17 Brilliant Travel Budget Hacks From the @Halfhalftravel Community
After years of short-term and long-term travel, we’ve surely learned a lot. As much as we like to share, one thing we love is learning travel hacks that other people use, so that we can improve!
What better way is there to learn about those than asking our community on Instagram about their best travel hacks for spending and saving while they’re on the road?
Here’s what have members of our community learned about travel spending and budget hacks after years of travel.
When traveling solo, stay at a hostel to save money and meet people.
“Consider hostels, especially if you’re traveling alone.”
We couldn’t agree more! When traveling solo, the best way to stay surrounded by fun and like-minded people is to try out a hostel. Hostels are also usually (in most of the world) an ideal way to save money on your accommodations.
In places like Andean South America, Central America, South and Southeast Asia, you can sometimes get a hostel dorm bed for as little as USD 5 to 10 per night. You can also find hotel rooms for as little as USD 16 on sites like Booking.com, like we did in Vietnam.
Even if you would like some privacy and quiet by booking a private room, you can still socialize and meet other travelers in hostel common areas like lobby areas or hostel bars, patios, kitchens and rooftops. We have both made lifelong friends from all around the world by traveling on our own (and together) when staying in hostels. Plus, you may wind up with a travel buddy for a hike or side trip the next day - who knows!
Get the right credit cards for travel!
via Kristie Yung
“Get a debit card with no ATM fees and a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. You’ll save a ton of money by just choosing the right provider.”
We love this financial tip, because we live by Kristie’s words! We use the Charles Schwab Investor checking, which reimburses our ATM fees at the end of each month (save your receipts!) and we only use credit cards with 0 foreign transaction fees. Travel wouldn’t be the same without either of these cards in our wallets.
Keep an emergency cash stash.
via Jessica Yubas
“Don’t travel with a lot of cash, but do keep an emergency stash just in case of emergencies. Be sure to break it into smaller stashes and spread them around your gear in places people won’t think to look, like places that are not visible. Don’t ever let anyone see you handling your cash stash (or where you stash an emergency credit card (i.e. don’t keep all your credit and debit cards together). Lastly, write down where you stash your cash so you don’t forget (write it in a place that only you can access!).”
This is a super useful money tip from Jess, and we do the same thing! Especially when walking around places where petty theft is common (Spain, Colombia and Vietnam, to name a few) we choose to leave most credit cards and most cash in our apartment or hostel, and only leave for the day or evening with what we need. This means having one debit card, one credit card and a non-excessive amount of cash in our wallets at any given time.
Our emergency and alternate credit cards are kept in secret places (it’s true!) in our luggage so that someone who may enter the room where we’re staying won’t find them quickly.
Book flights on anonymous mode online, in an incognito browser or with a VPN.
via Daniel Herszberg
“Always book flights on Skyscanner (or other sites) on anonymous mode - it removes any cookies which may have pushed the prices up! So, when you keep searching flights on Skyscanner or other sites for bookings, the computer remembers you and slowly the prices creep up (only sometimes). When you’re ready to book, turn shadow mode on your browser, and sometimes you’ll get lucky and the prices will be cheaper.”
Booking flights is certainly one of the most challenging parts of a trip, especially if you can only travel in high season or if your days are limited. Flight-searching can be an evil game, and it nearly feels like gambling or playing a game you’re bound to lose.
We search with Google Flights and find that one of the best features is seeing how certain days of the week will bring costs down a ton, or we may be surprised that traveling on a Saturday, for example, can save a whole bunch of money when compared with going the day before. Daniel’s expert advice about use of a trustworthy VPN and incognito window is pretty pro!
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Bring dehydrated food in order to avoid eating out.
via Rhea Acharya
“Carrying dehydrated food or snacks from home for those 11 am cravings, instead of eating out. Dehydrated food barely weighs anything and is convenient because all it requires is for you to pour hot water on top. The other meals can be eaten fresh, locally or self-cooked.”
We like this tip a lot, and it’s the reason we bring snacks like GoMacro or Lara bars from home, or buy dried fruit and nuts when we arrive on a place (if we’re going to be taking a long train or bus ride, or another flight).
We’re also huge fans of cooking in order to stay healthy and avoid things in restaurants that may have tons of salt, additives or oil. For snacks, we like to shop local and buy the types of fruits and vegetables that are local to a city’s economy, as it lessens our carbon footprint and saves cash as well! Thanks, Rhea.
