When you think of travel, you may cringe at the thought of expensive resorts, luxurious top-dollar flights, and exploding savings accounts. However, traveling doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune to see the world. Instead, there are several ways to cut costs. This guide will help you navigate some of the best budget travel tips you can use on your next trip.
How Much Does It Cost to Travel?
Travel costs vary greatly depending on your destination, where you plan to stay, the activities planned, the time of year, and what you’ll be eating and drinking while on your trip. To emphasize the difference in these choices, look at the breakdown below in the cost in US dollars for a trip to Paris with two different trip styles.
Luxury: First Week Of August
- 1st class round trip est $6,700
- Hotel: est $240 a night
- Food and Drinks: est $115 per day
- Transportation: est $60
Overall Cost For 7 Nights: est $9605
Budget Travel: First Week Of August
- Economy round trip est $1100
- Hostel or Airbnb: est $40 a night
- Food and Drinks: est $60
- Transportation: est $12
Overall Cost For 7 Nights: est $1884
As you can tell from comparing the numbers above, a trip to Paris can be costly or budget-friendly for travelers who don’t need flashy hotels or luxurious first-class tickets. If your traveling style fits the latter, continue reading for the best budget travel tips.
Travel Expenses to Budget For
When planning a future vacation, you want to make sure you budget for the necessities and a few surprises that might come up. Some essentials you need to budget for are: flights, lodging, travel insurance, bill money, food cost, transportation, and planned activities such as tours, museums, theme parks, etc.
After you have created a plan for these essential travel expenses, you’ll want to set aside an emergency fund that is roughly 15% of the total cost of the trip. This emergency fund will be helpful for unexpected flight delays, cancellations, or sudden illnesses.
Best Budget Transportation – Flights, Car, Train, Walking
One of the best ways to save money when traveling is to look into budget transportation methods such as taking advantage of public transportation, sharing rides with fellow travelers, renting a car, and utilizing cheap flight tools such as Scotts Cheap Flights, Hopper, and more.
Public transportation is perfect. If saving money is a vital part of traveling, then make sure you take advantage of local public systems. Most big cities in various parts of the globe have fantastic transportation that connects fluidly. For example, you can catch a train from Italy to Spain, take a bus in Spain to remote locations, hop on a train again, and head to France.
Europe, large parts of Asia, and North America have great public systems, so look into them before setting out. The only pitfall of using public transportation is that while you save money, you also lose out on time since you are limited to the train schedule, bus, or metro system. So plan a complete trip that works with these limitations rather than against them to make the most of your time.
Depending on where you’ll be traveling, rideshare is the perfect way to save money when departing from the airport or heading to it. It’s an excellent hack for budget travel, especially If you’ll be splitting costs between fellow travelers; 3-4 people can usually fit comfortably in one car and get dropped off at a central location that works for everyone. When sharing rideshares with others, ensure the cost is equally distributed at the beginning, whether it be cash or some form of online payment like Venmo or a cash app.
Safety Check: You’ll need to triple check the ride is from an accredited rideshare program and that your driver is licensed. Only share rides with others if you know them or feel comfortable. Never let others convince you to share a ride or pay for the whole thing.
Renting a car can be perfect if you want to avoid public transportation, do not like the idea of rideshares or sharing rides, and want more flexibility for your trip. To make sure you get the best deal for renting a car, utilize rental car finders like Turo, Kayak, Expedia, and Avis. Also, double-check the requirements for renting a car for the area you’ll be visiting. For example, some require an international driver’s license, and usually, cars are manual unless you specifically request an automatic car. Finally, if you are using your rental for a road trip across the country, then check out this guide on the Best Road Trip Snacks.
This one is probably common sense, but it’s one of the best essential travel tips you’ll ever use because walking is much more than just cutting costs for travel. Walking allows you to hit multiple critical points of travel by keeping you healthy, immersing you in the culture firsthand, and reducing costs.
You’ll get in vital daily exercise by skipping the elevator, train, bus, and cars and instead choosing to walk everywhere. Walking also helps with poor circulation after long flights and digestion by taking a stroll after heavy meals.
