How to Save on the 5 Biggest Travel Expenses and Still Have an Incredible Trip

You don’t have to diminish your experience to save money while travelling! We’ve assembled practical tips to help you save on five of the biggest travel expenses: transportation, lodging, food, excursions, and shopping.

Save on Travel Expenses

1. Transportation

The average family spends about 44% of their travel budget on getting to (and from) their destination. Flying is most expensive way to get around, with cruise ships at a close second. These expenses are unavoidable if you’re travelling overseas, but there are ways to spend less on vacation transportation.

  • Timing is important when it comes to airfare. The best time to buy plane tickets is 8 weeks before the day of your trip; the most expensive times are when the flight is announced and two weeks before takeoff. Buy early, but not too early.
  • Travel off-season. Airfare rises and falls with seasonal demand. You’ll save money while travelling in the off-season, like the weeks immediately after a big holiday or celebration.
  • At your travel destination, take the scenic route. Planning to travel by taxi? Know that the most direct route is usually the most expensive. Consider using public transportation and commuting by foot when you can. You’ll save money and get a more immersive experience of your destination.

2. Food

One of the best parts of travelling is indulging in local cuisine. But those meals add up fast. More than 80% of the average traveller’s food budget is spent in restaurants, bars and cafés. Here’s how to spend less while still getting a taste of the culture.

  • Stock up on food at local markets and grocery stores. Store it in the micro-fridge in your hotel room. That way, you can enjoy at least one fresh meal a day in your hotel room without paying the restaurant premium. Be sure to request a room with a micro-fridge when booking your hotel.
  • Dine outside of tourist areas. Restaurants are always more expensive in touristy areas, and they aren’t necessarily the best your destination has to offer. Instead, try an out-of-the-way spot with a positive rating on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.
  • Carry snacks with you on daytrips. Stockpile snacks in your hotel micro-fridge and take some with you when you go out. These will help you stave off mid-day cravings and avoid spending extra at food stands and vending machines

3. Lodging

Hotels are another significant expense, especially in major tourist destinations. Fortunately, there are lots of options for travellers who want to spend less on a bed and a roof over their head.

  • Avoid ordering room service. In most cases, the convenience isn’t worth the added cost. If you’re known to indulge in a midnight snack, store something tasty in your micro-fridge instead.
  • Always compare prices – but do it incognito. Some hotels and booking services use your browser history to manipulate the prices you see. Turn on your browser’s incognito mode to avoid price hikes.
  • Stay with friends and family when you can. Don’t hesitate to ask your acquaintances abroad if they’re willing to let you spend a night!

4. Excursions

The cost of excursions, entertainment, and activities vary widely across different destinations. In any case, these “things to do” amount to a major portion of travel expenses, especially for families. Planning ahead can help keep these costs manageable.

  • Buy a multi-excursion package deal/pass. Many tourist destinations offer package deals that bundle various popular stops into a single purchase. The Toronto CityPASS, for instance, includes visits to the CN Tower, Casa Loma, the ROM, Ripley’s Aquarium, and the Zoo or Science Centre.
  • Choose destinations where the location itself is a trip. You don’t have to pay extra to see incredible sights in historic cities like Rome, Paris, or even Quebec City. The same goes for sunny destinations with public beaches.
  • Prioritize the excursions you really want to do. Don’t feel compelled to hit every iconic tourist spot in town. Focus your time and money on things that matter to you. Many people find that seeing a live show or going hiking creates more lasting memories than touring the same monuments they’ve seen hundreds of times on TV.

5. Shopping

Shopping isn’t a huge travel expense for everyone, but some of us just can’t resist the draw of souvenirs and duty-free. Keep these things in mind if you know you’ll want to shop on your vacation.

  • Avoid shopping near major tourist attractions. The more foot traffic the area receives from tourists, the more vendors can charge for their goods. The same goes for restaurants.
  • Use credit or debit whenever possible. Paying with plastic gets you better exchange rates compared to paying with cash and gives you recourse in the event that the product is defective or the service a scam.

Don’t buy specialty products you don’t know much about. Most people know better than to blindly trust a salesperson back home when they claim a product is top-of-the-line — they go online and research the product first. The same should apply to products purchased on vacation. If a vendor claims a product is special or high-quality, verify before you buy.