Looking for the cheapest way to travel?
Yeah, you and me both since I don’t exactly have a trust fund that I can dip into every time I want to travel.
This blog doesn’t have me rollin’ like a big shot, at least not yet.
I’m always on the look out for new and innovative money saving travel tips.
And I bet you are too since well, who doesn’t like saving money?
I mean, I’m pretty sure no one has ever said, “Oh gee, I’d really like to spend more and see less while I’m on vacation.”
(Personally, I’m all about saving money, just minus the whole communal bathroom thing since the idea of other people’s feet in my shower totally grosses me out.)
I’ve enlisted the help of my expert, budget travel blogger crew, to create a list of 23 amazing budget travel tips that will help you figure out how to budget your trip… like a total boss!
So sit back, relax, get all cozy in your snuggie, and hand over the Pringles, because a girl’s gotta eat ya know, as we swan dive into these epic travel tips for budget travelers.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
1. Use Couchsurfing
By: Alli of Expat Alli
Couchsurfing is one of the cheapest ways to travel and save money on accommodations.
I was skeptical when I first tried it. But, I was also a broke backpacker who could barely afford a hostel.
I decided to give it a go. And honestly, I was surprised to find that most hosts are extremely generous.
They’re typically travelers who want to share insider tips about their home town.
You MUST be cautious when choosing a place to stay.
Read any reviews about the place you want to stay at.
Make sure that these reviews are legit.
Communicate with your host before your trip and make sure that there are no major personality clashes.
Always have a backup place to stay, just in case your host bails on you or you show up and get a weird vibe.
Follow these steps and not only will you have an amazing experience, but you’ll save loads on accommodations and meet some amazing people.
You might have to sleep on the floor or wake up with a cat in your face. So be prepared.
2. Using Public Transportation
By: Sarah and Justin of Travel Breathe Repeat
As frequent travelers who recently spent a year on the road (check out our complete around the world itinerary):
We love saving money on travel essentials so that we can spend money on exciting activities instead.
One of our favorite ways to travel for less is using public transportation.
To do this:
We look up a destination’s public transportation system as part of our trip planning routine.
We also research relevant discounts, learn how to get to and from the airport, and even examine how to buy/use tickets.
As a result:
We’ve discovered that many cities offer all-inclusive, discount passes that help you save a ton of money.
We were in Bergamo, Italy and learned that their 72-hour pass (covering all transportation, including to and from the airport) was just 7 EUR.
In Nuremberg, Germany:
We rearranged our sightseeing plans when we discovered that a “day pass” bought on a Saturday was valid throughout the weekend and that a “group” pass was cheaper than two individual tickets.
Whatever you do though:
Be mindful of how many tickets you’ll need. Because in Madrid, Spain, we placed tickets for three people on one card. But in Porto, Portugal, we each needed our own ticket.
But if you do your research:
Using public transportation is probably cheapest way to travel.
It’s often faster than taking taxis, and a great way to get to know a city better.
3. Using Apps to find the Cheapest Gas Stations
By: Eloise of My Favourite Escapes
I remember that I used to stare at gas prices for kilometers after filling up my tank.
I was always haunted by questions like:
Did I make the right choice by stopping at this gas station? Or could I have saved a few bucks by waiting a bit longer?
But with new app technology:
Choosing a service station doesn’t have to be random anymore.
In many countries:
You can now download an app on your phone that will help you find the lowest fuel prices in the area.
Which is why:
Finding the cheapest gas stations throughout your road trip is one of the most important features of this app.
But, since gas prices change daily, you don’t want to plan too far ahead. However, you also don’t want to wait until your tank is nearly empty because then you’ll limit the number of gas stations that you can use.
Always remember that the most effective way to save money on gas is to use less of it.
Always remember to check your tire pressure, travel light, drive smoothly and at a steady speed, change gears as soon as possible, turn off the air conditioning, and keep your windows up if you can!
Do all of this and you’ll be amazed by how much money you can save on gas!
