can normally find that out from the reviews from other people (or just ask). I think the point is, how much are you willing to pay for you comfort and privacy? Is a $120 a night hotel worth it, compared to couchsurfing and sharing a meal… Read more »

MikeTheRed
MikeTheRed
8 years ago
Reply to  Annelise

These articles aren’t being presented as “THE ONE TRUE WAY”, they’re merely examples of how one person manages to travel the world on a shoestring. It’s more that it’s *possible* to travel for less than most people assume, it’s just up to them to decide what they’re willing to sacrifice or compromise on. You used the key words “luxury” and “privacy” in your rebuttal of this style of article, and what that tells me is that your threshold is much higher than that of the poster. If you’re looking for luxury, steak dinners, avoid the “local food”, and have plenty… Read more »

Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
8 years ago
Reply to  Annelise

@Annelise: I get what your saying, and can (sort of) agree. However, I think it’s important to note that you can only save so much money doing the kinds of things you’re talking about. Yeah, Hotwire might save you a bit of money, as might waiting for a special at Disney World, as might driving instead of flying. But, it won’t save you drastic amounts of cash like the things that Matt is suggesting. Probably if you have a steak budget you don’t need major traveling tips either. And, as a side note, I’m sorry your friend had a terrible… Read more »

Steven
Steven
8 years ago
Reply to  Annelise

I travel to experience wherever it is I’m at, not to experience a hotel room and the same foods I can buy in America. Why waste the money to travel thousands of miles away just to sleep in an American chain hotel, eat at American chain restaurants? That kind of “travel” doesn’t make sense to me. Where’s the culture? I suppose you get that on your guided tours where your English speaking tour guide points at things and says “Look!”

Anne
Anne
8 years ago
Reply to  Steven

Are you assuming that there is nothing fun to see in America?

Steven
Steven
8 years ago
Reply to  Steven

Anne: Since this article is about international travel, my comment is not about domestic travel. There are plenty of wonderful places to travel within the United States, but that’s another subject. And when I travel domestically, since you brought it up, I prefer to find local establishments that aren’t national chains to dine and sleep. Travel, for some (like myself), is more than just a hotel room and a pool. We’re searching for something authentic…something that can’t be found in a Hilton hotel room, or a Ruby Tuesdays. It’s a matter of preference, I guess. I try to use travel… Read more »

Anne
Anne
8 years ago
Reply to  Steven

Is this article only about about international travel? I thought it was about seeing the world and about longer trips and/or trips you might not otherwise be able to afford. The examples are international but the tips can be applied to American locations. Last time I looked, if you want to see the world, America was a part of the world. Personally, I hate the term ‘authentic’. But I’ve done both the independent and chain thing. They both have their benefits. Both have their drawbacks. Foreign countries have fast food chains and chain hotels in addition to independent bistros and… Read more »

Steven
Steven
8 years ago
Reply to  Steven

Authentic to me means not eating at McDonald’s in Singapore. It means not staying at the Hilton in Mexico. It means expanding beyond what’s “normal” to your everyday life. I don’t see the sense in traveling somewhere (anywhere) and filling your life with familiar things. I don’t see the point in it. What’s the point of traveling that way? (Genuine question.) It’s like building an imaginary wall to insulate yourself from your surroundings (in my opinion.) It’s why, again, my opinion, there are barbed wire fences around touristy places in many foreign countries…to keep locals out. What kind of experience… Read more »

Anne
Anne
8 years ago
Reply to  Steven

I assume the reason people take those Mexican holidays is that they want to sit in the warm sun on the beach in relative safety, swim, drink and eat and not be bothered. Never been on one myself. Too cheap. I figure I can sit on a beach or swim for 1/3 of the price near my home (if I vacation in the summer). Never been to Singapore, can’t comment specifically. But really what’s authentic? If you go to the famous Japanese fusion restaurant Nobu in New York is that authentic New York cuisine? What about eating middle eastern food… Read more »

Mike Holman
Mike Holman
8 years ago
Reply to  Steven

@Steven – comment #56

I was in Singapore a couple of weeks ago and I ate two meals at restaurants – one was at McDonalds (it was just as bad as here in Canada) and the other was at a sports bar I stumbled across – it was a hockey bar catering to Canuck expats and it was awesome. 😉

Steven
Steven
8 years ago
Reply to  Steven

Anne: I think you’re intentionally ignoring the points I’m trying to make for the sake of argument. I’m not saying a person shouldn’t do these things, just that I don’t understand the point. Hell, when I travel, there are times when I want a reminder of home and will seek the familiar…but I wouldn’t want that to be the thrust of my experience. I travel for the experiences I can’t have at home…whatever that might be. I can have McDonald’s at home. But there are things I can’t, like while in Belize I had chicken with rice in the middle… Read more »

Becka
Becka
8 years ago
Reply to  Annelise

…yeah, I don’t know why anyone would call you judgmental.