Walking ensures you can see the destinations you’ll be traveling to by letting you explore the towns and sceneries like a local. Not only will you save money, but you’ll learn firsthand about the hidden treasure tucked away, mingle with the locals, and find the best photo-worthy spots. Many destinations also offer free walking tours.
The fantastic thing about walking? It’s free! You don’t have to pay anyone to explore the areas on foot, and you’ll make the most of your trip by slowing it down and truly experiencing the moment.
Suppose your first thought of finding plane tickets is going straight to the airline and searching in their designated flight search bar. While that may have been the standard in years past, stop what you’re doing because you’re probably spending way more than you have to on flights that could be half the cost if you put a little work into them.
When looking up budget travel flights, you’ll want to start using Google Flights. This simple yet effective tool will tell you prices for the time you are planning on going, and if you are flexible, it will give you prices for similar dates that could save you hundreds of dollars if you adjust the days you can travel. Even if you don’t end up booking through google flights, it gives you vital information about the rough cost of your flight so that you don’t overspend elsewhere.
Scotts Cheap Flights
Scott’s Cheap flights is different from most flight search engines in that it’s run by a team of travel planners who constantly match relevant flights based on your interest and travel plans so you can jump at a great deal. All you do is set up your account, choose the areas you’re interested in, and they do the rest. If you want even more incredible deals, you can pay a small annual fee for more expansive discounts, and for premium discounts and flights, they have a yearly premium plan. Whichever you select, the Scotts team is perfect for finding you a great getaway.
Money-Saving Accommodations – Hotel, Hostel, and Airbnbs
Choosing the type of accommodation that works for you will determine how much money you can expect to budget towards stays.
If you’re a hotel type of person, expect to spend more per night as hotels usually offer a variety of amenities to justify their cost. One way to use this to your advantage is to book centrally located budget-friendly hotels that offer perks such as all-inclusive or breakfast. By factoring these savings into your budget, you’ll save on food costs since you can eat at the hotel more often or in the breakfast option have breakfast covered.
Also, by choosing a centrally located hotel, you can save on transportation costs and probably will be able to walk to more destinations. Just make sure to avoid booking a hotel in touristy areas, as these are highly inflated in price due to the tourist demand. Instead, choose a hotel 3-4 blocks away, and you’ll notice savings.
While not the most glamorous of stays, a hostel is the number one way to cut costs on your travel budget by drastically reducing the money you allocate towards stays. Hostels can also be excellent because they require you to get to know fellow travelers who are also like you: budget-friendly, and you’ll make friends along the way by staying at these types of establishments. You may also learn a few wise budget travel tips from these like-minded travelers, so keep your ears open for suggestions.
For booking hostels, you can look at Booking, Hostel World, or Hostelz to find great deals and read reviews to ensure the hostel you are staying at is not gross or unsafe. Make sure to book your stay for at least a month because hostels can fill up quickly. Especially hostels that offer locked separate rooms or that are gender-specific.
If you haven’t heard of Airbnbs, look into this tremendous house-sharing system allowing you to rent private rooms and whole houses. While Airbnb has increased in price with its rising fees per stay, it’s still an excellent accommodation system to save money and find unique locations that wouldn’t be offered via hotels or hotels. When using Airbnb, you can search the destination and time you’ll be looking to stay, and it will pop up a hefty list of stays that you can choose from. These stays will also list the various amenities offered, house rules, and fees lumped with the holiday price.
Airbnb is very popular, so if you want to use it for most of your stays, you need to search for accommodations at least two months in advance; otherwise, the best-rated and reviewed stays will be all booked out. While you can stay at the newer listings, be mindful that a lack of reviews means you won’t know what to expect or watch out for. Airbnb’s review system is incredible in that the guest usually lists top things about the stay, the stuff it’s located near, and hit-or-miss items.
Top Travel Hacks For Cheap Travel
Choose a Budget-Friendly Destination
Everyone wants to visit Europe, the United States, and major Asia hot spots. However, these top tourist destinations are usually the most expensive places to visit. Even if you choose flights, budget stays, and manage your daily expenses, it’s almost always impossible to reduce travel expenses to under thousands of dollars and stay longer than a week.
