As we head into 2021, no doubt many of us will be eager to get traveling again. While we haven’t managed to control COVID yet, vaccines are being rolled out and I am optimistic international travel will be back on the cards in the coming year.
While we may soon get to travel once again, many of us have been hit hard financially by the pandemic, which is why I thought I would share some of my tips on how you can save money while traveling this year.
If you’re thinking of traveling this year, follow these tips to help reduce your travel costs from the moment you book your trip to the day you return.
There’s no denying travel can be expensive, but hopefully these tips will help you learn when to travel to get the best bang for your buck, how to save on travel insurance, score cheaper flights and accommodation, and keep costs down throughout your holiday.
The 2021 Guide to Saving Money While Traveling
Choosing the Best Time to Travel
Saving money on travel begins with choosing to holiday during your chosen destination’s off peak seasons.
Airfares and hotel prices are at their max during periods like school holidays and major festive seasons, so avoiding these periods can save you as much as 50% off these peak rates.
You can, however, cheat the system a bit by choosing to fly on an actual holiday such as Christmas Day to save, as most people have already made their way to their chosen destination.
It’s important to note that not all countries celebrate the same major holidays such as Christmas or Easter, so you may be able to still find cheaper destinations around the holidays by selecting a country whose holidays differ from your home country’s.
However, certain countries may celebrate their own special holidays such as their independence day, so you need to do your research to make sure you aren’t planning a holiday during one of these lesser known festive periods.
Using Cryptocurrency to Pay for Travel
Most people believe the only way to pre-book travel is with credit cards, but some areas of the travel industry are beginning to accept cryptocurrency payment options.
You may think of cryptocurrencies as more of an investment instead of a digital currency, but the original intention of cryptocurrency was to be used as an everyday form of payment where you could use something like Ethereum to book a flight or hotel.
There are many benefits to using cryptocurrency to pay for travel whenever possible as it can save you the costs of currency conversion and foreign transaction fees, leaves you less prone to identity theft since transactions don’t ask for your personal information, cannot be stolen from your wallet while traveling, and large purchases won’t affect your credit score as a credit card may.
Pro tip: Another benefit of cryptocurrency is that unlike credit cards which often freeze your account for unusual foreign transactions while you’re traveling, a cryptocurrency account cannot be frozen.
There are of course a number of things to be aware of when dealing in cryptocurrency and purchasing Ethereum to pay for travel.
You’ll need to learn the basics of trading cryptocurrency and how to withdraw funds from cryptocurrency-enabled ATMs which are now available in some countries. Some people have lost funds when selling or buying their Ethereum, so you need to be sure to buy and sell your Ethereum from a reputable cryptocurrency trading platform.
Cryptocurrency isn’t attached to a specific country, therefore you can reduce your foreign exchange fees by choosing to pay this way. There are already several travel agencies, hotels, airlines, and businesses worldwide that accept cryptocurrency as a payment method so it pays to check into this form of payment and if it could work for you to save you money.
You often get the best airfares by purchasing your flights early. As people book flights and airline seats run out, the price for remaining seats goes up. Keep your eye out for flight deals throughout the year.
This can be made easier by signing up to an airline’s mailing list that will send you the latest deals straight to your inbox. And don’t be afraid to book flights with different airlines if you have multiple legs to your journey.
Pairing flights from different airlines may allow you to get a better rate than booking all your flights with a single airline. You could also opt for one-way tickets with different airlines as opposed to a round-trip ticket with a single airline.
Finally, check to see if you have frequent flyer miles that can either reduce your airfare or pay for it altogether. There are many credit cards that offer large airline frequent flyer sign-up bonuses which can also see you score free flights.
Saving on Travel Insurance
Every traveler should budget for travel insurance as it could end up saving you a lot of money should you run into travel problems such as cancelled flights or lost luggage. Travel insurance becomes most valuable should you require overseas medical treatment during your holiday.
Always shop and compare different travel insurers to make sure you are getting the most comprehensive policy for the best price. Make sure you pay for a policy with only the coverage you need and avoid paying extra for coverage you won’t likely require.
Ridiculously low-cost travel insurance is often worthless, so be sure to stick with reputable insurers. Always purchase your travel insurance policy directly from the insurance company as opposed to a travel agent or airline, otherwise you may end up paying more than double for a policy due to commissions that airlines and travel agents take.
Pro tip: Always purchase your policy early to get prolonged coverage in case you need to cancel your trip. You only pay for the period of your travel, and won’t get charged more for purchasing it early.
If you travel frequently, look into annual multi-trip insurance which can be more cost-effective than buying separate single-trip policies for each individual trip.
Another way you may be able to save on travel insurance is by purchasing a couple or family policy as opposed to a single policy. This of course only works if you are traveling with others.
Lastly, some insurers allow you to increase your excess amount in order to reduce the cost of your policy premium.
