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The Solo Traveler Blog

30 Cheap Tricks for Solo Travel

Tenting is the cheapest of accommodation. I like it. Not everyone’s cuppa. See other options below.

Cheap travel without a cheap experience – that’s the goal.

When you travel solo, when you’re not sharing the cost of a room or you’re facing the single supplement, saving money is important. You need to get the most from your travel dollar. After all, a little low cost luxury is nice.

But cheap travel is a moving target. How to get a deal or just generally save on the cost of travel is changing all the time. Here are some of my best tips along with some resources and advice from other travelers and travel bloggers.

General

Travel at the right time – Travel on the shoulder or off season to get the best deals and miss the crowds. This is easier for solo travelers than for couples or groups.

Budget your trip – It’s important to know what you can afford to spend on your travels and set a budget. When doing so, plan to spend on what really matters to you and save on what doesn’t. Maybe accommodation isn’t that important to you but expensive restaurants or scuba diving are. Save one place to spend another.

Choose your destination to save – Certain destinations are definitely more expensive than others. You can save thousands and get the same satisfaction out of the trip. This year I went to India rather than Africa, mostly because it was cheaper and I knew that I would enjoy India just as much.

Transportation

First class is an option – Ok, it will cost you but there are times when first class travel can be cheaper than others. This article on BBC Travel gives you the scoop.

Get a preferred seat flying coach – You’ve seen it yourself, not all seats in coach are created equal. Yes, for the same price, one person gets a better deal than another. Seat Guru gives you the scoop on individual seats by airline and flight number. It rates the seats as “good”, “some drawbacks”, “poor”, “standard”… Very useful.

Be flexible with your dates – the difference from one day to the next can be a few hundred dollars. If possible, be flexible with your dates when booking flights.

Check and check again – Check the travel search engines to find the best deals on flights but, before you book, see what the price of your preferred flight combination is on the carrier’s website. You could save money.

Get a free Upgrade on Rental Cars – Book the cheapest car rental available and you have a better chance of an upgrade. Learn why and other tips in this article on Lifehacker.

I stayed at a beautiful retreat in Toronto for my Digital Detox in 2010. This saved lots in transportation costs.

Accommodation

Try a Vacation Rental -  The price of the vacation rental is usually less than a hotel – even for a short term stay. Kate from Trip Logic. says: “what is really helpful is that I can cook my own food which allows me to control the cost of eating and check out the local super markets while I’m at it.” Check out Wimdu, Airbnb, Roomorama and New York Habitat (which covers more than New York).

Stay in a university or college residence – If you are traveling during the summer, try to stay at university and college residences. They’re always clean, convenient and inexpensive. Breakfast is available and these residences are usually on a bus line. This tip is from Evelyn of Journeywoman. Here’s a link to university sleeps on her website.

Consider Package DealsGibson Goff says “Don’t automatically overlook package deals, from well known sources like AAA. Gibson says: “We signed up for a week’s worth of travel, at 2 locales. First, at an all inclusive Dude Ranch in New York (3 days), then a ‘Honeymoon’ couples weekend at the Tropicana in Atlantic City. Dinner, wine, shows, slot comps, a great luxury suite with hot tub! And all for the price of less than others we sat with at the Dude Ranch paid for 2 days with meals!”

Beat the single supplement – There are many ways of tackling this problem that solo travelers face on packaged vacations. Here’s a link to the post that explains them all. Avoiding the single supplement.

Couchsurfing is an excellent option – Many people dismiss couchsurfing swiftly. But our special couchsurfing advocate on Solo Traveler explains how to do it and how to use couchsurfing to connect locally.

Dinner at lunch – same great food, better price.

Eating In and Out

Experience the Top Chefs in Town – Restaurants typically have less expensive menus for lunch than dinner. However, your food comes from the same kitchen and is managed by the same executive chef. Take your main meal at noon and save.

Street food – You have to be careful with street food but if the stand is busy and the food is piping hot, it’s a great bet most places in the world.

Become a temporary vegetarian – The vegetarian dish on the menu is almost always the least expensive item on the menu. Travel as a vegetarian – even part-time – and save.

Eat from the local grocers - This is another tip by Gibson Goff. “Eating can take up a lot of your budget! Go to the deli counter and get meats and cheeses, then the dairy area, or cold drink area for liquid refreshments.” Do you have a pocket knife? You can cut up veggies to get what you need in that department as well.

