Life In Japan Taught Me To Save Big On Travel

There’s no other experience like travel, especially if you are visiting another country. Traveling often does get expensive, but there are ways to make it more affordable.

*This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here.

I just returned from an exhilarating trip to Okinawa. Although I have lived in Japan just a few weeks shy of eight years, this was my first time visiting the island. I’m actually wondering why I hadn’t made this trip sooner.

Traveling can do wonders for the soul. It breaks up the normal day-to-day routine, expands your knowledge and provides interesting perspectives of how people who are different from you live. I don’t believe that anyone can say they are living their “best life” if they aren’t experiencing all that the world has to offer.

Living in Japan away from friends and family in the U.S. often means I have to travel back and forth–sometimes a few times a year. I do have access to “free” flights through the military, but those flights are hit or miss and at times not very reliable. When I was working, I didn’t have the luxury of waiting around hours or days to catch the next available flight.  So this meant I had to learn to plan travel in a smart way.

The year I turned 40 was quite the time to remember. I did a lot of traveling that year, and even though most of it was for business, there was one instance when I dropped everything and decided that I was going–to Singapore. I needed to get away. It was so last minute, and out of desperation, I quickly researched ways to make my trip possible without draining my bank account.

My time in Singapore was amazing. I left more focused, refreshed and motivated to tackle the tasks that were waiting for me at home. That trip was exactly the thing I needed to reset.

While travel is both fun and necessary, it can also be expensive. However, whether you are visiting another country or places within your own country, there are ways to save money and travel at the same time.

Some people use credit card points to save on travel. While using points can be a suitable method, it won’t work if a) you don’t have a credit card, or b) you aren’t disciplined enough to pay your balance off every month. If you fall into one of these categories, no worries. You have other options such as :

  • Selling travel
  • Taking advantage of money-saving apps
  • Keeping track of expenses
  • Price watching
  • Being flexible
  • Staying in Airbnb instead of hotels
  • Flying on “less popular” airlines
  • Planning

Sell Travel

If you have a knack for marketing, why not make travel your product? There are many benefits of being a travel professional and travel is quite a lucrative business. There are even different areas you can specialize in such as becoming a Disney Specialist. Inteletravel is one of the largest travel companies around, and it’s easy to sign up. Like with all businesses, there is a start-up fee, but it’s small in comparison to the perks any pay you’ll receive if you work your business.

Use Money-Saving Apps

There are many apps available to help you travel-hack your next trip. Two apps that I use are  Ebates and Swagbucks. You can usually get pretty good deals on air travel, rental cars, hotels and more.

Keep Track of Expenses

Tracking travel expenses while you are away can be bothersome and tedious, especially if your system is to keep track of every receipt. However, monitoring the money you spend is a must.

When you’re visiting a new place for a few days, you will want to try and do everything and so it’s easy to overspend. Guess what? There’s an app for that. Trail Wallet is a budgeting app that helps you monitor every dollar you dish out. How it works is you name your trip, enter the dates you will be away and then set the dollar amount you expect to spend each day. You can even manage the currencies that you will use. So instead of saving a ton of paper receipts, you’ll enter what you spend on the app.

Price Watch

I’m a big fan of price watching when I’m anticipating taking a trip. I’ve found some amazing deals by booking a plane ticket at the last minute–like same-day last minute! One of my favorite platforms to watch for low prices is Kayak (not an affiliate). They predict if the cost of a flight is going to increase or not and whether it’s in your best interest to buy at that moment or wait. In comparison to the other travel booking platforms, Kayak is my favorite.

Be Flexible

If you notice, when taking a trip, some of the lowest priced flights have super long layovers. If you don’t have strict time constraints, consider booking these flights. You may even be able to see a new place for a few hours while waiting on your connecting flight. When we took our oldest daughter to the states for school, we were able to spend 30 hours in Canada before heading back to Japan. We stayed in a hotel in the airport that I booked with points earned from air travel.

Life In Japan Taught Me To Save Big On Travel
We went snorkeling in a cave! Booked on Airbnb.


If you haven’t looked at Airbnb’s before, you’re missing out. I do love a great hotel but budget-wise, an Airbnb stay may give you more bang for your buck.

If you can book an entire apartment or home for your visit, most likely you’ll have access to a kitchen, washing machine, and dryer.  What this means is, you can save on food and pack fewer clothes. Also, many times the hosts will give you a discount to book with them again if you leave a review or refer others to their property. If you don’t have an Airbnb account, set one up to save $33 on your first visit.

Fly On “Less Popular” Airlines

If I’m taking a short flight, I’ll book my trip on a less popular airline because most of the time it’s a lot more inexpensive. The service may not be what I’d get on airlines like Delta, but I’ll only be on the plane for a short while, and saving money is more important than free pretzels.

Plan It Out

When I left for Singapore, I didn’t give myself enough time to plan, but whenever time permits, I do. If you know you are taking a trip, set aside some money every payday. Research all that you plan on doing, where you will stay, and places to eat. Sometimes you can find coupons or specials for restaurants, attractions, and tours, etc. Maybe it’s even best to travel in the offseason to save a few hundred dollars. Effective planning is always a great way to stay within your budget.

Don’t let the cost of travel keep you at home. There are ways to get out and make memorable experiences. With a little research and budgeting, you too can live your best life.

All the best always, and thank you for reading.


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