We’ve all been there. We want to travel more each year but just don’t have the money to make it happen. But don’t fret. It is still possible to travel, even if you have limited resources— you just have to hustle a little. To help you get to your destination of choice, we’ve scoured the internet world of travel writers and bloggers for their tips and tricks on how to get away on a budget – and we don’t mean a trip in a car across the country.
So, let’s get going – here are 35 clever tips to help you wander the world when you’re just a regular, hard-working person who happens to not have a fat checking account.
1. Join a local Facebook group that alerts you to sweet travel deals.
Don’t forget to have it pinned so that these crowdsourced alerts always show up on your feed.
2. Be as flexible as possible with your plans.
If you want to travel to a certain place, be flexible about the timing. If you want to travel at a certain time, be flexible about the location. Choose one — not both.
3. Ask for cash or gift cards related to travel for your birthday, graduation, and each and every other holiday.
People are going to be gifting something to you anyway, and everything adds up. If you did not know this already, Airbnb has gift card.
4. Get an unlocked phone.
Using an unlocked smartphone lets you buy and use SIM cards in each country you go to, giving you local rates that are typically a fraction of what your provider wants to charge you. Cheap but decent Android smartphones can be purchased unlocked for under $200 — which could easily be less than your roaming bill!
5. Set up an automatic travel savings account at your bank.
Keep your savings account invisible/inaccessible from my internet banking so that you never have the temptation to transfer money over and spend it. Accessing the money would mean physically going to a bank to make the transaction, which makes it harder for anyone. Only use that money for travel.
6. Request your time off from work starting in the middle of the week.
That way, you can take advantage of cheaper airfares. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are often the cheapest days to fly, so you can save hundreds round trip just by hacking your vacation schedule.
7. Check the cost of two one-way flights. Sometimes it turns out to be cheaper than the round trip.
8. Find “free” extended stopover destinations.
If you like to get creative when booking your flights, research multi-leg (or multi-city) flights to see where you can go without having to pay extra. This brilliant strategy works all over the world, and often, you won’t have to pay any difference in fare since those stops are considered layovers. Many savvy travellers use this method to book month-long trips with multiple destinations.
9. Travel during “shoulder” periods.
There are times in the travel industry called ‘shoulder periods,’ which are basically off-peak times. Like, when kids go back to school (September), after New Year’s (early January), and just after Spring Break (April). Airlines and hotels often give big discounts on airplane seats and hotel rooms during this time, since it’s not a popular period to go.
Shoulder periods change in different parts of the world, so choose your destination by watching for online deals, and following hotels and airlines on Twitter, where they also release last-minute deals.
1o. Make use of your 1000 friends on Facebook.
Remember, friends of friends are often people who will warmly open their door to you — so get connected with people from your past and present, and cut out all that expensive accommodation. Yeah, it might cost you a dinner and a few beers, but how good is that! Plus, since you’re living local, you won’t feel like just another tourist — and you’ll make and keep friends for life.
11. Research museum pricing policies and free admission days.
Many museums around the world — especially in Europe — not only offer free or discounted student pricing, but also cheaper tickets for young adults (usually up to 25 years old) as a way to encourage interest in the arts. In France, you can even get cheaper movie tickets since it’s a ‘cultural’ experience! Other cultural institutions have a policy of ‘suggested donations,’ although it can be misinterpreted as the ticket price. So, make sure find out before you leave.
12. Catch public transportation wherever you go.
Buses, minivans, crappy trains, 17 people in a tuk-tuk … whatever it takes to get around. Not only is it a great way to save money, but it’s the best way to see a country and get up close and personal with its people. Remember: Hangover wasn’t about 3 guys getting chaperoned in a private taxi.
13. Follow the ‘6-block’ rule when looking for food.
What this means is that you should never eat within six blocks of a major tourist sight. The food is double the price and half as good. Walk far away from the people and get a much better food experience at way better prices. Sites like Yelp, Fodor and Tripadvisor can help with finding real foodie gems.
14. Buy fresh food and not pre-packaged.
Buy fresh food from farmers markets and food stands, and not packaged food. It costs less and is healthier for you. Same with water: Use a filtered refillable water bottle, and skip buying plastic bottled beverages.
15. Take a walk through the morning markets.
You can buy cheap snacks that you can enjoy as incredible fresh meals, you can get a feel for what’s being sold, and/or you can actually eat food at the market itself. It’s cheap, fresh (since the turnover is so high), and a wonderful way to take the pulse of a new place.
16. Eat where the locals eat.
Rather than eating at expensive ‘international’ restaurants in non-Western countries, follow the locals to the places they eat. Street food and small single-dish restaurants have tastier, much cheaper food — and if there’s a line of locals out the door, you’ve much less chance of getting sick than when you’re the only person in an empty hotel restaurant.
17. Buy European train tickets online from the official national railway sites, not from third-party agencies.
If you must travel by train around Europe, you can buy most European high-speed train tickets up to three months in advance, and the earlier you book, the more likely you are to find great deals. These seats will almost always be cheaper than going through another website, and they’ll give you access to all the same sales and upgrades that are offered to locals.
18. Always withdraw money from the ATM – never exchange
Money exchangers often charge anywhere from 5% to 20% commission on a simple exchange. Your bank card will carry the best currency exchange rates, so forgo bringing wads of cash and instead withdraw local currency from the ATM as needed. And be sure to travel with a bank card that reimburses all ATM fees.
19. Be flexible. Avoid booking in advance.
The more flexible your plans, the more fun you’ll have — and the more money you’ll save. Rather than being forced to stick around spending money somewhere you hate, or forfeiting bus/train/flight/hotel bookings to stay longer somewhere you love, avoid booking in advance as much as possible.
20. Don’t try to visit every city on your list (no matter what your friends tell you).
The biggest costs in traveling are 1) transport and 2) accommodation. By traveling slow, you lessen the need for frequent transport — and you can also negotiate with hotels/hostels etc. for a discount because you are staying longer. And it’s always fun to visit a city a second time – you’ll always discover something new.