Despite their strong need for wanderlust, many people put travel on the backburner because they think it’s beyond their means. What they don’t realize is there are many ways to make travel affordable—even if on a small budget.
Is traveling one of your dreams but you think you it’s too expensive on your shoestring budget? If so, fret no longer, going on more trips could totally be within your reach. You might have to adjust your expectations a little as you set travel priorities but with some creativity, you can probably add in some of those wish-list items too. Here are some tips and tricks for low-budget travel.
Granted, everyone at one point or another probably dreams about lounging at a pricey resort. However, you can still have an awesome travel experience without putting such a dent in your pocketbook. If you don’t mind looking outside of the box for accommodations, consider these options.
- A hostel or Airbnb. You can usually rent a small and affordable space.
- House-swapping. The possibilities are endless! Check out sites such as HomeExchange, LoveHomeSwap, HomeLink, and Intervac.
- House-sitting. Websites such as MindMyHouse, TrustedHousesitters.com, and HouseCarers.com connect you with homeowners across the world looking for house sitters.
- Pet-sitting. Many of the homeowners advertising for house-sitting are also looking for people to take care of their furry friends too.
- Stay with friends.
- Explore Couchsurfing options (you’ll definitely want to do your homework with this option).
If in the end, you decide to stay at a traditional hotel, always ask for a discount or free upgrade. Many chain and standalone hotels offer senior, military, AAA, and other discounts. Can’t hurt to ask!
Transportation costs vary depending on the destination. You may need to fly, take mass-transit, drive, or a use combination of transportation modes. To reduce transportation costs, try these tips.
- Explore budget airlines. These are bare-bones flights and often land in out of the way airports but frequently offer great deals.
- Try booking departure and return flights separately. By mixing and matching airports and carriers, much cheaper flights can typically be found.
- Steadily follow airfare trends and determine which flights go to lower cost airports rather than expensive ones.
- If local airports are too costly, try landing at an airport two or three hours from your destination and rent an automobile to drive to your final destination (bonus perk−you can visit other places along the way!)
- Pack lightly to avoid bag fees for flights or train trips.
- Look into warehouse clubs for discounts on rental cars (places like Costco often offer terrific deals with generous cancellation policies).
- Use ridesharing to get from place to place.
For a fun way to relax, try renting a bike when you arrive at your destination to get yourself around town.
Food costs when traveling quickly add up. When buying meals, save half for later. Portions are usually large enough to do this and you can save a bundle. Here are some other ways to eat on the cheap.
- Happy hour specials; appetizers can make for a filling meal.
- Search online menus ahead of time and find the best values.
- Look for diners, delis, and food trucks.
- Use discount apps.
- Ask locals, they’ll know the best places to go.
Of course, you can always make your own meals (or at least most of them). If you want to eat out or don’t have accommodations that support food storage or preparation amenities, opt to have your main meal of the day at lunch since it’s cheaper than dinner. Snack or pick up inexpensive items for your other meals. Always carry a refillable water bottle.
Cost-cutting travel hacks
Aside from looking for the lowest prices, consider joining travel reward programs and applying for travel-based credit cards. Many airlines, hotels, and car rental agencies will offer bonus points just for signing up which could give you free, or close to free, perks. Watch out for any annual fees and make sure the benefits outweigh these. In addition to rewards, look for other ways to boost available cash.
- List your home with Airbnb, rent it out while you’re away! (Tip: travel someplace cheaper than where you live and pocket the difference between your Airbnb earnings and your current trip to fund future travel)
- Always be on the lookout for discounts, seniors, military, AAA, coupons, or Groupons.
- Look for last minute deals. Many airlines and hotels drastically drop prices if they don’t fill to capacity in hopes of selling every seat or room.
- You can often score a sweet all-inclusive deal if you book accommodations and transportation together, especially at the last minute. This is sometimes a good cruise strategy too.
- Look for freebies. There are tons of free museums (or free/discounted days, often mid-week), free walking tours and other budget-friendly ways to have fun on vacation. Do some online research ahead of time to see what things there are to do on the cheap in your destination city.
- Seek out small towns, you’ll typically find great treasures (with more affordable prices!) by exploring what these hidden gems have to offer.
- Use your skills to get freebies. If you’re a writer or photographer, contact a city’s public relation manager to see what perks (i.e. free admissions, hotel rooms, etc.) you can get in exchange for writing reviews or taking photos.
Voluntourism is also a popular way in the travel community to fund travel. Go to a town or destination that has a need and is looking for people to help. This is common practice, especially for people on a small budget. You can teach a language, build houses or schools, or work on a farm. In exchange, your stay is compensated. Check out Voluntourism.org, ProjectsAbroad.org, and GlobeAware.org to see what opportunities are out there. Before committing, be sure to do your homework and make sure the opportunity is actually helpful.
Flexibility is key. If you’re prepared to make a spur of the moment getaway or be willing to travel at off-peak times, you can find great options through flash sales or those last minute deals. Travel on a budget takes a little work but is worth the effort. Ultimately, it’s the experience that is the prize, not the tiny details. If you keep that in mind and pursue ways to do travel on the cheap, you’ll find plenty of ways to check many more trips off your bucket list.