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Saving Money on Hotels & Other Accommodations

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Most Expensive -> Less Expensive

Resorts & All Inclusive Hotels such as Marriott and Four Seasons are super expensive for daily living if you are traveling the world indefinitely.  However, if you want to afford staying at these luxury hotels from time to time the best way to do it is by signing up for Credit Card rewards programs such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve card or the Starwood Preferred Guest card.  If you're planning to spend a certain amount on your travels anyway, you will probably end up getting the Bonus Points which would amount to free nights at the hotels.  As you continue to put your expenses on these cards you will slowly accumulate more points which will eventually reward you with more hotel stays.  Important note: Only sign up for reward credit cards if you pay the full balance each month. If you don’t, the interest fees will cancel out any benefits you may get from rewards. Don’t carry a balance! An alternative option for about half the price of these hotels and resorts, you can get your very own place with the same type of quality with Airbnb BEYOND (soon to be released and a tier higher than the "Airbnb Plus" brand described below).

Expensive -> More Affordable

Hotels are still fairly expensive if you are staying at them on a regular basis.  You can find better deals at sites like booking.com (receive $25 off your first stay at booking.com here), or by choosing more budget friendly hotels such as at Extended Stay America.  For slightly less money than regular hotels you could stay at Premium Airbnb's which are generally much nicer than hotels by themselves.  Think of them in the category between a regular hotel and an all inclusive elite resort.  These Airbnb's are known as "Airbnb Plus" and they are currently available.  The "Plus" bnb's are a "selection of the highest quality homes with hosts known for great reviews and attention to detail" and are rated 4.8+ out of 5, go through a 100+ point quality inspection, and always have included WiFi, TV, bath essentials (towels, soap, shampoo), bedroom comforts (sheets, pillows, hangers), coffee maker, hair dryer, iron, carbon monoxide detector, and smoke detectors.  If you haven't tried them out and generally like higher end hotels, we recommend breaking out of your comfort zone and giving them a try (and getting a great discount by using this link). Many also come with free parking and a full kitchen - you won't be disappointed!

Affordable -> Exceptionally Affordable

If Hotels are out of your price range, then Airbnb BEYOND and Airbnb Plus are probably also out of your price range.  You could look for an Airbnb Superhost using their App or Website.  Generally these places will run you $40+ per night in Europe or $20+ per night in Southwest Asia or Africa, but we've been fairly successful with them in the past.  Additionally, they generally always offer great perks such as free WiFi, parking, laundry, full kitchen, etc.  You can use the App to filter for exactly what you are looking for without having to do endless searches at different hotel websites!  To save even more money, you can opt to go for the regular Airbnb.  Many of these places still offer great perks and are quite comfortable.  Typically they measure up to the equivalent to a 2.0-3.5 star hotel (yes, the range is big, so it is important to do your research and try to get as much value out of your choice as possible!). This option is generally the cheapest if you have a family or even if you are a traveling couple. Similar deals can be found on booking.com as well.

Downright Cheap

Have you ever considered Home For Exchange? This is where you are able to list your home for exchange with other people using this service. So, for a very small fee, you could end up in a very nice house instead of having to rent accommodations. In return, your someone will also be staying at your house while you are away on your trip.

The next cheapest step is to look for Airbnb's with shared spaces (meaning that there may be 2+ private bedrooms with a shared common area or a completely shared space).  The benefit of using Airbnb in this capacity is that you generally still get the perks of Airbnb (kitchen, Wi-Fi, and possibly even parking and washers) . 

If Airbnb is too expensive and you are traveling solo or as a couple, you might find it a bit cheaper to go with a Hostel.  These are usually rooms with many bunk beds, so you will likely have less privacy and less space than at an Airbnb or hotel.  You typically need to pay individually for each bed at Hostels so it isn't as affordable for a family.  Showers, some food items and Wi-Fi are normally included.  Storage lockers are also usually available for private use, but they require coins to use (you usually get your coins back when you are done using them).  Not all hostels have laundry machines, but the ones that do will require coins to operate.  For more privacy, you could opt for a 2-bunk or 4-bunk room at an additional cost.  Free rooms are occasionally available via the "Camino de Santiago" routes in France and Spain. 

Additionally, you could opt for a work exchange program like WWOOF or WorkAway, which do require you to work but offer you accommodations and food in exchange.

