So you dream of an epic adventure, want to travel the world or just take a two-week-vacation on the beach? The good news: A good portion of creativity and out-of-the-box, nontraditional thinking, will allow you to go on the trip of your life!
Traveling might be a privilege – I agree with that – but it is not a luxury. Traveling does not (necessarily) mean spending exorbitant amounts of money on super expensive airfares and hotel accommodations. There are many budget-friendly options that you can take that would still allow you to get to your dream destination. So if you think you can’t afford to travel, think again. Read the following guide, and before you know it, you’ll be off to the destination you’ve always planned on going, while still keeping within your budget.
I collected more than 50 tips and tricks that I picked up through years of traveling on a tight student budget. I started exploring the world when I was only sixteen. Back then I didn´t have a glue on how to save money. I was literally blowing my dollars unnecessarily, but just didn’t know any better. I wish somebody had given me the advice I am about to give you now for free.
While writing down my advices for you, I noticed that I could probably write a book about low budget traveling. So I decided to split this post in the following parts:
Getting there – Saving on airfares
Saving big on accommodation
Transportation – Getting around for little (or no) money
Eating – Make smarter choices
Currency and Credit Cards
Communication – Cut the cost
Activities that don´t cost an arm and a leg
Make money on the road
Let´s get this thing started (and you on the road)!
The Ultimate Low Budget Travel Guide
Part 1: Airfares, Accommodation and Transportation
Getting there – Saving on Airfares
Plan ahead – Many people fall into the trap of waiting until the last minute to book their travel, thinking they’ll get a better deal. This is a myth. While this might have been true 6 or 7 years ago, current trends show that prices rise the longer you wait, as seats become scarce. I recommend you to book at least 6 weeks in advance!
Sign up for travel newsletters – No one likes to clutter up their inbox, I understand that, but by signing up for mailing lists from airlines and travel companies, you’ll be able to get updates about all the last-minute sales or special deals happening.
Find the cheapest flights – Two of my favorite global search engines are Skyscanncer and Momondo, which I use as a baseline. Both search booking sites as well as discount airline carriers for the best deals. For the US I would recommend taking a look at Travelocity, but there are tons of good aggregators around the world.
Fly on budget airlines – Budget airlines like Norwegian Air, WOW, and Air Asia fly cheaply from the US to Europe and Asia. Norwegian Air flies from both US coasts to Europe for as little as $150 one way, and from Europe to Asia for as little as $200 one way. In Asia, Air Asia has flights for $20 one-way around the region and $150 one-way onward to Australia.
Experiment with alternative airports – You’d be surprised by the money you could save simply by flying out of a nearby airport.
Always look into round trip tickets – Sometimes, one way tickets are so expensive that the round trip ticket is cheaper. Just don’t use the return trip. I know this is weird, but I did this myself a couple of times already! Flying from New York to Berlin for $500 or taking the round trip for a total of $440?! Eeeeh… Come on!
Be a little flexible with travel days – Many prices are based on supply and demand, so sometimes it’s much cheaper to leave a day or two before instead. Look around the dates of your travel plans and see if spending an extra day is worth it. Also: Tuesdays and Wednesdays are often the cheapest days to fly, so you can save hundreds just by changing your travel schedule.
Try booking at different times – Online sites sometimes have rates based on the time and day of the week you book. Try different combinations and see if you can get a better deal.
Go off season – Everyone wants to go to the beach in summer. Consider going on vacation in off-peak times. It’s cheaper and less crowded.
Travel light – Airlines are starting to charge for everything now and if you have 2 bags or more, expect to be charged for it. Remember to not use over sized bags whenever possible and try to keep it all within one bag per person.
Carry it on – If you can skip heavy baggage, do so. Most airlines charge for baggage, and extra if it’s overweight. If you can get all you need into a carry on, you’ll save a lot on the fees for checked luggage. Consider packing old clothes, that you can leave behind without tears. This way, you can keep one luggage and still have room for purchases. I have reduced my luggage to a carry on no matter where and how long I travel. It did not only save me a lot of money, but is also way more practical! Less time and energy wasted on heavy luggage!