I mean, I agree with you in theory – I want travel to be and feel like a luxury most of the time, and this article is not really my style for the most part – but seriously, look at the way you phrased your comment compared to the one you replied to.

Vanessa
Vanessa
8 years ago
Reply to  Annelise

@ Annelise,

Yes, you are often judgmental and insult others whose opinion differs from yours instead of arguing your point rationally. That is why you get “shouted down.”

@Dreamchaser

I also would like to read travel experiences from other demographics, particularly of different ethnicities.

Annelise
Annelise
8 years ago
Reply to  Vanessa

I feel a little uncomfortable with some of these aggressive responses. Let me clarify: I have no problem with others taking the hippie/backpacker route when it comes to travel – although why you’d want to is beyond me – but if you look at the GRS archives, pretty much all articles on this topic are heavily biased toward that sort of travel, which is why I keep trying to make the point that many people have higher standards but are still looking to save money. You *can* actually stay in a nice hotel and eat at nice restaurants etc. while… Read more »

Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
8 years ago
Reply to  Vanessa

@Annelise: Now that response had a whole lot less hostility than the first one. No one was necessarily faulting your view it was more the way you said it and insinuated that only dirty hippies would even consider this kind of travel or any of these suggestions. A few notes on your comment: 1. GRS HAS done some posts of travel hacking and traveling off-season to get great deals. It’s not an untapped resource here. As I said earlier, however, if you’re looking to save BIG amounts of money, there are only so many things you can do before you… Read more »

mike
mike
8 years ago
Reply to  Annelise

Annelise- I get what your saying. I recently booked a trip to a 5 star resort (all-inclusive), and while it was expensive I managed to pay about 40% less than the going rate, just by checking rates on a week-by-week basis through the year over a period of a couple months on expedia. It was mainly a manner of timing and expedia usually has big sales in December. But I think this forum lends itself more to the type of stories above (which I am fine with and I enjoy the info) even though there are readers like you and… Read more »

PawPrint
PawPrint
8 years ago
Reply to  Annelise

And you call the responses to your “ultra-frugal, liberal-left, hippie, extroverted, let’s-make-friends-with-the-locals-and-eat-street-food persuasion” comment ‘aggressive’? Frankly, while I agree with much of what you said regarding travel and comfort, your rhetoric is judgemental and guaranteed to push people’s buttons. It’s definitely no wonder that you get what you term judgemental responses. Why can’t you just say that you’d like more articles geared to people who like to travel in comfort rather than using the inflammatory, unnecessary rhetoric to get your point across? Hhmm, perhaps you really enjoy the negative, “aggressive” responses that your comments elicit?

Harmony
Harmony
8 years ago
Reply to  Annelise

You all are being too hard on Annelise. She is not saying there is anything wrong with the backpacker/hitchhiking route, just that it is not her cup of tea. Camping out is also an affordable vacation, but not everyone wants the inconvience of cooking on an open fire, sleeping on the ground, and the joys of mosquitos. I think her point is the lack of variety. ALL travel posts have been about this type of extended international travel and extreme frugality. The majority of Americans don’t have the flexible work schedule of JD. I have 2 weeks off this summer… Read more »

khadijah
khadijah
8 years ago
Reply to  Annelise

sounds like you just need a staycation.

– luxury
– privacy
– safety
– relaxation
– first world comfort
– economical

if you live in NYC, LA, Chicago or any other big US cities, you won’t have any trouble finding ‘authentic’ world restaurants either.

khadijah
khadijah
8 years ago
Reply to  Annelise

Also Anne,
This post is about ‘traveling’, which is distinctively different from ‘vacationing’, which is what I assume you want/need/prefer.
They are apples and oranges and cannot be compared. Maybe you can have a separate post on how to ‘vacation’ on a budget.

Alyssa
Alyssa
8 years ago
Reply to  Annelise

Annelise,

If you feel so strongly that the GRS archives lack articles based on travel for what you want, you should write a guest post about it. He’s looking for guest posts, and you’re probably adept enough at the internet to do the research. I’d love to see what you come up with.

Kids Meet World
Kids Meet World
8 years ago
Reply to  DreamChaser57

My family travels extensively (2 adults + 2 kids) and are currently planning a short-term around the world trip. The simple fact is that travelling on a budget, almost by definition, requires the sort of approaches covered in this post. Doing it other ways, is great (we’ve done that, too), but it most certainly is doing anything to help you “get rich slowly.”

