Do you wish you could travel, but think you can’t afford it? That may not be true!
While staying in five-star hotels and eating at restaurants for every meal might be out of the question, there are plenty of ways to vacation on a budget.
Check out these 30 tips for traveling light and cheap, and then re-evaluate whether or not you can go on that trip you’ve always wanted to take. Don’t be afraid to cut a few expenses here and there; you’re probably closer to a dream vacation than you think!
Hostels are the way to go. Hostels offer a ton of options for whatever your budget, ranging from large dorm-style rooms with lots of people to small private rooms. And if your budget only allows you to stay in a hostel room with ten other people, that’s fine! You’re meant to be spending your days out exploring anyway.
That is to say, the off-season for whatever your destination. This summer, try visiting Hawaii, Florida, or the Caribbean. Save a trip to Europe for the winter.
Tickets are significantly cheaper when you’re traveling at a time most vacationers aren’t.
Fly on off-days.
Picking certain days for your arrivals and departures may not seem like a big deal, but it can actually cut hundreds of dollars off the price of your flights. Try leaving on a Tuesday or Wednesday, and returning on Monday or Tuesday; you might be surprised at the difference in price!
If you want to travel cheaply, do the research! You’ve got more booking options that just Expedia. Not all travel search engines have the same deals, and doing a thorough check on multiple engines can land some pretty sweet deals.
Couch-surfing is also an option.
If hostels really aren’t your speed, you can also try couch-surfing and AirBnB. That being said, make sure you’re being safe if you do this—stay with people who have good reviews from previous guests, especially if you’re traveling alone.
Next up, did you know there are ways to make money on a trip you’re already planning to take?
Take a road trip for free!
If you sign up for a service like Roadie, you can make some money by delivering things to your destination city or state (basically, people buy a seat in your car for stuff they need safely and affordably shipped). Consider trying this to make your next weekend getaway a couple states over for free.
You don’t have to head for the first big, main international airport you see! Most places have smaller alternate airports with cheaper rates, if you’re wiling to search for them.
Learn to sleep on the go.
This isn’t always ideal, but timing your travel to catch overnight flights or train rides, and altogether just sleeping while you travel (as opposed to an extra night in a hotel) can save you money.
Use carry-on luggage and master minimalist travel.
If you want to save a few bucks easily, just avoid checking luggage when you fly. Once you’ve got the hang of minimizing what you bring to just the bare essentials, you’ll be surprised how freeing it is—and you’ll avoid the extra fees to boot!
When possible, use overland travel instead of flights.
If you’re traveling to a different continent, then it can’t be avoided. But taking ground transportation (a train or long-distance bus, for example) can be much cheaper than booking a flight.
You’ve gotten to your destination on a budget—now what? Keep reading for tips on what to do once you arrive on your vacation!
Whatever you do, keep a daily budget.
Hold yourself accountable for everything you buy, and keep track of your expenses. You can still buy a sweet souvenir—just make sure there’s room for it in your budget, and get that souvenir guilt-free.
If you look, you’ll probably be able to find a free walking tour in many cities. It also pays to explore your destination on foot as opposed to vehicle transportation. You’re saving money and getting exercise. Win-win!
Stay tuned for more tips about traveling with your friends!
Share accommodation expenses with other travelers.
Splitting accommodation fees with others—even strangers, yes—can be a great way to cut costs. Again, safety comes first here: make sure that you’re being smart about who you’re sharing space with if you go this route!
If you travel with others, make sure you’re on the same page budget-wise!
Nothing throws a wrench in your plans to cut expenses faster than traveling with someone who has no intention of doing so. Travel with someone as cheap as you are (or at the very least, make sure you’re both agreed on what you’ll do to save money). This whole “cheap vacation” thing works best if a pair of buddies can hold each other to the budget!
There are other things to do besides an indulging in an expensive nightlife.
Drinking alcohol and clubbing at night can seem like the thing to do while on vacation, but it can also burn a ton of money very quickly. Explore other options, and if you really want a drink, buy some at a store and have a drink in your room before going out to dinner.
You may already do this, but those who don’t should definitely start! Re-usable water bottles are an economic and environmentally-conscious choice, and staying hydrated throughout the day is a must!
Buy no-cook meals at a grocery store.
You don’t have to go to a restaurant to get a cooked breakfast. A perfectly filling and money-saving alternative is to visit a grocery store and buy foods that you don’t have to cook, and can possibly store in whatever refrigeration your accommodations offer. You can still splurge on a hearty meal—just not for every meal.
In some cities, if a street is made for tourism, odds are that prices are a good deal higher than they need to be. Trying walking a few streets away and find something off the beaten path for a better price.
On the next page, read about perhaps the most important (and interesting) way to save money on your vacation!
Try some street food or a local restaurant.
You don’t need to eat at that one chain restaurant you recognize from home. Grab some street food instead!