4. Travel Hacking
By: Danielle Guy of Danielle Farideh
By learning about and utilizing the techniques of travel hacking, I have saved an average of $3,000-$5,000 per year on travel.
But what is travel hacking anyway?
Travel hacking is the use of credit card points, airline miles, and hotel points to travel for free.
By using the right credit cards to make the right purchases, all while paying my balance off in full each month, I can earn anywhere between 3-10 miles and points per dollar spent on every purchase I make.
Some of the credit cards I use actually provide me with free travel insurance, rental car insurance, and status with various hotels and airlines.
Over the years:
I’ve also learned how to “double dip” and earn miles in two ways while making purchases.
By using my Chase Sapphire Reserve card to make a purchase through the United shopping portal, I earn United miles for my purchase, and I earn a travel multiplier for every dollar spent on my Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
And while the techniques I implement now are advanced:
I didn’t start out this way. You also don’t need to go to my extreme to earn a free trip.
By using just one travel rewards card on your purchases, you can earn at least one free trip a year, among other benefits!
5. Cook for Yourself
By: Melissa Douglas of High Heels and a Backpack
When I travel I usually stay at an Airbnb.
It feels more personal than a hotel and helps me see a country, or city, through the eyes of a local,
Staying at an Airbnb also helps me save money on food since I have a kitchen that I can cook in; something that is particularly important when I travel to a city that is notoriously expensive (For example, Tel Aviv and Dubai were both SO pricey that if I dined out all the time I would have probably had to sell a kidney just to eat)!
And even if you are traveling to a more “budget friendly” destination, like most places in Eastern Europe, the cost of eating out can still add up!
That’s why I love to save money by cooking for myself!
Plus, you don’t even have to miss out on trying local delicacies since you can just buy them in the grocery store and prepare them for yourself.
Just establish a personal budget and find a nice balance between eating out and cooking for yourself.
You can appreciate the times that you do eat out even more.
I’ll try to cook local dishes (e.g. buying fresh vegetables from markets and feta cheese to make Greek salads in Greece), or foods that are cheap and easy to make, like a boiled egg sandwich.
There’s nothing remotely sexy or glamorous about a boiled egg sandwich, but it’s much cheaper than spending $10 on a disappointing sandwich at a local cafe.
Any money that you save will help you travel longer!
6. Research Free Entrance Days
By: Daisy Li of Beyond My Border
Over the past couple of years:
I’ve experimented with a number of different techniques that have helped me travel for less.
As a result:
I’ve actually paid off most of my student debt while backpacking through a dozen countries, just a year after graduation.
I use Couchsurfing to save money on accommodations and rideshare apps to save money on transportation.
One of my favorite ways to save money while I travel is to research discounted or free access days to major tourist hotspots.
Because let’s be honest:
Entrance fees can become pretty expensive for any traveler.
This doesn’t have to be the case since numerous attractions offer reduced tickets or free entry on specific days, at specific times, and to specific groups of people.
As long as you do your research beforehand, you’re guaranteed to find some discounts online.
Look at the website of the official tourism board for the destination in question.
Also, try to find discounted tickets on sites like Groupon as well as on other trusted e-commerce stores.
If you’re either a student or teenager:
Always carry your ID and ask the operator for student pricing at the ticketing booth.
I’ve even asked my Couchsurfing hosts, as well as locals I’ve met, if they knew anyone who worked at a particular local attraction.
This technique isn’t always effective but it has helped me save a ton of money over time.
7. Walk as Much as Possible
By: Rhianne of Wanderfully Living
Walking is the most efficient way to save money on travel since obviously, walking is free!
Some distances are clearly too far to walk since it would take you most of the day.
Instead of taking a taxi to the metro station, or to that restaurant that is just 10-minutes away, get out and walk instead!
Not only is it free:
But walking is a great way to experience the diverse sights, sounds, and smells that are unique to each and every city.
Walking also helps you get a better sense of direction in a new city and is a great way to exercise while traveling.
I always pack a pair of good trainers or a pair of supportive sandals when I travel since blisters are never fun (I also bring some blister patches with me just in case).