Saving big on accommodation
Build a network on Couchsurfing – The online network Couchsurfing can help you make friends with locals and get free accommodation when you do travel. Yes, your heard right – for free. Sometimes you get a room, sometimes a couch, sometimes an air mattress, but it’s always free. The challenge: If you are using it for the first time, you might not get many responses. After all, a person with no reviews isn’t an appealing candidate to hang out in your apartment. So before you go away, sign up for Couchsurfing, find a local meet up on the website or on Facebook, and attend. You’ll make friends, be added to people’s profiles and create a network you can utilize when you actually look for a place to stay.
Because of the rise of the sharing economy in the last few years there are now websites that let you not only stay with locals but share rides, meals, train tickets, gear, and much more! These website not only save you a lot of money but they also get you off the tourist track and into the local life. Win-win!
Use Facebook to find a place to stay – Old friends and 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 drinks, but thats it! And again, since you’re living local, you won’t feel like just another tourist!
House-sit – Watch someone’s house while they go on vacation. You can sign up for one of the sites below and watch people’s homes for free, allowing you to stay in one destination for a while and get to know it well without having to pay for accommodation. Added bonus: you get a kitchen to cook your food (which saves you even more money!!!) I actually just completed my first couple of housesits this year and was very fortunate! At one point I had a whole villa in South England to myself, including two adorable puppies! Let me know if you have made similar experiences and tell me about your house-sitting story!
GET 20% OFF YOUR “TRUSTED HOUSESITTERS” MEMBERSSHIP BY SIGNING UP VIA THIS LINK:
Sleep in large dorms – I became an expert at choosing the right hostel. This one saved me lots of money: Large hostel dorm rooms are the cheapest paid accommodation out there. If Couchsurfing isn’t your thing, this is your next best way to save money on a place to sleep. Though I also recommend you to take a good pair of ear plugs… You can thank me later 😉
Use sharing economy – You can find cheaper accommodation, funny tour guides and rideshare options using sharing economy websites and apps! Moreover, you will meet locals who know where to find great deals. They know which supermarket is cheapest, which stores offer the best sales, and where to find the restaurants and bars with the tastiest food at the lowest prices. These websites have changed the travel game and made travel more accessible for everyone.
Here are some of my favorite websites:
Staying in a town next door – While checking for cheap accommodation, consider staying in smaller towns close to where you are going. They might have hotels that are much less expensive. If you don’t mind the 15 minute ride, you might just save that bundle.
Transportation – Getting around for little (or no) money
Welcome to public transportation – Do as the locals do, and catch public transportation everywhere you go. Tourist usually take taxis since it’s the laziest way to get from point A to B. Consider the subway or buses because it’s sometimes easier and it is much cheaper.
Use search engines – Rome 2 Rio is a great transport search engine! They’ll tell you how to get to your destination by all transport methods and tell you which is the cheapest!
Night trains, buses and flights – If the transportation is going to be long, consider traveling at night to save money on accommodation. Many people have a tough time sleeping on these, but it’s all a matter of practice. Once you get used to it, you will be able to have a good night’s rest. If flying is too short for you to take advantage of sleeping while traveling, take a bus ride. When you are sleeping, you won’t mind that the bus ride is 9 hours.
Driving is not bad – Want to take that 1 hour flight? With airport security and all the hassle of airport inefficiencies, you will end up with a four hour experience and might as well drive there. It takes just as long and it’s less expensive.
Hitchhike – A free way to get around destinations that is relatively safe and quite common in many parts of the world, including Central America, Eastern Europe, and Australia. Hitchhiking not only saved me money, it also spiced up my travels, allowing me to experience things that I could never have planned or dreamed of.
This was Part 1/3 of my ULTIMATE LOW BUDGET TRAVEL GUIDE! If you liked it or have more ideas on how to save a boat-load of money, let me know! I would love to hear your ideas!
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Planning to go on the trip of your life and trying to save every penny to make the dream come true?! My “How to save money for traveling” guide lets you in on all the secrets you need to know!