25 Secrets From the World's Most Frugal Frequent Travelers


Everybody has their own travel style, along with preferred systems and tricks to make it easier, quicker, safer, and more enjoyable. But don't just ask me: I've asked the hardcore travel community to share their own travel secrets. Here are the 25 best secrets of these frequent travelers around the world. (See also: Things You're Paying Too Much for When You Travel)

Research and Booking

Here are some tips for booking cheaply and expediently, as well as taking the pain out of researching your travel arrangements.

1. Clear Your Cookies

Sofie Couwenbergh of Wonderful Wanderings is keen to the tricks of sneaky booking sites, who store cookies on your computer. "Booking websites 'remember' what you came looking for, so when you come back to look at that hotel room/rental car/flight a second time, they'll often show you higher prices to urge you to book quickly. That's why I always search booking sites in an incognito browser window."

2. Use Trip Advisor

Sofie also swears by Trip Advisor to get travel advice from locals. "They'll often be able to give you information you won't find in guide books."

3. Outsource the Legwork

Lea Woodward has lived and traveled around the world for years. If researching transport and accommodation is too time consuming, she says: outsource it! "The travel hackers over at Flightfox take the legwork out of finding the cheapest/best flight options and can save you masses of time, and I use Fancy Hands to do all my initial travel research." (If you're new to outsourcing, here is how Lea started: 20 Tasks Control Freaks Can Outsource)

4. Join the Cartel

The Travel Hacking Cartel, that is! Take the pain out of searching for frequent flyer mile deals by subscribing to a service that sends you timely alerts. (See also: Travel Hacking Cartel: Fly Around the World for Almost Free)

5. Look to Trover for Ideas

Dalene and Pete Heck of Hecktic Travels get their inspiration from Trover. "It has oodles of juicy photography and off-the-beaten-path "discoveries" that we would never have found otherwise. It's fun to also share our tips there too!"

6. Check Out Skyscanner for Options

Dalene and Pete also like to know all their options with Skyscanner. "We just plug in our current location with "Anywhere" as our destination and see what comes up! Sometimes, it decides our next trip for us based on the cheapest flight."

7. Bid on Hotels

Matthew Bailey of Live Limitless knows that sometimes, you just need some hotel luxury. "When visiting major cities and feeling the need to splurge, Priceline has always worked for half price 4-star hotels. Just use the "Name Your Own Price" function, bid low, and have fun waiting to see what hotel you won!"

8. Track Airfare

Use tools like Yapta and Fare Compare to track the price of your airfare and snap it up at the right time. You might even be eligible for a refund if the price drops after you buy. (See also: How to Get the Lowest Price on Airfare Even After You Buy)

9. Strike While the Iron is Hot

Cailin O'Neil of Travel Yourself says don't ponder that deal for too long. "When you find a too good to be true deal book it right away. It probably won't get cheaper, and the cheap price probably won't last long."

Saving Money on Tours and Accommodation

Once you arrive, there's still money to be spent. Here are some ways to stem the flow.

1o. Free Local Guides

Janice Waugh of Solo Traveler uses the Global Greeter Network to find free local guides. "In Paris I enjoyed a three hour tour with a local and then, to my surprise, was invited to her home for lunch.

11. House Sitting

Dalene and Pete Heck use house sitting as a mainstay for their full-time travel lifestyle. "Not only have we saved thousands upon thousands of dollars by living rent-free, we also get to have a completely different and unique experience wherever we are visiting." (See also: 10 Tips for Landing the Perfect House-Sitting Gig)

Packing Secrets

Packing is a hot topic in the travel community! When you live out of your luggage, you need to have a system. (See also: 15 Packing Secrets from a Professional Traveler)

12. Choose Synthetic

Matt Gibson swears by synthetics. "Pack clothing made of synthetic materials. They tend to pack smaller, wrinkle less, dry faster, and repel stains better than cotton."

13. Go Carry-On

The weight of your luggage is directly proportionate to misery while you travel. Traveling with carry-on luggage only is liberating, and don't tell me it isn't possible: I now travel full-time with carry-on only. (See also: Make Flying Easy: The Ultimate Carry-On Packing List)

14. Packing Cubes

Alexandra Jimenez of Travel Fashion Girl also roams the world full time with carry-on luggage only, attributing her success to packing cubes (as do many of the travelers interviewed here). "They help compress my clothing, maximize minimal space, and organize my bag."

15. Roll It Up

Cailin O'Neil also travels with carry-on only. Her secret: rolling. "Roll everything up to save space, and also, take only half of what you think you need."

16. Stuff Shoes

Sofie Couwenbergh (like many frequent travelers interviewed here) stuffs her shoes with socks. "It'll save you some space and your shoes won't lose their shape when they're stuffed into your bag."

17. Reusable Packing List

Worried you're missing something? Sofie doesn't; "Create a list with all the things you need to pack for every trip (toothbrush, medicine, money) and save it on your computer. You can just print it out or go over it for every trip. You'll never forget something again."