Check Living Social / Groupon for your destination cities – If your trip is a few weeks away, subscribe to one of these discount deals services and then unsubscribe once your trip is completed. Prana of Travel Whimsy says, “we’ve had remarkable luck with excursions and food offerings that otherwise would have flown under our radar.

Check out Restaurant.com – Again, from Prana…“Restaurant.com frequently has discount codes (at any given time 50-80% off) so you can purchase a $25 voucher for about $2. After a 20% tip on the original purchase amount and taxes, a nice sit down dinner for two often comes out to be about $20 out the door.  Make sure to call ahead and confirm that the restaurants still accept the vouchers (restaurants tend to come and go but the listings on the website aren’t always the most accurate).

Carry your own water bottle – Peggy Coonley at Serendipity Traveler suggests that you carry your water bottle empty through security and refill on the other side. This saves purchasing pricey water at airports

Never ever ever purchase food from hotel mini bars – Again from Peggy… instead go out for a walk 
and find a local shop for munchies.

Pack an easy recipe and cook dinner at a hostel – Another tip for Journeywoman-  Tuna casserole is a cinch to make, the ingredients are inexpensive and the finished product can be shared with new travel friends. You’ll not only save money, you’ll be the star of the hostel.

Find free, local activities like the Vancouver Draw Down I went to in 2011.

 

Sites & Attractions

Free City Tours – Europe, check out Sandeman’s New Europe.  New York City, check out Big Apple Greeters.  San Francisco, check out San Francisco Walking Guides.  Google free tour and your destination to find more.

Free Days at Museums – Just about all public museums have times when entrance is free. Check it out for specific museums but you may also want to Google “free museums” and your destination to find other museum opportunities that you hadn’t thought of.

Communication

Mobile Phones – Sarah at Travel Bite says: “Switch to a local SIM card. This is the cheapest way to use a mobile phone abroad. All it requires is an unlocked phone or an old/rented phone (if you’d rather not take your fancy new iPhone). Simply buy a local pay-as-you-go SIM card or purchase a multi-country SIM card (depending on where your travels are taking you) and away you go!

Free Wifi – Counter-intuitively, wifi tends to be free at budget hotels and cost up to $10 a day at chain hotels. (They’ll figure it out eventually.) If you don’t want to stay at a budget hotel you can get free wifi at any Starbucks, most McDonad’s and independent coffee shops.

Skype and Facetime – Download these two apps for your phone and when you have free wifi, stay connected face-to-face with family and friends.

You can’t get a better deal than walking. This is the Lake District of England.

Travel Guides

Reduce the cost and the weight – Travel guides are heavy and expensive. Do you need the guide for an entire country or just for certain regions? Buy just what you need and get it in electronic format. You can carry it on your phone, tablet or computer and have instant access to the same information you would have in a heavy book.

25,000 concise and free travel guides – There are many free travel guides online. Toowist is one source your can check out.

Free travel apps for your smart phone – From subway navigation apps to translation apps, there are thousands of free phone apps that are great for travel. Here’s Stux Travel’s part one of their fun travel apps report. There’s a part two too!

Travel Stuff You Want to Know

Every month in the Solo Traveler newsletter, I share links to budget travel tips and cool travel info. That’s on the first Monday of the month. On the third Monday, I send out the Solo Travel Advisory with deals that come my way that are great for solo travelers. Sign up for the newsletter here:

 

Get the Solo Traveler Newsletter and the Solo Traveler Advisory… PLUS a free copy of “Travel Perspectives: 9 Travel Stories by 9 Travel Bloggers.

 

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  • Marie

    So having just recently traveled to Europe- and taking my water bottle I would love to know where in the airports you can get water for your water bottle. We tried the loos, but all the water is now preset to warm. Any suggestions for next time?

  • Cindy Van Vreede

    I was watching TV and one guy who travels a lot for work said to keep the weight off, he brings a little George Foreman grill in his luggage and makes a nice dinner for himself in his room. I haven’t tried that, but I certainly will in the future.

  • Cindy Van Vreede

    I ask if I can eat solo at the bar. So far, every place has said yes. I find it less obvious than sitting at a table. And the bar tenders tend to stop and chat often.