There’s lots of posts here that I don’t agree with. That’s OK. If I’m not interested, I don’t read. No worries!

kidsmeetworld.com

Maggie@SquarePennies
8 years ago
Reply to  DreamChaser57

People are so different, why should we expect that everyone wants the same things out of travel? Whenever I plan a trip I do tons of research (online mostly) about it for about a year ahead. I’ve found the Fodor’s website forums and the forums at Rick Steves’ site to be very helpful. The people on the forums give names of cheap hotels that were nice & in good locations. They tell you where you can get a good meal at a lower cost than most places. They even give their opinions on which museums/experiences/sights/areas are worth your time. I’ve… Read more »

Nomadic Matt
Nomadic Matt
8 years ago

Wow! There’s a lot in this thread to reply to. Let me start off by saying that i am no hippie leftist treehugger and to be a “backpacker” you don’t need to be one. Just like you don’t need to be some rich Wall Street type to go to a French Polynesian resort. I think a lot of the problems I see in travel come out in this thread. There’s this idea that it’s either the luxury vacations we see on commercials or this hippie trail of dirty hostels. Well, that’s not true. For starters, that hippie trail of dirty… Read more »

Jake
Jake
8 years ago
Reply to  Nomadic Matt

Hey Matt! Are you an uncle, by chance? If so, you should change your name to Uncle Traveling Matt, like the character from Fraggle Rock…lol. Anyway, I haven’t traveled overseas for many years now but I stayed at a hostel in London and it was pretty depraved, you might say. I’m glad to hear that things have gotten better with respect to hostels, although I’m sure there are still squalors out there to be wary of. I’m thinking of traveling to Thailand and was wondering if you might recommend either a hostel in Bangkok that is clean and comfortable. Or,… Read more »

Trina
Trina
8 years ago
Reply to  DreamChaser57

Have you ever read the magazine Budget Travel? It’s got lots of great tips for the budget-conscious traveler who doesn’t want to give up some nice amenities.

Steve
Steve
8 years ago
Reply to  DreamChaser57

Many or most hostels have private rooms. Of course by the time you get a private room with attached bath, well, it costs almost as much as a normal low-end hotel. On the other hand they always have a kitchen (or multiple kitchens), where you can eat a simple breakfast and prepare a sandwich and fruit for lunch. You do have to wash your own dishes though. My wife and I like to have sandwiches for lunch because many museums are only open 8 hours a day or so, and taking time out for a restaurant lunch would eat too… Read more »

Cheven
Cheven
8 years ago
Reply to  DreamChaser57

Well Said friend, I’m a African American male, I just returned from Cancun with my buddies on a guys trip. Most of the activities we enjoyed so much would not have been possible had we not been staying at our resort. (the pool, the women, the swim up bar, the beach stage, the D.J) Like you said there are a variety of needs depending on the traveler. I have married friends that would not have enjoyed where we stayed as I would not enjoy an environment of seclusion as they would. One of the ways I save money and it’s… Read more »

JM
JM
8 years ago

The main reason I don’t travel outside the US is the expense of air travel, not the costs once I arrive. It sounds like Matt used his international work trips to earn frequent flyer miles. If I have no miles, points, or whatever, how can I bring down the cost of flying to another continent?

Vanessa
Vanessa
8 years ago
Reply to  JM

I don’t have points or anything like that either so I wonder about that also. I know you can get cheaper tickets if your schedule is flexible, but for those of us who have to get our vacation days approved in advance, it’s not so easy.

Kids Meet World
Kids Meet World
8 years ago
Reply to  JM

Just because you don’t have miles/points today, doesn’t mean you can’t have them tomorrow (or at least in a couple of months). We “earned” over 400,000 air miles last year hacking credit cards. Obviously, it’s not for everyone and has its own set of issues. But still, it can be done.

Otherwise, I’d recommend following Airfare Watchdog and similar services on Twitter and via their site. Not great for international travel, but occasional good deals. Also, I set alerts using Kayak to track good international fares. Best of luck!

Paris
Paris
8 years ago
Reply to  JM

I have a tip on booking cheaper flights when you can’t be super-flexible.

I saw an article (I think NYT) that said that booking six weeks in advance of domestic flights was typically when the cheapest rates were to be had. In my experience traveling regularly between Europe and the US on a student budget (2-3 times per year for 3 years), tickets were cheapest about ten weeks before departure.

Christmas and such times are obviously exceptions to this rule.

Nomadic Matt
Nomadic Matt
8 years ago
Reply to  JM

I never traveled overseas for work. I’ve paid for my flights! Here’s an article I wrote and update frequently on how to save money on a flight:

http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-tips/how-to-find-a-cheap-flight/

Meaghan
Meaghan
8 years ago

Um, Portugal is in WESTERN Europe, and Greece isn’t exactly “east” either – are you sure you’re not partaking in some armchair travel instead?

Another note – reusing a metal canteen is NOT a budget option in most of the developing world. What you’ll save on bottled water you’ll pay many times over in antibiotics and severe illness…

Jen
Jen
8 years ago
Reply to  Meaghan

Uhh, see how the Portugal and Greece are set off from “in the east” and the use of “or”? That means they are cheaper in addition to, not as examples of Eastern Europe!

