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Expert Travel Hacks to Get More Bang for Your Buck

Expert Travel Hacks to Get More Bang for Your Buck

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Getaway Staff
Updated: Nov 4, 2022

Catching the travel bug can be thrilling, but if your budget can't quite keep up with your desire to see the world, you may benefit from a few cost-saving tips.

Most seasoned travelers know not to use the overpriced contents from minibar fridges in hotel rooms and to consider destinations that will be in their off-seasons during a break, but there are more tricks up their sleeves. We've neatly packaged all the expert secrets below, so you can pick up and go.

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01Track flight costs

Couple planning vacation trip and searching information on tablet enigma_images / Getty Images

If you've got a particular destination in mind, step one is knowing the going rate so you can track fare changes with notifications from aggregator apps and sites.

When booking flights from the U.S., it pays to use an Incognito browser for the best deals. Set up alerts on websites like Secret Flying to take advantage of glitch fares and pounce—you'll have to act fast because it won't take long before an airline rectifies its mistake.

The "travel anywhere" feature on Skyscanner can help the spontaneous score. Also, consider landing in a city's second airport for discounted rates that make up for the extra drive, and be mindful of the additional fees an airline might tack on to seemingly low base fares.

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02Be mindful about fees

Businessman on business travel withdrawing cash money martin-dm / Getty Images

Roaming on a SIM card from your home country can cost an arm and a leg, as can the charges on your credit card. Check your bank account's fee information or chat with an employee about the best options for your needs.

You may be able to load a single currency on a travel card that allows you unlimited ATM withdrawals without hefty charges. If using your regular card, opt to pay with the local currency rather than your home currency for a slightly better exchange rate.

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03Get strategic with accommodation

Group of women walk past a hostel at sunset, Istanbul, Turkey Bob Sacha / Getty Images

Book accommodation well within your budget so any unexpected charges are manageable.

Mix it up—start your trip at a hostel with great reviews where you know you'll be out and about most of the time, and then give yourself an upgrade for the last leg of your journey by staying at a nicer hotel, Airbnb, or similar rental. Airbnb's are often more spacious and more reasonably priced if you're traveling in a group and split the cost.

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04Transport cards and pre-booking

Main entrance hall of Liverpool Street train station in London, UK. People are rushing by, train destinations are shown on the arrival/departure board. Liverpool Street station serves as a major train and subway hub in the East of the City of London, horizontal orientation, England, UK. Bim / Getty Images

Spending a week in London? An Oyster card will save you a bunch of pounds and be more convenient, and so will a multi-day frequent travel or rail pass in Paris and many other cities.

You can purchase these at most train stations without hassle. Tourism passes also allow you to see multiple attractions at a fraction of the cost so look out for those. As for pre-booking experiences—sometimes it pays off when you can nab group discount rates online.

Read legit reviews before parting with your money. But you can also show up somewhere where supply exceeds demand and bargain to save on what you'd pay online.

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05Cost vs convenience

Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand Andrea Pistolesi / Getty Images

This is something you'll have to weigh up a fair bit when traveling. Changing currency at your bank or after you exit a destination airport rather than at the airport is easy enough to do and will save you big time on fees. The same goes for using local transport rather than paying for an easy shore excursion on a cruise, for example.

But if you're a woman solo traveling or navigating uncharted territory, you might want to pay a little more for safer options.

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06Don't let food eat up your budget

A man buying food from a street vendor operating a food stall in Colombo, Sri Lanka Photo by Adli Wahid on Unsplash

One travel hack all the experts swear by is having a late lunch rather than a more expensive dinner. Look for restaurants further away from tourist attractions for the best prices, or better yet, ask locals about their favorite affordable dining spots—you'll learn about markets, street food trucks, and carts you otherwise might not have.

If you have access to a kitchen at an Airbnb, you can buy cheaper pantry staples and fresh produce to whip up a quick meal or heat grocery store dinners in a flash. Pack snacks and carry a reusable water bottle you can fill with potable water to get you through peckish and thirsty moments—it's more eco-friendly too.

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07Travel with only a carry-on

man wheeling a carry-on bag Photo by Kin Li on Unsplash

If you're not planning on doing much shopping, look for flights without a checked bag fee. Traveling with only your hand luggage also saves you time at the airport because you can waltz right through baggage control without queuing to give the airline your bag.

Use compression bags to fit more stuff into the smaller suitcase. Ensure it is the correct weight by purchasing a luggage scale and check that it fits the required dimensions.

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08Be wary of taxis

driver in a ride share vehicle Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

Long-haul journeys are exhausting, we know. But jumping into the first taxi you see outside the airport can be stressful too if you haven't agreed on a price or spotted a meter.

Find out how much the going rate is beforehand or whether apps like Uber will work so you're not caught unaware by a crazy expensive ride.

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09Shift your paradigm on long layovers

people sitting on chair inside building Photo by Carlos Coronado on Unsplash

Most people are programmed to hate long layovers because they picture trying to catch forty winks in uncomfortable airport chairs.

But the ones over 24 hours long are often cheaper and can be an excellent opportunity to leave the airport, stretch your legs, and see a new city. Just make sure you return with plenty of time to spare, or you'll defeat the purpose.

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10Negotiate when possible

people in street during nighttime Photo by zhang kaiyv on Unsplash

Haggling is perfectly fine in specific contexts, so ask someone reliable if you're unsure.

Many markets in Asia, for example, are popular haggling spots for tourists. Vendors raise prices, while a block away, you might find something similar for half the price. Be prepared to walk away, and the trader will often drop their price.

Don't hesitate to negotiate and barter, but recognize when an offer you make might be insulting. You can also speak to hotel employees in person and get lucky with price cuts and upgrades if the hotel isn't full.

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11Look for 11th-hour cruise deals

cruise ships docked waiting for tourists Photo by Stephanie Klepacki on Unsplash

Flights often go up the closer you get to a departure date, but the opposite can happen with cruise lines.

Low-cost last-minute cruises or long journeys when a ship is switching between seasons can make for major wins because meals and entertainment are part of the package. There are also perks to being loyal to a particular cruise line.

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12Cash in on free offerings

black metal dinosaur inside museum surrounded with people during daytime Photo by Kafai Liu on Unsplash

Free walking tours are a fabulous way to get a taste of a new place, and you can tip your guide as much as you can afford. Museums and attractions may also have free or discounted admission days so plan your itinerary around these—they add up, especially if you're traveling with family.

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13Make the most of the sharing economy

tech worker on a beach using smartphone Photo by Anastasia Nelen on Unsplash

The internet allows you to research like never before, and the sharing economy it facilitates can lessen the dent in your savings. You can rent cars from private owners on Turo. Or rideshare using an app like BlaBlaCar, for example, rather than using car rental companies or buying costly long-distance tickets.

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14Look into the local tipping culture

woman in black crew-neck t-shirt standing near counter Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Americans are generous, and that's wonderful. But the tipping culture in the States isn't necessarily the norm everywhere else.

Bills may include gratuities or a much lower amount than you'd assume could make someone's day. Knowing the customs by asking a concierge can help you navigate this element and save.

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15Try house-sitting

red bicycle parked beside black metal gate in front house Photo by christian koch on Unsplash

House-sitting isn't for everyone, but if you like the idea of watering plants and pet-sitting, you could cover your accommodation costs without paying a cent. Imagine the places you could go if you could stretch your funds further by walking a friendly dog. You should also think about renting out your own place while traveling.

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