Travelling on a budget: 12 things that aren't worth spending your money on

The more you spend, the more you get. That's how the world should work, particularly in travel. The more money you spend, the more you get out of your experience. The more you enjoy yourself. The better time you have.

Unfortunately that's not always the case. While some travel luxuries are definitely worth the money you spend on them, plenty of others are not. These aren't rip-offs or scams – they're simply indulgences or added extras that are supposed to make your travelling life more enjoyable.

But they're not worth it. For travellers looking to save a few bucks, these are the luxuries you can easily afford to miss out on.

Travel clothing

You don't need travel clothing. Unless you're participating in a specialist activity, something like hiking or cycling or mountain-climbing, there's really no need for branded gear that comes from a travel store. Just wear the clothes you always wear: you'll fit in much better, and you'll save plenty of money.

Multi-lounge access passes

I've looked into a few of these passes, given I travel so often and I'm not a gold or platinum frequent flyer with any airline, and they just don't seem worth the money. Here's the deal: you pay membership, you get a card, and you get access to a certain number of participating airline lounges around the world. The thing is, with most memberships you'll still have to pay per entry into the lounges, plus those lounges are nowhere near as luxurious as you're probably picturing, and pass holders will be the first to be knocked back if they're getting too busy.

Bottled water

Larry Pierson, from the Isle of Palms, S.C., purchases bottled water from the Harris Teeter grocery store on the Isle of Palms in preparation for Hurricane Florence at the Isle of Palms S.C., Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

Photo: AP

Filtered, clean water sold in sealed bottles is a necessity in some countries. But in plenty of others it's not. You can drink tap water, the same as you do at home – there's no need to shell out $4 a pop for stuff that's been put in a bottle. You'll save money by avoiding an unnecessary cost, and save the planet by reducing single-use plastics.

Rental car insurance

Every. Single. Time. Doesn't matter what you choose on the website when you book, when you get to the counter to pick up your hire care you'll be upsold on the insurance. Do you want comprehensive insurance, they'll ask? With zero excess? It sounds tempting, but if you have travel insurance already, or insurance provided by your credit card company, you're probably already covered. No need to be insured twice.

The finest dining

I've changed my tune on this. I used to think that to sample the best food in the world, it was worth shelling out an insane amount of money every now and then. I thought you could justify spending up to $1000 on a meal if you really love food and you don't do it often. But… really? Is any single meal worth that much? Is the experience that much better than a $200 meal, or even a $500 meal? Or is this all just a bit obscene?


See also: Why I spent a ridiculous amount of money on one meal

Business class

Swiss International Air Lines
Boeing 777 300 ER exterior and business class cabin.
Images courtesy of Swiss International Air Lines

I've been lucky to fly business class a few times, and it's a total game-changer. Everything is easier, from check-in to security to boarding to the flight itself. People address you by name. There's a bar to hang out at when you're bored. I've absolutely loved those experiences. However, could I justify paying for business class? Would I consider spending five or six times the economy fare just to fly in comfort? No.

Bellhop service

Bellhop bellman luggage service at hotel bellboy


It doesn't cost a lot to have a friendly bellhop drag your wheelie luggage up to your hotel room – maybe only a few dollars. But still, you have wheelie luggage. It's not really necessary to have someone else drag it.

Choosing your seat

If you're travelling with your family, paying extra to choose your seat when you book an air ticket is annoying, but necessary. If you're travelling with a loved one or a friend you really want to sit next to on a flight that's likely to be crowded, it's also something you'll just have to do. However, for those travelling alone, particularly on short-haul flights (I'll pay to ensure I have an aisle for long-haul), paying extra to choose your seat is just not worth it.

Excess baggage

Anyone who's looked into the cost of dragging a few extra kilos of check-in luggage along with them would already know how prohibitively expensive the fees are. It's cheaper to send your goods by air freight and meet them at your destination than pay to take them on board.

City tours

world's worst drivers Ben Groundwater column tra8-online-drivers
Rome, Italy - October 21, 2018: Colosseum. Red Hop On Hop Off Touristic Bus For Sightseeing In Street Near Flavian Amphitheatre. Famous World UNESCO Landmark. City Sightseeing Tour.


Some travellers love city tours, and to those people I say: fair enough. To each their own. But these tours don't appeal to me. I don't feel much of a sense of discovery when I have someone to lead me around a place, to point out the monuments and the interesting buildings and the sights to check out later. I like to wander. I like to stumble on things. I like to take my time. You're never able to do that with a guide on a day-tour.

Data roaming

Just… don't do it. Buy a local SIM card, if they're readily available, or rely on free Wi-Fi in hotels, bars and restaurants if they're not. Spending up big bucks on data roaming just so you can google things or check your Instagram in far-off places isn't worth it.

Emergency airport purchases

This is never a good idea. It doesn't matter how much you think you need that eye mask or that power adaptor or that bottle of water, you don't want to buy it at the airport. Save your money.

What are the travel experiences you think are not worth the money? Are there any of these that you would gladly pay for?



See also: The 10 common mistakes we make when booking flights

See also: The rip-off that's catching out travellers all over the world

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