We asked 14 travel experts to share their No. 1 tip for saving money when they're on vacation

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  • Traveling can be an expensive endeavor if you don't approach it with a plan.
  • Being flexible with your travel dates, being open to where you stay, and even simple things like bringing food to the airport can all help save you money and stress.
  • We talked to 14 travel experts to get their takes on the best ways to save money on vacation.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

When you're on vacation or traveling, the last thing you want to worry about is your budget - and whether you're blowing it.

But if you don't think about it in advance, you could easily overspend when that money could have been put to better use.

Read more: How to create a travel budget and stick to it, according to someone who's been traveling abroad for over 2 years

"Budgeting, or saving just some of your money now, will pay dividends later," Will Hatton, founder of TheBrokeBackpacker.com and Hotel Jules, told Business Insider in an email. "The theory of saving a small amount each day - whether it's ordering a medium-sized meal, staying outside the city center, or taking the bus - can pay dividends in the long run."

He said some places, even within the same area, can be more expensive than others, so you need to skew your budget accordingly.

"For example, if you are going to spend two weeks in Thailand, then two weeks in Australia, your budget may be 50-50, (but) you should adjust it to 25-75, or else you will quickly run out of money in Australia," Hatton said. "Being front-heavy with your money may result in you missing out on experiences, trips, and adventures later."

We asked 14 travel experts to share their No. 1 tip for saving money when they're traveling. Their answers are helpful to anyone who needs help saving money on their vacations.

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Travel to places where your home currency takes you further.

Travel to places where your home currency takes you further.

"Throughout our years of travel, one thing is for sure — you can live like a king and feel more relaxed with a set budget if you travel to destinations where your home currency goes farther," Becca Siegel and Dan Gold, the couple behind @halfhalftravel, told Business Insider in an email. "Regardless of whether you want to go near or far, destinations like Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Mexico, along with Vietnam, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka, will give you a huge bang for your buck."

The couple said when they travel in destinations that have a lower average cost per day, they are able to stay in better accommodations, eat out more frequently, and opt for services like hiring a private driver for a large distance over land.

"These are things we wouldn't necessarily be able to budget for if we traveled in Northern Europe, Canada, or places like Japan, for example," Siegel and Gold said.

Tim Leffel, the author of "The World's Cheapest Destinations," also said to consider cheaper destinations.

"My obvious tip is to go where your money is worth a fortune instead of where it's worth a pittance," he told Business Insider. "You'll spend one-fourth of the budget of Norway if you go to Eastern Europe or the Balkans instead, and Guatemala is less than half the cost of neighboring Belize. Also, most of the countries in Southeast Asia are one-third the cost of Japan."

To find out about flight deals, sign up for travel newsletters and sales alerts in advance.

To find out about flight deals, sign up for travel newsletters and sales alerts in advance.

"If you're open to inspiration or being a bit random with your destinations and dates, signing up for newsletters that do the deal-finding for you on flights can be a great way to save money," Kristin Addis, CEO of BeMyTravelMuse.com, told Business Insider in an email. "Sometimes it works out perfectly for something you already have in mind, too."

She named Scott's Cheap Flight as one option, and said another service, Travel A Bunch, helped her get a great deal on a flight from LAX, her home airport, to Tahiti this year thanks to its newsletter that she only pays $24 per year to receive.

"You tell them which airport you want to find deals from, and they will email regularly with cheap flights from your home airport to anywhere in the world," she said.

Gennifer Rose, who runs the travel and lifestyle blog GenniferRose.com, also said to sign up for airlines' sales alerts.

"I get the best deals on flights during flash sales," she said. "The best rates go super quick, so when you receive the email, open and browse to your destination city at your earliest convenience. I once got an airline ticket from San Francisco to New York City for only $31 because JetBlue was running a Halloween promo."

Matt and Anna Kiefer, founders of Hostelgeeks.com and LesBoutiqueHotels.com, recommend signing up for alerts from many types of sites, including low-cost airlines, booking platforms, and flight comparison websites.

"These newsletters are free and really inspiring and useful," Matt Kiefer told Business Insider in an email. "For example, the European low-cost airline Ryanair only sends out special flight offers and no-nonsense promotional emails."

Be flexible with your travel dates.

Be flexible with your travel dates.

Helene Sula, who runs the blog HeleneInBetween.com with her husband, Michael, said a big way to save money when traveling is by being as flexible as possible with your travel dates.

