These basic budget travel tips will help you get started with traveling. Find out how to save money while traveling so you can make travel a reality!
Budget travel isn’t as difficult as it seems. It mostly means giving up convenience, luxuries, and things you don’t really need. Maybe that does sound difficult to some people, but it’s really a matter of changing bits of your lifestyle and slowly getting used to different ways of traveling.
I suppose I’m just used to a budget lifestyle now, whether I’m on the road or at home. A lot of what I do to save money while traveling is exactly what I do to save money in my every day life. I’m careful about what I buy and I’m always trying to spend as little as possible; it’s like a fun challenge sometimes…but usually it’s just a necessity.
Sometimes I find it hard to give budget travel tips to people when they ask, because for the most part, I’m just living my life and doing what I would normally do. Living on a very small budget is what I’m used to now, so it’s not going to be any different when I travel. It blows my mind when I realize how much some people spend on their trips (which is totally fine for them to do), because I could never do that.
I travel on a budget out of necessity. If I want to travel at all, this is how I have to do it.
But since I realize that not everyone knows how to travel on a budget, I’m going to do my best to share some basic tips for how to save money while traveling. I want to write about this more in depth in future posts, but I think it’s best to start with the basics.
I know not everyone wants to travel this way, giving up things they enjoy just to save a buck. I don’t necessarily recommend that either; if you can afford to indulge a little, do it!
These are some of the things I do to save money while traveling. Theses “tips” are so second nature to me that it just seems incredibly obvious, but if you’re new to budget travel, this is a good place to start!
Basic Budget Travel Tips
Stay in Hostels
Hostels are cheaper than traditional hotel rooms, and they’re a lot more fun too (especially if you’re a solo traveler). Hostels can range from the super cheap dorm rooms, to more “upscale” places with small or private rooms, so there are options for every taste.
Tip: Use HostelWorld to search for hostels and read reviews. You can book through HostelWorld, or once you find a hostel you like, head to their website and book direct.
Or Stay in AirBnBs
While hostels are usually my first choice, I often stay in AirBnBs as well. This is my go-to when I visit a city that doesn’t have any hostels (or any that are up to my standards). You can find full apartments/houses, or just private rooms. Prices range from super cheap to really expensive, so just set your ideal budget in the search filter!
Tip: If you’ve never tried AirBnb, you can save even more. Sign up with my link and you’ll get a free $40 USD credit to use towards your first booking.
Cook Your Own Meals
Since I tend to choose accommodations that have kitchens, I almost always cook my own meals. I’m not much of a foodie, so I don’t necessarily enjoy going out to eat at restaurants anyways. I prefer to buy pasta or couscous and some veggies to cook up at the hostel or AirBnB. This definitely saves me a lot of money, especially when I’m in big cities with pricey restaurants.
In some countries, eating street food or local restaurants will be just as cheap as cooking for yourself. But in places like the U.S., New Zealand, and other “western” countries, it pays to cook your own food.
Avoid Alcohol & Nightlife
I do enjoy going out and imbibing every once in a while, but overall I am not a party kind of person. So at night you’ll find me working, reading, or sleeping rather than drinking at the bars (boring, I know). I think we all know how quickly our money disappears when we go for a night out, so I try not to do it too often while traveling. Of course you’ll want to have fun and socialize on your trip, so you don’t have to cut yourself off completely, but don’t make a habit of it. Your wallet will thank you.
If you are taking ride services and taxis everywhere you go, that’s going to cost you. I walk pretty much everywhere when I’m visiting cities, even if it takes 20-30 minutes. People just don’t walk enough these days, so use your feet to get to where you’re going. It’s the best way to see a new city anyways!
To make this easier on myself, I will loosely plan out my days by neighborhood or area, so that it’s easy to walk between each place for the day. If timing, distance, weather, etc. requires it, I will try to use public transportation instead, which is usually pretty cheap.
Travel Carry-on Only
I’m a big believer in packing light for many reasons. One of those reasons is to save money! The last thing I want to do is pay extra to check a bag on my flight. If you’re overpacking, you might even have to pay extra fees for overweight luggage in addition to your checked bag fee. Don’t waste your money just to have more stuff! A carry-on gives you plenty of space to pack for a week, and if you can pack for a week, you can pack for any amount of time.
Tip: Here are my top tips for packing light no matter where you’re going.
Stick to the Free Attractions
I LOVE the word free. The first thing I do when planning a trip is search for the free attractions in my destination. Just google “Free things to do in (your destination)” and you’ll find plenty of blog posts and resources listing out all the free stuff. Why spend money on attractions when there are plenty of cool things to do that don’t cost anything?
Museums, walking tours, hikes, gardens & parks are just an example of the typical types of attractions that are often free (or really cheap) in destinations around the world. And never underestimate the joy of just BEING in a new place, walking around, observing, and not doing much of anything at all.
Find Cheap Flights
Getting to your destination is often the most expensive part of the trip, so if you want to save money while traveling, flights are one of the biggest factors. There are a few things that play into this, and it could be an entire blog post on its own. So I will just list a few basic budget travel tips for finding flights.
- Be flexible with your travel dates and times.
- Check flight aggregators, but also check budget airline websites directly, as they don’t always show up.
- Sometimes it pays to be loyal to a particular airline or group of airlines. So if you fly a lot, consider signing up for loyalty programs.
- When you find a cheap flight, book it! You never know when that offer is going to disappear. And in the U.S., you have 24 hours to cancel any booking without consequence or fees (details on that rule here).
Choose the Cheapest Route
If you are traveling to multiple destinations within one trip, consider all of your transportation options. I’m not just talking flights either. If you are able to travel overland between your destinations, check into bus routes, trains, or even renting a car. You never know what the cheapest route will be! Sometimes it might require long travel days, multiple transfers, or inconvenient travel times, but if it can save you a lot of money, it might be worth it.
I don’t always recommend the cheapest route just for the sake of it. Consider your time, your safety, and your overall sanity. But at least do some research into all options instead of booking the first thing you find out of convenience.
Tip: Check Rome2Rio to find the best and cheapest routes between any two destinations.
Those are just my BASIC Budget Travel Tips. That’s what you need to get started with budget travel. There are a million ways to save money while traveling between accommodation, transportation, food, attractions, etc., and there are different ways to do it depending on where you’re going. So consider this a starting point rather than an exhaustive list.
What do you always do to save money while traveling? Leave your budget travel tips below!
Read More Budget Travel Tips:
- How I Spent 3 Days in Vegas for Under $300
- 13 Ways to Travel New Zealand on a Budget
- Best Websites to Book Your Budget Accommodation
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