To make walking even easier:
I also use the “maps.me” app to download a map of any city I’m visiting so that I can easily walk around even when my phone is offline.
By: Pilar Suquilvide of El Antitour
Without a doubt, accommodations are the single, largest expense of any trip.
A few months into my European backpacking trip, I knew I had to do something to save money on hostel dorm rooms.
The solution came to me one night, at a hostel in Palermo, Sicily.
Another traveler mentioned housesitting to me. He went on to explain that it was a system where you sign up for a platform, create a profile (much like you would for any social media platfrom), and start searching for places where you’d like to housesit.
Homeowners will list their homes on these same platforms and ask you to look after their pets while they are away on vacation.
Instead of money, homeoeners will offer you free accommodations in exchange for looking after their hoems and pets.
Free accommodations while I get to play with puppies and kitties?!
I was sold!
Of course, there are many responsibilities that come along with housesitting.
Not only do you need to commit to the care of their pets, and all that entails (like taking the animals for walks and feeding them daily), but you also need to keep the house clean and tidy for when the homeowner’s return home.
Therefore, no overnight trips or long day trips since you’re primary responsibility is to care for the home and animals that live in it.
I do believe that the benefits of housesitting vastly outweigh the negatives.
Not only do you get to experience life like a local, but you also get to play with pets all day adn enjoy the comfort of living in a house all by yourself.
Housesitting has completely changed the way I travel.
Since I first learned about it, I’ve housesat in over 15 cities around the world, have met some amazing animals and owners along the way, and have saved an incalculable amount of money on accommodations!
Truly the perfect way to travel on a budget.
9. Purchase Souvenirs from Grocery Stores or Local Vendors
By: Catherine Ryan Gregory of To and Fro Fam
If you’ve invested all this time and money into traveling the world, then you probably want to buy a few souvenirs to comemortate your trip.
If you’re not careful, these pricey souvenirs can add up and totally blow your budget.
Instead of shelling out big bucks on ridiculously high-priced trinkets, try to strategically purchase your souvenirs at shops outside of normal tourist hot spots.
Because let’s be honest:
Main tourist hubs (think outside Angkor Wat or near the Eiffel Tower) usually attract vendors who sell everything from keychains to handwoven blankets.
If you buy souvenirs here, just because it’s convenient, you’ll end paying twice as much (or more!) than you would elsewhere.
Try walking several streets away from the main thoroughfare and you’ll likely find cheaper prices for the exact same souvenirs.
And if you’re traveling with others:
You can try buying your souvenirs as a group so that you can negotiate a discount with the seller.
But what if you’re looking for mass-produced souvenirs like postcards or t-shirts?
Skip the pricey souvenir shop and visit your local grocery store instead! They generally sell mementos to tourists at a fraction of the price.
When you can, try and buy firsthand from the actual souvenir producers.
Not only will you pay less, since you’re cutting out the middleman, but your money will go directly to the craftsperson, the person who deserves the product commission the most.
10. Take the Road Less Traveled
By: Geena Truman of Bartender Abroad
It can be tempting to visit only the most popular destinations and attractions in the world; places with alluring, idyllic, and enticing pictures that are continually plastered all over Instagram.
Many of these places are extremely over-touristed (cough….Iceland and Barcelona…cough) and, as a result, are quite costly to travelers.
The price of things like food, transportation, and lodging only increases with the number of tourists in the area.
My simple solution?
Visit a less popular travel destination! So, consider Laos as an alternative to Thailand or travel to Ecuador instead of Peru.
Not only will everything be cheaper, but you’ll also be competing with fewer tourists for top photo ops and the best spots at the beach.
Dead set on visiting Bali?
You can still visit highly touristed countries. But while you’re there, try and seek out local hotspots as opposed to tourist markets, Instagram cafes, and popular day trips with inflated prices.
Just follow this simple rule, the fewer the tourists the lower the prices, and you’ll be sure to save a ton of money on your next vacation.
11. Try Short-Term Volunteering
By: Amanda of My Backpacker Life
I’m a full-time traveler, which comes with a lot of expenses.