"My husband and I will use Skyscanner to find cheap travel deals based on month," she told Business Insider in an email. "Going in the off-season, during the week, or when a deal pops up is a recipe for savings."

Kiefer said being flexible with your travel dates can also provide an unexpected perk to your vacation.

"Consider flying on a weekday," he said. "Aside from cheaper flights, there is another advantage: The cities are usually less crowded during the week."

Consider various housing options, from hotels to hostels.

Consider various housing options, from hotels to hostels.

Before booking a hotel, Addis said she checks on multiple platforms to make sure she's getting the best possible rate.

"Often by just punching the name into Google, it will compare all of the options for you," she said. "Just make sure that you're clear on the inclusions and exclusions, too, as sometimes the rates will include breakfast or resort fees and other times they won't."

Kiefer also said to be open to different forms of accommodation.

"You may think, 'I am a hotel type of traveler,'" he said. "Yet I would say stay open to other accommodation types. A hostel can be an incredible, fun, and luxury experience for half the price and twice the fun. Especially in countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and Portugal, you will find many high-end, 5-star hostels."

He said apartments and bed-and-breakfasts can also offer great deals, too, as long as you use booking portals and do some research.

If you have plenty of downtime on your trip, pet-sit or volunteer in exchange for housing.

If you have plenty of downtime on your trip, pet-sit or volunteer in exchange for housing.

Hatton said that one way to experience a city, and save money in the process, is by house-sitting or pet-sitting.

"The owners get peace of mind when they are away — and you get a free place to stay, perhaps even with a pool to enjoy and a dog to look after," Hatton said.

Christine Williams and Jules Hatfield, who run the travel blog DontForgetToMove.com, also recommend house-sitting as a way to save money while vacationing or traveling. Sites like TrustedHousesitters.com make it easy to find accommodations in exchange for house-sitting.

"Often, you will take care of animals while the homeowners travel, and accommodations range from city apartments to villas in the French countryside," Williams told Business Insider in an email.

Similarly, she said that volunteering abroad can be a great way to see the world on a budget, as well as to help the communities that you're visiting. Sometimes, you will have to pay room or board while working for an organization, but other times, it'll be covered.

"The reduced travel costs means you can stay on the road longer," Williams said. "Spending more time in a location also helps you get a deeper understanding and appreciation for a country because you have more time to learn about it. Of course, you have to do your due diligence in finding a project that is actually giving back in a meaningful and sustainable way."

Bring food to the airport.

Bring food to the airport.

Lisa Unverricht is a travel writer and runs the German language half of the dual-language travel website Penguin and Pia. To save money while vacationing, she said to bring food to the airport.

"We all know how expensive food can be when you get through security and are waiting at the gates," she told Business Insider in an email. "Even a simple baguette sandwich can be marked up huge. It really adds up."

Eat where the locals eat and travel how the locals travel.

Eat where the locals eat and travel how the locals travel.

Both domestically and internationally, Leffel said to eat where the locals eat.

"In other words, put away the smartphone and ignore the concierge. Ask working-class people who live there where to go out to eat," he said. "If you ask people with a vested interest or ones that deal with tourists all day in their job, they are going to go for the safe bets and the fancier places, not the hole-in-the-wall places where they would really go themselves on a budget."

This way, Leffel said, they'll probably point you to places that aren't full of other tourists — lesser-known restaurants or market stalls that might not even have a web page or Facebook account. He said this also means that the prices won't be inflated for out-of-towners, and the experience will probably be a more memorable one.

Williams and Hatfield abide by the "live like a local" mindset, too.

"We like to think we've perfected the art of stretching our travel funds as far as they can go," Williams said. "Our No. 1 tip to save money while traveling is to live like a local wherever you go. Eating at local hole-in-the-wall restaurants, shopping at local markets, taking local transportation, and staying with local families at a homestay will not only save you tons of money, but you'll also get a much more authentic experience."

She said some of the most memorable travel experiences she and Jules have had include eating 50-cent pad thai in the street in Chiang Mai, Thailand, or taking a $2 bus to the northernmost point of South America, crammed in with 10 locals, six chickens, two tortoises, and a baby goat.

"When you live like a local, it's all an adventure," she said.

Skip drinks and dessert when eating out.

Skip drinks and dessert when eating out.

Kiefer said another easy way to save money when traveling is by skipping drinks or dessert when you eat out.

"Having lunch or dinner at a restaurant to taste the local cuisine is part of the travel experience, and you can do this on a budget," he said. "Anna and I like to skip drinks and dessert, if possible, to keep the bill low. These little things really add up and can make a difference in your budget."

