My Top Tips To Stay on a Budget While Traveling

It’s officially summer when I’ve had my first granizada, a lemon slushie synonymous with the sweltering season. Summer means freedom from work, from alarm clocks and from all of those ‘adult’ things for two blissful months. And, if I’m lucky and have applied for unemployment, a trip!

Saving Money in Europe

Many ask me for tips on staying on budget when traveling around Spain and further afield, which I’ve rounded up into seven quick travel tips:

Timing is Important

Even if you are visiting a swanky destination, you can stay on a budget if you time it right. You should visit your preferred destination after high season times if you want to save while you travel. Prices skyrocket in Spain in July and especially August, so if you can, travel outside of these periods, particularly if you’re headed to the coast.

Plan your meals

If you know that the restaurant around the corner is expensive and the food served isn’t really good, you should look for options and save money. For this, it is important to do some research and find some economical restaurants that taste great, too! Search blogs, Trip Advisor and newspapers for the skinny on where to chow down (or, check out my section on Food in Seville).

wine on the table in spain

Another alternative is to cook while on vacation. Spain is truly Europe’s fruit basket, and shopping locally and spending an evening in cooking with a glass of wine could mean more money for an experience or day trip.      


It is important to be specific with car rentals and look for car rental coverage. Take advantage of insurance and credit cards that have car rental coverage. Here in Europe, the size of the car even matters. Choose the smallest car possible because it will help you save money when refilling gas, and note that automatic cars are generally pricier.

If you are traveling around with kids, you might think of bringing the car cheap and adding it to your luggage. However, it is advisable to ask the car rental company about their rental prices for the same and compare them. Choose an alternative that is cheaper. Remember, if you are adding it to your luggage, you might have to bear the charges for extra luggage.


Rail, metros, and subway are often the best alternative because it is quite cheap, especially if you are traveling to Europe. However, it is better to choose a slower mode of transport if flying is too short. This gives you an advantage of sleeping while traveling, too.

Learning in India - Riding the Train

Even while moving around, it is better to avoid taxis and use public transport instead. For travel between cities, consider Bla Bla Car, a car sharing program in Western Europe that will automatically calculate your fuel charge.  


Watch out for the exchange rate and keep checking it regularly. Avoid exchanging dollars from such exchange centers, and instead exchange money at home to have cash at hand, or take from an ATM. Most big banks will have a partner in Europe from which you can withdraw at no charge. If they don’t, take larger amounts to cut down on silly charges.

The dollar is quite strong against the euro, so now really is the time to travel to Europe!

Mark the tourist spots

If you know where and when are you planning to travel, you will spend less time wandering around. This will help you save time and money on touristic sites, transportation and maybe even a pair of walking shoes!

bring a map on a trip

Always make the local tourism office you first stop for free maps and discount codes. Many museums in Spain have free days or afternoons that you can take advantage of, thus significantly reducing your spending.

Plan in advance

Air tickets and hotel bookings should be done in advance when possible. There are a number of sites that offer exclusive packages that can help you get the best prices on your bookings. Expedia is one of the best options available for you, and you can even use discount coupons for Expedia.

Note: If you are booking your tickets in advance, check your airline’s site regularly for updates or set up a price tracker.

madrid street signs

Budget travel is possible in Europe, even in the peak summer months. Your main ammunition is research, planning, and price comparison! Spend those American dollars here in Spain, please!

If you wish to contribute with a tip or two, please post them in the comments!

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. Agreed. In terms of food, I recently found the app Foodspotting which is great to finding food options nearby. Definitely use public transportation instead of taxis and try to avoid high season.
    Stef recently posted..Why travel increases your self confidenceMy Profile

  2. Here in Spain, I like to ask the locals where they like to eat. I also find that by going to the areas where locals shop for groceries and sundries, I can find cafes with good, inexpensive food. I have adapted to the Spanish tradition of a late lunch, and like to get a menu del dia which typically offers bread, beverage, two courses and dessert or coffee at a bargain rate, anywhere from 8 to 13 Euros. If I am a bit hungry later, I go to one of my favorite tapas bars where I can get a glass of wine and creative, delicious tapa for less than 2 Euros.
    Dawn Starr recently posted..FAMILY REEF ADVENTURES IN BELIZEMy Profile

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Menu del día is a gift to civilization! Where else can you get so much bang for your buck?

  3. Some good tips! We visited southern Spain in June a couple summers ago and it was much cheaper than going in July. Also because the Ryanair flights from Dublin to Sevilla sky rocketed in July. Far better value in June. So last minute travelers, plan now :-)
    Alex-Wanderlust Marriage recently posted..Pros and Cons of Guided Tours: Maximizing Your TravelsMy Profile

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Ugh, why does Seville think it can raise prices in July? NO ONE in their right mind should be there at that time!

  4. Hi, Cat! Still love your blog. Keep it up! Wonder: looking at your photo, when you travel what do you carry? I finally learned to travel only with a carry on, but you travel with a backpack!!
    Ple ase teach us.
    Planning a trip to Spain in Sept, but going to Santiago de Compostela where we lived as newly weds, while studying.( 56 yrs ago…). Thanks for the good memories your blog bring back.

  5. I usually travel with a carry on if I can manage. Longer trips and better airlines with baggage allowances mean I might carry a checked bag, but lots of layers, comfortable shoes and neutrals are my go-tos when I travel at weekends on on holidays.

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