Sara
Sara
8 years ago
Reply to  Meaghan

One of the handiest things I brought to Italy and Greece for my vacation last year was a plastic water bottle to re-fill over and over again. I’ve never been the water bottle type, but my brother had studied in Rome for a semester and told me how cities in Italy have public fountains all over the place that have very safe water. I was so glad that I listened to him because I’m sure I saved a bunch on beverages, and the water was always cold and fresh tasting. Did I analyze the chemical content of the water? No,… Read more »

Sutemi
Sutemi
8 years ago
Reply to  Meaghan

It is not too expensive to get a pump filter for travel in developing countries or for camping. That way you can filter your own water to put into your water bottle.

Meghan
Meghan
8 years ago

While I get the criticisms of #1 @DreamChaser57 and #2 @Annelise, at the same time I don’t. This is an article about extended travel, and the website is called “Get Rich Slowly” not “Burn Through Your Life Savings.” It only makes sense that if one wants to travel the world, than staying at hostels, WWOOF-ing, couchsurfing, etc., makes sense. And there’s already been a conversation (perhaps multiple conversations) about how bedbugs don’t just live at cheap digs (the poor lil guys really can’t tell the difference between a hostel and a hotel). And having stayed at both hostels and hotel,… Read more »

Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
8 years ago
Reply to  Meghan

@Meghan: I mentioned this to Annelise, but I’ll tell you also. When I was on a trip to Fiji and Australia, many of the hostels had some private rooms that had attached bathrooms. I never stayed in them because I preferred paying $20/night versus $60 (still a bargain at $60 in Sydney, though). You might check-in to that. Also, if you have enough people, you might be able t “buy out” a dorm-style room so that it’s just you and your family.

Meghan
Meghan
8 years ago

Thanks Lauren!

Earn Save Live
Earn Save Live
8 years ago

And check out Gumtree.com.au too! We have rented our spare bedroom out to travelers before, and there are many listed. You will generally pay half as much as you would in a hostel in major Aussie cities. 🙂

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Meghan

I stayed in hostels across several western European countries. Some of them were just okay, but most were amazing. In Europe, they generally include breakfast, and many people make sandwiches to take with them for lunch at that time. The only place I was ever bitten by bed bugs was in a *nice* hotel in Italy. I agree with you fully. Expensive digs are no protection from bed bugs, loud neighbors, or other annoyances. To everyone else I say, “don’t knock it ’til you try it.”

Paris
Paris
8 years ago
Reply to  Meghan

Hostels often have four-six bed rooms that are ideal for families and other small groups. I’ve never done WWOOF myself, but I imagine it would depend on the farm as far as how easily they would be able to accommodate children.

Nomadic Matt
Nomadic Matt
8 years ago
Reply to  Meghan

When NYC had their bedbug epidemic two years ago, 5 star hotels were the worst offenders. They often never reported their infection because of the stigma associated with bed bugs.

For a good family blog, check out the folks at thewidewideworld.com as they traveled on a family of 4 on a tight budget.

A King's Life
A King's Life
8 years ago
Reply to  Meghan

We slow travel the world with a 3 & 1 year old and so far have not had a problem finding budget accommodations. Sometimes, it is less expensive to stay in a family run guesthouse than it is in a hostel in Central America when traveling as a family. We have stayed in hostels, guesthouses and even with a Mayan family in their village. Our way of traveling is ideal for us. We rent a home in our visiting country for 6 months or longer and then take our time exploring that country from our home base. At this point… Read more »

Steve
Steve
8 years ago
Reply to  Meghan

I have personally stayed in hostels in Australia with a small child. However, she didn’t need her own bed; she slept in a PeaPod travel tent, so all we needed was a 3 by 5 foot space on the floor for her.

Nata
Nata
8 years ago

I enjoy reading Matt’s blog. It inspires me to dream about my own trips. Thanks!

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago

I save money while traveling by combining it with work. My airfare is paid for, several nights of hotel are paid for at a reduced rate, even many of my meals are paid for. I just have to pay for staying longer or bringing my family.

Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
8 years ago

I actually wrote a post similar to this when I went to Israel last year and had pretty much the same experiences. I now swear by hostels, local transportation and my Nalgene (assuming the tap water is safe, of course). I’ve had some great experiences!

Mike Holman
Mike Holman
8 years ago

I don’t get all the criticism. The article contains a bunch of very good travel tips, at least some of which can be used by anyone. What’s wrong with that? Who gives a shit if the author is a left wing/right wing communist shifty-eyed no good vagabond. 😉 I’m definitely not going to do the same kind of traveling as Matt, but info about Priceline and Better Bidding is universal in my mind. I love the idea of sites like Priceline, Hotline etc although I have to admit, my one experience with Priceline resulted in double booking a room (in… Read more »

Barb
Barb
8 years ago

I think this article offers some good tips, although as previously mentioned many of the altnernatives will not work for others. As a frugal traveler in the extreme, I do wish more frugal travel articles were written for those of us with a week of vacation and certain specific demands. As a road tripper (usually in the us these days) I may have to try my hand sometime. that said, in regard to a couple comments. In response to posts from Annelise and others, i’m not sure why folks think eating local food will make them ill. It’s one thing… Read more »

Nomadic Matt
Nomadic Matt
8 years ago
Reply to  Barb

The local food is what I consider food outside the tourist zone. Why eat in front of the Colosseum in Rome when walking into the surrounding neighborhood will get you the same meal at half the price. The food you eat is always “local” in the sense you are getting it there but the price you pay is not local.

