Save Money When Traveling

by Kelly · 30 comments

in Living Frugally

eiffel_towerI love to travel. I come by my itchy feet naturally- my father is also a natural born traveler. Some of my earliest memories are of receiving postcards that he sent me from his business trips. But traveling can be expensive, especially if you are not heading to some of the cheaper destinations like various countries in South America or Asia. So what’s a frugal traveler to do?

When I first moved to France as a student, I was originally only supposed to be here for six months, until June. Even before coming however, I knew I wanted to travel around Europe during the summer. Being on a student’s limited budget however, meant that I had to do it on the cheap! Here are some of my frugal tips for traveling on a budget. (And make sure to read to the bottom of the post, for details on a great book I’m giving away!)

Think cheap accommodations.

I camped my way around Europe that summer. Most campgrounds are within a kilometer or two of the city center, with very easy public transportation to the site from the city center. And camping in Europe is by no means roughing it either- often times campgrounds have restaurants or little stores, washing machines and even microwaves. You’ll only pay a few euros per day, per person, and you’ll be staying amongst other people from the region- I met very few Americans while camping.

If you’re not up to camping then you should definitely be looking into staying in hostels, which have evolved away from student hovels into quality bargain deals. I find that hostels are better bets than cheap hotels, as for the same (or less) amount of money you are usually guaranteed better accommodations and standards of cleanliness. And I’ve stayed in some beautiful ones- villas in Florence, converted industrial buildings in Manchester or chateaus in Nancy. You might even get access to a kitchen!

Finally, My Two Dollars has a great post on swapping homes with others– which sounds to me like the ultimate bargain holiday lodging solution, as long as you live in a desirable location, and don’t want to visit a lot of different places.

Go Shopping.

Not for tourist tat, nor expensive European goods. But if you eat from a grocery store you’ll definitely be able to eat more cheaply than if you eat at restaurants for every meal. And if you camp, or are staying in a hostel, you’ll be able to prepare your own food, saving even more. I bought a lot of soup packets to have on hand for dinner and ready made salads, which were easy to have on hand for lunch.

On the other hand, you certainly shouldn’t buy a lot of souvenirs! And what you do buy should be useful, not just a souvenir. I bought a lot of postcards, which I organized into albums. I bought very few other things, mostly items of clothing, which I still have today. But what I did buy either cost very little for what it was (like a postcard) or continues to remind me of the trip when I use it today (like the sandals I bought in Florence).

Being Frugal talks about other ways of to travel on a budget.

Inform yourself ahead of time.

Fore-warned is fore-armed, in so many ways. By reading lots of good travel guides before you go, you’ll learn about what you really want to see, and what you’re prepared to skip. Not only that, when preparing a multi-country trip you’ll discover that certain countries are better bets for certain things than others. For example, museums in Paris often have quite a hefty entrance fee, but most museums in London are free. Of course you might not want to miss the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, but if you’re not particularly an art connoisseur, you could consider visiting museums in London, not in Paris. Which leads me to…


A giveaway!

I was sent a copy of a new book to review, and I’m giving it away to one of you! Called “Tough Times, Great Travels: The Travel Detective’s Guide to Hidden Deals, Unadvertised Bargains and Great Experiences” it was written by the travel editor of the Today Show, Peter Greenberg.

I liked that this book was fairly wide ranging. It has five different sections in it, which cover a variety of subjects such as airlines and airfares, discounts you didn’t know about, off season travel, and travel logistics. It has a bunch of good tips in it too- from websites that will help you save money, to ideas for dealing with your passport.

And one lucky reader will win this a copy! Just leave a comment below, or write about the contest on Twitter or your own blog. No need to send me a notification either- as long as you link back to this post or include @AlmostFrugal in your tweet, I’ll find out about it. This contest begins at noon+1 GMT Monday, March 23, 2009 and ends at noon+1 GMT Tuesday, March 31, 2009, and is open to people worldwide. Good luck!


1 Bellesouth March 23, 2009

I also like staying with friends when traveling. I’m very lucky that through lots of networking, I have friends all across the country, as well as in England, Germany and France. It’s nice because you have a tour guide, and you can pay for your stay with them by buying them food, helping to clean up, etc.