I’ve learned a few tips and tricks along the way, like saving money through short term volunteer work.
Not only will you receive free food and accommodations, but you’ll also enjoy a uniquely rewarding experience.
As a volunteer:
You’ll typically work about five hours per day and have two days off each week.
You’ll definitely have enough free time to explore any city or country that you’re visiting!
And depending on where you volunteer:
You might even receive some extra benefits too. I’ve volunteered in several hostels and have been able to use their kayaks and bikes for free!
To find a company that’s looking for volunteers:
Simply create a profile, apply to hosts, and wait to be seleceted.
It’s THAT easy!
I’ve literally saved thousands of dollars by volunteering in countries around the world. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to save money while having an extraordinary experience!
12. Use Incognito Mode to Search for Flights
By: Lucy of A Travellers Footsteps
Beieve it or not:
Airlines can track your search history and increase the cost of a flight just because they know you’ve been searching for that particular flight.
To avoid this price increase:
Always search for flights in Incognito mode on your browser.
To access incognito mode in Chrome:
Simply open a window in your chrome browser, click the wrench icon in the top, right-hand corner of the screen, click New Incognito Window, and start browsing.
It’s that easy!
If you want to make things even easier, just press Ctrl+ Shift + N while in Chrome to bring up a new incognito window without even entering the settings menu.
13. Purchase Two One-Way Flights Instead of a Round-Trip Flight
By: Christina Ropp of Littles, Life, and Laughter
This awesome travel hack has saved me hundreds of dollars on flights and has allowed me to see multiple countries, as opposed to one, per trip.
Rather than purchase a single, round trip ticket, I book two, one-way flights to, and around, my target destination.
This strategy helps me take advantage of one-way, airfare deals offered by multiple airline carriers (some of which might include a long layover for a discounted price).
And while many travelers prefer non-stop flights:
I enjoy flights with long layovers since they are heavily discounted and provide you with the opportunity to see multiple destinations during a single trip.
I was searching for a roundtrip flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico; a flight that happened to be quite expensive.
A quick internet search revealed that purchasing two, one-way tickets was cheaper than a single, round-trip ticket.
I could spend a few days in the Dominican Republic, with a 24-hour layover in Panama City, Panama.
So all in all:
Booking three, one-way tickets was cheaper than booking a single, roundtrip ticket. And instead of one trip, I would enjoy three trips to three different countries.
It doesn’t always work out this way, but it’s definitely worth checking out!
14. Eat Lunch at a University Refectory
By: Emily of Wander-Lush
Food is one thing that I never skimp on when I travel. So naturally, dining out is always one of my biggest expenses.
One of my favorite ways to save money, while dining in Europe, is by eating lunch at a university refectory.
Throughout countries like Germany and Austria:
Universities operate student canteens that are also open to the public.
Meals typically resemble a business lunch and include an entree, three or four sides, and a dessert.
I enjoyed an excellent meal, at the Mensa Afro-Asian Institute in Vienna, that consisted of an entree, (choice of schnitzel or pasta), salad, soup, and an apple cake, all for less than 8 Euro.
A cheap and filling meal that made for a quirky travel experience as I mingled with the academics.
15. Stay at a Locally Owned Guest House
By: Cris Puscas of LooknWalk
We’ve always been budget travelers, especially in the beginning of our relationship when our budget wasn’t too accommodating.
And while we’ve outgrown some things quickly, like shared bathrooms, we still use a lot of the same tricks to keep our budget in check.
One such trick is traveling with carry on luggage only.
We both hate hauling luggage around, which is awesome since this helps us avoid checked luggage fees.
We do splurge a bit on priority boarding for low-cost, European airlines so that we can board the plane with two pieces of hand luggage.
When you purchase a flight for 2 euros, paying for priority boarding doesn’t even count.
We love to sustain the local economy by booking accommodations run by residents (we also try to eat at local eateries and shop at the neighborhood market).
In so doing:
Not only do we save money, but we also economically support the local community since we are always mindful of how our travels impact the destinations that we visit.