My friends and I had a feast in Barcelona for a fraction of what it cost us in the main tourist district. Same food – cheaper price.

twiggers
twiggers
8 years ago

I’m not sure how someone staying in a comfortable hotel means they are not experiencing the culture properly (I’m paraphrasing what someone posted above). You can travel comfortably and still immerse yourself within a culture. You can pay more for food and still experience the culture. You can pay for a private English guide (why would I want one in a different language?) and experience the culture. I don’t stay at campgrounds when traveling within the US, so why should I suffer abroad? I don’t work on a farm at home, so why would I abroad? We travel quite a… Read more »

khadijah
khadijah
8 years ago
Reply to  twiggers

?I’m not sure how someone staying in a comfortable hotel means they are not experiencing the culture properly (I’m paraphrasing what someone posted above). You can travel comfortably and still immerse yourself within a culture. You can pay more for food and still experience the culture. You can pay for a private English guide (why would I want one in a different language?) and experience the culture.” twiggers, while this is sometimes true especially if you go to a developed country like Italy, Spain or Australia, it is very different in a developing or poor country. You will NOT experience… Read more »

PatB
PatB
8 years ago

What I like about GRS is that it nudges me out of my comfort zone. It doesn’t THROW ME out of my comfort zone, it doesn’t attack my current lifestyle, it doesn’t insist that I ride a bicycle to work everyday to reduce my carbon footprint. It simply says to me “have you considered this? The author has had some success doing X in a certain way”, and challenges assumptions that I didn’t even know that I had. Sometimes, the articles don’t really apply to my situation, or I know that I’m not likely to visit 9 museums in a… Read more »

Megan
Megan
8 years ago
Reply to  PatB

I like this post an awful lot. Not everything on GRS is tailor-made for ME ME ME, and that’s something I have to keep in mind. I would love to travel to Europe in the off-season, when it’s not knee-deep in tourists. But guess what? I have small children, and my husband is a teacher. If we travel to Europe at any point in the next, oh, 30 years, it will most likely be during the summer. But oh, well, right?

Sara
Sara
8 years ago
Reply to  PatB

Yes! I stumbled upon the apartment advantage when my friend and I were traveling to Cinque Terre in Italy. Literally every hotel or rent-a-room we could find online were booked for the nights we wanted to stay. Finally one high-end small hotel told us they had an apartment next door they could rent to us instead. It was so much cheaper, we got tons of space, excellent cleaning service, and the breakfast, garden, and internet access of the hotel. I felt like we really lucked into a steal.

Kiernan
Kiernan
8 years ago

My international frugal travel tip is basic – I visit places where friends are living, and stay with them. In recent years this has allowed me to go to Venezuela, Colombia and Mozambique with no accommodation costs and a built-in local guide. Pretty much any time a friend is living anywhere interesting, I have weaseled an invitation out of them 🙂 Of course to do this you need to have the friends in place first (and they need to have the patience to accommodate guests!) but I find I have more fun leveraging personal connections and going where they happen to be.

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Kiernan

We’ve done that too…

And I have to say, we have a lot more people visiting us when we’re living in a fun city than we do when we’re living in a rural small town…

Megan
Megan
8 years ago

As someone who has lived in Spain and is married to a Spaniard, if you’re going to Barcelona (or anywhere else in the country and most of the Mediterranean for that matter), the places that offer specials on evening meals are tourist traps. The main meal of the day for the Spanish is midday, and a “Menu del Dia” should typically be EUR 10-20, including two courses, wine and dessert, served from about 12-3. In tourist-heavy areas, restaurateurs know that Americans, Brits and a few other groups typically have their largest meals in the early evening, 6-8ish, when most restaurants… Read more »

Nomadic Matt
Nomadic Matt
8 years ago
Reply to  Megan

The Menu del Dia has saved me a ton of money traveling in Spain. I love it!

Isela
Isela
8 years ago

Some hostels have private rooms available, even with a private bathroom. These are going to be a little bit pricey but still less expensive than a regular hotel.

A loved the post, really good ideas for saving money while traveling.

KS
KS
8 years ago

I want to point out even bottled water is chancy in some places. My mother came back from India last week – with cholera. Her (Indian) doctor in the US said that so-called bottled water in India is often bottled tap water (she’s on the mend, BTW). I am middle aged, not a late night person, don’t drink much, am married, and my travel preferences reflect those things. Some of my suggestions: – Many religious institutions have cheap, clean, quiet associated facilities one can stay in. My husband and I stayed in a Quaker-affiliated hotel in London in the heart… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  KS

How did you find the quaker hotel?

