You’ve worked hard to save that travel money and you want it to stretch your travel budget as far as you possibly can so that you can get the most out of your trip.
Here are 25 top ‘travel on a budget’ tips to help you achieve that.
We hope these tips will help you stretch your travel budget as far as it can possibly go!
Stretching your travel budget means getting the best possible value, for the money you have available to you, and being able to linger longer and to do or experience the things that give you the most joy when you travel. It doesn’t mean having to eat MacDonalds everywhere you go or having to share a crowded, noisy hostel room or a depressing 1-star hotel room.
In this post:
- GENERAL TIPS
- TRAVELING: Getting there & getting around
- Food & Drink
Prioritize your travel budget
Prioritize the items on your budget. What are the most important things for you to experience on this trip that you’ve saved hard for?
If a luxury room is the most important aspect of your trip, go ahead and book it, but do your research first, travel in the shoulder season, and check all the websites for a bargain but be prepared to sacrifice your restaurant meals and business class travel to be able to stretch your travel budget to accommodate luxury rooms.
If you’re a foodie treat yourself to that 5-star restaurant meal every other night after you’ve checked out the best deals around town and on your Dining Apps like ‘Too good to go’ ‘Yelp’ and ‘Food Spotting’ but on the other nights be prepared to visit the local market and cook your own meals.
If you’re a museum or top tourist attraction lover, before you book your trip research the days that your favourite museums or attractions have free or discounted entry and make sure these days are included in your itinerary.
Alwasy Track Your Budget
For our longer term trips, be it backpacking through Asia or a European road trip in our Mazda Bongo, we make note of every single expenditure in a spreadsheet; from coffees, to accommodation, to fuel, we record it all.
We can then see exactly where our money is going and can also calculate how many days we can continue travelling at that rate of expenditure. If you’re travelling with an unlimited amount of time, but have a fixed pot of money, this is a really good way to encourage yourself to spend less. Because the aim is to travel for longer, right? It may also highlight bad spending habits on your travels.
Some days you will spend less, and others more. And the level of spending may vary from country to country. But keep a rolling average and stay accountable for your spending. This is the best way to keep on top of your budget.
By Jenny from TraveLynn Family
Free Walking Tours
My best travel budget tip is to take advantage of free walking tours. Almost every major city in the world offers free walking tours to visitors. The way it works is you spend apx 2-3 hours walking around a city and learning about it from a local guide. This is a great way to get the lay of the land, learn about a new place, and get all of your questions answered.
It’s also a great way to get advice and recommendations. Since the guides live locally, they can tell you where to go for dinner, suggest museums to visit, etc. I recommend going on your free walking tour on the first day of your visit, so you have the rest of your trip to make use of all of the great advice you’ve received.
While these tours are marketed as free, it’s expected to tip your guide at the end, as this is how they get paid. However, this small tip is nothing compared to how much value you get out of these tours, so it is well worth it.
On a trip, last winter in Cesky Krumlov, my partner and I showed up to the free walking tour and because it was a weekday in the off-season, we were the only ones there. So we got a private walking tour through the city for FREE apart from a small tip! It was so cool to be shown around by someone who grew up in the city and to have the tour totally catered to our interests.
By Riana Ang-Canning from Teaspoon of Adventure
Buy a Local Sim Card
When we travel to a foreign country, we all want to stay connected, use our favourite apps, and save money at the same time. The easiest way to do so, is to buy a local sim card in the country you visit.
This way you can save expensive roaming costs for internet access and phone calls on the road without hunting around for free WiFi. You will always hear stories from friends and relatives, who suddenly receive a huge, unexpected telephone bill once they have returned from their trip. Don’t be one of them – be smart and buy a sim card in the country you are visiting!
From my experience, it’s fairly easy to buy a local sim card, even with no knowledge of the local language. I usually prepare myself before I arrive by researching the best providers and deals for the country I want to visit. I rely on a crowd-sourced website for this and so far it has never failed me in nearly 30 countries.
Usually, you can either buy the local sim at the airport or in many shops in the first town you arrive in. If you go directly to the shop of the telco, in 9 out of 10 cases you can expect staff who can speak enough English to facilitate the deal and install the card as well.
Many mobile phone providers now sweeten the deal by offering special tourist cards at reduced prices. The best deal I ever found was in Montenegro: 1000 Gigabytes of data for 10€. You can’t even use that much internet if you still want to have time to see the sights…
By Juergen Klein from ‘dare2go’ – overland road trip ideas
Use your Credit card to Save money!
No matter what you have to spend on your travels, did you know you can make your budget go further by spending on a credit card? Most credit cards today offer free foreign transactions too.
