Nothing should hold you back from traveling, including money. Here are nine tips for planning budget-friendly travel, so you can go places, affordably.
Explore Different Travel Options
Dream up your wish list and start checking out these potential destinations. When you have an idea of what places you might want to add to your trip, begin watching flights. Skyscanner, Google Flights, and Hopper are my Holy Trinity of plane travel. These tools help users track prices for flights, and may even inspire a new destination with a smaller price tag, so keep an open mind about your trip. Flight tracking will also help you determine the best days to plan your trip for. But don’t limit yourself to flights only–trains, buses, or even a combination of the two could be a good option. Omio and Rome2Rio are good tools to help you find and compare travel routes in the air or on land.
Don’t be thrown by “off-season.” There are a ton of perks to traveling outside of a destination’s peak times. Obviously the biggest advantage is that it tends to be cheaper. The next is the lack of crowds. Sure, in February you may have to bundle up and face the cold, but you won’t have to fight for a view of the main attractions. Exploring new places in the off-season is also great because you get to see what actual day-to-day life looks like for locals without as many herds of tourists in the streets.
In the world we live in nowadays, there are more options for travel accommodations than ever, and you should give them all a shot. Hostelworld.com is always my first stop. Hostels are fantastic for solo travelers, but don’t write them off for groups either. Many hostels run more like a hotel hybrid, with private rooms for singles, doubles, or groups that actually don’t resemble a dorm room. Airbnb is great for multiple people and for multiple nights due to the typical flat rate cleaning fee. I’ve also scored surprising deals on hotels with Booking.com.
Weigh the Costs
This one has been live-and-learn for me. I’m usually tempted by the cheapest face value of flights, trains, hostels, etc. But without thinking through logistics, I can end up spending more by choosing the “budget option.” For example, if I save $50 by taking an early morning flight to Paris, but the city bus isn’t running yet, requiring me to take a $40 Uber to the airport…was that 6AM flight really worth it?
Do Your Homework
While weighing the costs, do a little bit of homework. Find out how many airports or stations are in your destination city and make sure you know which one you’re going to. Figure out what the local transportation options are and how you’ll get to and from your accommodations. A little bit of research can go a long way in terms of saving you time, money, and stress.
Walk Whenever Possible
Even if your destination has a good public transportation system, there is one option that will always be cheaper, and that my friend is walking. If you’re in a walkable city, take advantage of that whenever you can. Maybe this is just me, but my general rule of thumb is that if it’s not raining and point A to B is less than 3 miles, I’m going on foot. When walking isn’t possible, look for city bikes or scooters. Besides the economics, these are all great ways to really explore the place you’re visiting.
The fewer the bags, the simpler the travel. Taking just a carry-on will not only save you checking fees, but also give you more transportation flexibility. It’s a lot easier to hop on a crowded metro and walk a few blocks to your stay with a backpack or hand luggage than it is with a couple of rolling suitcases.
Do the Free Things
It’s more than possible to spend a whole day enjoying a destination without spending a cent on sight-seeing. A lot of cities have a selection of free museums, or free entry days periodically. Since guided tours of famous attractions often come with price tags, why not download an audio guide and show yourself around? Go to some local festivals, markets, or parks. And don’t forget that window shopping, hiking, and general exploring are also always free and fun things to do.
I definitely don’t mean eat less. What I mean is eat smaller meals or snacks throughout the day instead of ordering three full meals. A crepe here, croque monsieur there…you’re always going to be passing something that looks good, so it’s nice when you don’t have to deny yourself a craving because you’re already spent from your big lunch spread. Plus, by stretching your amount of food and drink breaks, you’re giving yourself more opportunities to use customer restrooms or recharge your phone! I could probably write a whole post on saving money on food alone. Buying street food, splitting meals, and packing picnics are all other ways to stretch your meal budget.
P.S. Want access to my free Travel Budget Template? Just contact me!