Probably Free

If you're running out of money, we would recommend purchasing a cheap tent before you are completely broke.  Bugs can get the better of you from the stories that we have heard!  Additionally, to get out of the weather, you may be able to get hosted for free by people who like talking to travelers via the Couchsurfing App (sign up here).  They will generally at least have a cot or couch for you to sleep on and most of them will offer use of their showers as well.  However, if you don't sign up and participate in the community in advance of your adventures, it may be more difficult for you to find a host.  Sleeping on the ground is not typically recommended unless you are a serious Nature Beast and/or enjoy the homeless lifestyle.  If you do find yourself in this situation, fellow travelers have advised that it is easier to sleep in locations that are secluded (like the forest).  If not, you might be too concerned that your belongings will be stolen while you sleep to get any rest at all!  If you find yourself in this situation, churches may also be an option as they generally will help homeless travelers, however a donation may be expected.  Best of luck!


Saving Money on Flights & Cars

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Most Expensive -> Less Expensive

First Class Airlines, First Class Trains, and Black Car Taxis are luxurious and the most comfortable ways to travel, but also the most expensive. If you're set on traveling first class and you have excellent credit, try credit card hacking. Sign-up bonuses vary, but you're usually able to score 50-100K point bonuses after spending a set amount in the first 3 months. We were able to get the 100K point sign-up bonus from Chase Sapphire Reserve when they were offering it, and use them to book flights basically for free. There is a hefty $450 annual fee, but we're able to offset it with the points we earn from purchases, and the $300 annual travel credit. It also includes a Priority Pass membership for airport lounges that has been very useful and convenient. If you do an online search for best travel or airline credit cards you can find one that suits your situation. Just make sure you're going to be paying the full balance at the end of the month!

Expensive -> More Affordable

If first class travel is out of your budget or you don't have enough travel points to trade, flying coach, second-class trains, and peer-to-peer ride sharing (i.e. Uber or Lyft) is a little less expensive. Plan ahead when booking flights and train tickets. Some airlines like Norwegian will offer steep discounted tickets if you book 6 months in advance. When we went to Italy, we found out that we could have cut our train fares almost in half if we had booked point-to-point tickets 120-180 days in advance instead of getting the Eurail pass. We are not affiliated at all, but The Man in Seat 61 is a comprehensive resource for train travel around the world and a site that we wish we had found earlier!

Affordable -> Exceptionally Affordable

Low Cost Carriers (LCC’s) have been growing in the airline industry and made flight travel much more affordable. Sometimes you'll have to fly into smaller airports but they're usually still pretty close to main points of interest. The LCCs don't always show up in flight search engines like Kayak or Skyscanner though, so do an online search for "Low cost carriers in [insert city here]". Then go directly to their site to see their deals. Alternately, you can sign up with a place like Airfarewatchdog to get notifications when flights become cheaper.

In bigger cities with trains and subways, you may be able to save money by getting 1-day, weekly, or weekend passes. Click here to read how we were able to save on transportation in Paris using the Navigo. If Ubers are out of your price range, then taxis are probably also out of your price range.  You could look at renting a car.  We usually find the best rates on Expedia, and if you use ebates.com you can earn points on Expedia PLUS earn 1.5% cash back. (click here to get $10 off your first purchase through ebates). If you want to save even more money, learn how to drive manual vehicles.  You may end up saving around $10/day!  Additionally, many countries have plenty of hills and mountains where manual transmission is required.  Learning ahead of time is definitely valuable.

Downright Cheap

Coaches/Buses are generally very cheap ways to go from city to city. It usually takes a longer time to travel by bus, but if you're on a tight budget and have plenty of time, then it's an excellent option. We took Megabus in the UK from London to Sheffield and paid about $4.50 each. If we had taken the train it would've been about $30 each. In the US, greyhound offers discounts to students and veterans, and also if you travel midweek. In Japan there are many different companies, but Jenny usually used Willer Express as they have an English-language site and some of the best prices.  A great app to use for finding bus prices and routes is Rome2Rio.

Probably Free

If you're completely out of money for transportation, get your comfortable walking shoes on and start hoofing it everywhere. Walking is great for your health AND your wallet. You may even see a different side of the city than if you drive, take a bus, subway or train everywhere. To travel longer distances for free, you may want to try hitchhiking. If you decide to try it, please choose your rides wisely and stay safe!