Thus, if your goal is to travel somewhere new but not spend more than a few grand for a few weeks of travel, then choose a budget destination that is severely underrated and beautiful. Here is a list of affordable destinations to travel to with the most bang for your buck while satisfying your inner traveler soul. Plus, they may be some of the best countries you will ever visit!
Eastern Europe: Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Albania, Poland, and Hungary
Southeast Asia: Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Laos, Philippines, Vietnam, and Singapore
South America: Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, Peru, and Chile
Central America: Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Mexico
Africa: Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Malawi, Kenya, and Rwanda
Book In Advance and Be Flexible
When it comes to trying to save money for flights, it’s of paramount importance to be flexible!
You can save money by adjusting your trip to accommodate different flight schedules. For example, most people want to head on vacation over the weekend, but this is an expensive option. So, change your flights to land on weekdays when others are working. Another flight-saving hack is to look for flights that depart at night or evenings.
Book in Advance
By booking your flight in advance, you can cut vital costs for your upcoming flights because you’ll be able to research the best companies for budget flights, when are the best times to fly, and won’t be under pressure to book a flight since you have time to be picky. If you instead wait until the last minute to fly, you are more prone to cut out vital research needed to compare cost and perks between flight companies, and there will be less wiggle room since flights are more likely to be fully booked.
Layovers and Long Flights
Short flights that go directly from point A to B are unique because you save time by not having to catch a layover or take tedious routes. However, this time-saving method also means you’ll pay much more in-flight costs. If taking long flights doesn’t instantly cause shivers down your spine, or catching multiple layovers doesn’t sound horrible, then look into flights that feature either of these as they will usually be priced very generously in exchange for making you eat up your travel time. Flying long-distance does not have to be horrible because if you’re prepared for a long flight with Great Flight Tips, you’ll be more comfortable and happy with the commute.
Traveling in the off-season for the area you’ll be visiting will cut down on costs for multiple areas of your travel budget. Accommodations are almost always cheaper due to the depleted demand during off-season travel. Flights are more affordable since there is no high demand for them to those destinations, and tourist activities are generally reduced in cost to promote their use of them since there are fewer travelers during non-peak travel times. So if stretching your wallet is your priority, look into traveling during non-peak travel times, as the reduction in travel costs will pay off!
Stay For Cheap—And Even For Free With Points and Travel Hacking
One way to save money for a trip is to utilize a special weapon: your travel credit card! Travel credit cards are perfect for racking up points for your travel needs. An example is specific airline cards such as Alaska, American Airlines, Southwest, and Delta. Suppose airline cards are too specific for your needs. Then look into getting a broader credit card such as the Amex travel cards or Chase Reserve. They both have hefty annual fees but more than make up for it with their travel perks, such as 3-4 times the points for restaurants, travel, stays, and other categories.
To avoid accruing debt, you’ll want to only use a travel card for monthly expenses and other costs that you can for sure pay off in full every month. This is precisely what we do with our Chase Reserve card; we stack up all our utilities, gas, shopping, and flights on this card for months and rack up many points to pay for our flights.
Avoid Tourist Traps
The last thing you want is to save up hard-earned money, budget your trip by cutting costs on stays, food, and flights, and then go and lose it to a common petty scam. Unfortunately, when traveling internationally and even locally, it can be easy to fall into various tourist traps. Some of the most common pitfalls are listed below.
Inflated Cost Near Tourist Hotspot
You’ve probably noticed this the last few times you’ve traveled and seen obnoxious prices on souvenirs, food, drinks, stays, and activities. To avoid paying high fees for these things, you’ll want to avoid staying or buying stuff in hot spot areas. An example would be the Eiffel tower, where bottled water is double the price, champagne is triple the average price, and there is a multitude of other offensive pricing that is considered the norm near tourist areas.
This common scam is conducted by taxi drivers who “forget” to start their meter, and by the time you realize it, it’s near the end of the ride. As a result, the driver will insist you pay them the highest mileage fee, and you’ll have no proof that they purposely misled you. So every time you get in a taxi that operates on mileage, make sure they start the meter.
