11 Secret Ways Frugal Travelers Slash Their Costs

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Winking woman traveler with passport and airplane ticket and carry-on luggage
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If you’re dreaming of travel these days — and who isn’t? — make sure you look for ways to save before you book a trip.

By tapping into the wisdom of the most seasoned, and frugal, globetrotters, you can trim travel bills now or anytime during the year when you plan a vacation.

Following are some of the secret ways that frugal travelers slash their costs.

1. They use discounted gift cards

Gift cards for sale
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Did you know some airlines offer gift cards? And that Costco sells them at a discount?

For instance, here’s a $500 Southwest Airlines e-gift card for only $450. You order online, and get it delivered to your email within an hour.

2. They embrace the dreaded layover

Happy woman in an airport
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Most travelers despise layovers and much prefer direct flights. But there are occasions where layovers can be your frugal best friend.

Jeremy Scott Foster, CEO at Travel Freak, tells the Associated Press that sometimes you can book a cheaper flight that has a layover in the location where you really plan to stay. He uses a website called Skiplagged to find such flights.

As Foster explains:

“I took advantage of the Skiplagged website while on my trip to Dubai and booked a flight from L.A. to Bangkok with Dubai being the layover destination. And I simply (intentionally) missed the second leg of the flight.”

The Associated Press warns that if you use this technique too often, it’s possible the airlines will flag you. But Skiplagged says doing so yields an average savings of $128 per ticket.

3. They stay at places with kitchens

Airbnb kitchen
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Eating in restaurants every day during a vacation quickly gets expensive — not to mention the deleterious impact on your waistline and overall health.

However, booking a hotel or Airbnb with a kitchen allows you to create more healthful meals at a cheaper price.

Make sure to do a little math on this one. It’s even possible that by paying a little more to get a room with a kitchen, you will come out ahead financially.

For more tips, check out “10 Ways to Save Money on Food While Traveling.”

4. They go to countries where their dollars stretch furthest

Couple taking a selfie while traveling
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Sometimes, travelers know exactly where they want to go. But in many other cases, they simply want to get away to somewhere new and exotic.

If you fall into the latter category, you can save a lot of money by going to where travel is cheaper.

Each year, the website Price of Travel releases its Backpacker Index that ranks major destinations around the world by price.

Cities are ranked by the daily cost of paying for:

  • A dorm bed at a good and cheap hostel
  • 3 budget meals
  • 2 public transportation rides
  • 1 paid cultural attraction
  • 3 cheap beers (as an “entertainment fund”)

Some cheap places to visit in the 2024 rankings of 133 destinations around the world include Beirut, Lebanon ($7.52 a day); Vientiane, Laos ($18.45); and Delhi, India ($19.55).

Compare those prices to Boston ($145.80); Zurich, Switzerland ($143.80); and New York City ($136.80).

5. They buy the right travel products

Happy woman in hotel

If you travel a lot, it pays to invest in travel products that save you time and money. For example, a worldwide travel adapter will allow you to plug in portable, non-grounded devices in locations around the world. Then, you don’t need to worry about purchasing a different adapter for various destinations.

For more on such must-have items, check out “17 Travel Products That Save You Time and Money.”

6. They don’t park at the airport

PArking garage at San Antonio International Airport, Texas
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The cost to park your car at the airport is egregious. In fact, if you plan a long trip and get a great deal on airfare, it’s possible you might pay nearly as much in parking fees at the airport as you paid for your flight.

Getting a ride to the airport or taking public transportation is usually a better option.

Failing that, try to park in one of the “park and ride” lots located away from the airport itself. Rates there are almost always much cheaper than what you would pay for the convenience of being close to the terminals.

7. They use the right credit card for travel

Woman paying for groceries or food with credit card
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Having the right credit card in your wallet can save you money when traveling. If you are going to Europe, make sure you have a card that does not charge a foreign transaction fee, for example.

Other credit cards offer perks — such as frequent flyer miles or cash back — that allow you to build up rewards before you travel. You can then use these rewards to reduce the price of your trip.

Stop by the Money Talks News Solutions Center and search for a great travel rewards credit card.

8. They find free activities when traveling

Overhead view of Central Park
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There is nothing wrong with paying to see special things. If you are going to New York City, go ahead and spring for a Broadway production.

But you can balance out those splurges by finding low-cost or even free activities to do at other times. For example, in the notoriously expensive Big Apple, walking through Central Park will cost you nothing.

Or head out for a free day on Rockaway Beach. Even the Staten Island Ferry — with its views of the city and the Statue of Liberty — is free.

9. They eat before getting to the airport

Woman eating ham sandwich
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As any experienced traveler knows, the markup on food inside an airport is flat-out ridiculous. Instead of wasting money here, grab a bite at McDonald’s or some other restaurant before you head to the airport.

Or even better, eat something at home or make a sandwich to take with you.

10. They discover ways to travel for free

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Finally, the ultimate example of being a frugal traveler is to travel for free. If you are flexible and think outside the box, you can discover many ways — from volunteering to house-sitting — to get away from the daily grind for next to nothing.

We share some ideas in “7 Ways to Travel the World for Free.”

11. They pack light

Traveler with a backpack
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Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has been all over the world — to Europe, South America, Australia, New Zealand and Russia — but has rarely taken anything with him except a carry-on bag.

Doing so has allowed him to avoid baggage fees and a lot of unnecessary hassle. For more on why he limits himself to a backpack — and tips on how you can do the same — check out “How to Go to Europe for 10 Days With Just a Carry-On.”

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