Shop at local grocery stores.

Shop at local grocery stores.

"My No. 1 travel tip to save money when traveling is to go to the grocery store," Sula said. "Of course, restaurants have amazing food, but grocery stores usually stock up on local produce, specialties from the region, and even ready-made dishes that are often three times cheaper than what you'll find in store."

Sula said she'll never forget her first trip to Paris, when she was a broke university graduate and was worried she wouldn't have enough money to experience the city.

"My husband and I ended up going to the grocery store and getting a baguette, French cheese, wine, and sliced prosciutto," she said. "We took it to the Eiffel Tower and watched it light up. It remains my favorite meal in Paris."

When traveling internationally, always use a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees and be cognizant of currency conversions.

When traveling internationally, always use a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees and be cognizant of currency conversions.

John E. DiScala, founder of JohnnyJet.com, told Business Insider to be mindful of the type of credit cards you use when traveling abroad.

"Always use a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees — otherwise, you will most likely be paying 3% (or more) on top of your purchases," he said in an email. "Also, some sales clerks — after they scan your credit card and see it's registered in another country — will ask you if you want to pay in your home currency or the local one. Your home currency, such as US dollars, would seem to be the more convenient option, and the sales clerks may make you think that, but in reality it's not."

He said paying in your home currency is a complete rip-off, since the stores that do so charge a higher exchange fee than your bank does back home.

"So always pay in the local currency," he said.

Kate McCulley, publisher of AdventurousKate.com, said the same about withdrawing money from ATMs.

"Be smart about currency conversion," she told Business Insider in an email. "Sometimes ATMs abroad will give you the choice between withdrawing in the local currency or your own currency: Always choose the local currency."

She said that when she recently withdrew 3000 Czech crowns from an ATM, it offered her the option of withdrawing $141 USD instead. However, at the time, 3000 Czech crowns was actually worth $127, not $141.

"Additionally, you don't need to get foreign currency ahead of time — you'll almost always get the best rate at the ATM when you arrive," McCulley said.

Bring more than one credit and debit card with you.

Bring more than one credit and debit card with you.

Stefanie Michaels, the founder of AdventureGirl.com, told Business Insider it's important to bring more than one credit or debit card along on your trip.

"Before you depart on your travels, always make sure to contact your credit card companies and banks," she said in an email. "With so much credit card fraud, financial institutions created built-in flagging to spot any unusual behaviors of their card holders. It's not uncommon for them to block an overseas transaction, which you may or may not have made, to keep your cards safe."

Michaels said that for this reason alone, don't rely on just one card — always bring multiple in case one should be frozen, lost, or hacked.

"Also, if you tend to hold a large balance in a bank account, plan out a few weeks ahead to move a percentage of your balance into a new account," she said. "Only take the new bank card associated with your new scaled-down account balance with you. This stops any potential fraudulent activities from accessing your whole bank balance."

Use an airline-specific credit card.

Use an airline-specific credit card.

Karen Edwards, who runs the blog TravelMadMum.com, told Business Insider you'll save money if you get an airline-specific credit card.

"For instance, my husband and I have the American Express British Airways card, which is amazing because it gets us a companion voucher once a year if you've spent a certain amount," she said in an email. "This really makes travel more accessible, especially for far-flung destinations that you ordinarily wouldn't be able to afford multiple tickets to."

Carry a water bottle instead of buying bottled water.

Carry a water bottle instead of buying bottled water.

Greg Caplan, CEO and cofounder of Remote Year, told Business Insider that one easy way to save money while traveling is to always carry a water bottle.

"Staying hydrated is so important, and people waste so much money buying water," he said. "With your refillable one, you can always be on the lookout where you can fill it for free."

He said if you can't fill it for free, you can always buy a bigger bottle which is cheaper than buying multiple small bottles.

"On top of that, you'll save the environment by using less plastic bottles," Caplan said.

Track your expenses before your trip and set a daily budget.

Track your expenses before your trip and set a daily budget.

Kiefer said that tracking your actual travel expenses at home, and while traveling before your next trip, will give you a much clearer idea of where your money goes. That way, you can make a realistic travel budget for your upcoming trip.

"It can be a complete eye-opener," he said. "Budgeting apps like Trail Wallet are easy to use, and at the end of the month, you'll have clear stats on your expenses. This will help you stick to your daily budget during your travels."

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