Tips for Traveling on a Budget
So you want to know how to travel on a budget? It is easier than you think, and there are some great ways to save money.
We have compiled 40 tips for traveling on a budget that will help save money while still having a fantastic experience.
Tip #1: Choose Destinations Where Your Money Will Stretch
Visit places where your money will stretch. When you travel to places where your money goes the furthest, it is easier to save while having a great time.
Tip #2: Make Sure to Get Travel Points for Things You're Already Spending Money On
Tip #3: Budget Travelers Go During the Off-Season
Karee at Our Woven Journey says she plans her trips during the off-season.
We plan our trip during the off-season when we want to take a trip but still travel cheaply.
Hotels and flights often take up the biggest chunk of a travel budget, and booking when demand is lower can save 25% or more on off-peak season prices.
Of course, some places aren’t as desirable during the off-season (planning a vacation to the Caribbean during hurricane season can be risky), but booking right after peak season ends can still save some money before seasons are noticeably different.
Another advantage of traveling in the off-season is having fewer crowds. Not only can this make for a more enjoyable experience overall, but prices on excursions and activities are often lower as vendors hope to fill their schedules.
Tip #4: Buy a Local Sim Card Instead of Paying International Phone Rates
You may find it less expensive to buy a short phone plan while traveling. You can also call your mobile network provider and ask if they offer abroad plans. Many do.
Tip #5: Track and Find Good Deals on Flights
Use Google Flights to track your flight before you book anything. You can save quite a bit by booking on a random weekday many weeks in advance.
Google Flights will keep you updated on how fares increase and decrease throughout time. Finding flight deals is quite simple.
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Tip #6: Plan Your Trip Around Free Things to Do
Tip #7: Save Money by Cooking Your Own Meals
If you can stay in a hostel, this will help you shop from the local market and cook your own food.
When you opt out of expensive restaurants, you can cook your own meals while supporting the local economy.
Mark at Financial Pilgrimage says to have the food delivered to you.
On a recent trip to Disney, we ordered Instacart while on the bus from the airport to our hotel. It was our first time ordering from Instacart, so the delivery order was free.
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After checking into the hotel and going out for a quick bite to eat, we returned to our hotel with our grocery order at our door. Our delivery driver stopped at Aldi to pick up the items on our list and did a great job communicating throughout the process so we knew precisely when the drop-off would occur.
Instead of spending a ridiculous amount of money on food at the resort, we purchased several snacks, breakfast items, and choice beverages.
Our grocery order ended up being about $80, but it saved us hundreds if we purchased similar items at the resort.
It was such an easy process, and we’ll be sure to use a similar grocery delivery service the next time we travel.
Tip #8: Avoid Touristy Areas When Sightseeing
Souvenirs are cheaper at local shops than the tourist traps everyone else is visiting. Budget travelers avoid major attractions and use public transit to find the places locals visit.
Tip #9: Carry Around Your Own Water Bottle
Where you are lodging, they probably provide a complimentary glass of water every day.
Why spend money on bottled water when you could be putting more money toward your sightseeing? Buy your own water bottle and reuse it every day.
I have seen a one-use water bottle cost as much money as a cheap bottle of wine ($10).
Tip #10: Use the Local Transport
Nearly all major cities have a great local transport system. You will save a lot of money not using rental cars and visiting any significant attractions via public transport. When I was in London, I rode the Tube everywhere.
Tip #11: DIY Walking Tours
Hitting the major attractions and walking around nearby without a plan can lead to finding where locals eat. You may have to go off the beaten path a bit to find these local restaurants.
Tip #12: Research Before Going
Kayla at Motivation For Mom encourages to create a travel budget. Getting an idea of how much gas will cost, average restaurant prices, and any extra expenses helps me be prepared on how much the basics are going to cost, so I know how much I can spend on activities and adventures.
When I haven't done my research ahead of time, I find myself spending much more on my trip than I had originally planned.
Tip #13: Pack Lightly
If you are traveling for an extended period, only bring a few outfits. You can always use the washing machine where you are staying.
Tip #14: Work While You're Traveling
Working from home has allowed tens of thousands of people to travel as a part of their everyday routine.
Tip #15: Don't Book Everything Last Minute
Book everything many weeks and even months in advance. Booking everything last minute can lead to paying twice as much as you should on hotel rooms and will not allow you to find deals or save money.
Tip #16: Buy Souvenirs From Local Vendors Only
Buy souvenirs from local vendors only. This way, you are supporting the locals. The souvenirs are the same price at the chain stores.
Tip #17: Stay at Places With Breakfast Included
Free breakfast, anyone? The worst-case scenario is they only have coffee and a bagel.
You can travel cheaply and keep more money in your pocket by eating free meals.
Tip #18: Use Credit Card Rewards
Andrew at Wealthy Nickel says to take advantage of credit card rewards for things like flights, hotels, and even rental cars.
If you have a good credit score, many cards will give you a substantial sign-up bonus just for opening the card, and then you can earn an additional 1-5% for your regular spending.
Thanks to credit card rewards, our family of four has not paid for a plane ticket in over five years.
I especially like the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, as you have the flexibility to transfer points to many different airline and hotel partners. Last Christmas, we booked four tickets on Southwest to fly home for about 66,000 points – less than the sign-up bonus from opening a single credit card!
