How Traveling Abroad Saves You Money!

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I just spent five weeks on the Amalfi peninsula in Italy and for 25% less than what I spend in San Diego in a month and it was at the height of tourism season! I actually saved money by traveling and this includes all of my plane tickets, trains, and entertainment cost.

Even more stunning, going for 2 weeks would have cost me more! Let me show you some tips and tricks, but first lets talk about all the money we save by going abroad.

Eliminating Expenses While Abroad

The amount of expenses I was able to cut or put on hold was staggering and I bet you have some of the same expenses. Common ones include:

  • Rent- It’s easier than you think to rent your place out for short term as many people need short term furnished rentals. I rented my place in San Diego for two months to a friend of a friend through Facebook. She covered all the cost of rent and utilities and freed up my rent money for the trip.
  • Cell phone- for me this was $180/month and At&t let me put it on pause for up to 6 months.
  • Gym membership- my gym and yoga club membership were combined $250/month and I am able to put both on pause for up to a year.
  • Gas- plan on not having a car or just renting one when you REALLY need it. I never needed one as Europe has great public transit. This saved me $200/month in gas.
  • Car insurance- I was able to cancel my car insurance for the month and park my car in a garage. This saved me $150/month
  • Lastly, it is incredible how much money we spend on pointless entertainment on the weekends. This costs get transferred to live changing traveling experiences!

Including utilities I saved about $1000 per month when I was gone.

Cost of Living Comparison

Once I knew how much I could save by not being at home I checked out some cost of living calculators online to see what average expenses cost in Italy (Sorrento) as compared to San Diego.

There are a few good websites out there but the one I found most helpful was

The expenses we are really concerned about when traveling abroad for a month or more are:

  • Rent
  • Groceries
  • Entertainment (meals, drinks, etc.)
  • Transportation

In using the cost comparison engine above, comparing Sorrento Italy to San Diego I found out that:

  • Rent prices are typically 30% less in Sorrento
  • Groceries are typically 11% less in Sorrento (which is great because we will have a kitchen to cook in!)
  • Transportation looked to be over 30% less in Sorrento
  • Restaurants looked to be 30% more expensive in Sorrento (which I proved very wrong)


Not only did I save $1000 by leaving San Diego but also my expenses would be significantly less.

BTW if you really need a cell phone, get a local phone for $50 and get a prepaid plan and a foreign phone number for $10. If you have an unlocked phone you can save even more by not needing another phone.

Note- Italy is definitely not the cheapest country to visit. Across the Adriatic is a beautiful little county called Croatia. Croatia is known for amazing beach towns and culture and the cost of living in Croatia is 50% less expensive than Italy!

If you are looking for more of a South American/Spanish adventure you could live in Buenos Aires for 50% less than almost anywhere in the US! Places in Asia you can save even more!

Either way, I chose one of the more expensive countries and still saved 25%!

Hotels Are For Suckers. You Must RENT!

If you are planning a long trip abroad and you can get the time off or have the flexibility I highly suggest going for at least a month. The reason being is that your per night cost is going to be much cheaper using services like Air B n B as compared to a hotel.

Most of you have probably heard of Air B n B but if not, it’s a life changer. Staying in a hotel is so passé! Renting someone’s beautifully furnished apartment is much nicer, homier, and you have kitchen to cook all that great local food in!

Being in Italy, being able to walk a few feet out my door and buy fresh pasta made having a kitchen amazing, and cost saving! I had several dinner parties with local friends, which made for incredible evenings with very little cost.

The particular place I rented was a furnished 2-bedroom apartment in the middle of Sorrento a few hundred feet from the ocean for just over $2000 for the month.


The same place would have costed $2800 or $200/night if I rented it for 2 weeks but by renting for a month the owners have less headache and I ended up paying $67/night! Sweet!

By having an apartment you get to not only save money on food but you get to be more culturally immersed and shop where the locals shop and let me tell you, groceries were cheap in Italy, especially the wine!

It all sounds too good to be true!

Note- This was during high season and tourism was at its peak. This same beautiful place would cost $1000 less per month in beautiful off-season months like September. Off-season months will be cheaper all around.

Restaurants And Entertainment

I was expecting the restaurants to be more pricey in Italy during tourist season but I was pleasantly surprised to find out I was way wrong. I realized why the cost comparison engine was off.

What they failed to take in account was the quality of food. There are no fast food restaurants in Sorrento but there are so many café’s with great coffee, pastries, pizza, and pasta that are so reasonable. Basically for the price of an average meal at McDonalds you are getting fantastic real food that tastes outstanding.

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They also didn’t take in account meeting locals and finding local spots where food was typically 25% cheaper and the quality was better. The touristy spots typically equal more expensive food and less quality.

I usually ate my breakfasts and lunches at my apartment on days I wasn’t traveling. This allowed me to splurge on dinners. If you haven’t been to Italy yet, I must tell you that eating is one of the best parts about being there, so trying all the best restaurants in town was an important daily activity.

When the hardest part of your day is trying to figure out where to eat dinner, life is good!

A quick note on drinks, if you stick to the ones produced in the country you are visiting (in Italy its beer and wine) you will typically pay way less. Glasses of really good wine in Italy could cost as little as $4 and beer like Peroni was even cheaper.

Other Ways To Save Abroad

Now that we are saving all this money, we don’t want to screw it up by getting charged bank fees for taking out cash! Those fees can be outrageous.

How to avoid fees:

  • Make sure you have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. You should check before you leave on your trip but this will be the cheapest way to make purchases. Use the credit card as much as you can when spending money.
  • DO NOT under any circumstances exchange money especially at the airport. In Italy you need cash often because lots of places only take cash. Because of this the local exchanges really stick it to you with high commissions to exchange money.
  • If you are going to take out cash use ATM machines or banks but make sure you find out what your banks exchange fees are and if there is a local fee. It will typically not include the huge commission the exchanges charge.

Spending a month or more abroad was awesome and from now on it will be the only way I take vacations. Not only did I save money but I really had time to unplug and immerse. No one could reach me by phone because my American phone was disconnected and I infrequently checked email. I felt like I wasn’t a tourist but someone who lived there.

Next place for me will be either Argentina or Italy for round 2 (I am currently learning Italian so I want to be able to use it). Either way I look forward to being culturally immersed while saving money while I travel. You can do the very same!

Cort Davies
Cort Davies
Cort believes that startups should get powerful, effective marketing advice along with practical and positive soft skills to give them the best chance to succeed.

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