11 Smart Ways to Save Money When You Travel to a New City

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hand reaching out over city skyline

Getting away is so much fun (until the costs start adding up). Regardless where your travels take you, read on for these smart and easy ways to save money on activities, restaurants, transportation, and more, so you can enjoy your trip without limiting your experience!

1. Check Groupon and/or LivingSocial for your destination.

waterslide racer at waterpark

You probably already use sites like Groupon and LivingSocial to find deals on restaurants, activities, and entertainment in your own area, so why not do it elsewhere, too! Scope out highly-rated spots and attractions without paying full price!

2. Buy an Entertainment Book.

save money travel new city — buy an entertainment book

Each Entertainment Book comes filled with in-store coupons, online coupons, and mobile coupons featuring local restaurants, coffee shops, entertainment and retail spots, grocery stores, and lots more! This book can easily pay for itself with just one use!

3. Read up on local subreddits.

hand writing notes on a slip of paper

If you’re not familiar with the popular forum website Reddit, it’s a massive compilation of smaller forums on just about every topic imaginable. You can search for specific city subreddits to get recommendations for local hot spots and frugal ways to get around town from actual locals! Comment on the discussion and share your experiences to help out other travelers in their search, too.

4. Scroll through Pinterest for ideas.

 scrolling through pinterest for vacation ideas

Whether you’re looking for packing tips, travel must-haves, or hidden gems in popular cities, Pinterest is bound to have just what you’re looking for! Head over to the Travel section on the site and start scrolling, or type in search specifics to narrow your results.

5. Check out CityPASS for discounts.

a city skyline from an observation deck

CityPASS is great if you’re headed to a bigger city with lots of tourist attractions. These awesome discount booklets include tickets to the best museums, zoos, and more — all for up to 50% off what you’d pay at the ticket booth! You can even plan out what you’d like to do during your stay by using their packages as an itinerary.

6. Scope out the Kids Eat Free Days at local restaurants.

child eating pancakes

Yay for free food! There are loads of restaurants offering free (or cheap) kids meals, so you can grab a bite to eat without breaking the bank. Chains (rather than local establishments) tend to feature these offers, but call the restaurant ahead of time to verify details. These promotions may vary greatly by region and/or franchise.

7. Avoid restaurants near tourist sites.

man checking his camera as he walks along the street

The great thing about restaurants in tourist locations is the convenience they offer given their proximity to big attractions. The bad thing is that the convenience comes at a cost. The menu prices tend to be a bit higher (even at chain restaurants) so they can cover their own extra expenses due to their location. Look for places off the beaten path, and you may find a more local, authentic dining experience, too!

8. Seek out yummy food trucks.

food truck with two men standing nearby

Food trucks are fast, fresh, and frugal! You can feed the whole fam without having to worry about hungry kids (or parents!) losing their patience, and it gives you more time to spend on the real attractions you came for! Look up some local food trucks on social media for the schedule of their usual stops.

9. Talk to the locals for recommendations.

inside of a crowded bar

Who else would know more about the town you’re visiting than the people who actually live there! When you pop into a coffee shop for your morning caffeine, politely ask the barista or a guest if they could offer some recommendations for dining or sightseeing. You can even ask for the common prices for certain goods or services, all so you don’t get taken advantage of.

You’ll definitely want to specify that you’re looking for something on the frugal side so you don’t end up at a crazy expensive, yet delicious, 5-star restaurant. You may even want to check out more reviews of the suggested places on Yelp and/or Facebook.

10. Try taking public transportation instead of taxis.

people standing on a public bus

You can easily hail a taxi or pop open the Uber or Lyft app to have your ride set almost instantly, but you’re spending extra money for convenience. Look into the local transit like buses, subways, or trolleys — you might even enjoy a scenic view en route to your destination!

