Lessons Learned & Tips for Cheap Travel

Here’s a list of cheap travel lessons I have learned on the road. There are many others, but these are some of the most costly lessons I have learned and tips to save money on the road…

–Slow travel is cheaper and you see more.
It is so tempting to see as much as possible when you have a limited amount of time.  Staying longer in fewer places means you have less cost of travel between cities or countries plus you can often negotiate a better price for the cost of a room or apartment. Our minimum was 3-4 nights per location, but even that is too short. We are starting to change to 5+ nights per location and spending more time in one country rather than jumping around to many countries.

–Get into the credit card bonus “game” to collect points and miles.
What can be better than free flights and free hotel nights? I really, really wish I had gotten into this hobby sooner. If you aren’t doing it because you are afraid it will hurt your credit score or it seems like a hassle, you should think again.

We got into this hobby a few years ago after our trip around the world. It’s too bad we didn’t know about it before the trip. Since then we saved many thousands of dollars on travel using these big sign-up bonuses and credit cards for almost everything we buy. We are financially responsible and pay off the balance every month. Our credit scores have gone from the low 700s to the mid 800s over the past couple of years. The only time we take a break from applying for credit cards is when we are going to buy a new house or refinance a mortgage.

The two blogs I use the most to find out about the latest credit card offers are The Points Guy and MillionMileSecrets. I also get tons of tips from the forums on FlyerTalk.

–Live simpler.
We downsized our house and our life in general, and we are so thrilled to use those extra funds to travel. I wish we had never “up-sized” to begin with.  Whenever you are tempted to buy a new purse or the newest phone, think to yourself if you would rather buy that or go away for a weekend on a trip that will give you memories forever?

–Sign up for all the major carriers’ frequent flier programs.
On our trip around the world we only had accounts with American Airlines (and therefore it’s partners) but we ended up flying on a bunch of other airlines. At the time we didn’t think about all the lost miles until we got home and wanted to travel again.

–Pack light.
Now it costs quite a bit of money to check bags plus it really is a hassle dragging those bags around. There’s no need to pack more than a carry on or small backpack. We take a small bag of powdered laundry soap and do laundry in the room every few days.

–Eat breakfast in bed.
If breakfast is not included in your room price, bring breakfast bars and fruit to eat in the room. Almost everywhere has tea and coffee in the room so by packing a few groceries you can save $10 per day per person. (Or stop at the nearest market on your first day in a new location and stock up so you have goodies in the room.)

–Consider a home exchange.

Exchanging homes with someone in another city is absolutely free travel minus a small fee to list your home on a website like HomeExchange.com . This is a great alternative if you don’t have enough hotel points to take a trip. We have exchanged our home about 5 times and it was overall each was a good experience. It’s not as easy as checking into a hotel or Airbnb apartment but it’s free so I think it’s better than not going on a a trip. If you are worried about having a stranger in your home, remember that you are in their home at the same time. We stayed in a retired teacher’s apartment in Paris for four nights and that trip alone saved us about $1000. The biggest negatives I encountered were getting dates of travel to match up, and having to clean both properties before and after the trip.

Me & Bob in Patagonia 2015
Me & Bob in Patagonia 2015

–Always do a free walking tour if available.
Our first day in a new city is always spent on a free walking tour. Just Google, “free walking tour” in the city you are visiting and several will probably pop up. It’s a great orientation, the guide will probably have great ideas for low-cost places to eat and things to do, and you might meet some new friends to hang with while you are there.

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