50+ best travel tips to save you money and time
February 28, 2023
Please note that this post may contain affiliate links and any sales made through such links will reward me a small commission – at no extra cost for you.
Money Saving Tips
Look into non-direct flights
Booking a flight with a layover is a great way to save money when traveling, as these flights are often sold for a fraction of the price. Plus, booking a flight with a long layover may allow you to add an additional destination into your trip.
Another way to look at this is to buy a flight closeby to your desired destination. For example, a direct flight from New York to Rome may cost you $700, while a direct flight to Lisbon from New York on the same dates may only cost you $300. You can book the flight to Lisbon and supplement with a cheap $50 flight on a local low-cost carrier, saving you $350 on the total cost.
Avoid eating at restaurants close by to major travel attractions
Feeling hungry after visiting a popular tourist? Make sure to walk at least a few blocks away before choosing a restaurant to eat at. Any restaurants closely located to a major tourist attraction are almost certain to cost more (and usually be lower quality).
One exception to this rule is if you’re looking for a restaurant with a view. If this is your goal, and you’re okay to spend more money then go for it!
Expensive restaurant on your list? Dine there at lunch instead of dinner.
A great way to enjoy an expensive restaurant for a cheaper price is by dining in for lunch instead of dinner. Many restaurants offer many of the same dishes at cheaper prices for lunch, or put together set menu options. It is also typically a lot easier to snag a reservation at these hard to visit spots at lunch, rather than dinner.
Don’t be afraid to try street food
Absolutely do not be afraid to try street food. Enjoying local street food is one of my favorite things to do when traveling. It is cheap, delicious, and offers a glimpse into local culture. I always say that if the chairs are plastic and there is no A/C, you just know the food is going to be good!
When choosing a street food stall to eat at, my best tip is to look for busier stands. This helps to ensure that the food you’re eating is fresh.
Don’t be afraid to use public transportation
Public transportation is often a cheap and easy way to get around new countries. Obviously this will depend on the destination, but using public transportation is usually a great way to see a new city. It will allow you to further immerse yourself in the city’s culture, see more (without traffic in the case of trains and subways), and save a ton of money. If you’re traveling solo, this may even be a safer option than taking a taxi alone.
Take free walking tours
Free walking tours are a great way to get yourself acquainted with a new city. I love to book one for my first day. They help you to get a good lay of the ground, learn some fun facts, and meet new people.
Sign up for flight deals
Signing up for flight deals is one of the best ways to snag a cheap flight. Going (previously Scott’s Cheap Flights) is a personal fave for me. They offer both a free and paid subscription, that help you to find the absolute cheapest flight deals.
Rack up points with a travel credit card
If you travel often then a good travel credit card is key! You want something that allows you to both earn and redeem points on travel related activities. This includes flights, hotels, restaurants, Ubers, and more! My favorites are the American Express Platinum, Capital One Venture X and the Chase Sapphire cards. Both of these come with amazing perks such as earning high points for travel, Global Entry/TSA pre-check fees waived, Priority Pass membership and more! The yearly membership fees are high but well worth it for what you get in return!
Apply for a new card today.
Don’t spend beyond your means
This should be an obvious one, but you’d be surprised. One of the best travel tips is to not spend beyond your means. You shouldn’t be coming back from a trip with travel debit piled high. There are so many ways to enjoy travel experiences on a budget. Before taking a trip, make sure you have a clear idea of your budget.
Stay loyal to specific airlines and hotel chains
If you travel frequently, it is worth trying to stay loyal to a particular airline or hotel chain. This behavior is often rewarded with various statues, free upgrades, and more!
Purchase the local city pass
If you’re planning on visiting a lot of museums or cultural sites during a trip, look into purchasing a city pass. City passes are available in most large city destinations. These passes often include complimentary access to a number of major attractions for a set price. You can usually find these by simply googling the city name plus city pass.
Save money by cooking meals
This one isn’t for everyone, but if you’re traveling for an extended period of time or on a strict budget, then consider cooking your own meal here and then. This is easier if you’re staying at a hostel or Airbnb, both of which usually have cooking facilities. Plus, I personally believe that a trip to the local grocery store is a travel experience in itself!