Bellesouth´s last blog post..Journalist finds life after layoff

2 Amanda March 23, 2009

Great article. It makes me want to go on a trip. Research and preparation is definitely the key to having a great trip without breaking the bank.

I agree with you about the souvenirs. I usually try to get something that is a useful item, not just something to sit around and look pretty.

When I visited Greece, I bought a handmade necklace. This is something that I can wear for years to come, and I’m reminded of the great memories each time I wear it.

Amanda´s last blog post..The Tale of Peter Rabbit

3 Rete March 23, 2009

I’d love to be entered in the giveaway! These are some great trips — On a trip to London years ago, I found a series of postcards that looked like pen and ink drawings of London sights. I have them framed together in a long frame in a hallway and I enjoy them every time I walk by — by far my best souvenirs of that whole trip!

4 Nate @ Debt-free Scholar March 23, 2009

Please enter me!


Nate @ Debt-free Scholar´s last blog post..20 Free Online Courses from Traditional Colleges and Universities

5 Jill March 23, 2009

me me me me!

6 penguinlady March 23, 2009

This may not sound frugal on the surface, but sometimes taking an organized tour can be more cost efficient (and cost efficient can be frugal sometimes, right?). You really have to shop around, but I’ve gotten incredible deals on trips to London/Paris, Tokyo and Egypt by keeping my eyes open. The London/Paris trip included meals, transportation, hotel and some tours of the cities – so much less than had we booked it all separate. Our Egypt tour was amazing, included some things we probably would have never done on our own (donkey riding to the Valley of the Kings, camel riding in Aswan). For Tokyo, we happened to find a fantastic deal through Yahoo! Travel, which was airfare and hotel (a really nice hotel) for an absurdly low price, and the day we arrived was the day the cherry trees started blooming. With some research, patience and luck, you can have some amazing adventures. 🙂

7 Joelle March 23, 2009

Please enter me! I love traveling…

Joelle´s last blog post..Welcome to my blog party! Yee haw…

8 Karen March 23, 2009

Oh, I never win anything, but it sounds like a very interesting book; I’ll have to check it out on Amazon!

Karen´s last blog post..Not related to crafts, but WHOA!!!

9 Therese March 23, 2009

I like going on a walking tour of the city I am visiting, and take lots of pictures of regular things. There are often great guides for walking tours at visitor centers.

10 Jenny March 23, 2009

We are hoping to travel to the Philippines this summer or early fall. Would love the chance at winning a book with great ways to save money on travel. Thanks for the opportunity!

Jenny´s last blog post..A little of this…and a little of that

11 Keith March 23, 2009

This is a great article and it really makes me want to go on a trip. While I haven’t been on a trip for a while, I agree with you totally that researching ahead of time is extremely important and will almost certainly save you money. When purchasing souvenirs the smart thing to do is definitely picking something that will be useful and not just one more thing to set around.

PS: Really like this blog. Only my second or third time here but I’ll be back . 🙂

Keith´s last blog post..16 Symptoms Of A Successful Person

12 Craig March 23, 2009

Especially if you are a backpacker, no reason to spend a lot of money on accomodations. When I was traveling, I lived on So many cheap places to stay there, and you always meet interesting people. Also, is a great way to stay places for free.

13 Mimi March 23, 2009

OOOOh I love traveling! I try to save $$ by not eating out every meal. I can usually buy some fruit or pastries at a grocery store or some market and have that for breakfast food during my stay.

Mimi´s last blog post..National Puppy Day

14 jpritchard March 23, 2009

oh boy! this book looks great–& i think my husband needs to read it….i’ve grown up traveling 🙂 and the “bug” has got me time-&-time again….my husband, on the other hand did NOT travel much as a child & has since developed the idea that if we are going to spend money on a vacation, it “better be a nice one”. sure, we stear clear of the souvenir shops & “mainstream” restaurants…BUT after backbacking my way through 13 european countries one summer, staying on cots in the middle of central america, & experiencing the opposite end of travel by staying in luxury here in the States, I’m definitely a proponent for adventure 🙂 this post is perfect!

jpritchard´s last blog post..back next week.

15 Stacey March 23, 2009

I’d be happy to receive the book. Thanks!

