T-Mobile cell phone plan
I’m starting with this one because I don’t think most people are aware of this deal or think it’s too good to be true. You can get a T-Mobile simple choice SIM card contract-free that will give you unlimited data + texting and $.20 a minute internationals calls in almost every country for $50 a month ($80 for two lines). This has allowed us to stay connected while traveling and more importantly feel safe and not lost. Being able to look up transit directions or translate a word has been invaluable. The speed of connection depends on the country but expect 2G-3G which has been fine when we’re away from wifi.
But what about local SIM cards? If you are staying in a single country for an extended period then this might make sense. We haven’t stayed in a single country for more than 2 weeks so it’s not worth the hassle. It’s also really nice to have a consistent phone number that someone can reach you on in an emergency.
No fee debit card
Carrying a lot of cash is never a good idea so a debit card that doesn’t charge any international ATM fees is a must. Saving $3-$7+ every time you withdraw money really adds up. We went with a Charles Schwab checking account and have been happy so far. A nice thing about Charles Schwab is they offer really good online chat help which saves you having to sit on a phone.
Choose a rewards program and stick to it
Pick an airline and hotel brand and join their rewards program. Try to stick to them whenever possible and look out for special deals or offers. For example, recently American Airlines sent out an email where you enter their contest and you automatically get 250 points. The best way to get a lot of points fast is a…
Travel-friendly credit card
A not-so-secret way to save money is to get a credit card that offers good travel rewards. We have American Airways, Marriott and Chase Saphire cards. We were able to book our first flights from the USA to Tokyo solely on the signup bonus. Obviously you need to be smart about it and it and pay off the balance immediately to make the rewards worth it.
Another benefit of travel-friendly credit cards is they often include travel insurance and purchase protection. We have only had to use it once (missed flights because of a greek ferry strike) and it’s as painless as insurance can be.
*when public transportation doesn’t exist
Wait, use uber over taxis!? Yes! Depending on your location and the honesty of local taxi drivers you can save a lot and know that you aren’t being ripped off. Meters always seem to be broken, they want to “give you a tour”, drivers don’t have change, there’s some random surcharge, or that price is “per person”. Being able to pay automatically with a card, input your destination ahead of time, and know that the fare is true (assuming there isn’t surge pricing!) makes Uber totally worth it.
This Platypus water bottle paid for itself within the first week. Fill it up at the airport, before heading out for the day, or bring it out to lunch. Since it’s collapsible it’s easy to carry when empty and keeps plastic bottles from heading to the landfill.
For beer or wine head to the local grocery store or convenience store instead of to the local bar. You can usually get a bottle of anything for less than a single glass in a restaurant; head to the local park, beach, or balcony and enjoy.
Book places that include breakfast
When comparing accommodations, be sure to weigh the cost of an included breakfast. In some areas it’s much more common and can be well worth a couple extra dollars. We were surprised by the breakfasts we received at most of our New Zealand AirBnbs when compared with the cost and quality of cafe options. Many hotels that include breakfast come with a full buffet. Eating a big breakfast helps us save money because we often eat a smaller lunch of snack and then wait for dinner.
Every city is going to offer some sort of tour and many tourist attractions have many guides available. Research the necessity and quality of these before booking; will these tours change your understanding and enjoyment or can you do it yourself? We are almost always the DIY type and enjoy going at our own pace but sprung for a guide for two days in Angkor Wat because of how vast it is and there is so much hidden history. If you’re especially interested in a site or a niche subject it can definitely be worth it, check out Viator to find and book tours.