16. Replace Single-Use Items with Multiple-Use Items
By: Paula of La Vie En Marine
The world is in a crisis.
We have flooded our planet with single-use plastic waste and accordingly, have made the environment suffer for it.
There is a way to simultaneously help our planet and save money while you travel.
To be fair:
You will have to spend a bit of money initially, but it’s more of an investment than actual spending!
Just replace any disposable products with high-quality, multiple-use items like:
- A refillable, collapsible water bottle will save you money since you don’t have to continually purchase bottled water.
- Cotton Rounds made of bamboo are much better than disposable ones since you don’t have to continually replace them.
- A stainless steel razor is my all time favorite money-saver! Dispoable razor blades are so expensive. But with a stainless steel razor, the price of a blade drops to an incredible 0.07 cents!
And there are many more!
Once you start searching for multiple-use products, you’ll find many more ways to save money and the planet at the same time!
17. Book a Hotel Outside the City Center
By: Jill Bowdery of Reading the Book Travel
When booking a hotel:
Don’t limit your search to the city center. Instead, look at accommodations along the outskirts of the city, near a metro station or tram stop.
It’s easy to assume that centrally located hotels are best, and if you have a bottomless budget they might be.
If you’re like me, you need to find a balance between price and quality.
Therefore, always remember that:
- The less central a hotel is, the more affordable the room will be. You can score a great hotel for less if you look outside of tourist hotspots!
- By choosing a property close to a metro station, you can cut your commuting time in half since there is no need to trek across the city center. Just hop on the subway and you’ll be there in no time!
- Safety first! If you’re traveling solo, or out after dark, it’s usually safer to ride in a busy metro car than to walk alone on a quiet street. Just make sure to choose a metro car with plenty of other people in it.
- Rather than an arduous, 20-minute walk to your hotel, at the end of the day, take the weight off your feet and use public transportation instead! It will also save you a fortune in taxi fees.
So next time you’re traveling to a city, cast your net a little wider – you won’t regret it!
18. Compare Airfare Prices at Surrounding Airports
By: Kris of Nomad by Trade
I live in the Detroit area, and international flights here tend to be depressingly expensive.
And while it’s not uncommon to find flights from the US to Europe, for under $500 round trip, those sales never seem to include Detroit.
I can never snag roundtrip flights from DTW to Europe for less than $1000.
Chicago O’Hare is only 4.5-hours away and Toronto is just 3.5 hours away, depending on the traffic at the border crossings.
And both of these airports usually have great flight deals to Europe, and anywhere outside the US.
Just across the Detroit River, in Windsor, Ontario, there is a tiny airport that is just as close to my house as Detroit Metro Airport.
Flying out of this airport forces you to connect through Toronto, but it can also save you hundreds of dollars on your flight.
When I flew to Paris in November 2016, flights from DTW to De Gaulle were $1200.
By heading to Windsor and connecting through Toronto, (and taking advantage of the USD to CAD exchange rate) I booked a flight on the exact same day for $715.
It added a couple of hours to our trip, but multiplied by three travelers, we saved almost $1500 dollars – more than the cost of our round trip flight.
If there are any airports within 3-4 hours of your house, definitely compare flight prices for any upcoming trips.
If the price difference is substantial enough:
Your total savings could easily justify the added gas cost and time you’ll spend traveling to and from an airport that is a little further away.
19. Travel Carry On Only
By: Rohan or Travels of a Bookpacker
A great way to save some money while traveling is to travel with carry-on luggage only.
It may seem difficult but if you pack strategically and find some great space-saving alternatives you can easily get a couple of weeks’ worth of outfits into a carry-on.
Not only does this technique reduce flight-related baggage, but carry on luggage helps you avoid long waits at baggage claim, saves you money on pricey taxi fares since you can easily use public transportation instead, and gives you more flexibility since you can take your luggage with you wherever you go.
Using carry-on luggage only also means that you can squish the maximum number of people possible into a taxi so that everyone pays less.
I can’t count the ways that compact, light-weight bags make travel cheaper and easier.