Use the Trail wallet app for tracking spending.
via Kelsey Herron
This is another great app recommendation! Tracking spending is helpful to show yourself where your money went and if you stayed within your budget or not.
You can also learn so much about your spending from looking at categories - for example, if hundreds of dollars went toward eating out, maybe it would be more efficient to cook sometimes, eat on the go or pick up some local foods from markets. Or, maybe you saved unexpectedly on accommodation and you can put the extra budget toward taking more comfortable transport between places.
For our friends Ryan and Alex, they told us their way of keeping spending to a minimum.
“We keep a very close eye on our budget, and based on the country, we do our best to set daily spending limits (typically $10 per person, not including housing). It depends on the place, of course! We aimed for ~$1700 per person per month originally, and found that to be more than we needed.”
The sky’s the limit when you track budgets like this!
Always notify your bank and credit card about your travel dates.
“When I was in Miami 8 years ago, someone stole my clutch bag which included my credit card, ID, and phone. Luckily I had my passport with me to get me home. That person used my credit card I later found out. From that moment on I made sure to keep cash and notify my credit card when traveling.”
We agree with Laerta about notifying your bank and credit card company about your travel dates before you leave for a trip, no matter how long. The best way to make sure your credit card won’t flag your account for fraud or theft and freeze your funds is by notifying your bank that you’ll be out of the country, or even in other parts of your home country.
Split expenses and track money owed over time with Splitwise.
via Jessica Yubas
“Use Splitwise if sharing expenses with friends.”
Splitwise is a free app that allows you to be part of a group and track shared expenses and amounts owed over however long you want. We used it at Nine Coliving when we spent ten days there with groups of four to ten people and had to track amounts we owed to one another for groceries, group dinners and other expenses.
What we like about the app is that you only owe the final difference, and you can keep the tally going for the duration of your stay somewhere or for the length of a trip with other people. It’s so useful for traveling with friends or groups.
Prioritize what’s important to YOU when it comes to attractions.
“Don’t spend money on popular tourist attractions unless YOU are interested in them.”
This is such unique advice and it starts to ring true as you let go of the fact that sometimes the bucket list items are crowded, overrun with tourists or perhaps not for everyone. Your trip should be what you want, so spending money on an attraction with a hefty ticket price is not necessarily worth it if you won’t get joy out of the experience. Box-checking is one type of travel that can get tiring and might not be so easy on the wallet.
Going off of the same idea, it’s important to consider weather when making this decision - for example, Becca recently helped guide a traveler referred to her to not visit the Great Wall of China during February, the coldest month, even though it’s a wonder of the world and a top attraction. She suggested that because temperatures can be as low as 20 F during the winter, this may not be fun at all, and seems like a waste of time, effort and most of all, funds.
We agree wholeheartedly with Shai, and we’re so glad he brought up this important topic, especially in the age of Instagram, where it seems people are rushing to the “must-see places” just to say they went.
Take out your weekly budget in cash.
via Kristie Yung
“If you’re worried about converting currencies or over-spending, take out your weekly budget in cash so you can physically see it being used and how much you have left. If cash isn’t your jam, download an app like Mint.com that can track and categorize your spending across multiple accounts and banks.”
Weekly spending budgets are a huge way of seeing if you’re on track to avoid overspending during your travels, so we’re glad Kristie mentioned it. In some countries where cash is king and credit is not so available quiet yet (or may never be), visually seeing how much cash you have left can show you how much you’ve spent.
For apps, Becca has been using Mint.com for years now, after being recommended it by a friend after a trip. The categorizations are great, because you can categorize your purchases (credit purchases by category like restaurant, coffee shops, gifts, charity, shopping and more) and also see how much you’ve withdrawn from ATMs, by linking all your banks and credit cards.
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Try different ways for saving money when it comes to accommodation.
via Jessica Yubas
Have you ever used a money-saving tip for your travel accommodation? Even as a couple, we have stayed in a dorm room of four or six people if it’s only for one night and if we find a feature of the property we really like, such as location, in a city where Airbnbs are surging due to season or weekend price (or if we booked without enough lead time…oops!).
House-sitting is another great idea, and we’ve read about people who make their entire livelihoods traveling the world as house-sitters. Ryan and Alex recently told us that you can find free housing on TrustedHouseSitters.com with a membership fee of approximately $100 for the year.
