Top 5 Money Saving Tips

After being on the road for a full year, we have learned our share of lessons when it comes to saving money. Of course, each of these we learned the hard way and it pains us to look back and realize the money we wasted. However, we hope that you will learn from our experience with these top 5 money saving tips for your own vacation or long-term travel adventure.

  1. House sitting - Absolutely one of the best things we did was to help people out by taking care of their homes while the owners travels. In the first 12 months of travel we paid for only 5 months of accommodation, in large part due to housesitting. It is a great way to see the world if you are flexible and open to new opportunities.  If you are interested, we wrote a detailed article on Married with Luggage with more details and discounts for getting started.
  2. Travel slow – there are so many benefits to traveling slowly (mental sanity, ability to meet people, learn about the local culture) but I’ll just focus here on the spending. When you travel slowly you have the opportunity to take advantage of discounts. Most hostels/hotels will offer discounts for as little as 3 nights. Also, if you are going to stay in a place for longer, consider renting an apartment. It can save you significant money and give you a completely different perspective on your travels.
  3. Track spending daily – I’m the first to admit this this is not sexy or exciting. the idea of tracking expenses is about as fun as cleaning the house.  However, if you take 5 minutes at the end of each day totaling your expenses it can make a big difference in your spending. This small effort will help you keep an eye on how much you are spending, but also not require you to try to remember each expense at the end of the month. Using a tool like BudgetYourTrip is an easy way to track your spending and keep a record that will make totaling expenses each month/year much easier.
  4. Lunch not dinner & split meals – when we first started on the trip we were used to eating WAY too much food. This is primarily the result of portion sizes in the United States which extremely big (think 1/2 a pig with a 2 whole potatoes on the side). When we started traveling we realized quickly that food would be a large part of our budget, but there were times we really wanted to eat out. As a result, we learned 2 great lessons that have saved us significant money over the last year:
    • We started to split our meals. This not only helped us each lose over 20 pounds in the first year, but also was a way we could eat out on a much smaller budget
    • Eat out and at lunch instead of dinner. Lunch is almost always cheaper to eat than dinner at a restaurant. As a result we would plan any eating out around the daytime meal and then cooked at “home” for dinner. 
  5. Plan in advance when you are in a more expensive location. We absolutely loved the freedom and flexibility of travel in Ecuador where we could  flag down a bus on the highway, jump on, and always pay $1 per person per hour. The busses were constantly going by, they were reliable (in general), and gave you complete flexibility. By contract, Europe is not quite so cheap or flexible. Of course the trains here give you access to most areas, but they are by no means cheap. Most of the time you will need to explore various options and often book in advance to find a reasonable rate that won’t break your budget. In these situation we have found that a bit of planning can go a long way to making your trip pleasant and under budget. In Europe, for example, you can get great deals on trains and buses if you can buy a couple weeks in advance.  Many times planes are much cheaper, but make sure you include the price to get to/from the airports. While you will need to give up on some flexibility by bringing the dreaded “planning” process into play in the end your monthly budget will thank you for it.
As we showed in our 1st year expense summary traveling, even long-term, does not have to cost a fortune. Whether your next trip is for a few weeks or a few years, these tips should help you save some of your hard-earned yen, bhat, or dollars and let you extend your vacation.
If you have tips of your own, please share. We would love to add them to the site and share them with our readers.

Comments

  1. Great tips! I like that these work equally well for your round-the-world travels as they do for a weekend getaway. (Well, except perhaps for the travel slow bit) :)

    • Alison,
      Thank you for kicking off the comments. These tips are certainly useful for any vacation or long-term trip. Of course, slow travel for a weekend would mean sitting in one restaurant all weekend. Wait, that does not sound bad? Right?

  2. Absolutely agree with all of those – we do the same, although Simon isn’t a fan of sharing meals – he likes to eat a lot!

    In the UK booking train tickets at the station is the worst thing to do (except for short trips). It’ll be so much more expensive. Even if you book online on the day you travel it can be cheaper.

    I didn’t like haven’t to commit to plans in North America and Japan, but it does save you money. We found great hotel deals on sites like booking.com.

    • Hey Erin,
      We absolutely hating having to commit to plans long term. It was hard to not remain completely flexible and just make completely new plans at a moment’s notice because someone told us about a great experience/event somewhere else. In South America we had some of our greatest experiences as a result of flexibility. But when you are on a budget it pays big time to plan in advance in Europe and USA. Love the idea of booking.com. We’ll need to check them out next time we are in one of these places.

