Best Money-Saving Travel Tips

woman saving money while traveling abroad

Analysis of the travel market shows that the cost of a typical, four-night trip within the U.S. costs an average of about $581 per person. Of course, that amount varies depending on the distance traveled, the region within the US, and a few other variables. Generally speaking, however, traveling is becoming more expensive all over the country.

As someone working abroad, your goal is to send the majority of your income back to family members. But, naturally, there will be some travel costs associated with your new venture. Many overseas workers also take advantage of their work visas to do some sightseeing on the side. Whether you’re traveling for a few days or for a year, here are the best ways to save money while on the road. 

Save on transfer fees and exchange fees

Transferring money across borders can get expensive. There are a ton of hidden costs for sending money overseas. In addition, remittance companies use a foreign exchange “spread” to make most of their money, meaning they give you a worse exchange rate than they get themselves and keep the difference. When you need to exchange currencies, transfer agents will add a percentage mark-up: a transfer agent like OFX as an exchange rate markup of less than 1%, whereas MoneyGram adds 4% onto their exchange rate. These percentages don’t seem like a lot, but they add up over time. Do research into exchange rates and money transfer services to find the best rates. 

Use public transportation 

It’s true that public transportation services vary widely depending on which city you’re moving to. European cities tend to have well-developed rail, bus, and tram services – and there are many cities where you can get around on foot or by bike. In the US, however, some cities are less developed or reliable. According to research from Vice, “the average American spends between 9 and 25 percent of their income on transportation, depending on where they live.” Some companies will provide shuttle services or a stipend for a public metro card, so check with your employer before you relocate. Public transit is nearly always the most budget-friendly way to travel around, especially in comparison with Ubers or taxis. 

Look for free days at museums 

One of the best parts of traveling? Soaking up as much new culture as possible. Visiting museums, art galleries, and concert halls can get expensive, however. In New York City, visiting the city’s most popular tourist attractions costs anywhere from $0 to $100+ per person. Many museums, however, offer free days or free afternoons on the first Thursday of each month, for example. Do some research to see when your top attractions have some open visiting hours at reduced rates and be willing to plan around those windows. 

Get the right (travel-friendly) credit cards

When it comes to saving money while traveling, not all credit cards are created equally. Look for credit cards with no foreign transaction fees and are accepted worldwide. It’s also helpful to find cards that give you good travel rewards: airline miles, for example, or hotel points. NerdWallet regularly updates its guide to the ten best travel credit cards. It’s a good place to start by comparing the various options and learning more about what comes standard with travel cards. 

Be flexible with your planning

One of the best money-saving tips for travelers? Be flexible. “If you want to travel to a certain place, be flexible about the timing. If you want to travel at a certain time, be flexible about the location. Choose one — not both,” says one frequent traveler.  

If you’re traveling overseas for work, it’s possible that your employer will cover your flights and have a required start date. But for any other travel – around the holidays, for a vacation, or to see more of your new home away from home – use Google’s flexible dates and location search to get the best deal out there. 

Eat and grocery shop like a local

Food is one expense that can creep up on you, much like transportation costs. It’s also one of the most fun ways to explore a new culture. To get the best of both worlds – great flavors that are easy on your wallet – head to a local market to shop with others from the neighborhood. Pro tip: some farmer’s markets lower the price of their food towards the end of the day so they have less to pack up and take home with them. Time your shopping trip right and there are deals to be had! If you’re going out to eat, get off the tourist track: never eat near popular attractions because they tend to raise their prices for out-of-towners. Be savvy about your food shopping and you can save a ton of cash.