How to Save Money While Traveling Abroad

You’ve probably heard the adage about traveling: “Bring half of what you think you need, and twice as much money.” From food to accommodations to transportation and more, the price of traveling abroad is climbing higher than ever – and it isn’t showing signs of slowing down anytime soon. While you can’t lower exchange rates or make airlines reduce fees, there are a few solutions to make traveling abroad less expensive. Trust us, your bank account will thank you.

Planning Your Perfect Trip

Saving a little extra spending money should be your number one priority before taking a big trip. “I think in today’s economy, cost plays a very large factor,” says Michelle Murray, Director of Sales and Marketing for Contiki, a company that specializes in arranging tours and trips for 18- to 35-year olds. “We try our best to offer specials and great pricing to clients because, hands down, we love travel. It’s a life lesson. It’s worth scraping those pennies for the experience.”

When travel companies like Contiki book blocks of hotel rooms or arrange for transportation for large groups, you benefit from special bulk pricing. If you book a tour or trip with a bunch of friends (hello, summer after graduation!), Contiki even offers group discounts. And, the company makes traveling budget-friendly with its “Trips Under $1,200” category and Layaway program. If your birthday or graduation is approaching, suggest Contiki Layaway to friends and family and ask them to put money into your Contiki account. You can keep track of your savings online, and turn it into awesome memories abroad.

Knowing When To Travel

Murray recommends traveling during what’s known as the “shoulder season” – right before or after the peak summer season. Airfare will probably cost less, hotel vacancies are more common and there are fewer tourists. Plus, the weather is usually great during those months. Bonus!

Finding A Temporary Home

Websites like HostelBookers, Hostelworld,, and Flashbooking will compare prices, show past reviews and provide detailed descriptions so you can make the best decision when choosing a hostel or hotel. You may be surprised, but hostels are not always cheaper than hotels!

If you want a fun, easy, and inexpensive way to meet new people, check out CouchSurfing. When you create a profile online, you instantly join a network of people all over the world who are willing to open up their house to you for free when you’re traveling. “I CouchSurfed all over Ireland and Belgium and met some wonderful, fascinating people!” says Kayla Riley, a University of Maine recent graduate. Kayla recommends that, for safety reasons, you CouchSurf with a friend and thoroughly check a person’s profile before you stay with them.

Getting Around Town

Rely on bus, train or subway – three types of transportation that won’t empty your wallet. Learning the ropes of public transportation is one of the best ways to shed the “I’m not from around here” vibe and blend in with the locals. Ask about discounts for international students or young adults and make sure to buy the correct type of train ticket (local, express, etc.) to avoid extra fees. For the ultimate old-fashioned, money-saving trick, nix the taxi and take a walk. As your own tour guide, you may stumble upon some of the best-kept secrets of the city.

Exploring Museums

Whatever you do, take advantage of this deal. Whether you’re taking classes overseas or just someone under 26 years of age traveling abroad, purchase your International Student ID card as soon as possible. The discounts you receive with this card are unbelievable, and you can even earn free passes to visit monuments like the Colosseum in Rome.

Food and Drinks

Set aside a big chunk of money for food. If you do splurge every now and then on drinks or desserts (hello, irresistible gelato), don’t worry. Use these tips and you’ll be back on track with your budget in no time at all.

1. Find the local gems. Allison Lantero, a Boston College recent graduate, discovered the Italian aperitivo tradition while she traveled in Milan. From 6 to 9 p.m., certain bars offered a great deal: access to a huge buffet with the purchase of an 8-euro drink. Do your research of the area and talk to locals. Find hole-in-the-wall restaurants with dirt-cheap, incredible lunches; discover family-style restaurants that offer big portions for little cost. If restaurants have frequent buyer cards, grab them. You could score a few free meals later on.

2. Make your own gourmet dinner. Foodies (like Chantal Royer) like to shop at open-air markets for high-quality produce, meats, fruit and snacks. The food will likely be less expensive (and even more delicious) than what you would buy in the local supermarket. If you have access to a kitchen, turn on your “Top Chef” skills and whip up dinner for less than the cost of a restaurant meal.

3. Know the customs. Simply understanding cultural differences will help keep some change in your pocket when dining out. “Americans fall into the habit of leaving a tip, but it’s not customary [everywhere], so you can save a little there, too!” says Lauren Kaplan, an Emory University graduate who studied abroad in London.