      Good luck getting Simon to share meals. The good news is that here in Thailand you can certainly afford to eat 1 meal each. Just keep him from eating yours as well;)

  3. I dream of housesitting!

    Great list and all stuff we will use.

    I am heading over to check out your other article on housesitting!

    Thanks!

    • Justin,
      Housesitting is amazing. We not only saved a ton of money we made some great friends as a result. We house sat for a wonderful couple in Belgium who have turned into long-term friends. It is something I cannot recommend highly enough.

      Good luck next year as you, Heidi, Maggie and Sam embark on your first big adventure. I am looking forward to finding out where it will take you and to see how much you enjoy it.

  4. Hey you guys. I am house sitting right now in NC thanks to you! I have a week here, and then I’ll be camping in the Smokies taking photos of the fall foliage. I’m counting my pennies, keeping track, and so far, traveling by van is way cheaper than staying at home, except for the gas. In November I’ll be doing a Work Away gig, another website you may know about and may have tried. So thanks again to you and TrustedHousesitters.com!!

    • Sherry, we could not be happier that you took the leap into housesitting and are out enjoying the experience. Sounds like you have a big rest of the year planned and we are so happy to have been able to introduce you to TrustedHousesitters.com. We are of course big fans.

      Thank you for the tip on WorkAway. We’ll be checking them out today to see where our next adventure may be. Have a blast in NC and please share your pictures of fall. We are going to miss Fall here since we are in Thailand so we’d love to see it through your eyes.

  5. Garry Lee says:

    great tips guys, travel safe and keep up the good work

  6. Joanne Rocheford says:

    Wow, communication expenses zero percent? I have a huge communications bill. Home phone, business phone, cell phone with data, cable internet plus more for my business. You are utilizing free wi – fi everywhere? I must say, now I am REALLY impressed with your ability to budget. How proud are you guys that you are over $10,000 under budget? Great job! What great examples you are for us.

    • Joanne,
      We have not really focused on saving money on this as much as we just decided we did not want a cell phone while traveling. We have been able to get places with Internet 90+% of the time and when we did not have it we would go to a coffee shop that provided it for free.

      Ironically the first time we’ve had to pay for Internet here is the place we are staying now in Thailand. We paid $10 for a week of access for us both at our first condo.

      We are feeling great about our budget for the first year. With the savings we can extend our trip and continue living the life we are loving for several more months. Who knows where life will take us but we’re excited to find out.

  7. Thanks for the lunch tip! We have been eating out way too much. We have been on the road for 3 months with the kids, and our food costs are pretty high as well.
    I am taking on your rules as my own!
    Thank you so much!
    Eva

    • Eve,
      Thank you for sharing your story and for the nice words. Food has been a big part of the budget and an area that could easily have broken our budget in Europe. We had to learn a few lessons the hard way, but now both our budget and our waistlines are happy again.

      Have fun and glad you like the tips.

  8. Great tips! We fell in love with lunch menus when we were in Beijing a few years ago. Places that cost a fortune at night usually had lunch menus for $5 or less – with the same food, just in smaller sizes. Win! Like you, we often share meals as it not only saves money but helps to control our food intake. When we’re in situations where we’re given lots and lots of food, we just don’t feel good afterwards.

    Haven’t tried house sitting yet, but hope to change that in the next year!

    • Hey Audrey,
      Thank you so much for reaching out here and sharing your insights. Since you and Dan have been on the road for 5 years we love to hear your experiences.

      It has been funny to see the portion sizes in different places. I had always assumed that the US was unique in the amount of food heaped onto a plate. But there have been several places we have been that tried to rival our restaurants back in America. Sharing has been a wonderful way to lose weight. Plus we always can simply order another meal if we find we are still hungry which has never happened to date.

      Looking forward to hearing your housesitting stories as I know they are going to be interesting.

  9. These are great tips. Maybe for my upcoming trip, I should try tracking daily expenses. I agree, it doesn’t sound like a fun thing to do, but it could be useful in saving money and keeping tax records.

    Also, house sitting is one thing I want to get into in the future.

    • Hey Stephen,
      Where are you going? Glad to hear you like the tips. Tracking expenses really helps me to feel more comfortable with our overall spending and actually helps me worry about it far less. Great point on the tax records as well, that is another key benefit.

      If you get into housesitting, please let us know. We’d love to talk to a first time housesitter.

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