Get a Priority Pass membership
I mentioned Priority Pass above. It is a membership based program that gives you complimentary access to hundreds of airport lounges around the world. I cannot stress how amazing having a Priority Pass membership is. It has saved me so much money on food and drink on layovers and when waiting for flights.
Many of the best travel credit cards include a complimentary Priority Pass membership.
Rent a car
I love renting a car when I travel. It gives you so much more freedom to explore outside of major cities and hot spots. It can get pricey so make sure to book in advance when possible. And, of course, make sure you understand all of the rules of the road before traveling, as they differ drastically country to country.
Use a no-fee bank card
Make sure that whatever card you use doesn’t have additional fees. If you’re getting charged every time you make a purchase or take out cash, it is going to be a lot more expensive for your to travel.
Always ask for an upgrade
Always ask for an upgrade, many hotels with upgrade you if you ask! Plus, upgrading to a nicer class on a flight is almost always much cheaper if you do it when you’re traveling. You’ll usually be put on a standby list for first class, or a nicer cabin, and pay that discounted rate. Being loyal to particular airlines or hotel chains will help you a lot with complimentary or cheap upgrades.
Book flights 2-3 months in advance for the best price
Typically the best time to buy flights is 2-3 months in advance. This is by no means the golden rule, but it what I find typically works best. I recommend setting up Google Flight alerts and using apps like Hopper to monitor and determine when to buy!
Don’t be afraid to stay in hostels
Hostels have gotten a bad reputation over the years, especially among US travelers, but they are amazing for solo travelers. A hostel is a low-cost, basic form of accommodation. Often catering towards a younger crowd, hostels offer both private rooms and shared rooms, where you will share a room with other travelers, often in bunk beds.
While hostels aren’t for everyone, and definitely cater towards a younger crowd, they are a great way to meet other solo travelers. I have traveled the world solo, spending nights in probably 100 different hostels over the years.
Safety Travel Tips
Write your accommodation address down
I’m sure you know where you are staying and have the address and location marked on your map. But it is so important to have your accommodation address also written down on a piece of paper (either in your wallet or pocket). Ideally this should be held somewhere different than your phone, in the unfortunate case that your phone is lost or stolen. However, this is also important if your phone dies.
Always have cash on you (both local and US dollars)
It is always important to carry cash on you. When I arrive in a new destination I always have at least $100 USD, in a variety of bills. I like to hold on to this cash in the case of an emergency, and take out local cash from the ATM.
Keep copies of your passport on you
Always make sure to keep a copy of your passport on you when traveling. I personally like to hold onto one copy myself, I give one copy to my travel companion (if I have one), and then I leave a digital copy with a trusted friend or family member at home.
Obviously it is a personal choice, but I try to avoid walking around with my passport whenever possible. I always feel that the likelihood of getting it stolen on the street randomly is much higher than from my accommodation. Plus, there is a lot more accountability if you were to have something stolen while staying at a hotel, or even Airbnb.
Get a passport card
On a similar note, a passport card is a great alternative to carrying your actual passport around. Unless you are visiting Mexico or Canada from the US, you will still need your real passport for entering the country. However, once you have arrived the passport card should suffice for any necessary identification needs.
Always purchase travel insurance
Coming from the girl who has visited the hospital in eight different countries, just get the travel insurance. Even if you never have to use it, it is worth it for peace of mind. And if something terrible were to happen, it ensures that you are covered for any necessary procedures, evacuations, and so for.
Always trust your instinct and don’t be afraid to say no
Trusting your gut is so important when traveling. While it is definitely important to meet new people, try new things, and get outside of your comfort zone (and things I outline further down below), always always trust your gut.
If something just doesn’t feel right to you, then get yourself out of the situation. Don’t be afraid to say no or come off a bit rude. Your safety should always be your number one priority.
Make sure that you’re up-to-date on all travel vaccines.
