I think one of the biggest myths about travel is that you have to be rich to be able to afford to afford it. While I will admit that you do need some money in the bank to be able to travel (after all, flights, food, and even passports cost money), you don’t need to be a millionaire to get on out there and explore.
One of the #1 questions I get asked about traveling is…how do I afford it? For me, the answer is working abroad and budget travel. (You can read all about how I left the US with just $2,000 and visited 15 countries and 3 continents in 1 year here). That being said, there are many ways to save on travel, and you don’t have to quit your job or work abroad to live a lifestyle filled with adventure.
Today, I’ve asked 30 travel bloggers to share their very best budget travel tips with you!
Hopefully, these budget tips will give you some great ideas on how to save on your next trip and stretch your dollars (or Euros, or Pounds 😉 ) so that you can travel farther and longer! Happy saving!
1. Actually make (and keep track of) a budget
This tip may seem surprisingly obvious, but believe it or not many people never sit down and actually create a budget! During my 3 month trip in Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Morocco, I kept track of my budget in Google Spreadsheet, and tracked every single penny (or, rather, Euro) I spent. This really helped me stay on track and was an easy way to see how much I was spending. Not sure how much your destination will cost? Check out the website Budget Your Trip. All you have to do is input your destination, travel style, and currency and you’ll receive an approximate breakdown on accommodation costs, food, attractions, and more!
2. Be Flexible
The best budget travel tip I’ve used is to be flexible, specifically when booking flights. I like using websites, like Skyscanner, that allows the user to see the price of tickets for a whole month. You’d be surprised what one day of moving your travel dates can do for your wallet.
I love long walks and I think that walking is one of the best ways to save money when traveling. Besides that, that it saves you money it’s healthy and burns the calories from the delicious pizza you ate in Italy. On top of that, when I’m walking, wandering aimlessly, I always find some awesome hidden places. And the free walking tours, please take advantage of them everywhere you go.
4. Pay local
If you are heading to a dual currency country, you can usually exchange some of the ‘tourist’ currency for local currency in one of the national banks. Even in Cuba you can get hold of Cuban Peso’s as a tourist which means everyday essentials will cost you around 1/24 of the price. Here’s to coffee costing £0.04 and pizza for £0.20!
5. Don’t be afraid of an adventurous accommodation
Some of the best (and cheapest) places I’ve ever stayed have been on a shoestring budget. I love finding off the beaten path accommodation such as little motels and bed and breakfasts. These cheap accommodations are usually owned by some of the nicest people who go out of their way to make sure you’re comfortable. If you’re looking for a real budget-friendly accommodation, bring a tent and look for free campsites along your route. We’ve stayed in some absolutely incredible places this way without spending a dime. When booking accommodation, remember, “Less is more.”
6. Volunteer in hostels
If you’re flexible in your travels and find yourself in a place you don’t want to leave – volunteer! Volunteering at hostels is a great way to save money on accommodation while on the road so you can spend more time in a place you love. It’s also a great way to meet new people, learn about the culture in the city or town you’re volunteering in, and practice your language skills!
7. Don’t be afraid to Couchsurf
I was super tight on money when I travelled to Monterrey, Mexico in 2015 and, for various reasons, staying with my boyfriend wasn’t an option back then. Couchsurfing basically seemed like the only way to manage on my limited budget and although I’d nursed an account for ages, I’d never actually used it. I’m so glad I did though, and given that me and my boyfriend are still in touch with the two awesome Mexican girls who hosted me, I’d definitely consider it a success! Honestly, don’t be scared of Couchsurfing, because it’s such a valuable budget travel tool.
8. Travel with a partner
Traveling with a partner was one of the best ways I saved money while backpacking SE Asia. It allowed us to have a private room with a balcony for less money than sleeping on bunks in a dorm room. When you travel with a partner, people are less likely to cheat you with food or in a tuk-tuk because they see they’ll get more business. Also, it allows you to split the cost of food, rides and much more all while enjoying the company of another. It’s a win-win!
9. Book in advance and use an incognito browser
More often than not you will save money (and stress) by booking your flights, transportation, and accommodation in advance. Companies and search engines save your previous searches and are known to increase prices when you return to them so by clearing your browser history or using an incognito window, you can save money when booking online.
10. Travel off-season
Traveling during off-season has lots of benefits – less crowd, great bargain prices on rooms and services. From experience in traveling in the Philippines, for instance, we can even haggle down on hotel rates and standardized tour prices. We can island hop with literally nobody else around. Off-season varies based on destination. Just make sure to do your research first because this typically coincides with gloomy/rainy season as well.
