A recent US survey showed that 95% of people are hoping to travel within the next 15 months.
Unfortunately, for many people, the idea of traveling is made less appealing by the fact that international travel is associated with bank-breaking costs.
Luckily, if you understand how to travel on a budget, going on vacation doesn’t have to cost you more than you can afford. If you play your cards right, you can even visit locations that are usually considered to be expensive without exceeding your budget.
In this guide, we’ll be sharing 25 amazing tips for traveling on a budget. If you follow these tips, you’ll be able to live your wildest travel dreams without worrying about your finances!
25 Tips For Budget Traveling
Figure Out Your Budget
First and foremost, before you even start planning out your vacation or travel excursion, you need to know how much money you can afford to spend.
If you start planning your travels before you have a budget to stick to, it can be easy to spend more than you can afford. You get caught up in planning all of these fun activities, and because you don’t have a financial limit in your head, you overspend.
At the start of your planning, sit down and look at your finances carefully. Based on what you can afford after your obligatory expenses.
Invest In Travel Insurance
We get it – travel insurance seems like just another expense to add onto your travel costs. Since it’s optional, it’s tempting to skip the insurance and hope for the best.
However, if you don’t have a lot of disposable income, getting travel insurance is the wisest choice, even if it seems counterintuitive.
Think of it this way: if you get travel insurance, you at least know that if the worst happens, you’ll get your money back.
If you don’t get travel insurance, you might get away with it, but you might also lose all of the money you spent. It’s just not worth taking the risk at the end of the day.
Choose To Travel Off-Season
There are definitely benefits to traveling during the warmer months because you can more or less guarantee at least a couple of days of good weather.
However, the reality is that traveling during tourist season will mean paying significantly more for flights and accommodation. If you really want to be able to travel comfortably within a budget, it’s best to travel off-season.
Sure, traveling off-season might mean that you have to bring an umbrella, but ultimately, it’s one of the best ways to save money on traveling.
Be Selective With Your Destination
We mentioned in the introduction to this article that it’s possible to go to typically ‘expensive’ destinations on a budget, and that’s definitely true, but it means you’ll need to put time and thought into researching your specific destination beforehand.
We recommend starting by looking at some of the cheaper destinations you can travel to. If none of those appeal to you, research cheaper areas within destinations that are typically less budget-friendly.
Avoid Tourist Hot Spots
This tip ties into the previous one, but if you want to save money, it’s best to avoid travel hot spots, especially during tourist season.
The reason we recommend doing this is because the prices are often higher at tourist hot spots simply due to the high demand.
Conversely, if you choose to go somewhere with less demand for accommodation, flights, and activities, you’ll be more likely to find budget-friendly things to do and places to stay.
Make Bookings Early
The earlier you make your bookings, whether that’s for the flights themselves, your accommodation, or any activities you need to book in advance, the less expensive things will be.
If you’ve ever tried booking a flight at the very last minute, especially if it’s during the summer months or to a popular tourist destination, you’ll know how astronomically high the prices can get.
This is just one of the many reasons why it’s a good idea to plan in advance so that you can book everything you need to at the earliest opportunity.
Do Your Research
This applies to all aspects of travel: you can never do too much research! Specifically, we recommend delving into other peoples’ budget traveling experiences.
Many people who go backpacking will document their travels, and whether that’s in the form of a blog or a YouTube video, it can be so helpful to see how other people approach traveling on a budget.
Doing this kind of research will not only inspire you and help you to get excited about budget traveling (we know the idea can be daunting at first), but you may come across practical tips and recommendations for saving money.
Purchase A Local SIM Card
One of the ways people end up spending much more money while traveling than they originally intended is by forgetting to get a local SIM. Don’t make this mistake!
Once you know where you’ll be traveling to, get in touch with your mobile provider and find out what your options are for a local SIM card.
This will ensure that you can use data whilst abroad and make phone calls if you need to without incurring enormous cell phone charges.
If you’re not able to get a local SIM for whatever reason, make sure you’re prepared beforehand so you can make as little use of your phone as possible.