18. Bring a Head Lamp

Matthew Bailey swears by his head lamp. "I can't count the amount of times it has come in handy, both in the wild outdoors and inside."

19. Coordinate Everything

This is especially important if you're traveling with carry-on only. Everything must match! Choose two to three complimentary colours (including shoes); you'll have significantly more outfit combinations, ability to layer in varying temperatures, and you'll always look like a star.

Tricks While You're on the Move

Although we all love travel, few of us like the actual traveling part of it, which can be fraught with delays and annoyances. Here's how frequent travelers navigate them.

20. Be Ready for Security Checks

Cailin O'Neil is always ready to clear security quickly. "Have your liquids easily reachable if not already in your hand. Have your boarding card and ID in your hand, and have your laptop out as well." She also suggests easily removable shoes and skipping the belt. (See also: How to Get Through the Airport Faster)

21. Call the Hotel to Reserve

Unless the hotel offers a screaming deal online, frequent travelers know to call to make a booking, and that rates are negotiable. Even if you're standing around the corner at the last-minute, you'll get a better deal if you phone rather than walk in. (See also: 20 Secrets of Last-Minute Travel)

22. Be Smartphone Savvy

Most of the frequent travelers interviewed here extolled the virtues of their smartphone, wondering how they survived before. Jeannie Mark of Nomadic Chick says she can't live without hers. "I use it for emailing, social media, communication (texting, calling), typing notes, directions, an alarm, a clock, recording voice notes, translator — everything short of using it for eating. I love my laptop, but my phone is the bomb."

Staying Safe and Healthy

Travel is hard on the body, and taxing on the brain. Here are some secrets to hedge against theft, illness, and travel fatigue.

23. USB Stick Trick

This is my (not quite patented) travel safety secret; I store an encrypted database on a USB stick containing all my passwords, pictures of my ID, phone numbers to call in case of loss or theft of bank/credit cards, my insurance policy, and more. I keep the USB stick, along with a small amount of cash and an extra credit card, stashed in a little pocket worn underneath my clothing. That way if I'm robbed of absolutely everything, I can still get to my consulate and have recourse. (See also: Total Travel Protection With the USB Stick Trick)

24. Fend Off "Delhi Belly" With Probiotics

You want to enjoy the local cuisine, but it may come at a cost. Lea Woodward always takes probiotics when she travels. "80% of your immune system is in your gut, so keeping your digestive system healthy is a great way to keep your immune system strong." (See her other tips: How to Stay Healthy When You Travel)

25. Go Slow

Like me, Dalene and Pete Heck are fans of slow travel. "Trying to race around the world to knock sights off a bucket-list is draining, expensive, and doesn't let you really experience a country. Slow travel is so much more rewarding!" (See also: For Amazing, Affordable Vacations, Travel Slowly)

What's your travel secret? Spill it in comments!

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Guest's picture

Such a great collection of tips! Not that I'm not biased:p

Guest's picture

Some good tips here! Mine is to take a multiplug from home. Means you only need one plug and one adaptor to charge several devices at once, invaluable in coffee shops, hostels and airports the world over!

Guest's picture

Love these and plan to read up on the links included. I'm pretty good but still have much to learn--for example the usb stick trick...brilliant! An addition that I have learned from too much searching for power for the all-important mobile: carry a power charger!

Guest's picture

Thanks for sharing such great ideas and common sense info.

That number one about clearing the cache/cookies on your computer was new to me. Reminded me that we all should be doing that frequently anyway. It's a good way to keep your computer clean from viruses, etc.

Guest's picture

Hey Carolyn,

Glad you liked my tip!
And your right: cleaning up your cache is good for a lot more things than just booking flights and hotels.

Guest's picture

Great tips, especially Sophie's trick of clearing your cookies. My travel secret is granola bars: I take a few along on every trip. They' re worth their weight in gold when that moment comes when there's no food nearby, or no food you can afford or stomach. I've eaten them in the bush and at five-star hotels when the coffee shop was closed. One thought on carry-ons: they're handy, but if you have a long layover, you're wandering the airport with all your luggage, as I found in my latest post.

Guest's picture

Hey Paul,

Love the granola bar tip!
I actually always bring food with me when I travel. If I allow myself to get really hungry I get headaches and only think about getting food. I've never considered granola bars, though. I usually take dry cookies or waffles, but granola bars are so much better.
Noted for my next trip:)

Guest's picture

I traveled to Hawaii for a week and stayed in a basement apartment for less than $800, which included the plane ticket, food, and a car. I found a place that only allowed women (I was traveling alone). They even let me use their car for free. And the apartment had a kitchen, so I cooked all of my food. They were also a great resource when it came to what to do on the island. I think I found them through an online forum.

I've had friends who found a cheap place to stay at a convent. Again, it was women only.

Guest's picture
McCool Travel

No Couchsurfing? WTH.