I know, I know…
There are 1,293,394,203,934 articles on the internet, all about saving money when traveling.
And they all say the same thing.
Cook your food, stay in a dorm, find free activities, etc., etc.
Blah blah blah *tunes out*
So when I was asked by one of my lovely readers to write about budget travel, I wanted to be super honest about the things I actually do to save money when I travel.
Psst: @_.kmstgrm if you’re reading this: hiiii and thank you for asking me to write about budget travel!
What if you don’t want to stay in a dorm?
What if you actually like a lil’ bit of luxury on the side?
What if eating canned tuna every night doesn’t sound appealing?
What if you want to travel cheaply AND please your inner princess?
This guide is my list of budget hacks I actually do, and they don’t involve any of the following:
- Sharing dorms;
- Camping; or
Psst: sometimes you need to travel on the cheap, and that’s ok too! But for all the other times you want to treat yo’ self AND be friendly to your wallet, that’s where this guide has you covered!
Ok, my fellow princesses, let’s get on with it!
Sooo… Here are my budget travel hacks that your inner princess will approve* of:
* Inner princess approval subject to how “princessy” your inner princess is, on a scale of “casual princess” to “Buckingham palace princess.” The information provided in this article is general advice only. In no event will The Wandering Suitcase, its related partnerships or corporations, thereof be liable to you (or anyone else in your travel party) should your inner princess lose its sh*t.
1. SIGN UP TO A SALE FLIGHT SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE
Sale fares I’ve gotten this way include:
- $USD 330 return flights from Boston, USA to Reykjavik, Iceland with Iceland Air (5 hr flight time)
- $240 USD (350 AUD) return flights from Melbourne, Australia to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (8.5 hr flight time)
- $330 USD (490 AUD) return flights from Melbourne, Australia to Honolulu, Hawaii (12 hr flight time)
Psst: Don’t live in Boston or Australia? Check out the flight times, my friend! When was the last time you scored a flight that traveled these distances for sooo cheap?
My cheap flights to Vietnam saved me $$, so I could treat my inner princess to a luxury cruise of Halong Bay, Vietnam!
What is this magic, and where do I sign up?
I got these flight deals from a flight sale notification service! Basically, you receive emails every time there’s a sale fare available from your nominated city.
For example, I live in Melbourne, Australia, so I get emails telling me about sale fares departing Melbourne.
When I lived in Boston, I was a bit creative, so I got sale fares from both Boston and NYC!
I use Scott’s Cheap flights (I’ve scored all my flight deals through them).
Is there a fee?
All options above have both free and paid options. The paid versions offer slightly better deals for a small yearly fee. I currently use the paid version of Scott’s Cheap Flights.
Psst: unsure about which one to use? Sign up for the free versions first!
Basically what you do is:
- Sign up with your email address
- Nominate which city you’d like to get flight deals departing from
- Sit down in front of your computer + refresh your inbox
- Pop open a bottle of champagne to celebrate when you get a sale fare in your inbox (yay!)
That sound? It’s the sound of the champagne flowing when you score a cheap flight!
2. USE HOSTELS… CREATIVELY
Look, I know hostels are like the devil’s work to your inner princess.
I mean – dormitories?
Sharing a room?
But my secret when it comes to hostels?
Because no one can kill you in your sleep if there’s a 30-pound door protecting you.
(you also don’t need to deal with drunken backpackers, weird smells or that annoying person who switches on the light when everyone is sleeping)
When we were in New Zealand, we stayed at the YHA Mount Cook for 140 NZD / night ($90 USD). We got a private room, access to a kitchen, laundry and these views:
Um, mountain views for 90 USD? How is this even possible?!
3. MAKE YOUR BOOKINGS THROUGH CASHBACK WEBSITES
Cashback sites like Ebates (available internationally) or Cash Rewards (Australia) get a commission from stores when you make a purchase, but instead of keeping it, they share part of the commission with you.
This means, every time you make a purchase, you get money back either in the form of cash, points, or gift cards.
Want a real-life example?
When we traveled to Vietnam, we spent $330 USD per person for 2 weeks of niceee hotels. Booking through a cashback site meant we got 20 USD back.
While this doesn’t sound like a lot, it adds up the more you travel (and in South East Asia? 20 USD can get you far!)
How do I do this?
- Sign up to the cashback site (I suggest Ebates, or if you’re Australian based you can also use Cash Rewards)
- Search for the company that you want to book. E.g., Expedia, Hertz or Agoda
- Check the discount + compare this to what you would pay if booking direct
- Click “shop now”
- Make your purchase
- Pat yourself on the back! Your inner princess is now pleased:
4. DOUBLE CHECK WHAT ROAMING DATA PACKS ARE AVAILABLE
Gone are the days of the past where international roaming would cost you so much money you’d need to sell a kidney to pay the bill.
Now, you can tweet from the top of a mountain AND not worry about the roaming fees.
Many mobile phone providers now offer budget-friendly international data packs, which will save you $ when you’re abroad. It’s worth checking what your provider offers, or think about switching to another mobile provider!
For my US friends, another great option is Google Fi (also known as “the best thing since sliced bread”).
What is Google Fi?
This is Google’s answer to annoying international roaming! Google Fi will replace your mobile plan at home AND abroad. Plans are flexible month-to-month (you only pay what you use), but they’re pretty affordable.
What’s the cost to roam?
They don’t charge you extra when you travel!
The data cost is the same as what you would pay when you’re at home.
Does this work?
Yessss, my friends!
We used Google Fi when we lived in the US and traveled with it in Japan, Canada, Scotland (UK) and even Vietnam too! (Amazing right?!)
Psst: I re-read this, and I sound like I’m about to write a love poem to Google Fi. But that’s how much I love them! This is an un-sponsored, unbiased review from a happy customer of Google Fi 🙂
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5. BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE
I know, this involves spending more money!
But hear me out, my friends!
When you’re traveling overseas, your expenses can add up pretty quickly.
What if an unexpected event were to happen?
You’d lose all of that $ in an instant (and in some cases, you might need to spend even more!)
Do you want an example?
I once had a trip booked for Iceland (remember those $330 USD flights I mentioned above?!)
But disaster struck! My dad had a stroke, so I needed to fly home to Australia ASAP.
Thankfully… My travel insurance covered it ALL.
They covered my last-minute flights back home AND the money I already paid towards my vacation (flights, accommodation, car rental… Everything).
Paying for travel insurance was 100% worth it.
Because of this experience, I never, ever travel without insurance.
If something unexpected happens, you don’t want to worry about funds when you should be focusing on your family, your health or loved ones!
So there you have it, my friends!
Budget travel doesn’t need to be all about backpacking, dormitories and eating 2-minute noodles.
I hope this post helps you plan more adventures in your life (all while keeping your inner princess happy!)
I’d love to hear from you – what do you do to save money when you travel? Anything you’d add to this list?
Happy travelin’ my friends!