Saving money on Food & Dining

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Most Expensive -> Less Expensive

Fine dining–multiple courses, dress codes, limited/exclusive seating, service that feels personalized– this will be the priciest option when eating out. How can you have a fine dining experience without breaking the bank? Check to see if there are any dining festivals in the area. Plan ahead and time your visit to the festival dates. Some restaurants participate in the festivals by offering prix-fixe menus at a price point much cheaper than ordering ala carte. When we were living in Orlando, we were able to try a lot of great restaurants that would normally not have fit our budget otherwise during their Magical Dining month. If you're budgeting, you may want to allocate part of your entertainment budget as some restaurants are just as much about the experience as well as the food. If fine dining is out of your budget then try casual dining.

Expensive -> More Affordable

For casual dining you'll still order at your table and be served but you can dress down and prices will be much lower than fine dining.  In the US, many casual dining chain restaurants are owned by parent companies (i.e. Landry's, Darden, Bloomin' Brands) that offer discounts or perks if you sign up for their loyalty card. We only sign up if the cards are free, as we don't dine out enough to make any sort of fee worth it. Check to see if they have any birthday specials as well. Sometimes you'll only get a free dessert, but there have been restaurants that offer 2-for-1 deals or a free meal on your next visit or for your birthday month.

For places outside the U.S. and restaurants without loyalty cards, you may be able to save some money by ordering two appetizers instead of a main dish. In some places like Italy and Spain, bread is placed on the table but it is an additional charge. If you don't want the bread, send it back and make sure it is not on your bill at the end. Another way to cut costs is to reduce or eliminate alcohol beverages while dining at a restaurant.

Affordable -> Exceptionally Affordable

Eating at restaurants where you're waited on is nice but pricey. To stay on budget, we like to frequent locations where you order at the register like fast-casual restaurants, delis, and bakeries. Going out for breakfast or lunch is usually cheaper than dinner, and some places have lunch specials. When we went to get shawarma in Marrakech it included fries and a lemonade. You can save even more by just getting the main item without sides and drink, if you carry your own water bottle and snacks. For bakeries, we've found that many of them usually carry some type of pizza or sandwich rolls that are much cheaper –and sometimes more delicious– than going to a dedicated pizza or sandwich shop. Cutting out soft drinks and drinking tap water or bringing your own bottle of water saves a lot over time.

Downright Cheap

To save even more money, skip eating out and make your own food by going to the supermarket. If your accommodation has a kitchen then it will make it even easier to cook meals as well. But if you don't have a stove, an oven, or even a microwave, you can still get things to make your own sandwiches. If we got a salami and cheese sandwich from a deli in the Canary Islands it was around $4-6. But if we went to the supermarket we could get a large baguette, salami, and cheese and make TWO sandwiches for around $2.50. That makes one homemade sandwich come out to around $1.25!

Be aware of different types of supermarkets as you travel because some are cheaper/better value than others. For example: in Florida, Goodings is generally more expensive than Publix. In Japan, department store markets are pricier than AEON, Valor, or Apita. In the Canary Islands, Hiper Dino is usually a little cheaper than Spar. There are also discount supermarkets like Aldi/Hofer or Poundworld.  If you can shop outside of the touristy areas, you'll likely save quite a bit as well. Also, if you need to buy bottled water then get it at the supermarket rather than at any restaurant or convenience store. Restaurants in Venice were charging around $3 for a 500ml bottle, but supermarkets in the middle of the city had 1L bottles for around $0.20.

Probably Free

Hopefully you budget well and never run out of food money, but here are some free food ideas if that ever happens. Food challenges from restaurants could potentially grant you a free meal. Just make sure you're up to conquering the challenge! Otherwise you usually have to pay for the meal and it could run well over $50. If you have a Costco card you can use it to enter any of their locations around the world and try all the free samples. A time-consuming but also potentially free option would be a attend a timeshare presentation. It isn't recommended if you're not able to say no to high-pressure sales tactics though.  Additionally, some Airbnbs include meals with your stay. We've stayed at some places where the food provided for breakfast was enough for lunch too!  In the worst case scenarios, we've heard of people who ask restaurants for free meals in exchange for scrubbing their toilets.  Our advice, make sure you save enough for food!

 

General money saving tips on dining out

  • Use a credit card that gives higher points/cash/percent back for dining. We use the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and get 3 points/dollar spent on dining.

  • Make breakfast or lunch your biggest meal of the day. Dinner menus are almost always pricier.

  • Do an online search for “budget restaurants in [insert city here]” to get ideas on where to go for cheaper meals.

  • If you can, share your meals. Some countries give large portions and you can save by sharing a meal with a travel buddy.