This means that if you use the card where possible to purchase larger items such as restaurant meals, long bus or train travel, and accommodation the card will actually help you save money on the bad exchange rate/commissions fees when changing cash at most currency exchange houses. Meaning you will be able to make your cash money stretch further and use it to buy cheaper items in places that don’t accept credit cards.
For example whilst traveling around the UK I found shops in some of the most popular places to visit in Northern England accepted my credit card, which was great because it allowed me to save cash to buy from some of the quieter villages I visited where places that sold ice cream, or, the smaller street market vendors did not have the credit card payment facility.
By Daniel James from Urban Abroad
Rent Out your Home
One of the best ways to stretch your travel budget is by simply increasing it. We do this each and every trip, short or long, and it helps us boost our travel budget. We rent out our house at home during all of our trips.
Renting our your house during your travels is one of the easiest ways to make easy money. You might not feel comfortable with someone else sleeping in your bed and using your bathroom, but the extra travel budget totally makes up for that. Whether we go on a short weekend trip or a two month trip, we look for other travelers or expats via Airbnb or Booking.com to stay at our home.
If you really want to boost your travel budget, you might want to think bigger.
- That extra guestroom? Rent it out!
- Your garage? Transform it into a studio and rent it! It would make a great investment and provides you with valuable income to start saving for your next trip.
By Maartje from Tidy Minds
Travel Hacking – Using your Miles & Points
One way to stretch your travel budget is by travel hacking or using miles and points for near free flights and accommodation (except for a small amount for fees). You can even use points for other travel expenses including car rentals or first or business class flights and expensive hotels that you could not otherwise afford.
Since I started seriously collecting points about 7 years ago, I have flown between the USA and Asia several times and first class to Hawaii for only a few dollars.
While most people know that you can earn miles and hotel points when traveling, some don’t realize how many other ways there are to earn points even from the comfort of home. The United States (where I live) is the easiest country for travel hacking but other countries offer similar opportunities.
The fastest way to earn a large amount of points in the US is by periodically signing up for new credit cards that offer large sign up bonuses and spending a certain amount. The bonus from one or two new credit cards can be enough to pay for all or most of the typical two week vacation. You can focus on certain air mileage and hotel loyalty programs or apply for cards that earn rewards points that can be transferred to various programs or points that can be used to reimburse yourself for travel expenses.
In addition to credit cards, there are other easy ways to earn points including online shopping and dining programs. For those looking to get started, I suggest deciding on your travel goals first and then figuring out the best rewards programs to focus on depending on your travel style, where you live and where you want to go.
By Matilda from The Travel Sisters
Avoid Guided Tours & Opt for a Self-Guided Tour
When visiting a new city you may want to take a city tour or a walking tour. Organized tours like these usually have a fee or are tip-based. But if you’re trying to stretch your travel budget go on a self-guided tour. You can take inspiration from organized tours, they usually list all their stops.
Make a list of all the places you’d like to go and map out those locations. You might even see something else on the map that catches your attention. In smaller cities look to see what you can get to on foot. This is obviously the cheapest option. For the locations where you may need to take public transportation, see if there are other locations in that area that you can walk to so you’re keeping the number of trains, buses, or subways to a minimum.
For cities that have locations that are a little more spread out opt for renting a bicycle for the day. This is a great choice when public transportation is either non-existent or unreliable. Price compare the rentals online and if you’re staying at a hostel ask if they know where to rent a bike.
Avoiding guided excursions and opting for exploring on your own comes with many other perks such as saving money and seeing things at your own pace. Another perk is that you won’t be with a group and can time it to avoid other tour groups. So if you are following the guided tour’s itinerary, then start a couple of hours before or after their scheduled time. Or you can do the itinerary backward!
By Jeanine Romo from Le Wild Explorer
Visit Museums for Free
Imagine visiting major museums for free or having a significant discount on the admission price?
My best travel tip to make that travel dollar stretch a little longer in many major cities around the world is to visit these spots on certain days of the week (or the month). For example, the São Paulo Museum of Art MASP, a major tourist attraction in Brazil, offers free entrance every Tuesday, all day long.
Some other examples are the Louvre, Musée Picasso, Musée d’Orsay, and Musée Rodin in Paris, which offer free entrance on the first Sunday of each month.
And these are just a few examples of places where you can score free admission just by checking out their ticket price conditions. This information is usually clearly explained on their websites, and it’s easy to find.
By Bruna Venturinelli from I Heart Brazil
TRAVELING: Getting there & getting around
Take an overnight bus, train or ferry and sleep while you are moving to your destination!
