7 money-saving travel tips to beat the cost of living on holidays

A group of 4 friends jump off a boat into cool, aqua water.

Most Australians say they will prioritise travel this year, despite inflation and rising interest rates affecting the cost of living

So, with almost everything becoming more expensive, keeping the cost of holidays down (without limiting the experience of travel) is key to scratching that travel itch for many. 

According to a survey from BNPL company, Zip, four in five (83%) Australians say 2023 is their year to travel. But in order to keep costs down, 42% say they plan to book domestic trips. 

Data from Zip reports the average Australian is forecasted to spend $3,145 on holidays in 2023, which is more than double the average Australian weekly paycheck ($1,377). 

This estimated figure suggests Australians will spend less on holidays than in previous years, with average holiday spending in 2020 at $4,750. 

While people are expected to reduce their holiday expenditure significantly this year, that doesn’t necessarily mean the quality of your trip has to go down too. 

From seeking out free events to getting travel insurance, there are plenty of ways to enjoy your holiday without breaking the bank.

1. Book your flights and accommodation as early as you can

An airplane passenger looks through the window during a flight at sunset

Starting with the part most people organise first, flights and accommodation are usually the most expensive parts of any holiday. Fortunately, the early bird gets a good price on worms when they book well in advance. 

Hosts on accommodation sites, like booking.com and Airbnb for example, often offer early birds discounted rates as an incentive to lock in their stay ahead of time. 

In a similar vein, airline tickets often get more expensive for last-minute bookers. So, ensuring you book a few weeks in advance for flights, along with using sites like Google Flights and Skyscanner to get price alerts, is a good way to help you save money on your holiday. 

RELATED: Planes, trains or automobiles: the cheapest way to get around Europe in 2023

2. Swap out your overseas trip for a roam in your own backyard

A hiker and her dog stop to take in a breathtaking view on a waterfall in Cairns. In the distance is a tall, green mountain that pokes at the fluffy clouds floating across big, blue sky.

The distance from Sydney to Perth is almost 800km longer than the distance of London to Moscow. So, when you think about it, travelling between Australian states (especially from East to West) is sort of like visiting another country… 

In any case, this country is huge, making it prime for exploration and discovery – even if you’re a local.  

Domestic flights typically don’t cost as much as international flights, with budget airlines taking the cake for some of the cheaper ticket options. 

Plus, with the wealth of natural beauty on offer in Australia, there are plenty of free things to do out and about, like walking in a national park or going for a swim at one of Australia’s (numerous) primo beaches. 

That brings us to our next tip:

3. Find free things to do

A tour guide shows a couple Big Ben on the banks of the river

It seems obvious, but finding free (or discounted) experiences is one of the best ways to enjoy your holiday without spending too much. 

Some examples of free activities and events could be: 

  • Museums and art galleries 
  • Bushwalks or hikes 
  • Street festivals 
  • Walking tours 
  • Sightsee 
  • Window-shop at a local market 
  • People watching. 

Side note: free walking tours are a great way to meet other travellers. 

Of course, there will always be things you want to do that end up costing money. But, offsetting the days when you spend by taking advantage of free things every so often can still help you make the most of your trip and stretch your budget. 

To find free events in the places you’re visiting, use sites and apps like: 

  • Your destination’s official websites  
  • TimeOut
  • Resident Advisor 
  • Fever up 
  • TripAdvisor 
  • Eventbrite 
  • Facebook Events
  • A city’s Reddit page. 

4. Book accommodation in the ‘burbs

A patio with two chairs pointed towards a seaside vista

This tip works best in cities with dependable public transport. 

Booking your accommodation in the heart of the city you’re travelling to will usually end up costing you more than if you book one a short commute away. 

Of course, you won’t be in the thick of a city (which has its pros and cons). So, you’ll need to decide if you’d rather save some cash by staying on the peripheries, or would prefer to be amongst it at all times. 

5. Consider budget accommodation, like hostels

A few young travellers hop into their hostel bunk beds

Hostels typically have a pretty dirty stigma, evoking imagery of sun-drunk Poms, bedbugs, and the room light turning on at two in the morning.  

But if you’re looking to cut down on the cost of finding a bed, hostels can be a significantly cheaper option than hotels and Airbnbs – with the caveat of a little less privacy. You can, of course, book a private room for you and your mates, but that does tend to raise the price a little. 

They typically attract a younger crowd and can double as a place to meet fellow travellers.

Some hostels even offer guests a range of discounts on events and experiences, and even help facilitate social activities. 

6. If you’re travelling around, look for a rail pass

Tokyo metro subway and Yamanote line commuter train running through the city

Rail passes are a vital way to save money on transportation around a city, country, or continent. 

Rather than purchasing a series of individual tickets, a rail pass can be used across multiple days for a set period of time and a set fee. 

Rail passes in various countries and regions include: 

  • USA Railpass (United States) 
  • California Railpass (California) 
  • Canrailpass (Canada) 
  • Corridorpass (Quebec City to Windsor corridor)
  • Japan Rail Pass (Japan)
  • Indrail Pass (India)
  • Eurail Pass (Europe)
  • Discovery Pass (NSW to Brisbane and Melbourne) 
  • Queensland Explorer Pass (Queensland)
  • Queensland Coastal Pass (Brisbane to Cairns). 

7. Find a travel insurance policy that fits your needs and budget

A woman packer her suitcase and makes a note of what she needs on a notepad

While flights and accommodation are some of the heftier expenses of going on holidays, the effects of having to cancel your trip due to medical reasons, losing all your luggage, or spending a few days in an overseas hospital can also cost you money.

So make sure you compare travel insurance before you go, as it might be able to help you out financially if you find yourself in a pickle on holiday.

If you’ve never packed a policy before, make sure you do some research on what travel insurance covers to decide between medical-only coverage, comprehensive travel insurance, or something in-between. 

We’ve done a bit of the legwork for you, when it comes to choosing between the best travel insurance in Australia, in the 2023 Mozo Experts Choice Travel Insurance Awards. Or, you can check out a few of the featured policies below.

Travel insurance comparisons on Mozo - last updated 23 June 2024

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