How to save money on travel

Go Global By Cecilia Hendrix July 11, 2019

Where’s on your travel bucket list? Are they far flung destinations where dreams of sipping from a coconut on a secluded beach are a daily occurrence? Perhaps you’d prefer trekking in Nepal and staying in a monastery? So, what’s stopping you?

We all know there are things we can cut back on to help saving for your next big trip. Being a savvy traveller is one of them, from planning in advance through to what you do once you arrive at your dream destination, here are our top tips for saving money next time you book a holiday;


How to find Cheap Flights

1. Be flexible on when you fly

Flying early in the morning or late at night increases your chance of booking flights at a cheaper rate. This is particularly true for weekend city breaks; fly late on the Friday and early on the Sunday for the best deals.

Flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday is also a good idea to find cheaper flights, and try and avoid the peak holiday season (late July and August).

2. Set up alerts and monitor flight comparison sites

Our favourites include Skyscanner, Kayak & Vayama for price comparisons. You can also browse by month if you’re flexible with your dates so you can really tailor when you fly and ensure you get the best deal. Keep an eye out for additional stops that can be added to your flight; these make your flight considerably cheaper but you’ll need to weigh up how much hassle this will add to your trip – especially if it’s only a short holiday. Alternatively, treat your stopover as a holiday bonus and explore it if time allows.

It’s also wise to set up price alerts which means you’re notified not only when prices decrease but also when they increase so you can book your flight before it costs you more.

3. Clear your Cookie data

If you didn’t know already, web browser cookies store the details of your browsing history, so by clearing those you’re starting your browsing journey pretty much afresh.

Ever tried refreshing your browser in the hope of it driving down the price? Something called ‘dynamic pricing’ means that flight prices change based on demand and to the flight company, constantly checking prices is seen as an increase in interest so therefore they believe that they can charge a premium for popular flights.

How to find cheap accommodation

1. Call the Hotel Directly

Suitable for both last minute trips and booking in advance, the hotel will usually prefer booking directly with them rather than paying a cut to other sites like

2. Stay on a Sunday night

Most people check out on Sunday and as most hotel receive corporate bookings Monday-Friday and leisure travel at the weekend, leaving Sunday night quieter than the rest of the week. And you know what quiet hotels mean? More discounts for you!

3. Exchange services for accommodation (and sometimes food!)

There are a few great sites that allow you to travel the world while saving money on accommodation. One option that allows you to truly capture an authentic, cultural experience is Work Away where you just need to book flights and commit to a minimum two weeks volunteer work. Tasks can range from childcare through to DIY or making organic soaps on a yoga retreat.

Trusted House sitters is another great option for saving on travel and means you get that home from home feeling. How it works is that when pet owners are looking to go away, they seek people on the website to come and stay with their beloved animal. The service spans across the entire world so there are plenty of options and you also get to spend your time staying with animals. Win win!

How to save on spending money

1. Apply for a Credit Card with No Foreign Transaction Fees

Foreign transaction fees is the surcharge that credit card companies add whenever transactions are processed outside of your home country. So, everytime you make a transaction overseas, you could end up paying so much more than you bargained for. In 2016, WalletHub estimated that roughly 90% of credit cards charge these fees, which usually costs cardholders 2-4% more on charges made overseas. If you travel often, it’s worth looking into cards that don’t charge these fees.

It’s always worth reading the small print of your credit card agreement and shop around for the best deal. Some cards may even have annual subscription charges reward you travel for travelling often which is extremely valuable if you’ve been bitten by the travel bug.

2. Know your exchange rates (and keep an eye on them!)

From ATMs, credit cards, bank branches and exchange kiosks, you’ll find that exchange rates differ for each when you’re abroad which can be total a minefield in 30 degree heat after three frozen margaritas.

Make sure you check for the exchange rate before you go and check with your bank or card issuer to find out what exchange rate they are currently offering.

