50 Tips for Budget Travel
Table of Contents
General Budget Travel Tips
Pack correctly to avoid overspending on items when you get there. Bring things according to the weather. A rain jacket or umbrella for rainy places?
Travel during the offseason. When you should travel depends on the locations but look into your destination’s off-peak seasons and weather averages.
Use a travel rewards card while you’re traveling. That way, all the money you spend on this trip is getting rewards for the next trip. My all-time favorite card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. I only use this card in my personal life.
Make sure the card you choose has no foreign transaction fees. That way you can swipe away without worry.
Use passes, most tourist cities have passes that incorporate their biggest attractions. You can find that they pay for themselves very quickly.
Find places with free admission like museums.
Souvenirs are often a budget’s worst nightmare, try to set a strict souvenir budget.
Don’t overbuy souvenirs, get something inexpensive or just take photos yourself and use a service like Walgreens to put them on a canvas.
Get the best online deals there are on flights, hotels, and rental cars. To do so you need to check multiple aggregators.
I had a friend that almost paid $1500 just for a flight from America to Spain and 4 tours. The average cost of a flight to Barcelona is $450, and there are great, high quality free guided tours. Rick Steves has the best self-guided tours for Europe. Check them out!
Go to National and State Parks, most of the time they are free and they’re great.
Meet and talk to some locals. Leave your phone at your accommodation and just get lost in a new place. It will get you talking to the locals since you most likely will get lost.
Try to understand the public transportation options where you’re going. In Europe, public transportation is all you need to get around. In Cancun, the bus from the hotel strip to the nightlife is $1. Otherwise, you will always find yourself overspending on taxis.
Bring some cash with you wherever you go. Even if you’re traveling domestically, you might not have your bank nearby.
Use a guidebook, spending $20 on a book can easily help you save $200 on your trip. I personally love Rick Steve’s guidebooks.
What are your ATM fees? Sometimes taking out cash and paying $12 in ATM fees is cheaper than the exchange rate you get charged when converting money.
Do the math. If you take cash to a different country and exchange it, you might lose more money than if you just went to a bank and withdrew money. For example, if you’re charged with 3, $4 fees for a foreign withdraw that’s $12. If you exchange $600 and pay 100 pesos per dollar with a cost of exchange of $0.05, that’s $30.
Bring the right backpack, I like this compact one that folds into a little cube. You can use it as your personal item, for the beach, adventure, whatever. And it’s waterproof. Here
Speaking of compact items, this beach blanket was one of the best investments I’ve made. It folds up really small and I’ve use it at home at least 15 times a summer and it’s traveled to many countries already. It even fits on my carry on.
You will need a portable battery. There’s something about my new iPhone that the charge isn’t as good. Or I’m probably using it more. Either way, I own the one above. It can charge a phone at least 7 times, or an iPad a few times. It’s big but it’s worth it.
Use a site like Viator to prepurchase tours and excursions. I’ve used them for Mexico, Italy, and Colombia. This way you can read reviews and pay a lower price in your own currency.
Bring clothing that is versatile. One of my favorite travel shoes are Crocs. They are super comfortable, light can get wet, etc. What can’t crocs do?
Best Websites for Budget Travel
It’s inportant to get the best online deals there are on flights, hotels, and rental cars. To do so you need to check multiple aggregators.
I like Expedia because they let you earn points called Expedia Rewards. These points then can be used towards another purchase.
I usually find the best car rental deals on Priceline.
If staying in a local’ home for free is for you, then try Couchsurfing!
A hostel is a type of inexpensive lodging. What makes it so budget-friendly is that its also a shared, social experience. Sometimes your room is private but sometimes it’s a bed amongst other beds. Sometimes it’s a communal bathroom. Either way, hostels are used by all types of people and they come in all different shapes and sizes. Some of them are very luxurious. If you’re interested in looking into or staying at a hostel click here for Hostel World.
Kayak is a great flight buying tool and it gives you buying advice based off an intense algorithm as well.
I use SkyScanner specifically to look at flight prices across an entire month and to use their option that allow you to choose the “cheapest month.” I haven’t used this website to actually book flights as often as I have used it to choose a month to travel.
If you are traveling outside of the US, carry your personal items as discretely as possible. Use a fanny pack or money belt. These you can wear under your clothing.
Flights on a Budget
According to the massive study done by CheapAir, the best time to buy a flight is three to 3.5 months before your trip, however, you can use Kayak’s buying advice on their website to buy at other times.
I’ve also heard that Tuesday is the best day to buy and I’ve tested this theory. Deals do happen on Tuesday and you will see prices rise on Wednesday.
Follow as many airlines as you can on social media to stay up to date with all the awesome deals.
Pay attention to an airline’s baggage fees and weight limitations. The worst is paying for an oversized or overweight piece of luggage. And it will always be more expensive at the airport.
Plan out your day so that you know exactly how much you’re going to spend. If you go out without a plan, you will overspend.
If you purchase a flight and then the price drops, most airlines will honor the price match as long as you notify them. FareCompare has a chart that shows you which airlines honor what and you can sign up for email alerts and have them track your flight.
Use a credit card with travel insurance or trip protection. It’s well worth it in case of emergency. Again, I suggest the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Don’t only look at flights from one place like your credit card’s travel portal. I would try at least three different sites like SkyScanner, Kayak, and Expedia.
Hotels on a Budget
Whoever started AirBnB had a better idea than Mark Zuckerberg, BnB stands for bed and breakfast. This online website/marketplace allows hosts to list their rooms or entire property for rent. Basically, you’re renting out someone’s space. You will get the most bang for your buck and find some seriously perfect deals. Use my link for a $40 travel credit!
Try to find a location with complimentary breakfast, make one meal free every day, for the whole family.
If you’re traveling to a touristy town, let’s say Miami Beach, stay outside the beach limits for much cheaper accommodations.
Use the Hotel Tonight app for really great last minute deals.
When you’re checking in at the hotel, ask for a free upgrade. Why not? The worst they can say is no.
If you’re up for the extra work and y0u’ve found a decent deal, call the hotel and let them know you found a deal with an aggregator (like Priceline), usually they offer you a better discount.
Food Budget Travel Tips
Get cheap restaurant gift certificates from Restaurant.com. Enter the zip code of where you are staying to find places near you.
Send yourself groceries using Amazon Pantry or Amazon Prime. Self-provide as many meals, snacks, and drinks as you can to save the most.
Eat and drink before you go out. In college, we called this pregaming. Expect to spend $10-20 per alcoholic beverage in almost any touristy city.
Food delivery is offered everywhere. You can start with major chains. I’m in Colombia right now and they have Dominos Pizza here. Then you can learn more about what delivery is available. All you have to do is type in your address in google as well as delivery in the language of that country. Then Google can translate for you.
Uber Eats started in America but now it’s I need 100+ cities across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Uber Eats allows someone to get paid to pick you up food from almost anywhere
Eat where the locals do, it can cut your meal costs in half. Touristy locations upcharge for their food because they can. I like to use Yelp to find places to eat when I travel. For international budget travel, TripAdvisor works better.
Bring water bottles wherever you go. These little expenses add up quickly.