Friendship Bracelet Scam
This sneaky scam is prevalent in European countries and at hot spot destinations. For example, we fell victim to this scam at the Milan Cathedral; a man walked up to us and began pestering us to accept a friendship bracelet that was “free.” He grabbed our arms and tied the bracelets quickly and then demanded payment for the bracelets. To avoid this predicament, simply say no in a firm voice, keep your distance, and ignore them. People usually leave you alone if you walk fast enough and ignore them.
Luggage Help Scam
While not as well known, this scam is very much a thing near popular transportation areas such as airports and train stations. Individuals will walk along the terminals and watch for tourists struggling with their luggage. When they find someone who fits the bill, they will offer to help them with their luggage after lifting a step or placing it in an overhead bin. Then, they will demand payment before letting go of your luggage. To avoid this, don’t overpack your bags and don’t accept help from others unless you’re willing to pay.
Search For Free Things To Do
One of the best things about travel is having so much fun without spending a penny! There are various things to do for free in all parts of the trip. Whether you love outdoorsy stuff, sightseeing, exploring ruins and museums, or living like a local, there usually are a few free things to do that match your interest.
Free Outdoor Stuff:
If you love hiking new areas, chances are there will be excellent hikes near most destinations, and the best part is that hiking is free! On the other hand, if you’re hiking in a remote location, it’s recommended to find like-minded travelers in case of an emergency; more party members are always better.
Swim at famous beaches and lakes; pack a meal for the day with sunblock, a beach umbrella, and a towel to protect you from the elements. Also, double-check you’re not visiting a beach that requires payment to see, as a few private beaches operate this way.
If sightseeing is more your thing, that’s also a free thing to do since you can explore at your leisure and without the help of a tour guide. You can also enjoy free (ish) entertainment by strolling the streets in the evening. Usually, there will be many street artists playing wonderful music or performing various acts. (We do recommend tipping, so this is not exactly a free activity)
Exploring Museums? Other Attractions?
One of the best things you can do before heading out to your destination is to compile a list of free things to do in that area that usually require payment. For example, depending on what time of the month you go, various museums or attractions will have a day that is completely free for visitors. This is worth looking into if you would like to avoid spending money on costly entrance fees.
Avoid Eating Out
Probably one of the best ways to cut costs besides the main categories of stays and flights is to look at your daily spending budget allocated towards food. For example, suppose you’re planning on spending a reasonable amount of time at restaurants and cafes while ordering multiple courses. Of course, you’ll have to create a larger budget for food costs. However, you can drastically reduce food costs if you’re okay with lowering the number of dining meals in exchange for cooking and packing meals.
Some ways you can do this are to go grocery shopping in each destination and create simple meals that travel well, such as sandwiches, portioned fruit, dry snacks such as nuts, and bottled drinks.
Morning Meals: Brew coffee and tea at home in the morning and bring along a small yogurt and a piece of fruit for easy and healthy snacks. If you have access to a kitchen, you can get more creative and wholesome with your meals and make scrambles, oatmeal, pancakes, and other delicious budget breakfast options.
Lunch: Make sandwiches, homemade parfaits with trail mix, granola and yogurt, and fresh seasonal fruit. You can also stop at local grocery stores and see what they have in their delis. Usually, they will have a good amount of price-friendly options.
Dinner: If you budgeted the rest of your meals for the day, go ahead and treat yourself to dinner. However, if you would also like to cook for dinner, you can create various meals by checking out the local grocery store and seeing what they have. These meals will usually consist of a small portion of meat such as seared chicken, fish, or beef, a cooked portion of pasta or rice, and a side of salad for balance.
If you’re sick of cooking your meals, make sure to try some street food or other local food choices to better immerse yourself in the culture.
Budget Travel Tips: Final Thoughts
That wraps up some of the best ways to travel on a tight budget. We hope you enjoyed this helpful travel guide for the best budget travel tips and if you find any of these to help, then make sure to share this piece with your friends and family.
Yesenia and Sierra
Yesenia and Sierra run a travel blog called The Sisters Who Voyage centered on helping both inexperienced travelers and experienced Wanderers navigate the complex world of traveling with helpful travel tips and comprehensive travel guides, product reviews, and destination itineraries.