Tip #19: Use Airbnb
Tyler at Relentless Finances says he uses Airbnb to travel cheap and save money. It is usually less per guest if you are traveling with a larger group than fits comfortably in a standard hotel room.
Some hosts offer steep discounts for booking out in the future because they want to fill their calendar up ahead of time and know the revenue will be there. They then raise rates as the travel gets closer.
Other hosts work the opposite approach and charge full price for bookings made in advance and start dropping prices as the date of travel gets closer.
It can pay off big to look for this and book your travel when you will get the best rates.
Tip #20: Pre-cook Meals
Opt for renting a condo or house instead of a hotel room so that you can have access to a full kitchen.
Take your dinner meals with you when traveling to your destination by car. For example, you could pre-cook your meals, freeze them, and put them in a cooler for transport.
Or you could take the food you need for cooking your meals with you.
Taking food along will save you money if you are heading to a vacation spot that you know is expensive.
Another option is to plan your meals and create your grocery list before leaving home.
Then you just have to head to the grocery store (or arrange for grocery pickup) when you get to your destination.
When we head to the beach, we plan easy meals. Some we pre-cook and freeze to take along, while others we cook when we are there.
Pre-cooking allows us to spend less on food to have more money in our vacation budget for fun and memorable family activities.
Tip #21: Fly Mid-Week
Consider taking a less crowded flight if you don't mind flying mid-week or off-peak times.
Flights are almost always more expensive on the weekends.
Tip #22: Stay In Hostels
My best memories traveling around Europe took place at Hostels. You can meet people from all over the world, and it is difficult to find cheaper accommodation.
Tip #23: Camp for Free
Zsolt at Best Axe Guide says Sometimes you can find opportunities for free camping, especially in forested areas.
Try this: When you visit a new city, look up parks on google, then look at the satellite image and see if there is any tree cover. If there is, you can use that to remain hidden almost always, without having to pay a dime.
I rarely paid for accommodations while traveling along the West Coast of Canada and the United States with this strategy.
Don't forget to bring your best axe and spare batteries.
One of these downsides is that you don't meet people at hostels, sometimes fun. In addition, if you are storing or cooking food, you need to watch out for wildlife.
Before going on a camping trip, it is good to educate yourself about the local wildlife.
Tip #24: Be Aware of ATM Charges
Keep an eye out for ATM charges. Do your best to find a bank that does not charge for unnecessary items like accessing your own money.
Tip #25: Free Museum Day
Keep an eye out for free days at museums. Keep your student ID handy, as many places will let you in for free as a student.
Tip #26: Visit National Parks
National Parks are beautiful and visiting them costs little money. So many vacation rentals are near the parks.
Tip #27: Go to Small Towns
Smaller towns have relaxed energy and are much cheaper than large cities.
Plus, there is often less traffic, and you can walk everywhere — a great way to get to know the locals and learn about their culture.
Tip #28: Drink Responsibly
When you're in a foreign country where you don't know many people or the environment, it can become dangerous. Don’t be that guy/gal tripping over themselves hailing a taxi.
Tip #29: Enjoy the Experience, Forget the Trinkets
Take a lot of photos while collecting no trinkets. You will remember the experience from the pictures, and the trinket will be broken in baggage claim.
Tip #30: Work at a Hostel
Working in a hostel could be a good gig if you are at a particular location for any amount of time.
Tip #31: Book All Accommodations Using a Private Browsing Window
Cookies (the browsing kind) can cause you to pay more for any bookings.
Tip #32: Use a Vpn to Find Cheap Deals on Airfare
Kanye pays more when booking his international tour when his location is Calabassas. If he were to change his location to Wyoming, he’d save a ton.
Tip #33: Be Flexible With Your Dates
Simply being flexible with the dates can save you hundreds of dollars. When I was booking a flight recently, I moved the dates by only three days, and it saved me $200.
Tip #34: Take Advantage of Free Walking Tours
Your hotel/hostel has a free walking tour. They are fun, and you can ask your tour guide questions. You will receive an answer from a local resident. That is valuable.
Tip #35: Use a Credit Card With No Foreign Transaction Fee
Many credit cards are on the market. I found this out the hard way when I used the wrong card. The credit card company hit me with a 2% fee. Make sure you use a travel card with no foreign transaction fee.
Tip #36: Find Out if Your Accommodations Provide Toiletries Before Buying Them Yourself
Ask the front desk or housekeeping staff if they can give you shampoo or soap. The hotel will provide you with the travel sizes that are useful and fit your carry-on bag easily.
Tip #37: Bring a Backpack Instead of a Suitcase
Backpacks are easier to carry and do not need to be checked a lot of times. If you can avoid a checked bag – do it.
Trip #38: Don't Take What You Don't Need
Only bring what you need, not what you want.
Tip #39: Rent From Non-airport Locations
Rent your car from the location a mile away. There is a steep premium renting from the airport location.
Tip #40: Do Your Research on the Cheapest Places to Travel To
There are many places to visit. You do not need to stay in a 5-star hotel to enjoy traveling. You can travel cheaply to many major cities that are close to you. Your travel dreams should include some places that are not far away.
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