11. Use the iSecretShop app to save up to $75 per meal.

iSecretShop screenshots including the home screen, available shops, and payments

iSecretShop makes finding local frugal (and free) dining opportunities fun. Before you head out on your trip, just open the app, type in the zip code of your destination, and see if there are any dining opportunities near you! Then sign up. You’ll be expected to write a comprehensive review of your experience within 24 hours of your visit (and be sure to carefully read the instructions), but if you’ve got some time to spare, it’s so worth it for the free food!

Join The Discussion

Comments 15

  1. Debbie

    Thanks for the good info.

    • Holly (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      You’re welcome, Debbie!

  2. Amy


    • Holly (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      NP! πŸ™‚

  3. Dkp91576

    My fave tip I received from my couponing backpacking cousin from Australia (insert your own bad aussie accent) if you are planning a trip start saving up all gift cards, bonuses from ibotta, pineconeresearch, saving star, online rebates, gas points, use credit cards with mile points, hotel points, AirBnB referral codes, anything really. Use as much as possible from these freebies and not only will you love the time off but it will feel even more rewarding when you don’t have a credit card statement when you get back.

    • Holly (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      That’s a great tip! πŸ™‚

  4. susan

    Ask for discounts. Whenever we visit any museum or attraction we always call and ask about discounts, sometimes you can get tickets at discounts from the grocery store or they will have an AAA discount or they will have offers on their website or other websites. Even in retail stores ask if there are any promotions, tell them you are from out of town, a lot of times they have discretion to give you something.

    • Holly (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      So true!

  5. Mary

    Thank you!! These ideas help a lot.

  6. Diane

    I always check out Trip Advisor forums for every city or National Park we visit. A few years ago we visited NYC. I found out that the Bronx Zoo was free on Wednesdays, the Metropolitan Museum was a recommend amount, and the Staten Island was free. Although the Metropolitan Museum is no longer a recommended amount entrance unless you live in a few nearby states the Bronx Zoo is by donation on Wednesdays. NYC has a lot of free museums.

    If you have a Bank of America credit card you can get free entrance to various museums the first full weekend of each month.

    Many museums belong to associations and you can get either free or reduced tickets to other members if you have a membership.

    A number of museums offer a reduced ticket price for families on EBT.

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Thank you so much for sharing, Diane β€” these are awesome tips, especially since NYC can get expensive. Much appreciated πŸ€—!

  7. Sallys

    Great tips, thanks! but the food truck one has me disagreeing. I find food trucks seem to be a ridiculous gimmick, and they charge an absurd amount for a tiny amount of food. It might just be the ones I have found, since I am in the midwest where the trend seems to be gaining interest still. But I find them super annoying and plan to boycott the movement.

    • Pauline

      I agree on food trucks charging ridiculously for small portions of food, so don’t frequent them like the sit-down restaurants on trips. And especially after a day of hiking or adventurous activities, I am so hungry that portion size matters as much as food quality. I usually check yelp, trip advisor and FB for restaurants before I go on a trip and see pictures of the portion sizes before I add that restaurant to my itinerary. There are many food groups on FB where locals talk about the best authentic or mom and pop restaurants that serve delicious food at a reasonable rate. When I’m on vacation, good food enriches my journey and defines my memories, so I do a price comparison of the menu from different restaurants in addition to checking for flavor and portion sizes before I zero-in on a restaurant (I know I go overboard at times πŸ˜€ . Mostly love good ethnic restaurants because they are rich in flavor and have decent portion sizes!

  8. Allison

    Are food trucks actually cheaper?

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Hi Allison! In my experience, yes, they can be cheaper than dining out, though it can vary person to person based on factors like the specific food truck, dining preferences, and spending habits at restaurants. For me, grabbing a quick bite of something I’ll eat in it’s entirety (rather than getting a full meal that results in leftovers that never end up getting eaten) saves me money. I also factor in the time saved along with not having to tip on the full service (though when I love the food or service from a food truck, I toss in a buck or two for tip). But again, it’s all about what habits you and your dining partners have that determines how much money can be saved.

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