It is super important to make sure that you are up-to-date on all of your travel vaccines before any travel. This will protect you from diseases that may not exist in your home country. You can generally check with your general doctor, or visit a travel doctor for a consult.
Many vaccines require boosters every few years, so it is important to stay on top of those dates.
This may seem like an obvious one but the sun and UV index may be a whole lot stronger in the destination that you’re visiting. If you’re out all day sightseeing, it is so important to wear sufficient sunscreen before you end up like a lobster. I promise there is nothing worse than being terribly burnt on a long flight home.
I love the daily sunscreen from Cocokind.
Only carry what you need
Do not walk around with your full wallet. Not taking out cash? Leave your debit card behind. Traveling with multiple credit cards? Leave one or two at the hotel. Took out a lot of cash? No need to carry around that full stack.
The less you can carry on your person the better! This is going to reduce your chances of anything getting stolen or lost.
Carry spare passport photos
Finding a place to take passport photos can be a pain. Even if you’re all set on your passport, if you’re traveling longer term or visiting a number of countries, you may be required to secure a visa on arrival in some countries. Many of these visas require you to submit a passport-sized photo. Carrying a few spares with you will help you to avoid running into any issues.
Take photos of your luggage and what is packed in it
There is nothing worse than an airline losing your bags, especially if it is the start of your trip. I recommend taking a picture both of the outside of your luggage, and what is in it, in case it does get lost. This will not only help the airline to find and identify it, but it will also help you with any reimbursements.
Always carry at least 2 different cards for getting cash out
Unfortunately things don’t always go right when you’re traveling. I have had my wallet stolen before, left a credit card behind at a restaurant, and even watched as an ATM swallowed up my debit card and refused to give it back. For this reason I always recommend traveling with at least two different cards that allow you to take cash out. This will ensure that you’re never in a situation where you can’t get more cash!
Pack a microfiber towel
While this tip is relevant for any type of traveler, it is especially important for budget travelers who are staying in hostels. While most accommodations do come with towels, this isn’t the case for all hostels. At hostels it is common to have to pay to rent a towel, so having your own may save you a few bucks for each stay, which can add up if you’re traveling on a budget.
However, microfiber towels are great for any traveler. They are perfect for beach days (and so much easier and lighter than lugging around a full beach towel), perfect for makeshift picnics, and even double as a lightweight yoga mat for your travel workout sessions.
I love microfiber towels because they are lightweight, durable, and dry super quickly! Plus, you can snag one on Amazon for super cheap.
My rule of thumb is typically to pack everything I want to bring, and then remove half of it. I promise you will not need or wear half of the things I want to pack for your next adventure. If you’re just going on a short trip and have the room in your bag, then go for it! But if you’re planning to travel longer term, whether that is multiple weeks or even months, then packing less is crucial.
Having a few staple pieces that can be paired with lots of items to make many different outfits is key. I like to always pack a mix of staple pieces with one or two statement pieces.
Always pack basic first aid and western medicine
Depending on where you are traveling to, the medication you need should anything happen might not be readily available. For example, after having a random severe allergic reaction while traveling solo in Paris, I now always keep Benadryl in my wallet.
Travel with a foldable reusable water bottle
Whether I’m at home or on the go, you’ll never find me without my favorite Vapur water bottle. I bought my first one back in 2015, and have been a loyal fan ever since.
Travel with flip flops or waterproof sandals like Tevas
Having waterproof shoes is huge when traveling. They are, of course, great for beaches and water excursions, especially on rocky beaches. But they are also great if you are using shared showers or need house shoe options.
Travel with a portable charger
There is nothing worse than a dead phone when you’re trying to navigate a new city (although there is something magical about getting lost). I never travel without my Anker portable charging bank. It can charge my phone something like 8 times on one charged battery. I use it to charge my phone, Kindle, and camera!
AirTags are your best friend for checked luggage
I personally hate checking luggage. I have had way too many lost or delayed bags in my travel history. But if I do need to check a bag (i.e. traveling with ski gear), then I always put an AirTag in my luggage. It makes me feel so much better being able to know where my stuff is at all times, and ensure it is actually on the plane!