“When you book a trip there are two expenses that usually account for a large share of your budget. These are your accommodation and transportation. Saving on the cost of these two things can mean your whole trip becomes far less expensive.
One way to do this is by combining the two by using overnight transportation! You can take an overnight bus, train or ferry and sleep while you are moving to your destination! That way you will save lots of money.
Also, besides spending less, you are making better use of your time. Instead of wasting hours waiting in transportation until you finally arrive at the place where you really want to be, you are moving while you are doing something you would have done anyway at the same time!
I once took an overnight bus from Venice, Italy to Lucerne, Switzerland and it was an amazing experience. After a long day in the photogenic city of Venice I headed to the bus and went to sleep. Then, when I woke up, I got out of the bus and immediately stood in the centre of Lucerne and saw the charming Kapellbrücke!
By Dymphe from Dymabroad
Be Flexible When Booking Flights
Have you ever realized how expensive your vacation transport can be? Flight costs can easily make up a third of our entire vacation expenses. But you can’t save a lot on flights, can you? yes you can! As a trained tourism manager and frequent traveler, I have discovered a lot of tips in recent years to always find the cheapest flight online.
The most important tip is flexibility when booking. First of all, you should start early and compare flight prices. Chances are, there is already a cheap flight available for your chosen connection.
If not, you might want to think about the following options:
- Can you fly at a different time?
- Maybe even flying from another airport or arriving at another airport?
- But perhaps you can also save a lot of money if you don’t take a direct flight but chose a flight with a little layover somewhere.
- Moreover, you have an even better chance of finding a cheap flight if you are flexible about the day of departure. Maybe a day later, the flight will only cost half as much …
As you can see, there are tons of ways to find a great deal as long as you are flexible enough when booking your flight.
By Vicki Franz from Vickiviaja
Check out Airlines Companion Fares for Big Savings
Airlines offer loyalty programs and rewards that can result in huge savings. Knowing what rewards and how to earn them can save you a bundle.
Some airlines offer companion passes as a reward, which are passes that allow a person to fly free with you. This can cut the cost of a flight in half because essentially you are getting 2 for the price of one.
Southwest Airline’s companion pass is one of the best companion passes out there because it has unlimited use for up to two years. They also allow you to use the pass in conjunction with airfares booked with rapid rewards points so essentially two can fly for free.
We were able to take advantage of this benefit and flew eight trips for our family of four in two years all over the USA including Hawaii, and the Caribbean. We utilized points along with the companion pass and only paid fees for most of the flights.
Other airlines such as Alaska Airlines, Lufthansa, and British Airways also offer companion passes that are one-time use passes. Considering the range of destinations these airlines fly to, even a one-time use companion pass could result in significant savings.
By Nicole from AffordableFamilyTravel.com
Use Public Transport – AVOID TOURIST SHUTTLES
An excellent way of stretching your budget is to avoid tourist shuttles and use public transport instead. When travelling, especially in developing countries, you’ll often see offers of shuttles that take you from one touristy destination to another. Some even include pick-up at your hotel.
But be aware that this convenience usually comes with a high price tag. You can save a lot of money if you take a local bus instead. In Costa Rica, we went from Puerto Viejo de Talamanca to Tortuguero for only around $15. Taking a tourist shuttle would have set us back $70. In Honduras, we didn’t even have a choice. The tourist shuttle didn’t leave daily, so we either had to stay in our hotel for a few days longer or take chicken buses. We also saved lots of money here.
Before leaving, make sure to research your options. Going by public transport is usually less complicated than you think.
If you cannot find any information online, ask at your hotel or hostel. Locals often know which buses and trains to take. If you have a connection somewhere, ask them to write it down so you’ll remember the next day. Plus, you can show the paper to strangers at the station so people can point you towards the right bus.
Also, keep in mind that not many tourists take public transport. That means that locals are usually curious about you and very helpful. We’ve always gotten help when asking around.
By Daniel and Ilona from Top Travel Sights
My top tip for stretching a travel budget – and one I wish I had discovered years ago – is to hire relocation vehicles. Relocation vehicles are offered by rental companies who wish to move their vehicles from one base to another within a given timeframe.
We used this low budget travel option throughout our family gap year in the United States and New Zealand and we travelled the east coast of Australia using a series of relocation vehicles. We have driven cars, campervans and motorhomes. Sometimes we have driven direct from point to point in one day but mostly we opt for vehicles that offer several days rental.
Furthermore, we search for deals that offer the option of purchasing extra days. For example, in New Zealand we hired a five-berth campervan for four days at $5 a day but purchased extra days at $75 per day. Hiring a campervan or motorhome means not only is your transport taken care of but your accommodation and self-catering needs too!