This might involve purchasing up-to-date physical maps or giving trusted family members the number of the hotel or hostel you’ll be staying at in case they urgently need to contact you.
Opt For Mid-Week Flights
Something that many people don’t know is that mid-week flights are typically much less expensive than flights at the weekend or at the beginning of the week. This, again, is due to the demand for flights on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays.
When you think about it, most people will want to travel on the weekends to miss as little work as possible. It’s very common to travel on a Friday after work or at the weekend for this reason.
Therefore, traveling between Tuesday and Thursday will probably save you some money because fewer people will be flying at the same time.
Travel At Night
Similar to how certain days of the week are cheaper for flying, traveling at night will save you more money than you might expect!
This time, it’s not about the cost of flights themselves, but rather, traveling during the night will mean you don’t have to pay for accommodation for that evening.
While one night of accommodation might not seem like very much money to save in the context of flights and the other activities you may need to pay for, it can actually make your travels much more budget-friendly depending on where you’re staying.
Another added bonus of traveling at night is that your flights won’t take up any of the precious daylight hours you could use to explore and enjoy yourself!
Search For Deals
This is something everyone should do if they’re trying to save money, whether it’s a simple trip to the store or a vacation.
Usually, if you look hard enough, you can find some kind of deal on flights. You just need to know about the right search tools.
We recommend Skyscanner.net, which is a simple tool that only requires you to input the country you’ll be traveling to and your destination and shows you all the cheapest flights for your preferred dates.
Using a deal-finder tool is really important because it’s easy to miss amazing deals when searching manually.
Double-Check Your Packing
While some of the tips in this guide won’t necessarily be possible 100% of the time (for example, it might be impossible for you to get an overnight flight), something you do have total control over is your packing.
Of course, you should start by creating an exhaustive list of everything you need for your travels. Check this with anyone else you might be traveling with to make sure you haven’t forgotten everything.
Where a lot of people go wrong with packing, however, is simply not double-checking once they’ve finished filling their suitcase.
It’s so easy for something to slip your mind, so we recommend going through your baggage before you leave and ticking off each item on your list as you find it.
This will mean you don’t have to spend unnecessary money later on when you realize you’ve forgotten your sunscreen or haven’t packed enough socks.
Despite your best efforts to create the perfect budget-friendly travel plan, it’s quite likely that you’ll come across cheaper options while you’re at your destination.
If this happens, it can be tempting to stick to your original plans. After all, changing plans can feel quite stressful, especially if it means canceling reservations or changing your itinerary.
However, if you are able to change your plans without paying extra in cancellation fees, we recommend trying to be as spontaneous as possible.
This is the best way to ensure that you don’t miss out on any more affordable options you might unexpectedly find.
Choose Cheap Accommodation
Maybe this seems like an obvious tip, but many people are resistant to the idea of choosing cheap accommodation while traveling.
If you’re used to staying in hotels, the idea of choosing a hostel might feel unfamiliar and daunting, but it will definitely save you money.
Many people have concerns that hostels are not safe, but this isn’t necessarily true.
You just have to do your research to find a hostel that is affordable and has safety features in place such as a 24/7 reception desk and lockers for belongings.
Choosing a hostel that gives out key cards to guests, has security cameras, and (if you prefer) allows for single-gender sleeping arrangements is a great way to cut down on travel expenses without compromising your comfort or safety.
Another option if you’re really looking to reduce accommodation costs is couchsurfing.
Obviously, if you know and trust someone who lives in the area you’ll be traveling to, it’s worth reaching out and asking whether you can stay on their couch while you’re there.
However, the chances are, you can also find some locals who will be happy to accommodate you during your stay.
A word of caution: always check to make sure that the people you’re considering staying with have a good reputation. There are review sites specifically for this purpose.
Negotiate On Prices
If you do decide to travel to a tourist hot spot, be aware that prices may be marked up. If this is the case, you can try to negotiate the costs if you feel that they are too high.
However, please be mindful of the fact that while there are certain situations in which haggling is socially acceptable (flea markets, for example), there are other contexts in which doing so can be extremely disrespectful.