Joe
Joe
8 years ago

Three hours of hard cleaning labour for a bed in a >hostel<? Really? I could see three hours of hard labour for a decent hotel room. I hope that your work earned your food, too. That kind of excessive free labour just brings down the value of everybody's work.

skeptic
skeptic
8 years ago
Reply to  Joe

I see where you’re coming from… but I think the value of [unskilled] labor can be different for a traveler. Because it’s difficult to quickly make the connections in a new place that would lead to some kind of employment or work exchange, some travelers are grateful to find virtually any job that lets them exchange some of their time instead of their money, especially if they are “traveling til the budget runs out” or some variation.

Bella
Bella
8 years ago
Reply to  Joe

Agreed, I did not personally have any issue with all the hostel/backpacker (even hitchiking) recommendations. but the ones that recommend skirting the local VISA laws just left a bad taste.
I mean really?
How do we feel in the us when a significant of jobs (yes, even unskilled labor jobs) are taken by immigrant workers? Who are willing to work for MUCH less than the ‘minimum wage’.
I think that there is a reason that labor laws are in place – to protect workers and to wholesale recommend ignoring them is at a minimum irresponsible and unethical.

Paula
Paula
8 years ago

In my 20’s & 30’s, we often had to travel frequently, both domestically and internationally, for our business, which means that we had to save $ since we paid for everything ourselves. Travel is less frequent now as I approach 60 but I am so grateful for articles like this and all your comments and suggestions. Now travel is usually a leisure endeavor for me and it is great to hear about ways to save while having a great time.
With GRS and every other source, just take what’s good and leave the rest.

I Am 1 Percent
I Am 1 Percent
8 years ago

@Annelise and anyone else who couldn’t relate to this article: I felt the same way. I don’t want to working on at a Red Chinese prison or on some farm milking cows while on vacation to save a few bucks. I don’t want to hitchhike to get around or eat at homeless shelters to save a few bucks. I have a family and can’t put them through that. I want to get a decent hotel at a decent price, eat at some local restaurants, pubs, and see the sights without having to worry about anything. This is why I started… Read more »

Earn Save Live
Earn Save Live
8 years ago

I’m an avid traveler, and I love these kind of posts. As an American living in Australia, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to travel. Personally, I’m willing to skimp on accommodations to extend my trip. In addition to what’s noted above, check out hostels (many of which cater to families and have private bathrooms) and the short term housing listings on Craigslist and Gumtree. (And yes, I have stayed in such places with a child and as a single woman, and I haven’t had any issues). Perhaps I’m missing something, but to me, the entire point of traveling is… Read more »

Elle
Elle
8 years ago

I would love to see an article about international travel with children. I traveled in Europe and Central America as a college student. In Central America I enrolled in a Spanish Language school and lived with a local family. In Europe, I stayed in hostels. Both were great experiences. I remember seeing families staying in the hostels, but I never paid much attention to their accommodations. I’m all about frugal traveling and experiencing the culture, but I think it might look different with children in tow. For example, some questions I have are: Are family rooms at hostels much cheaper… Read more »

A King's Life
A King's Life
8 years ago
Reply to  Elle

Hi Elle, We are a slow traveling family with a 3 & 1 year old and having children changes the dynamic a bit, but doesn’t prohibit you from experiencing most things. We bring our children everywhere even though they are little. Since they are little, we don’t do bunk style dorms out of respect for the other travelers. Our kids still wake up in the evening sometimes and we prefer the privacy of our own room. Also, at this age, most places and public transportation don’t charge for them, so we only pay for 2 adults. If cultural immersion is… Read more »

Marianne
Marianne
8 years ago

Interesting article- I had never heard of ‘wwoof’ing- but it seems like most of these wouldn’t work for couples with children. I’d be interested in hearing some cheap travel alternatives for couples with children as that’s where we’re stuck for the next 15 years at least. 🙂

Earn Save Live
Earn Save Live
8 years ago
Reply to  Marianne

You can definitely travel internationally (and cheaply) with kids! My son went on his first overseas trip when he was four. We’ve stayed in hostels and done homestays on three continents, and we really had a great experience. A lot of hostels cater to families, and you’ll often find families or older couples staying in YHAs.

Janice
Janice
8 years ago

I think the author was just trying to make the point that travel doesn’t have to be out of reach for people, and offering really budget oriented examples of how to do that to make the point. I think it’s about resourcefulness, whether you’re the hostel type or the hotel chain type. Either way, if you want to travel, the deals are out there, just start looking around if your GRS blog isn’t exactly catering to your travel needs at the moment. Really, people, get a grip.

