Travelling on a Budget? Here’s How to Do It
After months of travel restrictions and social distancing, a return to travel as it once was is an exciting prospect. Maybe you spent your time at home fantasizing about your perfect vacation or swapping stories with friends about previous trips and places you want to visit again. Maybe your wanderlust has you itching to take off to the first place you can get to, or maybe you’re carefully weighing the options for your coveted first trip.
If you’re dreaming about jetting off to anywhere that’s not your living room couch, but don’t know how you’re going to afford it, there’s no need to worry! A little bit of planning and a touch of creativity will help you create your dream trip—so here are our best tips for travelling on a budget.
- Plan for the Best
The first step to travelling on a budget is to make a budget! It may seem like a no-brainer but taking a few minutes to work out how much you can spend will save you headaches down the road. Start by setting trip parameters, especially the length of trip and any destinations you have in mind.
Then, sit down and write everything out. Key categories to include are: food, travel, accommodations, entertainment, and incidentals. Keep in mind hidden expenses like pet-sitting or house-sitting while you are away, or the cost of obtaining or renewing a passport. Once you have your ideal budget, make sure to include wiggle room for unexpected expenses, and don’t forget to add in fun extras like souvenirs or gifts that will make your trip special!
- Save Money on Accommodations
Accommodations are one of the most flexible budget areas, with plenty of potential for savings if you know what to look for. Most hotels in large tourist destinations will offer an “off-season” rate for less crowded times of the year, and many hotels charge a different rate for weekdays than weekends.
Hotel alternatives include hostels and Airbnb’s. Hostels are great for those who travel light and love to meet new people. Hostels also often provide free breakfast, which will help your food budget as well. Airbnb offers the most options for accommodations, where listings can run from luxury resort-style houses to a spare bedroom over someone’s garage. Airbnb’s are great for the budget because they also often include kitchen access, where you can prepare your own food and save on eating out!
Tip: Get Creative
Take advantage of creative options for accommodations like CouchSurfing, an online platform where you can find people willing to share their homes and spare couches with travelers. You can also pick up discounted hotel rooms at sites like RoomerTravel, that allow people to resell their non-refundable hotel bookings.
- Stay Flexible When Booking Flights
Having a flexible destination and timeline will not only save you money but can help create some of the most unique adventures you could ever have. If you’re open to a change of plans, you can find amazing deals on flights and hotels to slightly less popular destinations.
We recommend choosing an area, looking around for some flights, and being open to any cheaper options that would come up. For example, you could plan a trip to the West Coast of the U.S. and find a better travel deal to Washington State than California. Hiking Olympic National Park and sightseeing in Seattle is an amazing trip, and it might save you money over a flight into San Francisco to visit the crowded Yosemite National Park.
You can also check out flight deal aggregators like Scott’s Cheap Flights, where you can put in your home airport and the algorithm will send you deals on flights out of that airport to any destination in the world. You could score an international flight for the price of a short domestic trip if you have the flexibility and patience to look for the deals.
- Load Up on Free Activities
Once you’ve found your destination, looked at hotels and gotten the lay of the land, seek out free or discounted ways to see the sights. Many museums are completely free, and the ones that aren’t often offer free days or discounted admission for students, seniors and other groups.
Your accommodations are a great place to start to find free classes, meet ups or tours as well. You can also meet locals and fellow travelers who might be willing to go in on an activity like a group tour to get a group discount. You never know what could come up, so being open to making new friends and taking advantage of free opportunities that will pay off with uniqur experiences and stories to tell.
Tip: Take advantage of discount programs
Discount programs like AAA, credit card rewards programs and other travel networks often offer more perks than just hotel deals. Check out student travel programs and group buying sites like Groupon for discounts on entertainment, transportation and more.
- Make Money While You Travel
Work abroad programs, remote jobs and digital nomad freelancing are all great ways to continue bringing in cash while you explore. If you have a remote job, work with your boss to see if you can bring your job with you on your travels. If you’re a freelancer, or are open starting a freelance side hustle, you can pick up a few jobs on trains between destinations or take a quiet morning to knock out some freelance work.
Work abroad programs are another great option, often offering free accommodations in exchange for a few hours of work. WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) connects travelers with organic farms that allow them to stay for free if they agree to work on the farm. Other organizations like global charities or cultural exchange programs offer the opportunity to work abroad for a small stipend or full room and board.
- Prioritize Fun!
When planning your trip, make sure you actually want to do everything you’re signing up for. Once you get to know all your options, choose the one that’s right for you. If you love good food and make a point to visit the best restaurants wherever you go, there’s no need to stay home making ramen every night to save money. Find some wiggle room in another category, like your flight or hotel, and make a Michelin star reservation (or two!). Vacation is your opportunity to do everything you love, so prioritize the things that make you happy—your post-vacation self will thank you for it.
Written by Abigail Hart