I make the same 3 choices before every trip I take, and it always saves me money

I was happy to pay the admission fee to see the monastery where Chopin stayed in Valldemossa, Mallorca.
Libby Kane/Business Insider

I love to travel.

It would be friendlier to my wallet if I loved gardening herbs or distance running or … pretty much anything else. But for me, there’s nothing like a good view over the Mediterranean, even if it’s thousands of miles – and dollars – from home.

The internet is brimming with money-saving travel tips, and there are some great ones. For instance, you can select your destinations based on favorable exchange rates. You can stalk flight websites to avoid the most expensive days, or manipulate hundreds of thousands of credit card and hotel points.

But you know what they all have in common? They’re work – work to research, work to track, work to manipulate.

I’ve found that my best strategies to save money while traveling are the easy decisions I make before I go. Before pretty much every trip I’ve ever taken, I’ve made these decisions:

Usually sitting by the water is free — but not if you want a grapefruit/lemon juice in Budva, Montenegro. And I did.
Libby Kane/Business Insider

I choose to align my spending with my priorities.

It might sound as though I’m hitchhiking across a barren desert, gnawing on a single allotted apple per day, but in fact, I’m happy to spend money while I travel – as long as it’s on the things I care about.

For instance, in Hvar, Croatia, I shelled out a few hundred extra dollars to extend my stay in a seaside luxury hotel because I couldn’t remember a time in recent history I’d been happier than when I was tanning next to the Adriatic Sea. Later that trip, I bought a bus tour to Montenegro, across the border, to fulfill a yearslong plan to see where the beautiful James Bond film “Casino Royale” was filmed.

Side note: It turns out it was not filmed at the actual Casino Royale. Know that before you take an eight-hour bus tour.

Things I don’t care much about: food, daytime flights, adventurous excursions, clothing, jewelry, posh stores, spas. So I don’t spend much on them.

Might as well buy the entire case of Coke Light. You’ll need it.
Libby Kane/Business Insider

I choose to hit the grocery store.

One of the things I don’t care much about is food. Michelin-starred restaurants hold little appeal to me, and there is no way you’re going to persuade me to take two hours away from the sun to eat a sit-down lunch.

I recognize that many people travel for the food. If that’s you, feel free to vent your derision at the computer or scroll on down to the next point.

But the cool thing about being in another country, or even city, is that a lot of the best food, the food local people eat, isn’t found in those sit-down restaurants. It’s found at the corner store, street fair, or grocery store. I’ve never eaten mediocre bread in Italy or Spain. The English Cadbury chocolate you find below every retail counter is great. And, for some reason, European countries always seem to have the best flavors of yogurt.

When I land somewhere new, I plan on hitting the grocery store on Day One. That way, I’m set for a handful of delicious, easy, and cheap meals right off the bat.

Late spring in the Greek islands meant wearing a sweater on windy Santorini.
Libby Kane/Business Insider

I choose to travel in ‘shoulder season.’

I’ve written before about traveling in “shoulder season,” just before or after the high season in your destination.

In the Caribbean, high season is the winter. In most of Europe, it’s the summer. It’s the time when that place is best shown to its advantage, so people go see it.

It’s also the most expensive time to go, because the tourism industry knows what’s up.

By choosing to travel six to eight weeks before or after high season, I save money on flights, accommodations, car rentals, and most everything else – by making one decision and never thinking about it again.

It seems obvious, but a lot of people don’t do it.

It isn’t the off-season. I’m not going during monsoon season or blizzards. Really, the only difference is a few degrees – a light sweater, or removal thereof.

And the financial benefits are huge.