Nomadic Matt
Nomadic Matt
8 years ago
Reply to  Janice

That’s what it is all about. It’s not an either/or choice. You can have comfort on a budget if you know where to look and are willing to do the extra leg work. Is an extra hour of my life worth cutting down my travel costs by 50%? Yes. This article is just a tip of the iceberg. One can fill a whole book with tips. (And I currently am!)

Justin Johnson
Justin Johnson
8 years ago

Nice try on the WWOOF acronym. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is a great way to travel and make friends with a local tour guide.

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  Justin Johnson

Yikes. Can this be fixed???

skeptic
skeptic
8 years ago

airbnb.com meets some folks’ needs. A site where people rent out their own spaces, from full multi-bedroom condos to simply a spot on their fold-out couch. As always caveat emptor but it can be good.

Nick
Nick
8 years ago

Great article. I spent 4.5 months travelling around Australia and NZ last year. I stayed in hostels most of the time and with random locals a couple of times.

I did wonder about couchsurfing whilst I was out there but I never knew what town/city I’d be in the next day as I never planned more than a couple of days in advance. How late notice can you generally get a room when couchsurfing?

margot
margot
8 years ago

I am mystified by the complaints about this article. If a post doesn’t apply to you, SKIP IT!! Every post on a blog cannot be applicable to every person’s life. And JD need not conform his blog to your life’s needs. I don’t plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day, so I largely ignored the previous post on it. I didn’t feel the need to rant about the posting and the ways in which it didn’t apply to me. And then some of you whine about how you’d like different types of travel posts. Instead of whining, how about DOING something about… Read more »

yourPFpro
yourPFpro
8 years ago

These are good tips but it depends who you’re traveling with. Couch Surfing is great if you’re a single male or with a couple friends. But there are some creeps that just want a couple girls to come over so they can get them drunk, etc.. I have traveled all over the world, and my favorite places have always had one thing in common. When your spending power is greater than what you’re used to at home, you don’t let money get in the way of your activities. I studied abroad in Eastern Europe and this couldn’t have been more… Read more »

stellamarina
stellamarina
8 years ago

I am an older retired lady who still travels backpacker style at hostels because it is the only way I can afford a trip of 1-2 months instead of 1-2 weeks. A month stay in Egypt or Thailand can easily be under one thousand US…not including flights. I had a months stay in French Polynesia last year…..it cost me about $1000US while there..stayed at hostels in dorm rooms for about $30US a night. Ate a lot of the cheap govt. subsidized French bread. Visited 5 islands including Bora Bora. There are also lots of Pensions there that you can stay… Read more »

Dave
Dave
8 years ago

Don’t take the risk of hitch-hiking in NZ and Australia (definite NO if female). It is too risky and not worth losing your possessions or life over.

Source: A native Kiwi who lived for 30yrs in NZ.

betterthanliving
betterthanliving
8 years ago

Couchsurfing really is an interesting way to travel. It can be a intimidating, as it is like a blind date, you have no idea if you will get along with the people hosting you. Talking on the internet and phone beforehand can alleviate some of the nerves, but is never the same as “in the flesh”. The benefits are great though. Most of the tips in the article revolve around living like a local, and living with a local host makes this possible and easy! I have fond memories of one experience. I arrived in Germany to stay with a… Read more »

Jen
Jen
8 years ago

@Justin: WWOOF originally stood for Willing Workers on Organic Farms. I’m not sure when the name was changed as it’s 10 years since I was a member. I have participated in WWOOF as a host (in Australia). We only ever had Wwoofers stay with us who didn’t have children–we were never approached by folks with kids. However I have stayed on other people’s wwoofing properties where children would easily have been accommodated. For this equation to work, keep in mind that you are trading your time/effort for accommodation and food. If one parent must look after your children, *and* the… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago
Reply to  Jen

This sounds like a modern, cleaned-up version of 18th century indentured servitude. Or a newer version of that ridiculous 1960’s program that had deluded college students cutting sugar cane in Cuba “for the revolution,”

Let’s see–you don’t have to provide even the undoubtedly low going rate for farm labor and you get to congratulate yourself on how progressive you are . Afterwards, you can overcharge for your organic produce. A win for everyone!

Sure, let your guests bring their kids. A little child labor never hurt anyone, did it?

JonasAberg
JonasAberg
8 years ago

“…Even in expensive countries like Norway or Sweden, the train is never more than 3 USD!…”

Word of warning here though; that only applies to local trains. If I want to hop on a train to Helsinki it will cost me just over 50€, which is about 65$.

If you want to stay in the same general area, local trains are fine but if you’re going longer – expect to pay.

JonasAberg
JonasAberg
8 years ago
Reply to  JonasAberg

Maybe should have mentioned that I live in Finland and not in Norway, nor Sweden.

I’m not completely sure about the costs in said countries but I’d bet my left arm that there is no way you will get from, oh say Gothenburg to Stockholm on 3 bucks.

