Traveling can be really expensive. Every little thing that you do, eat, or buy adds up quickly! There are some big ways to save – like on flights, hotels, and food, but we’ll cover that in another post. This post will cover the little ways to save here and there that can end up being a good amount of money saved. Here are some easy ways to save money while traveling.
1. If Flying, Don’t Check a Bag
If you’re flying across an ocean, you’ll probably get a checked bag for free from the airline. But if you plan to take anymore smaller flights while overseas (or if your whole trip is on one continent), then, chances are, you’ll have to pay to check a bag. So don’t do it! Pack everything into a carry-on bag. Plus, airlines lose bags all the time! If you have your bag, they can’t lose it. Or break things in it. Or steal anything out of it. It’s a hard, cold world we live in.
2. Pay Attention to the Exchange Rates
You might think that an exchange rate is an exchange rate– they’re probably all the same, right? Wrong! Some places charge exorbitant fees to exchange your money. Make sure you know the correct exchange rate of the day before you change your money out. You wouldn’t want to exchange all your money at the airport just to find out that your hotel exchanges money for a far lesser fee, and would’ve saved you $20.
Also, some places have a certain minimum of money they have to exchange. So make sure you ask first.
3. The Best Rate is Probably Right at the ATM
Most foreign places don’t really accept cards as much as they do in the US. You will probably need to carry cash around! Depending on your card, you may save the most money if you get money straight out of the ATM. You should check with your bank ahead of time, of course. For example, I use an online bank in the US. They don’t charge me ATM fees, because they don’t have any physical branches for me to go in and withdraw money. They also refund me a certain amount of foreign ATM withdrawal fees per month. Then, they barely charge me an exchange fee at all to take out money in a local currency. It’s basically the same as the current exchange rate. So, for me, it’s best to just take money at the ATM every time I need cash!
If your bank doesn’t charge much of an exchange rate, but still charges you a foreign ATM fee (like most banks), then just remember to take out as much money as you need when you go to the ATM. This will save you money. (Think: they charge you a flat $3.95 or whatever every time you use a foreign ATM. So it’s better to withdraw a larger amount [but not more than you’ll need] all at once than it is to return to the ATM for cash multiple times.)
Just in case: you should know what to do if an ATM eats your card while you’re traveling. You should read this post.
4. If They Do Accept Card, Pay in the Local Currency
This goes back to the exchange fee thing. The credit card processing company usually charges you more if you pay in your own currency versus paying in the local currency. For example, you can go to the mall in Poland and pay with your credit card. Once you swipe your card, it will give you an amount in USD to pay, and it will give you the amount in Polish zloty. You get to choose which currency to pay in. Just choose Polish zloty; most likely, you’ll get a better conversion rate from your card provider.
5. Bring an Empty Reusable Water Bottle
I’ve noticed that most airports around Central and Western Europe don’t have water fountains anymore, so this tip doesn’t really help you in the airport anymore. But bringing a reusable water bottle will help you save money once you arrive at your location, and it’s better for the environment. Win/win! (We use this Nalgene with a locking carabiner [like this one] to hook it to the outside of our carry-ons so it doesn’t take up space!)
Also, I’ve read that other bloggers will tell you to ask the flight attendants to fill your water bottle for you on the plane. Don’t do it! I’ve read several articles about how disgusting plane water is. Like, flight attendants have been interviewed saying to stay away from the tea, coffee, and water, because it’s gross. Something about how they never clean the tank or something? I don’t know. Just drink soda or wine. That’s what it’s there for.