  • Skip dessert at the restaurant and go to an ice cream shop instead. We often pay $1-2 a scoop instead of for a $3-9 dessert.

  • Drink tap water if possible. While traveling, you'll need to be aware of how safe the drinking water is but if you can, opt for free tap water.


Saving money on Entertainment & Activities

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Most Expensive -> Less Expensive

The most costly entertainment items are things like theme parks, luxury full-day tours, private tours, Broadway musicals, and popular tourist attractions. A good place to check prices for all types of activities is the isango! website. To cut costs, try going in the off-season. Often the prices fluctuate throughout the year with lower prices during the less touristy times. If you're not able to travel outside of peak times, look for package deals (Click here to use our links for savings in Orlando). If you're a student, use that to your advantage! There are many discounts for students at museums, theatres, and even tours. For things like private tours, try to split the cost with friends or people you meet along the way. When we were in Venice, we split a gondola ride experience with two other travelers we met at our Airbnb which made it much more affordable! Additionally, some tour operators - like TourRadar - may offer deals that you would have a hard time beating even if you did all the leg work yourself, although you may occasionally have to settle for 4-star, instead of 5-star, quality pampering.

Expensive -> More Affordable

Half-day tours, City Passes, Dinner shows, etc. are the next priciest types of entertainment. "Get the insert-city-here City Pass! It'll save you tons of money!" - is not the advice we would give. City passes are only a great value if the places included in the pass were already on your must-do list. Tours in general can be pricey, but look for self-guided tours or local apps with audio guides to cut down on costs.  You can also use groupon-type sites to look for deals on tours, shows, and activities. We used groupon to get half-off a jet-ski experience around Bay Lake in Orlando. If you purchase a groupon through ebates, you can also earn 3-6% cash back (Click here and you can also get $10 off your first purchase through ebates).

Affordable -> Exceptionally Affordable

For things like local attractions, botanical gardens, and 1-3 hour tours, there may be 2-for-1 deals available. The ones we found in the UK required the use of the train system, but you're able to use the same train tickets for multiple 2-for-1 deals on the same day. If you're traveling solo, some attractions offer discounts if you purchase your ticket in advance rather than on-site. Note that while digital tickets or showing a PDF on your smartphone is becoming more widely accepted, there are times when you may need to print out physical copies of your voucher. 

If you're interested in theatre, local plays and musicals are often much more affordable and you can help support the arts community in the area you're visiting. Universities often have reasonably priced plays or shows, and some will have choir or orchestra performances as well.

Downright Cheap

Some cities have pay-as-you-like tours. They are usually advertised as "free" but you're expected to tip the guide a fair amount. There are museums and cathedrals with pay-as-you-like entry too. Sign up for local email newsletters as they may have offers from time to time. When Jenny was living in Japan, she went on a couple of tours with local guides that just wanted feedback on their English language tours. She had to pay for her meal, but the transportation and informative guide was free.

Probably Free

We've found that in many major European cities that the popular museums, cathedrals, and art galleries often have free admission one Sunday a month. The lines to get in can get long on those free days, but it's a great way to stay on budget when you're traveling long-term. Click here to see all the attractions we visited in Florence on a free-admission Sunday.

Need more free ideas? Go on a hike. Wander around a new city and people watch. Go to a beach or lake. If you're in a city, enjoy the street musicians and performers. The medina in Marrakech was a fascinating place to wander in the evening, just be aware that you will be expected/very highly encouraged to pay if you take photos or video of the entertainment.

 

General money saving tips on entertainment

  • Prioritize your must-see/must-do list. Personalize it to you. Don't choose somewhere just because everyone you know tells you that "you HAVE to go there!".

  • Set your budget BEFORE you go. If you make your must-do list and all the things you want to do can't fit into your budget, skip some things and save them for a different trip.

  • Remember to set aside some of your budget for tips. If you take a lot of tours the tips can add up quickly and put you over budget.

  • Contact us! We are affiliated with various travel related companies and may be able to help find you a deal. We love helping our readers save money while traveling!

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Hello, World!

How Other Travelers are Saving Money on Hotels & Accommodations

“I think you can save by either checking out hostels or rent a room or floor via Airbnb as I found them cheaper than hotels.” - Subroto M.

“I use booking.com quite often and the more you book, the more discounts you earn.” - Caroline H.

“Airbnb or something like hotels.com or similar where one can accrue points. Accor hotels has lots of different types under their umbrella - like Ibis, Formule1, Mercure...also...look for the smaller "mom and pop" joints out there....or a hostel....Do you want a place to stay that has "mints on the pillow" or not. Frankly, I just look for a crash pad that's clean and has wifi!” - Jim G.