SF_UK
SF_UK
8 years ago

Can I just say, please make sure your travel insurance covers you for *everything* you’re planning to do (and the associated medical costs and repatriation if something goes wrong). I know of a family who are now trying to find 100K to repatriate their daughter after an accident working on a farm in Australasia. Her insurance didn’t cover working on a farm. They still don’t know if they’re covered for her medical care there (expensive since mostly been in intensive care). I’m not saying don’t do it, but do make sure you’re covered. Medical care and repatriation are horribly expensive.

Zorica
Zorica
8 years ago

Thanks for the tips! Never heard of WWOOF before

Heather
Heather
8 years ago

I think the big question to ask yourself before taking a trip, is “Why am I traveling?” If you just want to stay in a nice hotel and order room service, stay in a nearby city. If you want to go hiking, head to a National or State Park. If you want to go to a beach, head to the closest warm weather destination like Florida. There are always trade offs, so if you don’t care about local culture, why fly to a beach in Thailand or go hiking in Switzerland? I think this article is great for people who… Read more »

frugalportland
frugalportland
8 years ago

now I want to get out of the office — way out!

bethh
bethh
8 years ago

I’ll mention one resource I’ve been very happy with – tripadvisor.com, specifically for lodging information and booking. With some fiddling, you can search for lodging in a map view, with dates specified and limits to the per-night cost. That way you can pick a part of town you’d like to stay in (walkable from the train, near the subway, in the city center, etc.) and then try to find something that matches your needs. As is usual with community rating, you’ll find a mix of positive and negative reviews, but they can help guide your selection so long as you… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago

Travel is wonderful, but all this talk of “assimilating into the local culture” and “getting to know the locals” is nonsensical and patronizing.

The residents of other countries are not eccentric and cute zoo exhibits. They do not see themselves as exotic specimens put in place for privileged Americas to study. Quite properly, they will make as much money off of you as they can and will laugh at your delusions in the process.

John @ Married (with Debt)
John @ Married (with Debt)
8 years ago

I wholeheartedly endorse Couchsurfing. Not only will it save you money, it will provide you with a travel experience you can’t get as a regular tourist.

stellamarina
stellamarina
8 years ago

budget travelers might like to check out
helpexchange.net as well

Kat
Kat
8 years ago

Regarding water bottles, for people who are wary of drinking the local tap water, you can get bottled water for cheap at the grocery store. Don’t buy the bottled water from convenience stores, restaurants, or tourist areas. Go to a local grocery store and stock up for however many days you’ll be in that location. In Europe, most stands sell bottled water at 1-2 euros each. At the grocery store, we got 12 bottles for 1.20 euros total. There’s also the option of buying 1 large container of water (say, 5 liters) and refilling your reusable water bottle from that.

My Money Talk Online
My Money Talk Online
8 years ago

Great article and very timely for me as my wife and I are planning a two week vacation to France later this year. We are planning on saving money by cooking and eating sandwhiches in the many parks instead of eating at the high priced restaurants. We found that you can rent an apartment for roughly same price as hotel but you get a small kitchen to prepare meals. Also going to have to look into the museum pass as seems like a great deal. Thanks for the tips!

Kacie
Kacie
8 years ago

I don’t understand what all the brouhaha is about. If you like the suggestions use them, if not ignore them. I don’t see why GRS can’t serve the needs and wants of a wide variety of people.
I read a lot of these articles and try to use the ideas that fit me and I just ignore the rest. You can too.

Jackowick
Jackowick
8 years ago

I often see if there are old socks/underwear/shirts/shoes I can wear or bring on the trip then drop them off at a clothing drop or trash them; it creates packing space to ensure I don’t need an extra bag for souvenirs I’m bringing home.

Also, look into packing a camping tent and camping sleeping bag(they often compress down to the size of a large coffee can) and you can use a campground for a night or two instead of a hotel!

Renee
Renee
8 years ago

Last autumn I spent one week in London and a month in France, using many of the tips in the article. In France, I rented a ‘gite’ for a very reasonable cost and also did something else I highly recommend – rented bicyles in both places! All major European cities now have bikes for hire by hourly, daily, or weekly rates – many have on-the-street bike rental systems if you just want to take a quick spin. Some use a credit card, others you need change in the local currency. In France, I rented a bike (un velo) for a… Read more »

crazyliblady
crazyliblady
7 years ago

I have food allergies, so traveling and being able to eat well is definitely a challenge. My best success has been in doing a lot of research on the area before hand (looking at online menus, if available) and having several options available if the first one doesn’t work out. I also take my own snack food (such as fresh fruit, Larabars, bottle waters or tea) along with me in my backpack. Also, I like to take a long a frozen ice pack which can help to keep cold things cold. I rode to a professional conference on a bus,… Read more »

Anthony
Anthony
7 years ago

The best way is to test and measure these strategies on the road. You only learn by doing!

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