Stacey´s last blog post..What’s Cooking 3.23-3.29

16 David G. Mitchell March 24, 2009

When I travel, I think a big part of the experience is dining in local restaurants — not the high end restaurants that attract tourists but the out of the way places that cater to locals. As for hotels, well, suffice it to say that I am too old for a hostel and too fearful of campgrounds!

David G. Mitchell´s last blog post..Couples and Money: Consultation vs Allowance

17 Sandra March 24, 2009

I have my fingers crossed.

18 Erica March 24, 2009

Great Article! I love to travel and you had some good tips!

19 Bette in the Midwest USA March 24, 2009

This may sound strange, but go with me here – when Ihis may travel in U.S. cities I like to seek out grocery stores to shop for gifts to take back home for friends and family. In Miami I stock up on a wide variety of foil-packed coffees that we can’t get in the Midwest and tote them back home in my suitcase to pass out to family. I’ve also scored inexpensive espresso sets, regional ethnic foods and beverages that would never make it to my own grocery store’s shelves. Once back home, these items give me a reminder of my trip and let me share the area with others. Nothing is more useful than food!!

20 Heather March 24, 2009

I love your frugal tips- Through the years I have gotten much better at not getting caught up in the excitement of buying tourist crap on a trip- but truly thinking about what might make me happy later by seeing or remembering a place I visited. Some sort of Art often is what strikes me, or a piece of jewelry.

21 cd rate March 24, 2009

How to save money when traveling with kids?

cd rate´s last blog post..Schwab Credit Card Review

22 Sarah W. March 24, 2009

Sigh! This reminds me of my study abroad days…and makes me wish I lived in a location desirable for house swapping…and makes me double wish I could just pack a bag and go today.
Sounds like a fab book!

23 Denise March 24, 2009

I love to travel but don’t get to much. Thanks for the great tips.

Denise´s last blog post..Eat Better America

24 Jane March 24, 2009

My dh & I love to travel. We both did quite a bit before “us”. We are planning a trip to Greece in May & are staying with friends. We always check out the local market for food deals. And I am an ultimate bargain finder. Great blog. I enjoy reading it. Yammas!

25 Barb March 24, 2009

I hate clutter so when I travel, hoping to go overseas this fall, I try to buy something unique that I’ll use over and over. Jewlery, or a scarf, something that I couldn’t get at home.

26 Emily March 25, 2009

Oooo- I would love to win this book. The post is great, too. I love to travel and having monetary constraints just makes me more creative.

27 Beth March 25, 2009

We have always wanted to travel even in the U.S. but couldn’t but we found a way to help us through bartering. It would be great to do this Internationally also. Great article.

Beth´s last blog post..Ways I Live Frugally Without Feeling Deprived

28 Kristy @ Master Your Card March 26, 2009

I love traveling! I’m a military brat, so I’ve lived all over the place. Growing up we never stayed in any one place longer than 3 months…until we moved to Texas. I’ve been here almost 16 years now and I have to say, I’ve been feeling restless. I guess it’s partly because I liked traveling. Moving not so much, but getting to see and experience new things was always exciting. I think I’d enjoy Texas more if I traveled more, which is why one of my goals this year was to have $5k in a travel account.

At any rate, I’d love to go backpacking through Europe. And while I’m not so big on the whole camping thing, I think in that case I’d make an exception, particularly if they have plumbing! That’s always my biggest objection to camping. I want a real toilet and shower. I can do without all the rest, but the plumbing is absolutely essential!

BTW – I ‘d love that book! Thanks for the contest!

Kristy @ Master Your Card´s last blog post..Too Fat To Work? Let the Government Pay Your Way!

29 CC March 26, 2009

I’ve seen some of Peter Greenburg’s other work and would enjoy reading his latest. Thanks for the chance to win!

30 Quadelle March 28, 2009

Definitely not into buying tourist trinket. However, we have a habit of putting an art purchase into our holiday budget. That way each painting in our home has a backstory, as well as serving as a reminder of the trip.

We ask people we’ll be staying with what they’d like us to bring with us from Australia. That way we know that we’re giving them something they actually want / will use instead of wasting money on a trivial thank you present.

Quadelle´s last blog post..Walk this way

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