“can recommend Accor loyalty program save often 10-30% and get more than every second room an upgrade. They have a lot of hotels around the world starts from Ibis budget up to Sofitel Legend.” Alfred R.

“I choose dorm, hostel with kitchen facilities so I can have breakfast and diner at hostel (cooking).” - Susi W.

“Doing a couple of shifts in the bar in exchange for a bed at hostels.” - Lorimar S.

“Stay with friends.” - Jon S.

“I always search on google for voucher codes and use like hostelworld, hotels.com, last minute - usually if not always get at least 10% off.” - Adam B.

Hostel. And use the kitchen as much as possible.” - Javier W.

“I start checking months out and daily on kayak. Last trip I took for instance I book one hotel in a main square of Lisbon for 65 per night dollars and the week before we got there it was 175. Most all of my hotels were extremely cheap booking months out.” - Mark H.

“Airbnb or booking, rent weekly apartment not hotel.” - Beatrice B.

“Stay further away from town or close to train/ bus stations- that way accommodation is often cheaper than staying centrally. Traveling with a friend or partner can also make it much cheaper as you can share a room. We also often book 1 night through for example booking.com, then extend the duration of the stay by paying the hostel/hotel directly (often cheaper).” - Anja K.

“We stay in Airbnb’s rather than hotels. If it's a place that supplies some breakfast food we will have a big breakfast, skip lunch and just eat dinner for example. Sounds silly, but saves quite a bit of money especially in expensive countries. We will catch buses and trains or walk and hire a car when needed. We pick a budget for accommodation and stick to it.” - Lucy C.

“You could do couch surfing, or house/pet sitting.” - Caitlin M.

“We like our privacy and to have a place to relax at the end of the day so we stay in vacation rentals. Even a studio has more space than a hotel n a kitchen. Cheaper than hotels and we eat.in except for lunch. This also lets us make simple lunches on hiking or train ride days. We stay longer in each place - usually 3-5 nights as travel between places is expensive. We pay for selected sights and museums we can’t see at home. That’s why we came. We drink a lot of water and cold brewed-in-the -bottle iced tea we make in our rental.” - Jodi D.

“I stay in hostels as they sometimes work out cheaper. Some hostels will have private rooms with a shared bathroom or an en-suite which are sometimes cheaper than budget hotels.” - Melissa P.

“One of my favorites is coordinating with other travelers and renting a whole lodge or hostel. The per head cost tends to be lower, and you have a lot of freedom and built in friends.” - Grace B.

Hostel or if I travel in longer term then I use workaway.” - Vania T.

“Volunteer travel.” - Dan B.

“I carry a hammock tent and use hostels. Frequently the tent is better, even in colder weather; campgrounds usually have good accommodations super cheap, comparatively.” - Rosie D.

“Use hostels, couchsurfing, Airbnb, hotels should be your last option, unless you have a credit card that earns you free nights.” - Walid H.

hostels is the best way to go in budget, same time to meet like minded folks. you may get new travel ideas from fellow travelers.” - Baskar S.

”Sleep on beaches and up mountains.” - Ian T.

“I have written the most comprehensive guide on the Internet to saving money on accommodation while traveling. It's over 18,000 words but it covers virtually everything you need to know.  This guide only covers how to keep paid accommodation expenses to the bare minimum, but if you're wondering how to get completely free accommodation while traveling you can also check my other guide on ways to sleep for free while traveling. Here's the link: http://www.twobirdsbreakingfree.com/mobile/41-travel-accommodation-money-saving-tips.html” - Eoghan D.

“Open travel cards like Chase Sapphires, Amex gold and platinum and accumulate points then transfer them to partner airlines for reward flights and hotels for reward nights. By points, I mean sign up bonuses. Unless you spend a lot on cards, points earn per category can be insignificant.” - Dex R.

“Flexible dates and destinations. #1.” - Steve L.

“Rental car companies often have free car relocation programs to get stock back to the more popular locations. Eg.
https://www.transfercar.com.au/” - Mike N.

“Hitchhike. Hitchwiki.org” - Elaine C.

“I've a whole host of tips here: https://arrivalshall.com/2018/11/01/how-to-afford-to-travel/” - Hazel Joy

www.rometorio.com. Helps you navigate to cheaper train/bus fares.” - David Bienkowski


 

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