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article-travel-hacksIf you watch travel shows like The Amazing Race or scroll through your friends’ vacation shots on social media, you’ve probably said something like “where is that??” or “take me there!”

With social-media sharing at an all-time high, it’s normal to feel a sense of wanderlust and want to collect a few more stamps for your passport. But of course, those trips of a lifetime don’t come cheap — so we’re sharing our best money-saving travel tips to help you make your dream trip a reality (and put that FOMO to rest).

Here are a few hacks to help you travel on a budget:

Book the right flight with the right card

Once you’ve set your sights on your next destination (Bali, anyone?), it’s time to book that flight. There are plenty of deals to be had, and we want to help you get ’em all.

Book the right flight

  • Use a private browser or clear your history when comparing flight prices (this way, an airline won’t know if you’ve searched for the same flight before).
  • Book on the best day to buy a plane ticket, which is generally Tuesday (plus, get more tips on when to book).
  • Choose the cheapest days to fly which tend to be Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
  • If you have travel points or rewards, use ’em up!

Book with the right card

  • Book your flight with a credit card that offers you a benefit, whether it’s by collecting travel rewards, earning cash back or enjoying a low interest rate .
  • Consider a card that goes the extra mile by offering travel insurance and out-of-country medical coverage.
  • If you like a little luxury, look into travel credit cards that give you priority access to airport lounges around the world.
  • Be responsible with your credit card

Tip: Not sure which one to choose? Consider a travel rewards credit card like BMO Harris Bank Premium Rewards MasterCard®, which gives you points and has no foreign transaction fee. You can redeem your points (which never expire, thank you very much!) for vacations. Or, consider a cash back credit card, like the BMO Harris Bank Cash Back MasterCard®.1

Save on transit — and stay fit in the process

When you’re in vacation-mode, it’s easy to hail a taxi or order an Uber. But as long as you’re in a safe neighborhood, the best way to see a new place is on foot or by public transportation.

Benefits of travelling by foot and public transit

  • Keep more of your hard-earned money, plus get a mini workout.
  • Feel like a local by mastering the art of navigating your new city.
  • Give yourself the chance to stumble upon a new neighborhood or café.
  • Pause to take as many photos of you like, while taking in the new sights and sounds.
  • Meet fellow travelers via public transit, and potentially get tips for other must-visit destinations along the way.

Actively research activities before your trip to save

You can indulge in an organized excursion or two, but there are so many ways to save money while seeing something new. So before you even think about setting foot on a plane, you should look into free activities.

Budget-friendly activities and adventures

  • Ask friends who’ve traveled before you for their best tips (you can pose the question to everyone you know on Twitter and Facebook, too).
  • Check schedules for museums and galleries — many offer free admission at certain times.
  • See if there are any discounts available for bundling several attractions (it’s a good idea to start with the local tourism office!).
  • Research local travel sites and magazines, which may include listings of upcoming events, such as free concerts in the park or free walking tours.
  • Find the best hikes and local beaches (both free and fabulous!).
  • Take a stroll of your new neighborhood to get the lay of the land — and figure out what interests you the most.

Think outside the hotel room

Plush bathrobes can make hotels a desirable place to crash, but is it worth the extra cost? As a savvy traveler, you’ll likely be exploring most of the day and just need a place to rest your head. Consider skipping the hotel and getting a little creative.

Budget-friendly (and social!) alternatives

  • Hostels: You’ll meet plenty of other travelers, and you can often choose between shared accommodations and a private room. If you want to stay for free, contact the hostel about work-trade opportunities.
  • House-sitting: Why not take care of someone’s house while they’re away, in exchange for free accommodations? Check out local opportunities at
  • Couch-surfing: Meet locals and crash on their couches using The best part? You’ll have your own tour guide and potentially a lifelong friend.
  • WWOOF: Consider volunteering through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Learn some new skills, meet locals and stay for free in exchange for a bit of work.
  • AirBnB: Live like a local and rent an apartment. To save a little more, stay away from the city center and choose a more residential neighborhood. You’ll avoid the tourist traps and save some money.
  • Stay with friends and family: Let your friends and family know about your travel plans — you may have a cousin or friend of a friend that has a spare room with your name on it.

Eat and drink it up — on a dime

Long, leisurely sit-down lunches are lovely, but they’ll also cut into your time to explore the city (and they’ll cut into your budget, too).

Tips for saving on food and drink:

  • Become a regular at the farmers market or local bakery, and pick up provisions for a picnic (and look for your local wine shop, too)
  • If you have your own kitchenette, cook a few of your meals for a fraction of what it would cost at a restaurant
  • Bring a refillable water bottle so you can hydrate for $0
  • Never eat in a major tourist area (don’t be afraid to walk a couple of extra blocks!)
  • If you do eat at a restaurant, brush up on the local tipping policy — the service charge may be included or unexpected.

Warning: Be careful when you read menus and make sure you understand pricing. For example, a fish entree may be by the pound, but you may not realize that if it’s written in another language. Translation apps are your friend!

Get your money in order

Here are some steps you can take to protect your hard-earned dollars.

  • While travelling abroad, only carry the amount of cash you need that day.
  • Review the local exchange rate before your big trip. You’ll want to be able to quickly do the math and realize if something’s a great deal — or not so cheap after all.
  • If you have a non-chip card, give your credit card company the heads up about your international adventures.

Tip: Before your trip, get an international phone plan and connect to WiFi while traveling to avoid any roaming fees.

Follow these money-saving travel tips and make the most of your time away! Now, you just have to figure out… where to?

Need help building your travel budget? We’re sharing 7 ways to save for your next vacation.

1For more information about the entire suite of BMO Harris Bank credit cards, visit our website and select the credit card tab.

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