This is a great tip for looking into, if you’re flexible, open-minded and ready for a little bit of responsibility!
Save money by booking accommodation for longer to get discounts.
“For long-term travelers who use Airbnb to book accommodations, you can save a significant amount of money (anywhere from 10-50%) if you book for at least four weeks, as hosts will offer monthly discounts to avoid having new guest turnover every few days.
Similarly, for the risk-takers among us, look for new properties (those with the fewest reviews), as they’ll often come with the biggest discounts from folks in need getting reviews. They’ll often be incredible hosts, as they really want the five stars.
Even if you’re planning a few side trips from wherever you are, the savings can be significant enough that you don’t have to worry about leaving the room empty for a few days, AND you won’t have to find a new place upon your return!”
Sean mentioned something awesome that even we hadn’t thought about until recently. We’ve done exactly this with our Vietnam trip.
Our Hanoi Airbnb was booked for four weeks, so we got a 12% discount, and we’re treating it like an apartment we’re paying rent on, rather than a place that costs us X amount per night.
By leaving it empty during our trip to Sapa, for example, we’re thinking about it more like a monthly cost of living there so that the loss isn’t so significant. We came ‘home’ to Hanoi to a place where all our stuff already was, and we were able to keep excess luggage there during our Sapa trip, thereby traveling lighter during the four days away.
Travel in a group and share download links for free credit.
via Ray Slater Berry
“While travelling in a group, I was always the first to latch on to any apps that would be useful, from travel apps in Mexico City, like Grin, Bird or Lime, to food delivery apps like Rappi. I’d get these apps first, and would then share my download links with the group, clocking myself up lots of free credit for bringing in new members!”
Ray’s tip is brilliant because he’s trying new things and being adventurous while also getting freebies from apps. The more you share, the more referral credit you get, and you can also learn by talking to other travelers and expats about the most efficient apps for ordering food or for ride-sharing in a particular city. Thanks, Ray!
Learn the miles and points systems on airlines and credit cards.
via Jessica Yubas
“A money tip in general is learn the miles and points system and milk it for “free” flights/accommodation/vehicle rentals. Use a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees and bonus benefits specifically for what you typically spend $ on. See if your bank has a checking account that reimburses for, or has zero, ATM fees worldwide for your debit card.”
Our travel has changed so much since we learned the points and miles games. Becca’s first flights completely on her miles with United was round-trip to South Africa. Even though the flight path was a bit crazy (New York - Frankfurt - Johannesburg - Cape Town), she got a built-in day to spend seeing Germany.
We save and earn miles on Jet Blue as well, and we book flights (sometimes big flights!) on our points with our credit card rewards. This has been really exciting for us in recent years! Thanks for bringing it up, Jess.
Use Scott’s cheap flights and Dan’s Deals.
“Use Scott’s Cheap Flights and Dan’s Deals to pick where to go based on which flights are cheap.”
Both have subscription lists so that you can receive deals directly to your inbox and jump on them fast. These sites are for flexible travelers who may want to say yes to a deal like $400 round-trip to Hong Kong or Mexico City with a few weeks’ notice. Thanks, Shai!
Utilize Facebook Marketplace for selling stuff when downsizing.
“For travel/money hacks, were surprised how many people didn’t know about Facebook Marketplace. We made it a competition for who could sell the most stuff. Long-term travel is a great opportunity to downsize and work toward minimalism.”
Our friends Ryan and Alex “sold everything” much like we did before starting to travel long-term and each competed against the other toward who could sell more of their things. It seems like this made the selling aspect of their lifestyle change pretty fun!
They had the biggest success on Facebook Marketplace, which gives you a way to sell things and be in touch with the buyer/seller via Facebook Messenger. We like the way Ryan and Alex think!
Check if you can get to your destination for less money with multiple stops.
via Jessica Yubas
“One money tip for flights are checking to see if your destination can be reached on a cheaper flight with multiple stops.”
This is seriously sometimes possible, so we’d like to thank Jess for mentioning it. If your destination is a major city, you can sometimes find flights to it that have multiple stops elsewhere. You may still be able to reach that final destination, for cheaper!
You can also get creative while you search for flights with flight searching sites or by using your points or miles through an airline or via credit card benefits. Thanks, Jess!