Traveling can be be stressful, especially when you are trying to do so on a budget. There is so much to see and vacation time is precious, but if you plan ahead and keep these simple tips in mind you can eliminate some of the stress and make the most out of your time!
1. Be flexible!
Be open to new destinations and dates. Choose a destination based on the price or have a list of destination you’d like to visit and book when it’s the right price. The more flexible you are, the more places you’ll get to experience.
2. Keep up with travel gurus.
Follow and subscribe to people who make it a living searching for flight deals. My two favorites are: The Points Guy http://www.TPG.com and Thrifty Traveler http://www.thriftytraveler.com . I also love Nomadic Matt https://www.nomadicmatt.com/.
3. Book early!
The earlier you book, the better. I always search for tickets 8-9 months head of time. (I like to know what I’m doing ahead of time, so I book way ahead of time). Sometimes there are flash sales, mistake fares or just awesome deals that are thrown out there. Book now, ask questions later! Buy insurance and some airlines will let you cancel up to 24 hours after booking – read the fine print.
4. Use Google Flight Search!
http://www.flights.google.com it is my go to search engine! It never fails me and I can search any date, any place, whichever way I want to make it there. Search for the flights and then book directly with the airlines.
5. Book from major cities.
If you live in or near a major city i.e. Chicago, New York, Atlanta, San Fran, L.A. definitely book from there. I’m based in Minneapolis, Minnesota and our terminal is quite small. If I find a deal flying out of Chicago, I’m booking it! A one-way to Chicago is 1 hour flight and on good days will only cost me $30-$40. And I always make it two trips in one.
I have not stayed in a hotel since AirBnB has been available (with one exception to Bangkok). Once you get your tickets booked, research the different neighborhoods in the country you are going to. Find out which one works best with what you want to do and see, and then book. I’m a single mom of two boys, and I don’t have a lot of money to throw down at once. So when I have a little extra cash, I’ll use it to book my accommodations. There are other options available for even cheaper accommodation – couch surfing, hostels, or reaching out to friends in the area to crash for a night or two. Hotels are not really necessary anymore IMO.
7. Don’t book tours ahead of time!
Especially in SEA. It’s ok to search for different tours and options, but book them when you arrive at your destination. A lot of the times, the hostel or AirBnB host will be able to offer tours at a deal or help you book the tours at their currency rate.
8. You don’t need to rent a car. Uber!
Uber is nearly EVERYWHERE! Do some research on how to get around in the cities you’re headed to. Most likely it’ll tell you “Public Transit.” If Uber is not available, do research to see which taxi companies are most reliable. If you need to get from one city to another, look at train options or charter buses. If all fails, hire a local driver and see if you can split the cost with another traveler going the same direction.
9. Look for free tours
There are many tour operators all over the global offering free tours. Do some research and read recent reviews. Sometimes, there’s no booking needed, you just show up to the designated meeting place. The tour guides work off of tips so be a good tourist and tip!
10. Travel by train in Europe.
Traveling by train in ALL of Europe is extremely cheap! Depending on where you are and where you want to go, you can purchase tickets 3 months ahead of time for as low as $15 a ticket one-way. The closer you get to your traveling date, the more expensive it’ll get. Some Euro train lines will only allow you to book 2 months ahead. I use Seat 61 at http://www.seat61.com to get all my questions answered about European train travel.
11. Free events.
With a little bit of research, you can find free events going on, festivals and offers for discounted tickets to museums and shows. Bring your student ID for additional discounts.
Go to the grocery store or market and buy fruits and bread for breakfast. Have lunch at a street stall or market and then head out to a local pub or bar for dinner and entertainment. Get away from tourist areas for food. Sometimes, just walking 3-5 blocks away from tourist attractions will get you amazing food at local prices.
13. Pack light.
Airlines are beginning to charge for large luggage even overseas. Save money on baggage fees and pack minimal. See Indie Traveler’s blog on how to pack minimally https://www.indietraveller.co/how-to-pack-light/ . Hostels and AirBnB will have laundry facilities or laundry services, use them. You don’t need that much clothes/shoes/dresses/sweaters etc. for a few days. And it’ll be so much easier to maneuver with just a backpack or carryon.
14. Set a daily spending budget…
And STICK TO IT! There are many ways to save money while traveling. When you walk into a restaurant, ask to see a menu right away; if it’s out of your budget, it’s ok to walk away. If you’re shopping at bodegas, flea markets, or open-air markets, don’t be afraid to haggle prices, just make sure it’s acceptable in the country you’re in. But be mindful of art pieces; take into consideration the time and effort it takes to create a piece. Don’t go over budget buying souvenirs for your friends and family. It’ll just be tossed out eventually. Instead, print postcards of your travel photos and give those as gifts.
15. Budget yourself for scams.
Scams are everywhere. Put it into your budget. There really is no way of avoiding scams and mishaps. And don’t let it ruin your trip. I have been scammed in India, Thailand and Vietnam. But it’s not like it was hundreds of dollars. Just a few bucks here and there. You don’t really know if you’re getting the best deal until the next person comes along with the same item for a cheaper price. Or you get into the taxi and forget to tell the driver to turn the meter on. It happens to even the best travelers. I like to think of it as giving back to people.
I hope this helps when you’re traveling on a budget. Let me know your tips and tricks on how to travel for cheap. Happy Wandering!