So definitely try it for yourself and do a bti of minimalist packing for your next trip!
20. Travel Off-Season
By: Mayuri Kashyap of To Some Place New
I love traveling during the off-season.
Just select your perfect destination and research when the peak and off-peak travel seasons are.
Plan your visit for the off-season and you’ll enjoy cheaper flights and inexpensive accommodations.
Most major tourist attractions will be less crowded, making it easier to photograph iconic landmarks without people constantly photo-bombing your pictures.
We visited Munich during spring, a time of year that is considered off-season, and we were able to score great flight deals and stay at an amazing hotel, in the city center, for an awesome price.
Off-season really is the best time to travel and enjoy the everyday beauty of your chosen destination.
21. Book Tours Directly from the Tour Company
By: Priyanka Gupta of On My Canvas
One way that I travel for is less is by booking tours in person, and not online
After I book my ticket and go to my chosen destination:
I’ll walk into a central tourist area, talk to representatives from different tour companies, ask about tour prices, and then purchase a tour from the company that offers me the best deal.
Most websites claim that tour availability is limited, but I’ve never had a problem booking any tour that I wanted.
The price difference between purchasing a tour online and in person is sometimes so great that I can actually pay for a week’s worth of accommodations with my savings.
22. Do a No-Buy Year
By: Monica of Ahlan Monica
Sometimes the best way to save enough money to travel is to go cold turkey and not spend at all!
That sounds crazy, right? And what exactly do I mean by this anyway?
What this really means is that for an entire year, you stop spending money on non-essential items and save that money for a trip instead.
Now known as a no-buy year:
This experiment has grown in popularity as more and more people participate in this type of no spending challenge.
And while the rules of a no-buy year vary from person to person:
The general principle is the same since all participants avoid buying anything they don’t need.
Not to worry though because obviously you do need to spend some money on essentials like food, shelter, bills, etc.
Just think of what you spend most of your money on and try to either reduce or eliminate those expenditures.
You’ll begin to realize that all the things you thought were “essentials” aren’t actually necessities at all.
My biggest expenditures were clothing, makeup/skin care products, and books.
By cutting out recreational spending, I’ll be able to save well over $2000; savings that will help me plan a trip and avoid excess clutter by using what I already own (I’m looking at you, five bottles of shampoo!).
23. Always Purchase Travel Insurance
I am the queen of travel blunders and mishaps.
That’s why I always purchase travel insurance before any trip.
It would not be unlikely for me to plummet down the side of a mountain and, whoops, end up in a body cast after a leisurely stroll through the woods.
Instead of being in debt for the remainder of my natural life, paying off international medical bills that my health insurance doesn’t cover, I play it safe and purchase travel insurance.
I’d rather spend $250 on a one-time travel insurance policy than $250,000 on an emergency medical evacuation, from a remote island in Indonesia, all because I stubbed my pinkie toe!
The question isn’t “should you get travel insurance”, but rather, “what travel insurance should you get?”
I LOVE World Nomads Travel Insurance! Sure, they’re a little on the expensive side but so what?
I mean, if you can’t afford travel insurance then you probably shouldn’t be traveling.
Insurance is one of those things that you don’t skimp on, kind of like a pregnancy test. You just can’t afford to be cheap when it really counts (trust me, I’ve tried about a billion different companies and they are the best).
But more importantly:
World Nomads travel insurance covers pretty much any destination you might want to visit, gives you an amazing level of coverage that includes any travel disaster possible, is super easy to customize, and even lets you extend or change your travel insurance policy while you’re on the road.
Amazing no? But what plan should you get?
Easy! If all your travel gear is worth less than $1000, then get the basic plan.
If you’re a travel blogger like me, and your camera, laptop, tablet, and phone EASILY cost more than a $1000, then the explorer plan is where it’s at (both offer emergency medical coverage of up to $100,000).
So prepare for the unpredictable, be slightly financially responsible, and invest in travel insurance so that you can maintain your long-term, financial freedom.
Cuz ain’t nobody got time for bill collectors.