Always pack a sarong
A sarong will be your best friend when traveling. I use mine for just about everything: as a blanket on the airplane, to cover my shoulder when entering religious sites, as a makeshift beach cover up, or as a beach towel. They are just lightweight and versatile – perfect for so many different travel situations that you might encounter.
Always pack a lock
I always make sure to pack a small padlock when traveling, one of the ones that you can open with a number combination. These are great if you are staying at a hostel, or if you are leaving your luggage with the front desk when exploring for a day. If you’re taking any sort of overnight transportation, a good lock is key!
Always pack extra socks and underwear
I know that I said earlier to not overpack, but if you’re going to pack extra of anything it should be socks and underwear. Luckily they are small and barely take up any space. But there is nothing worse than not having enough socks and undies to get through your travels!
Pack an eye mask and ear plugs
Whether you’re taking an overnight train, sleeping in a hostel dorm, or just in a destination with morning prayer calls… a good pair of ear plugs and an eye mask is key for a relaxing night of sleep.
You can grab both for super cheap or splurge on a luxurious silky eye mask.
Use packing cubes
Packing cubes are a game changer that took me way too many years to adopt. In fact, when I did my first longer term solo backpacking trip in Southeast Asia, I stored all of my clothing in large Ziploc bags instead. I’d like to think that switching to packing cubes was a step up.
You can snag them on Amazon for super cheap, and they really help to both compress your clothing and keep everything better organized.
Buy packing cubes here.
Bring along good walking shoes
The older I get, the more I realize that I can’t sacrifice my feet. On most trips you walk a lot more than you do in your daily life at home. For this reason, it is important to pack shoes that can accomodate long days of sightseeing.
Trip Planning Tips
Use Google maps to plan your trip
Any time someone gives me a recommendation, whether its city, restaurant, bar, I pin it on Google Maps. It is one of the absolute best trip planning tools. You can add icons to distinguish the pin, and create lists per country or destination. I like to do this before I book any of my accomodation, as it is helpful to map out all of the places that I want to visit first.
Use Pinterest for trip planning inspiration
I am a Pinterest girl through and through. I have been using it to promote my own travel content (follow along here) and to plan literally every trip that I take. What is amazing about Pinterest is that it acts as a visual search engine, connecting you to travel blogs.
Read reviews before booking tours
Please please read reviews before booking a tour. Even better if you know someone who has done the tour already. I have had far to many experiences with tours that way undelivered what was promised, or that didn’t feel particularly safe.
Book local tours whenever possible
While I understand that some people are planners and like to book tours ahead of time with website like Viator, if you are able to book locally you’ll usually find that it is not only a better experience, but also cheaper. As long as you are flexible with dates, wait until you arrive in a country to book tours (and transportation). The head to nearby tour operators and book in person!
Planning lightly before going on a trip it great, as it can ensure that you can do the things you want to do, etc. However, don’t jampack your days with inflexible plans. Instead, create a skeleton itinerary and allow yourself to wander, get lost, take recommendations from bartenders or your airbnb host. If you over plan you might miss out on even more wonderful experiences.
And if you did overplan, learn to be flexible. Be okay will missing out on one experience to check out another (possibly even better experience).
But also, be flexible when things don’t do according to plan. Or when things aren’t up to the standard that you’re used to at home.
Learn basic phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting
If you speak English you’re probably in a pretty good spot. I personally believe firmly that you should never use language barrier as an excuse to not visit a new destination. You can always get by, even if you don’t speak the language at all.
That said, it is always respectful to at least learn a few basic phrase in the language of the country that you’re visiting. Not only will it help you get around, but it shows appreciation for the culture and people of that country.
Book refundable rooms in advance
I’m all for spontaneity and flexibility, but you don’t want to end up going to book accomodation and find that everything is either completely booked up or super expensive. One tip is to book rooms in advance that have a good cancellation policy. This is a good way to ensure to good deal!
