We have no problem spending money when it benefits our travel experience in a meaningful way — hey, we look forward to our vacations, we deserve the hell out of them, and we’re happy to splurge a little for a better experience. But what we’re not about is blowing money for no reason when we should — and can — know better. Here are 11 things smart travelers do to save money without sacrificing anything on the road. (Bonus points for smug satisfaction!)
1. Think before you hop in a taxi.
It always seems easy to jump in that taxi line at the airport, especially if you’re unfamiliar with your arrival city and might be bleary and rushed. Taxis are often the easiest-to-find method of ground transportation… but can also be very expensive. Opting for rideshare options from Uber or Lyft will save you cash, which many travelers already know. But in some cities, the difference goes from marginal to massive: For example, a taxi from Newark airport in New Jersey to Manhattan in NYC requires the rider to pay round-trip tolls — and that can jack the price up to close to double a rideshare option.
2. Pre-pay for Wi-Fi.
If you buy Internet access on your flight, it might cost as much as $50 for a single session, depending on the length of your flight and where you are flying. However, it doesn’t have to! Gogo Air lets you buy day passes for Wi-Fi in advance that start at $19. Save even more cash if you fly often enough to buy monthly or yearly subscriptions.
3. Weigh options before you park at the hotel.
Sure, it’s easiest to park a car on the hotel property — and in some cities and situations, that’s the only viable option. But in many cases, you have tons of options to consider that can save you big without much effort: When possible, look for nearby offsite parking garages instead of leaving your car in a hotel garage. “Sometimes the savings can be as much as $20 or $30 a day by parking just a block or two away,” says Undercover Tourist C.E.O. Ian Ford.
4. Eat better at less-obvious places.
Anthony Bourdain will tell you that tourist traps are the worst when it comes to food quality — but they’re so unnecessarily expensive to boot. “Eat outside of major tourist areas. Even walking just a few blocks can save you a significant amount of money on meals,” says Ford. The beauty of travel is trying that great street cart or hidden hole in the wall. Do your research and you’ll save a ton of cash, but also have a great meal. (Bonus points, again, for smugness in new dining discoveries!)
5. Choose a hotel based on inclusions.
Sometimes the hotel with the cheapest nightly room rate is not actually the best deal. Whether a hotel offers free breakfast, evening wine and cheese, or water and coffee in the lobby, these are things you won’t have to pay for elsewhere. Those little costs here and there add up in a big way. Hotels that have concierge floors with lounge access are even better — with snacks and drinks available all day long.
6. Find cheaper gas.
Gas prices can range in a pretty big way — sometimes seemingly inexplicably from block to block — and that’s something to keep in mind if your trip involves a ton of driving. GasBuddy data finds prices in small area ranges may differ by $10 per tank. And in some extreme cases, drivers can spend an extra $25 when refueling the tank at one spot versus another. Super easy to do with a teeny bit of planning ahead.
7. BYO water bottle.
Yes, we’re talking about water again around here, because it really does add up — and throwaway bottles are environmentally reckless to boot. “A few years back, my cousin gave me a Swell bottle for Christmas. I started packing it empty in my laptop bag or personal item, then filling it up at the water fountain after I got through the TSA security checkpoint,” says travel journalist Kristin Luna. “Bottled water is so expensive in the airport — not to mention, all that plastic is awful for the environment — and carrying my own empty canister has really saved me a lot of money, particularly as I take anywhere from 40 to 60 flights a year. At [what can range to] $6 a pop, that’s at least $240 I’ve saved — and that’s assuming I only drink one bottle of water during a very long travel day with connections,” she says.
8. Don’t sleep on credit cards and loyalty programs.
Obviously the miles and points game is a lifestyle for some in the big leagues. But even novices can benefit: With airline credit cards, you’ll save in all sorts of ways, from priority boarding and seat options to better chances of upgrades (where you’ll eat and drink for free!) to checking bags for free. And many hotel loyalty programs offer perks like free Wi-Fi, late checkout, or a free drink at the bar. As they are free to join and have lots of benefits — these programs are an easy and effortless way to dip your toe into the game. So that’s a no brainer.