11. Pack Snacks for the Kids
You would probably bring a cooler of snacks and drinks on a road trip, but when you’re traveling with kids, think beyond that. You can bring your own snacks on the airplane, pack lunch for the beach, a hike, a day out, and even take food into theme parks. You’ll also save by feeding the kids simple breakfasts rather than eating out for breakfast. Look for hotel rooms with a mini-fridge to make this even easier.
12. Use Monzo abroad…or a great alternative
International charges are the worst! Being abroad means crazy bank charges when you pay with your card or take money out. I use a Monzo card for this, which enables you to use the card abroad entirely free of charge (you read this right). Above all, you can also take money out…still free of charge. You just pay for the conversion, as you would otherwise. Pretty sweet deal, huh? I know Monzo is not available everywhere in the world, so you probably need to get a credit card (or two) which enables you either use the ATM abroad for free, or pay by card without any charges. Do your research, this will save you so much money on a long run.
13. Visit Like A Tourist
Save on air travel and extra costs by staying close to home. Home is a place people often neglect. Research the most popular attractions, natural parks and scenic views in your home state. The hop in the car and go! How many waterfalls, mountain sunsets or beach sunrises can you see for the cost of a tank of gas? The more obscure the town, the more stories there are to tell. (and the less expensive!)
14. Get Your Numbers Straight
If you love shopping at markets, wherever you are in the world, you know that they are loud and busy. That means it’s easy to make mistakes in converting cash and overspending. Write the local currency equivalent of $1, $5, $10, $20 and $50 on a piece of paper and laminate it between two pieces of tape. Keep it in the ‘window’ section of your wallet so you can see it all the time, and refer to it when bartering, comparing prices and spending.
15. Make Use Of Hidden City Ticketing
While a bit controversial, looking for hidden city tickets can save you a lot of money on flights. The idea behind hidden city ticketing is that flight prices are based on market demand, not distance traveled. Therefore, if you want to fly NYC -> Denver, booking NYC -> Denver -> Los Angeles and just not completing the last leg might be cheaper. There’s a tool called Skiplagged that can do the research for you. Just be careful, as if there’s an issue with your flight the airline will only care about getting you to your final destination.
16. Utilize Free Wifi Or Buy A Local Sim
By no means use a travel sim card. They are expensive to buy, their costs for calls, texts and data are extortion, and often the sim card doesn’t work in the country you are in. So what do you do if you need to use the internet? Find FREE WIFI! Wifi is everywhere these days. From fast food chains, Walmart, and even local parks. If you look hard enough, you will find it. Texts and phone calls can also be covered with Wifi using iMessages, WhatsApp, Facetime or Skype. However, if you are an internet addict like me and need it, 24/7 buy a local sim card. They will be far cheaper, I promise you. To this day I have managed to purchase a local sim in Peru (with a local Peruvian’s help), Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, New Zealand and the USA.
17. Invest in a Re-Usable Water Bottle
It might cost a bit of money up front, but investing in a water bottle with an in build filter will save you a fortune in the long run. We love water-to-go bottles as they make it safe to drink tap water anywhere in the world, and mean that you’re not shelling out for water and soft drinks throughout the day while you’re traveling. Best of all, you’re helping the environment while you save money!
18. Prepare Some of Your Own Food
One way we save money while traveling is by preparing some of our own meals, since eating out can end up being a major expense. It means seeking out hostels or Airbnbs that have kitchens and making time for grocery shopping, but it’s doable. Even when there’s no way to access a kitchen, replacing occasional meals with a peanut butter sandwich and picking up snacks at the supermarket still makes a difference. As a bonus, preparing some of our own food also helps us eat healthier than going to restaurants multiple times every day; it’s a win-win!
19. Work while you travel
The reason I’ve been able to travel so much in the past few years is from working while I travel. My main two jobs were working as a travel guide for a tour company in Europe, where I traveled most weekends for my job, and being part of the faculty for international education conferences that were held in cities like New York, Beijing, and Berlin! When you find jobs that include travel as part of the work you do, you’re literally getting paid to travel. This drastically reduces your travel costs! More recently I switched to freelancing remotely and also started an online business so I’m able to keep up with that while traveling!
20. Eat Street Food
Food can be the cause of a major depletion of travel funds during a trip, so one of the ways we are keeping our expenses as low as possible during our full-time travels around Asia is by eating street food which is widely available almost everywhere. This means that we rarely spend more than $5 each/day on food, and it is very possible to spend even less than that!