Use Instagram’s Save feature to bookmark places to visit
Instagram has made it so easy to discover new destinations and get tips from other. Whenever I come across a super cool location or travel itinerary, I make sure to save it in a folder specific to that destination. That way, when I actually get around to planning a trip, I have lots of recommendations from creators I trust ready to go!
Visit busy destinations at lunch time
If you’re trying to visit a museum or tourist destination that is usually very busy, consider visiting during lunch. A lot of people pause their day to sit down and eat at this point, so the crowds tend to be a bit better. Any time that you can go against the typical tourist rush, the better!
Visit the local tourism office
Local tourism offices are typically a wealth of great information. You can usually pick up maps, book free walking tours, learn about public transportation, and even buy local sim cards. Almost any tourist destination will have a tourism office, just look it up on Google Maps.
Read a book about the country you’re visiting
Similar to learning basic phrases of the language spoken in the country you’re visiting, another great way to prepare yourself is by reading a book about the country! It will help to familiarize you with the customs and cultural nuances. Plus, the book doesn’t even need to be nonfiction. Even a fictional book set in the destination is still a fun, helpful experience.
Travel Experience Tips
Take lots of photos
As a content creator and travel photographer, I am clearly a bit biased. But photographs are some of the best ways to remember a trip! I love capturing the scenery, the food, the random moments in between. Same goes for taking videos as well. It is so incredible to be able to look back on those moments later.
Just make sure that you’re still in the moment, and not too focused on only capturing photos!
Make sure to backup all of your photos
If you are taking photos, make sure that you are backing them up as you go. I once had my phone stolen while on a long term trip, and discovered that I hadn’t backed up the previous 3 months of photographs. It was definitely heartbreaking, but of course I’ll always have the memories of those adventures.
A few good options for backing up photos include iCloud, Google Photos, and Dropbox. You can also travel with a portable external hard drive.
Get out of your comfort zone
One of my best travel tips that I can give you is to get out of your comfort zone. This can be so many things, and the way that you execute it is completely up to you. You can take a solo trip, try street food, practice speaking a new language, jump off a cliff. Whatever getting out of your comfort zone means to you, do it!
Understand that not all friends make for good travel companions
I love all of my friends so much! But just because I love my friends, doesn’t mean that they all make good travel companions. You may not like the same activities when you travel. Some people like to travel fast, and some like to travel slow. Some prefer more luxurious trips, while others are all about traveling on a tight budget.
Understand that things will inevitably go wrong, and that is okay.
I promise you that something will inevitably go wrong on your trip. This could be anything from a delayed flight to a terrible bout of food poisoning. Maybe your train will get cancelled or a tour won’t be as organized as you expect. My best travel tip is to accept that things will go wrong and that is okay. Patience is one of the most important traits that traveling, especially long term travel, will teach you.
Share your experiences online
Traveling solo is one of the best things that you can do for yourself. Solo travel is one of the most empowering things that you can do. I have traveled to and explored over 25 countries solo, and through these experiences have learned so much about myself.
You can check out all of my guides to solo travel here.
Try new foods
This goes right along with getting out of your comfort zone. One of the best ways to do that is by trying new foods. And it is totally okay if you don’t like them! But at least give them a try. Don’t find yourself only seeking out foods that you could easily find at home!
Wake up early to avoid the crowds
This one is an easy one for me because I am naturally an early bird, but I love waking up early when traveling. Exploring early is a great way to beat the crowds and have famous destinations to yourself. If you’re a travel photographer, such as myself, this can be a great time to shoot your travel content.
Of course, it is also important to experience famous destinations in their full swing of tourists to get a better sense of the place!
Slow down! Stay in the same city for a week, a month, maybe a few months! Traveling slower will help you to travel cheaper by saving a ton of money on transportation costs. You will also benefit from better deals on accomodation, etc.
It will also give you the opportunity to really get the know a city and to explore more than just a few famous sights.
Wander and get lost on purpose
In line with traveling slow, take time to wander and let yourself get lost (as long as you are safe). I love exploring with no maps, and simply going where my feet take me. Strolling down little cobblestone streets, popping into local cafes, and embracing a less planned travel day.