For example, never haggle over the cost of your meal in a restaurant, and especially never argue over prices if you’re purchasing from a small, local business.
Ask Locals For Recommendations
Even if you read as many guides or travel blogs as you possibly can, nothing beats recommendations by real locals!
If you’re able to make friends with some locals on your travels, they may be able to recommend some affordable activities or restaurants to try during your stay.
They will also be able to tell you the cheapest ways to get around the area, which may not necessarily be what you expected from your research.
Walk When You Can
We’ve just spoken about asking for transportation recommendations from locals, but there’s no arguing with the fact that the cheapest way to get around will always be walking!
Of course, walking may not always be a feasible option. If you have limited time to travel, spending hours and hours of your day walking from one place to another is probably not worth it, even if it does save money.
However, if the walk from your hostel to the beach is an hour long, we recommend skipping public transportation and walking instead.
This will allow you to take in the scenery at a more leisurely pace and you won’t have spent anything by the time you reach your destination.
Using Carpooling Companies
If walking everywhere really is not an option for you while you’re traveling but most of the public transport options seem expensive (which they can be depending on the area), you can also try using carpooling services!
Carpooling companies like Bla Bla Car allow people who are making a car journey in a certain direction to advertise whether they have free spaces in their car, which you can pay for at an affordable price.
If you have your own car with you, you can also use this as a way to make a bit of extra money on your travels by offering lifts to others!
Look For Free Activities
When you’re traveling, it can be tempting to pay for all these amazing experiences advertised in travel guides. The problem is that many of these activities are not budget-friendly.
If you want to enjoy a travel experience without breaking the bank, prioritizing free activities is a must.
While the idea that enjoying things comes with spending money has been very much normalized by society, there are plenty of fun and memorable things you can do for free while traveling.
For example, visiting the beach doesn’t cost anything, and some museums will have free entry days. You may also be able to find free walking tours of your chosen destination.
Skip The Planned Tours
Leading on from our previous tip, don’t be tempted to pay for planned tours of your destination.
You can see all of the things highlighted by paid tours without the additional fees if you do your research beforehand. Besides, a planned tour often takes the spontaneity out of exploring your destination.
Watch Out For ATM Fees
Exchanging your money before you travel can be expensive, so many people decide to rely on ATMs when they arrive at their destination. The problem with this is that ATMs often charge fees for withdrawing money, which can add onto your travel expenses.
To avoid spending more than you can afford in ATM fees, try to get more money out at once rather than withdrawing money multiple times throughout the day or week.
Bear in mind that taking out a lot of money at once will mean you should be taking precautions such as keeping some of it in different pockets or making use of your hostel locker.
Limit Eating Out
While we’re not suggesting you should completely rule out the idea of eating at cafes and restaurants while traveling, this probably isn’t something you should do all the time if your goal is to travel on a budget.
If you can, prepare your own food before you head out for the day. Make use of reduced sections at the local store and make a packed lunch to take with you on your adventures.
Of course, make sure to sample local delicacies if they’re within your budget, but make sure you know how much you can afford to spend and balance it out with pre-prepared meals.
Bring Reusable Drink Containers
Similarly to bringing your own food with you, it’s a good idea to carry a reusable water bottle (and a flask if you like to drink coffee or tea).
It’s so easy to spend much more than you can afford by stopping to buy coffee every couple of hours, and the last thing you want is to have to spend money on single-use plastic water bottles when you could easily avoid this with a reusable bottle.
Try To Keep Working
For many people, traveling is a welcome reprieve from busy and stressful work weeks, so this tip will definitely not appeal to everyone – and that’s okay! If working while traveling sounds like the worst thing in the world, just stick to the other tips on this list.
However, if one of the things holding you back from going traveling is the money you’ll lose out on by taking time off work, consider whether you can continue to work remotely (part-time) whilst traveling.
If that’s not an option, you can pick up extra work by getting a holiday visa and picking up bartending or tutoring shifts.
If you follow the tips we’ve recommended in this article, you will find that you’re able to create a fun and fulfilling budget travel plan!
Remember to check reviews before couchsurfing or carpooling, and don’t forget to double-check your packing list before you go!