Relocation deals are available in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Canada as well as all over Europe. There are associated petrol and insurance costs and, of course, you will travel to a time scale but using relocation vehicles is a great way to extend your travel budget.
By Sinead from Map Made Memories
House Sitting & Home Exchange
A fantastic way to stretch your travel budget is by house sitting. This is where a homeowner goes on holiday and invites someone to care for their house, and sometimes even their pets, while they’re away. Often it’s a relatively easy task and there aren’t specific jobs apart from cleaning up after yourself and watering a few plants. Not only will you extend your trip by saving on accommodation, but you’ll also have access to their kitchen which means you can cook rather than eat out.
There are several websites like Trusted House Sitters where you’ll pay for a membership in order to house sit. For a cheaper option, check Facebook groups for your chosen locations. Many places will have expat communities and house sitting Facebook groups which you can join and access for free.
You’ll find house sitting opportunities all over the world. It’s especially handy in expensive countries where you’ll save a lot of money on accommodation by house sitting. Travelling in the UK on a budget is made much more manageable without paying £50+ a night for a hotel!
And if you have your own house ‘home exchange’ or ‘house swapping‘ is another excellent way to be able to stay in a place for quite a long time and live like a local.
By Rose Munday from Where Goes Rose?
Stay in Less Touristy Areas
We all want to travel to the world’s most exciting destinations. Unfortunately, this means accommodation is very expensive and can be booked out a year ahead for popular European cities. It’s especially hard in beachside resorts and islands where there is a limited amount of accommodation.
But you don’t need a view of those beautiful bays, cliffs, beaches, and harbors in order to experience the best of a summer European vacation. The price of accommodation drops significantly as soon as you don’t have a view of the water or the monument you’ve come to see.
In incredible locations such as Vernazza Italy, staying just a few streets back from the main hotel areas, or facing away from the attraction, is a small price to pay for the ability to spend longer in some of the world’s hottest destinations.
These accommodations are often family-run and don’t book out as quickly as the more expensive hotels. They aren’t listed above 3 stars because they don’t have facilities like spas, indoor pools, and gyms and you can often find them under the ‘bed and breakfast’ section of booking sites. Airbnb has also become a major disruptor and searching their map locations for stays less than 5 km from the attraction you’ve come to see can sometimes result in you finding a real gem!
By Monique from tripanthropologist.com
As convinced budget travellers, our best trick to save money is in the area where we usually spend the most: accommodation. Have you ever calculated how much money you would save on a trip if you didn’t pay for accommodation at all? Well, you can do exactly that and at the same time tremendously improve the way you travel.
Let me introduce you to “online communities where people host travellers for free”, more commonly known as Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is actually just one of those websites- the most famous and the one we personally use, but there are many others. Some of them are generic (like BeWelcome.) Others are rather specific (like Trusted Housesitters, or Warm Showers for cyclists).
The process is simple: create a personal profile and ask people in your destination city if they can host you. You see the type of person they are through their profile and you can read the personal references other guests left. These vouch for the safety of your stay. Most people will host you for a few nights while some are ready to have you longer if the vibe is good.
Beware though: these online communities are not merely meant to let you travel more on the cheap. The real idea behind them is to stay with locals so that you get to experience the place in a more authentic way. It’s therefore important to share moments with your hosts.
Staying with locals has helped us travel in a way we couldn’t have from a hotel or hostel room. They often point to underground events, local restaurants, off-the-beaten-track places – all the things that make travelling so beautiful. We sincerely hope you try it too!
By Anthony & Anna from GreenMochila.com.
Stay at a Holiday Park!
Holiday Parks are not just for pitching a tent or parking up your van. In most cases, holiday parks have some great cabins or villas. Generally, these cabins are cheaper than what you will pay for a hotel room, but even when they are the same price – booking in a holiday park will certainly make your dollar go further.
The main reason we enjoy staying at a holiday park is that in most cases the accommodation is self-contained. This means we can prepare our own meals and save some serious cash in not having to eat out all the time. Even if the accommodation is not self-contained, in most cases you get access to the on-site camp kitchens.
Not only that but holiday parks usually have great facilities – like laundry facilities and if you’re travelling with kids, they tend to have some great amenities for the little ones and often even free activities to keep them entertained.
So even if you’re not a camper – don’t overlook booking into a holiday park if you’re wanting to stretch your travel budget.
By Melissa from Queensland Camping
Travelling at a slower pace and staying put in one place for longer carries lots of potential budget benefits. One of the biggest savings you can make is on long-term accommodation.