You will of course have more out-of pocket expenses should you need to make a claim, but if you don’t end up needing to make a claim then you’ll come out ahead. Gauge the likelihood of something bad happening during your travels to decide what the best option is for you.
Save at the Airport
There are many ways to cut down on costs at the airport. When flying domestically, look into flying out of less busy regional airports that may offer cheaper parking rates and possibly even cheaper airfares.
When it comes to getting to the airport, ask a friend or family member to drive you so you don’t have to pay for a taxi or parking if you were to drive yourself using your own car. Likewise, check to see whether someone you know may be able to pick you up when you arrive at your travel destination.
If you are forced to drive yourself to the airport, you can save on parking rates by using off-site parking which usually provides free shuttles to the airport. Uncovered parking will be your cheapest option but may not be wise if severe weather is expected.
Pro tip: Even with car insurance, there are still usually some out-of-pocket expenses that may negate your parking cost savings if weather like hail damages your car and you need to make a claim.
Try to reduce the amount of luggage you bring with you, as many airlines are now charging hefty fees for even a single checked-bag. If possible, stick with carry-on luggage only as most airlines offer at least one bag free.
If you do need to check a number of bags, always prepay your baggage fees before you arrive at the airport. Airlines almost always charge a lot more for checked baggage when done at the check-in counter.
Finally, try to bring your own snacks as they are always overpriced at the airport. While you may not be able to bring liquids through security, you can bring an empty water bottle that you can fill up once through security instead of having to shell out a bunch of cash for overpriced bottled water.
Saving Money on Food Costs While Traveling
Food costs can end up proving to be one of your biggest travel expenses. While there is no way of escaping the need to eat, there are ways to keep costs down.
One of the best ways to do this is by booking self-catering accommodation. Booking a room with kitchen facilities means you can cook your own meals, saving you the cost of eating out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
In addition to restaurant meals being much more expensive than the equivalent meals you prepare yourself, you also often have to factor in gratuities which can prove substantial over the period of your trip.
Shop at a local grocery to stock up on snacks and beverages instead of paying the high prices of a hotel minibar. You can also choose hotels which offer daily free breakfast, and certain hotel loyalty statuses even offer entry into their lounges where more free food can be had later in the day.
Pro tip: You may be able to pay for hotel lounge access as well, which may be worth the cost if you eat there regularly and take advantage of their unlimited free bottled water and drinks which are usually offered.
Talk with locals to find out where the best cheap places are to eat and stay away from the main tourist routes where restaurants tend to jack-up prices.
Avoiding alcohol is another great way to reduce your dining costs since drinks like cocktails can be very expensive in some destinations.
Saving on Accommodation
Many hotels offer cheaper rates for booking early online. You can often save even more by paying in full early as opposed to waiting until you arrive at the hotel. Note, however, that the cheapest rates advertised are often non-refundable.
Look into getting a hotel sponsored credit card which may offer free anniversary nights or large sign-up bonuses that may score you several free nights.
Staying loyal to one hotel brand will see you increase your status tier over time which can get you a bunch of free extras like free breakfast or lounge access along with points you can eventually redeem for free nights.
Opting for a rental apartment or guest house may prove to be less expensive than a hotel and usually offers a lot more space and possibly kitchen and laundry facilities which can save money.
You may also wish to consider researching online whether there are any house sitting gigs or house-swapping experiences available in the destination you plan on traveling to in order to avoid having to pay for accommodation altogether.
Save on Local Transport
Renting a car or using taxis to get around will prove to be your most expensive local transport options.
Although these options may be more convenient, you may want to stick with public transport if you’re traveling for an extended period of time to cut down expenses.
Many major cities like Singapore have special discount tourist passes or cards which offer unlimited usage of various local public transport such as underground rapid transport, trains, and buses for a set amount of time.
Not only is public transport usually the cheapest option, it is often the fastest option. This allows you to maximize your holiday time.
Making International Purchases
It pays to understand the best ways to make purchases when traveling internationally in order to save on foreign transaction and currency conversion fees.
When exchanging physical currency, shop around for the best rate. You may be able to exchange cash at your local home bank before your trip as opposed to paying expensive fees at the airport currency converter kiosks.
You can also lock in a favorable exchange rate by getting a preloaded travel money card which has your chosen foreign currency loaded on it.
Avoid using debit cards or credits cards to access cash from local ATMs. You’re much better off using a credit card to make foreign purchases, so long as your credit card has no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and low interest rates.
You should also always pay in the local currency when using your credit card. Never pay in your home currency. You will often be asked this option when tapping or swiping your card at local businesses.
If you plan on taking a very long holiday, wiring money can often get you a very favorable currency conversion rate but it can take several days for the wired money to clear and arrive, so plan for this.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways you can keep costs down while traveling. While travel is expensive, it doesn’t necessarily have to break your bank.
I hope these helpful tips encourage you to get back to traveling again and hopefully save a few dollars along the way.
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