Although street food is very often deep-fried, it is possible to find healthier options if you look hard enough. In Asia especially, soups, noodles, barbecued meat, rice and fruit and widely available on the street and a few dollars go a long way! Most street food is actually very tasty and makes for a great local experience.
21. Travel carry-on only
The perks of flying with budget airline is that it’s cheap, but the downside is that it doesn’t include checked luggage. There are plenty of restrictions when it comes to hand-carry items, but it’s totally doable with the help of 100ml bottles and being very minimalistic. Besides, it’ll be worth it to not have to wait for your luggage to arrive so you can breeze straight through securities and out of the airport.
Different airlines have different rules for carry-on, so check them before you go. However, many would allow a small suitcase and a personal item.
22. Research free things to do
Even in the most expensive cities in the world, there are tons of free and magnificent things to do. Do a Google research in advance “free things to do in [My Next Destination]” and pin their locations on your map app (Google Map or Maps.me). Then all you have to do is follow your route and enjoy the views. A bonus tip: you will see amazing places but what makes a great story are the people you meet, so smile, be friendly and make friends all around the world.
23. Invest in a public transportation card
When using the public transportation in a big city, you should consider getting a subway/bus card. The reason for this is because some cities have cheaper fares if you use your card instead of cash, and in some places, you can transfer from the subway to the bus or vice versa for free in the span of a certain time limit. Every city is a little different, but you get to beat the long lines in the subway ticket kiosks or machines.
24. Use a pre-paid travel card to avoid fees
Use a pre-paid top-up travel card to avoid paying exchange rates and withdrawal fees on your cash. Be wise with your travel money when you are on a budget and don’t waste valuable cash on fees. There’s plenty out there to choose from and most come with a set fee for withdrawing and are free to make card transactions. You can even load many pre-paid travel cards in more than one currency if you are visiting lots of different countries. Ideal for a Eurotrip visiting the USA or traveling Australia. Caxton is probably the most well-known brand but there are many to choose from.
25. Book Accommodation Directly
If you’ve found the hotel, hostel, guesthouse, or apartment you’d like to rent on an aggregate site, then be sure to check their official website to see if you can find a lower price. Some sites, like Airbnb take a service fee on top of your nightly fee (and many hotels are now listing on Airbnb) and others don’t show you the final price with taxes. Additionally, if you’re traveling through developing countries, the hotel/hostel owners are much happier to receive cash, so will often give you a discount if you pay directly in cash on arrival.
26. Skip the Tours
Unless you can’t actually get to an attraction any other way, I always recommend skipping the organized tour and instead visiting the place you want to go independently. Working out how to go to that village or waterfall or market on public transport can be an awesome adventure and once there, trying to navigate the place or source information from locals can be a lot of fun and a big money-saver!
27. Download the XE app
This free app shows the exchange rates of currencies around the world. It works offline and you can choose your home currency and the currency of the country your visiting. You can then plug in the cost of something you’re about to buy and see what it would cost in your home currency to check you’re not getting ripped off or spending more than you want. It definitely saved me from spending my trip budget before!
28. Make the most of the Van Life
Living in a van is one of the best alternatives to travel in expensive countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the United States. Instead of spending money on accommodation, you could go an epic road-trip, eat porridge with a view and seek a new destination every day. Camping can’t get any better!
29. Find cheap flights from Scotts Cheap Flights!
Scott is this awesome man with a team who scout trustworthy sites like Google Flights and Momondo for “glitches” where prices drop dramatically (I’ve seen roundtrip tickets to Europe in the 300s!) for international trips in the upcoming months to next year! Usually, these prices are available for up to 36 hours so you should have a destination in mind, or be ready for a spontaneous trip! The daily alert email which contains amazing destinations are free, but with a membership, you can upgrade to every alert possible.
30. Don’t use taxis
Taxis are really expensive in some countries. For example, in Japan, you will have to pay 7~ 8 Euro just for opening door cost! Even though it’s convenient and fast, you can totally end up spending way more than you planned pretty quickly! Consider using another type of public transportation such as bus, metro, trains, or use Uber if you’d like a more budget-friendly option!
What are some of your best budget travel tips to save money while on the road? Let me know in the comments below!
You might also enjoy:
- How I Afford To Travel: 1 Year, 15 Countries, And Just $2,000
- How I Spent 1 Month In Greece (Almost) For Free!
- Exactly How I Lived In Europe + Got Paid To Travel (And You Can Too!)
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