Monitor daily rates on a money converter app like XE so you know if you’re getting a good deal or not before you exchange your money. The FX rate fluctuates constantly, so the price you get will never be the same from day to day. Many things cause travel money to change such as the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit, which impacts on the pound to Euro exchange rate.

3. Use a prepaid travel card

Travel cards are a great alternative to using credit cards abroad or carrying around loads of cash. You won’t have to monitor exchange rates either as your travel money will be fixed to the exchange rate on the day purchased. Simply top up the card with money before you board the plane and use it as you would a debit card.

4. Use a Bank with no ATM Fees

ATMs can be a great option for getting cash abroad, providing local currency immediately when needed. Unfortunately, many banks charge a “non-network ATM fee” for using an ATM operated by a different bank or institution. Charges can typically vary between $2.00 and $3.50. Since you could already be facing charges from the ATM operator, you’ll want to find a bank or debit card that won’t charge even more.

5. Send Money to Yourself and Others before you leave with the Western Union® App

The Western Union® app makes it easy to transfer money on the go to nearly 525,000 agent locations1 in 200 countries and territories around the world. It’s an easy way to have local currency ready for pick up at your destination. You can save contact information for quick repeat sending, track transfers, and even use the app to pay bills you may have forgotten about before leaving home.

Save money on travel while you’re there

1. Travel in a Group and Share the Cost

Splitting group bills will help keep everything equal and shave off any unfair costs that may land on the group organiser. Apps such as Splittr or Splitwise divvy up the costs for you. Simply add expenses as you go and let the app calculate who owes what to whom. It even lets you split expenses based on individual line items, meaning you won’t be paying for your travel mate’s prime rib and wine when you opted for the salad and a soda.

2. Stay on Track with a Budgeting Software

Scribbled notes and loose receipts won’t keep you organized on the road. Use budgeting software to make tracking your expenses easier. You can set a daily budget, add expenses as you go, review your spending habits, and adjust as needed. This will help you plan for both one-off expenses and recurring payments on the road.

3. Carry only cash on some days

Ensure you have some spare cash in your wallet, especially as some countries are cash only, remote destinations or going off grid in particular. Carrying cash can save the day if you wander into a cash-only establishment, experience card issues or can’t find a nearby ATM. Some people even find cash helps them be more mindful with their spending. By taking out only what you need for that day/evening stops you from overspending and encourages you to stick to your budget.

4. Eating and drinking

Nothing sums up a cultural experience on holiday than sampling the local food and all it has to offer. Eating out three times a day can certainly ramp up the cost of your holiday if your exchange rate is poor or visiting a country that’s equal to or more expensive to prices back home. Try self-catering to shave off some costs as well as skipping breakfast at your hotel, chances are you can find something more authentic and cheaper elsewhere. Try TripAdvisor and use their price tool to filter cheaper eats and then choose the places with the best reviews. Also ask the locals where they eat and try street food vendors for affordable, cultural bites!

Same goes for alcohol, buy some from the local supermarket and have a few drinks in your room before going out. Similarly, for soft drinks, especially water – you can save yourself quite a few pennies by buying these outside of the hotel.

5. Getting around

If possible, nothing says cheap travel than seeing your destination on foot, and best of all it’s totally free and will help excuse your appetite that ramps up a gear or two when you’re abroad. Travelling by bus once you get there is usually the cheapest transport option and look for any available travel cards to make getting around more cost effective.

Carpooling is a good idea if you’re using your destination as a travel base or gap year travel. Lonely planet have a great Travel Buddy System so you can find like minded travellers going in the same direction and share the cost.

6. Attractions

If you’re looking to spend more money on dining out rather than expensive museums and art galleries then check out what your destination has going for free. Quite a few cities have free walking tours which is a great way to the first day and get your bearings. If you’re looking to explore each and every attraction while on holiday then keep an eye out for discount cards that bundle the price of visiting multiple attractions. If travelling in a group, with children or anyone elderly there might be additional benefits on offer.

Looking to lock in your exchange rate1 before you travel and pick up your travel money once you arrive? Send money abroad with Western Union.


1Agent location count valid as of March 31, 2019


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