10 Secret Ways Frugal Travelers Slash Their Costs

Happy traveler
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The recent holiday cold wave that saw large parts of the country freeze over may have you dreaming of traveling to a warmer climate. Before you book your trip, make sure you look at ways to save.

By tapping into the wisdom of the world’s most experienced — and frugal — travelers, you can cut your travel bills now or any time of year when you’re planning a vacation.

Here are some of the secret ways budget travelers are cutting their costs.

1. They pack light

Traveler with backpack
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Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has traveled the world — to Europe, South America, Australia, New Zealand and Russia — but rarely carries anything but a tote bag.

Doing so allows him to avoid baggage fees and a lot of unnecessary hassle. For more on why she limited herself to just a backpack—and tips on how you can do the same—see “How Can You Go to Europe for 10 Days With Just a Bag?”

2. They embrace the dreaded sojourn

Happy woman at the airport
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Most travelers hate layovers and prefer direct flights. But there are times when stopping can be your frugal best friend.

Jeremy Scott Foster, CEO at Travel Freak, told the Associated Press that sometimes, you can book a cheaper flight that stops at a location where you actually plan to stay. He uses a website called Skiplagged to find such flights.

As Foster explains:

“I took advantage of the Skiplagged website while on my way to Dubai and booked a flight from LA to Bangkok with Dubai as a stopover destination. And I just (accidentally) missed the second leg of the flight.”

The Associated Press warns that if you use this technique too often, it’s likely that the airline will flag you. But Skiplagged says it resulted in an average savings of $128 per ticket.

3. They live in a place with a kitchen

Airbnb Kitchen

Eating out at a restaurant every day of the holidays is quickly getting expensive — not to mention the devastating impact it can have on your waistline and overall health.

However, booking a hotel or Airbnb with a kitchen allows you to make healthier meals for less.

Be sure to do a little math on this one. Maybe even by paying a little more for a room with a kitchen, you will get ahead financially.

For more tips, see “10 Ways to Save Money on Food While Traveling.”

4. They go to countries where their dollar stretches far

Couple taking selfie on the move
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Sometimes, travelers know exactly where they want to go. But in many other cases, they just want to go somewhere new and exotic.

If you fall into the latter category, you can save a lot of money by going to a less expensive travel venue.

Every year, the Price of Travel website releases its Backpacker Index which ranks top destinations around the world by price.

Cities are ranked by the daily cost to pay:

  • Dorm beds in good, cheap hostels
  • 3 times a frugal meal
  • 2 public transport rides
  • 1 paid cultural attraction
  • 3 cheap beers (as an “entertainment fund”)

Some of the cheap places to visit in this year’s ranking of 136 destinations worldwide include Vientiane, Laos ($16.82 per day); Delhi, India ($21.78); and Quito, Ecuador ($24.99).

Compare that price to Boston ($149.80); Zurich, Switzerland ($133.65); and Tel Aviv ($97.42).

5. They buy the right travel products

Happy woman in hotel

If you travel a lot, it’s best to invest in travel products that save you time and money. For example, a worldwide travel adapter will allow you to plug in a portable device without a ground in various locations around the world. Then, you don’t have to worry about buying different adapters for different purposes.

For more information on must-haves, see “17 Travel Products That Save You Time and Money.”

6. They don’t park at the airport

Parking garage at San Antonio International Airport, Texas
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The fee to park your car at the airport is very expensive. In fact, if you’re planning a long trip and get a lot of plane tickets, you’re probably paying nearly the same airport parking fee that you’re paying for your flight.

Getting a ride to the airport or using public transportation is usually a better option.

Failing that, try to park at one of the “park and ride” lots located away from the airport itself. Fares here are almost always significantly less than you’d pay for the convenience of being close to the terminal.

7. They use a proper credit card to travel

Woman paying for groceries or food by credit card
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Having the right credit card in your wallet can save you money when you travel. If you’re going to Europe, make sure you have a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, for example.

Other credit cards offer perks — such as frequent flyer miles or cash back — that allow you to collect rewards before you travel. You can then use this reward to reduce the price of your trip.

Drop by the Money Talks News Solutions Center and search for a great travel rewards credit card.

8. They find free activity on the move

View of Central Park from above
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There’s nothing wrong with paying to see the specials. If you go to New York, go ahead and enjoy a Broadway production.

But you can balance those expenses by finding low-cost or even free activities to do next time. For example, in the notoriously expensive Big Apple, a stroll through Central Park won’t cost you anything.

Or head out for a free day at Rockaway Beach. Even the Staten Island Ferry—with views of the city and the Statue of Liberty—is free.

9. They eat before they get to the airport

Woman eating ham sandwich
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As any seasoned traveler knows, the markups on food inside airports are absolutely ridiculous. Instead of wasting money here, grab a bite at McDonald’s or another restaurant before you leave for the airport.

Or better yet, eat something at home or make a sandwich to take with you.

10. They found a way to travel for free

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Finally, the ultimate example of being a budget traveler is traveling for free. If you’re flexible and think outside the box, you can find many ways — from volunteering to housesitting — to escape the grind of everyday life at no cost.

We share some ideas in “7 Ways to Travel for Free”.

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