  • solo traveler with a group

    For a “solo traveler” post, you say “for 2″ or we several times. Resturants for example, your service is usalky worse when eating alone

  • minooshah

    We travel in rural areas of India often, and to save on time on searching for food, we carry some munchies, local fruits from the bazaar and ready to eat snacks, peanuts, dryfruits, The snacking is more punchy than a full blown meal, though saves money, time and effort in searching for a sit down lunch and can get to see a place or travel one more destination in that time. Thats a fabulous suggestion in your blog, thanks. minoo from India

  • Tron Thornhammer

    If you are considering a trip to Hawaii, Kauai is amazing right now! https://www.facebook.com/kauaivacationrentals

  • http://www.sedonahikechallenge.com/ Sedonachallenge

    Paying for Wi-Fi access is a traveler’s pet peeve, especially when stuck in an airport on an infinite layover.
    If all else fails, find the inevitable Starbucks. Many locations
    offer free Wi-Fi (and you can usually perch right outside the entrance
    and secure a connection).

  • http://thehikehouse.com/ TheHikeHouse

    Generalizing a lot, and assuming a lot of things about travel style in
    the following (small good quality dorm rooms (Oz/NZ) or decent quality
    guesthouses (SE Asia / South America), public transport, self-catering
    (OZ/NZ) or cheap eateries). More money is always better. Costs in USD.

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    This is a great addition. Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/KsenijaR Ideas for Business

    Gorgeous tips! I would only add one thing – if you really want to save up on accommodation, then couchsurfing is not the only option. Another great way to get a free of charge room or even entire flat is house sitting. I’ve tried it myself once and now I’m a big fan! :) Here’s one article on this topic: http://www.traveling365.com/2013/02/free-travel-tips-house-sitting/

  • http://www.courtyardranchobernardo.com/featured/top-attractions-near-our-hotel/ Rancho Bernardo CA Hotel

    NIce Post love it!
    I have also some tips which i want to tell to all:
    – Sign passport, and fill in the emergency information
    - Contact in an emergency
    - Familiarize yourself with local conditions and laws

  • Marco by jakpost.travel

    Thank you for a nice article! The hardest part for me is keep checking for the flight tickets, it’s really frustrating and tiring sometimes, but in the end it paid off.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sandy.melloy Sandy Melloy

    Thanks! And thanks for your blog. It inspires me to travel even more :-)

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    This is a great tip and puts me in mind of a new post to write. Thanks so much!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sandy.melloy Sandy Melloy

    Another money saving tip! If you have Yelp, Foursquare or Facebook apps on your smartphone many restaurants offer check-in specials such as a free beverage, appetizer or a discount on the bill. If you are in a neighborhood and you’re looking for a place to eat check these apps for local deals before deciding where to go.

  • Guillaume

    Really good post, really instructive. In the communication part, you can add special roaming SIM cards too .

  • http://www.viajardeaviao.com/ Viagens Baratas

    Great post. Excellent tips.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Travelo-Kumar/100002645041639 Travelo Kumar

    great post…
    thanks for sharing post…
    i like this……..

    http://www.mytravelo.com great portal

    praveen

  • http://www.acelimo.com/ san jose limo

    your all tips are very important and informative solo traveling is always great but still i am looking for complete and sensitive tricks can you also share them with us thanks 

  • Pingback: Green Travel Round-Up: Organic Easter & Travel with Siri

  • http://www.thunderbirdstore.com/ Chris Lutz

    Thanks for all the tips. We have a lot of tourists that visit Zions National Park that know how to get the most bang for their buck. In this economy there are very few that don’t need to be frugal. Thanks for the article!

  • http://www.thenomadicnepali.com/ Sunil himalaya Hiker

    I love travelling solo..And thanks for the tricks mentioned above.Right now I am back to university and for sure the information will be guidance for future travel.

About Janice Waugh and Tracey Nesbitt

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 8.52.44 PMI'm an author, blogger, speaker and traveler. I became a widow and empty-nester at about the same time. And then, I became Solo Traveler... Here's the full story. >>
Tracey NesbittI’m a writer, editor, food and wine fanatic, and traveler. On my very first trip abroad I learned that solo travel was for me. Here's the full story. >>

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