How to Save Money on Long-Term Travel

Yesterday I shared some of the details of our extended European adventure. We will largely be funding the trip through savings, and we’ll try to balance being smart with our money with the desire to fully immerse ourselves in European culture.

Typically we travel for a week or 10 days at a time. This is really the most time I can spend away from the office. Also, I find that since I like to be very active on my vacations (i.e. morning to night go go go!), I’m usually completely exhausted and ready to head home after 10 days.  This trip is quite the anomaly for me. Because travelling for 8 weeks is so different from my normal mode of travel, I didn’t initially realize all of the money-saving options that would be available to us. Here, I’ll share some ways that we are reducing the overall cost of our trip.

Rent out your home

When we travel for a week, our home usually sits unused for that time. We’re still paying all of the regular expenses to keep our home running (maybe utilities are lower), even though we’re not actually living there. For a short period of time, this probably is what it is, and there likely isn’t much to be done about it. However, for an extended trip, we realized that we could rent out our home and earn some revenue from it.

We rented our apartment in Paris on Airbnb, so we thought why not try to rent out our condo on Airbnb or Craigslist. We benefitted from the high student population in Cambridge and were easily able to find tenants to rent to. The income that we will generate from renting our apartment will more than cover the cost of housing in Paris, therefore allowing us to live in Paris for the same amount of money we pay every month to live in Cambridge.

If you’re thinking of doing this, just make sure you check your lease for any subletting provisions and follow local laws about Airbnb rentals. Many leases do not allow subletting (fortunately we live in a condo that does not have such provisions) and some cities require that Airbnb rentals pay hospitality taxes.

Interestingly, in our location there was demand not only for long-term rentals but also for shorter, 2 to 5 day rentals. I probably wouldn’t bother to rent out our condo for a shorter vacation, but it is good to know that we probably could if we wanted to earn a little extra money.

Save on flights by staying in a central hub

Another way we’re saving by taking a longer trip is on flights. The cost to fly to and from Paris is the same if you’re staying for 1 week or 8 (unless you do what we did and buy one set of tickets first and then try to change them – change fees are the WORST!).

We’re also going to benefit greatly from having a centrally located jumping off point from which to explore Europe. We’ll be visiting Lisbon, Venice, Budapest, Vienna, and a number of other cities. Typically we would visit maybe two cities over an 8 or 10 day period, at the cost of a $1,000+ plane ticket for each trip. Since we’ll be flying to these places from Paris, we only need relatively inexpensive intra-continental flights. The three excursions we have planned will together probably cost us less than $600 per person in flights. Consider how that compares to three $1,000+ flights from the US to Europe and you see some big savings.

Please note that I realize that this logic is a little funny. It’s not as though we would be taking three separate trips to Europe this year if we were not taking this extended trip. So the flight savings is a savings against future theoretical trips to see these places, not against actual expenses we would otherwise incur.

Use credit card rewards

Credit card rewards are an easy and obvious way to save money on travel. So how does using credit card rewards differ for an extended trip? By taking an extended trip, we are spending substantially more money than we usually do. Many of these additional expenses can be paid on a credit card. The silver lining of these extra expenses is that we were able to take advantage of a very favorable credit card offer and are therefore going to earn substantial rewards points. We were able to meet the spending minimum on this new card simply by putting the Paris apartment rental on it. Our usual credit card spending wouldn’t get us anywhere close to this minimum spending amount.

So what are we going to do this these credit card rewards? My hope is that we’ll be able to book most of our flights within Europe with these points. I’ll keep you posted on how that works out!

How do you save money when you travel?


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2 thoughts on “How to Save Money on Long-Term Travel

  1. This is something I would love to do in retirement. We’ve used points to pay for the airfare on our last six trips or so. And like you say, airfare is a huge cost in travel. Once you’ve eliminated that, a trip becomes much cheaper. Then it becomes a matter of finding cheap accommodations, which has gotten really easy in recent years. I’ve crunched the numbers, and it looks pretty do-able to stay a month here, a month there, wherever you want most of the year without spending much than you would staying at home.

    My sister-in-law and her husband have been living in Switzerland for two years. I’m jealous of all the cheap European travel they’ve done. But I’ve been to four countries over there in the last 12 months so I shouldn’t complain! I love Venice, but Vienna might be my favorite European city. Three days there wasn’t nearly enough.

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    • Yes, inexpensive accommodation seems to be easy to come across and cheap flights around Europe are abundant! The trick is being able to take off enough time to take advantage of savings on long-term travel. Traveling in retirement is a great option!

      I’d love to hear any tips you may have for Vienna!

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