Booking services including Airbnb offer sizable discounts for longer stays. This is at the discretion of the property owner, but you’ll often see listings that offer a healthy percentage off the booking price when you commit to either a weekly or monthly stay.
On Airbnb, you can find savings by filtering search results according to the discount category, or by plugging in your dates (making sure you choose a tidy 7 or 30 nights) and seeing which properties slash their prices. I always use this technique for booking long stays and have been able to save as much as 40% off the advertised price for Airbnbs in cities such as Tbilisi, Georgia, where I’m currently based. Oftentimes you can negotiate a further discount by dealing directly with the property owner – just be sure to do it by the books via the Airbnb portal.
Airbnb is a great option for mid-range travellers and using this trick, a self-contained apartment can often work out cheaper than a room in a guesthouse or even a hostel.
By Emily from Wander-Lush
Volunteering & Working abroad
One of the best ways to stretch your money further when travelling long-term is to look for chances to volunteer abroad. Many volunteering opportunities allow you to exchange your time helping out a few hours a day for a place to sleep and possibly also some meals.
While you can sometimes find these opportunities through word-of-mouth, an easier way is to browse online through popular services such as Worldpackers or Workaway.
They have a number of positions to choose from across the world including volunteering on farms, wineries, or other forms of ecotourism, or helping out in hostels or hotels. You can also leverage your own skills, whether it be things like photography or website design, to help out a business.
Taking up a volunteering opportunity while travelling allows you to dip deeper in a destination, immerse yourself into a culture, and get to know the local community as well as saving money to allow you to travel for longer!
By Michael Rozenblit from The World Was Here First
Food & Drink
A big part of your travel budget will be food, so figuring out a way to eat well without significantly diminishing your budget is key! One big way to stretch your budget is to eat local food. Non-local food is almost always more expensive than eating local food.
For example, in Greece, a gyro could cost as little as 2.50 EUR while a pizza could easily cost double that! Ask locals, waters, hotel workers for their recommendations on where to eat as they will usually know the cheapest and most authentic spots.
Also don’t be scared of street food! Street food is well known for being cheap and also usually super authentic. Filling up on street food is a great way to eat well and still have lots of money leftover.
Although, I’m sure you’ve heard some street food horror stories, so to avoid that, aim for the carts/stalls that have the longest queues and lost of locals eating there. Locals won’t eat or queue up for food that isn’t great, and the food goes quickly so you know it’s fresh!
All you have to do to save some money and still eat well is to be open to trying local delicacies. Not just because it’s a great way to stretch your budget but it’s also a great way to experience a country and their culture.
By Bisola from Bis to the World
Happy Hour Deals!
Utilizing these deals can save you big bucks and leave you just as satisfied!
Want to make your travel dollar stretch but still get the foodie experience? Plan ahead of time which restaurants you want to go to and do your research! Almost all restaurants have some sort of happy hour or specials on certain days. You may even get lucky and stumble upon a coupon on their website. Utilizing these deals can save you big bucks and leave you just as satisfied!
As far as happy hour specials go, it’s usually appetizers and some drinks. In this case, it can be fun to pop around to a couple of different spots and try a bite and sip at each! Once we stumbled upon a local spot that had BOGO appetizers and $2 off craft cocktails on Wednesdays— that was a total deal!
Another perk of utilizing happy hours and specials is they are usually on times and days that aren’t busy, so you can hopefully avoid the crowd! The only potential downside is— sometimes the happy hour may be so good you end up going a little harder than you anticipated!
By Destiny Snyder from Guided by Destiny
MORE FOOD & DRINK TIPS
1. LUNCH- the main meal of the day
If you’re eating out make lunch the main meal of the day particularly if you’re in Europe where ‘lunch specials’ and ‘set menus’ will be a fraction of the price that you would pay for a similar meal in the evening.
2. RESEARCH LOCAL FOOD BLOGS
Before you travel check out local food blogs for the places you’ll be visiting. The locals know the best food places and where you will get the best prices. Just put “(name of destination) food blogs” in Google.
Ask the local bartenders and baristas for their recommendations.
3. DISCOUNTS GALORE- Apps & coupons.
There are some excellent apps available that will offer some great food discounts. Put in google- ‘(name of destination) restaurant discounts. Some e.g ‘Too Good To Go’ in Europe sell last minute unsold food at heavily discounted prices. Others have prepaid vouchers like Groupon, Yelp, and Living Social.
4. REUSABLE FILTER WATER BOTTLE!
We’re sure this is a very well known tip today but just a reminder that you can save lots by not buying bottled water and it’s much better for the environment.