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My friends usually associate me with wealth and riches when I tell them about my digital nomad lifestyle. It amazes them to know I’m able to manage my finances while working from the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean.
But the reality is that I’m working the same as anyone else; I just don’t need to go into an office to do my job. By working remotely, I can explore beautiful places without a Kim Kardashian budget.
Plus, I’ve learned travel hacks to save money as I go. Many of these hacks I learned through trial and error, since I wasn’t a very smart traveler at first. I missed flights, booked over-priced hotels rooms, and overspent on shopping and food.
But through all these blunders, I grew as a digital nomad and became a savvy traveler. Here are nine of my most useful travel hacks to save money.
1. Be flexible with your dates and destinations
The more flexible you can be with your travel plans, the better deals you’ll find. If you have a particular destination in mind, be flexible with your dates to find the cheapest flights. Or if you can only travel at a certain time, compare prices for a variety of destinations.
Skyscanner also has a useful feature for travelers looking for a cheap destination. In the search bar, you can enter your origin city and then search for flights to “Everywhere.” You can also search by month to root out flights with the lowest cost.
Of course, not everyone is able to be so flexible. But even if you need to fly during peak season or the holidays, tweaking the dates a bit and searching for special deals could help you save a lot of money on your trip.
2. Stay for free by house-sitting
I’ve saved over $30,000 on accommodation, utility bills, gym memberships, and food thanks to housesitting. Working as a house/pet-sitter is an excellent way to save money while traveling, interact with locals, make new friends, explore nearby tourist spots, and gain authentic travel experiences, all while enjoying the company of a cuddly pet and the luxury of a lavish home.
TrustedHousesitters and MindMyHouse are two of the most popular websites to find house-sitting assignments around the world. Although TrustedHousesitters costs $119/year, the investment could be worth it considering the amount of money you’ll save on rent and other travel expenses.
3. Or try couchsurfing to save on accommodation
Couchsurfing is not for all digital nomads, but it has saved me hundreds of dollars. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet hosts that have cooked meals with me, driven me around nearby tourist spots, and even shared access to their Wi-Fi and luxury pool after knowing me for just a few hours.
I only use Couchsurfing.com, a review-based platform, to scope out potential hosts. I wouldn’t stay with anyone who didn’t have positive reviews from previous couchsurfers. For extra peace of mind, I also try to meet potential hosts in a public space before staying with them.
4. Check baggage rules before buying your ticket
One of my top travel hacks to save money is avoiding exorbitant airline baggage fees, which can add up quickly if you’re not careful. Study your airline’s baggage policies before booking your flights to ensure you’re aware of all associated fees.
Remember that policies vary by place and fare type, as well as from carrier to carrier. One airline might allow two checked bags while you’re traveling internationally, while another only offers one. Some offer a base fare ticket that doesn’t include any bags, not even a handbag or carry-on.
Most airlines do offer a discount if you purchase luggage online ahead of your flight rather than at the airport. Before hitting purchase on the “cheapest” ticket, make sure to compare fees and policies across the airlines so you can choose the most economical option, even if it’s not the one you thought it was at first glance.
5. Squeeze rewards points out of your credit cards
You’ll be surprised to learn about the benefits you’ve been leaving on the side by not using your credit card to its full potential. With a travel rewards credit card, you can maximize your points for hotel upgrades, discounted flights, checked baggage, zero foreign transaction fees, dining, and other travel related offers.
Some travel credit cards even offer access to airport lounges with free foods and drinks and a 24/7 concierge service to help you book flights or hotels or rent cars. Plus, cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and Citi Premier card bump up your point values by 25% if you make reservations through their online portal.
Using travel rewards credit cards can be a great way to save money while traveling and earn rewards points, but be careful not to spend past your budget. If you spend more than you can afford to pay off each month, these cards could go from being a blessing to a burden on your bank account.
6. Make wise workplace choices
If you’re a digital nomad like me, it’s important to make budget-savvy choices when searching for a place to work. I sometimes go to coworking spaces, which typically charge $10 to $15 for a day pass (or go with the more economical monthly pass option).
You might also try cafes, but be careful not to shell out a fortune on meals and espressos throughout the day. Perhaps the best way to save money on workspaces is by finding a library.
Most libraries offer free WiFi and a quiet corner where you can plug in your laptop, so you don’t have to spend money or get totally distracted by other people’s conversations.
7. Negotiate with Airbnb hosts
Airbnbs can be quite expensive, so it’s always a good idea to ask the hosts for a discount. By messaging the hosts directly, you can often get an extra 10% to 15% off your stay. Although you might not have much luck if you’re only staying for a night or two, many hosts will happily offer a discount if you’re staying for a longer duration.
8. Create a realistic budget and stick to it
The key to saving money while traveling is staying realistic with your budget. If you know you want to buy a souvenir from every city you visit, make sure to plan well in advance and add the cost to your budget.
If you don’t think ahead, you’ll often find yourself overspending. So whether you use a budget-tracking app, an Excel spreadsheet, or a pen and paper, take the time to sit down and write down your income and expenses. Be realistic about your spending categories, and leave some room for unexpected expenses that might come up.
If you have room in your budget, set aside money into an emergency fund, too. Traveling can come with all sorts of unpredictable expenses, and you don’t want to find yourself broke in a foreign country.
By carefully tracking your budget and funneling some money into savings, you can be better financially prepared for whatever comes your way.
9. Be a frugal diner
As a remote worker who spends half my year traveling, I can attest it’s important to find affordable dining options, as food of course is an ongoing expense. Consider these travel hacks to save money on food and drinks.
- Book accommodation that offers free breakfast or lunch (or both).
- Avoid eating at expensive touristy restaurants where the menu has a bit of everything. Instead, go where the locals eat. Food stalls, night markets, and small single-dish eateries offer much better food at a much lower price.
- Throw some coffee beans, almond butter packets, crackers, granola bars, and a refillable water bottle in your bag for both the plane and the trip itself.
- Pick up supplies of yogurt, fruit, and pastries from the local grocery store, store it in your hotel’s mini-fridge, and pull it out when you go on outings.
- Cook sometimes if you have a shared or private kitchen. I love eating fish and usually pick it from the local farmers’ market, cook it up for breakfast and lunch at my Airbnb apartment, and then splurge on a fancy dinner if I really want to try out a certain restaurant.
- If you’re going out on the town, remember that cocktails at bars get super pricey. Consider having a pre-game drink in your room before you go out so you don’t have to buy too many at the bar.
Make the most of these travel hacks to save money
Over my years of living as a digital nomad, I’ve picked up several travel hacks to save money along the way. Although scouring the internet for deals takes some time, I find the savings to be well worth the effort.
Plus, finding ways to save money while traveling means I have even more room in my budget for my next great trip. Hopefully these travel hacks will help make your next travel experience even more enjoyable — and a whole lot less expensive.