The biggest myth of all time is that you can’t travel without dishing out your entire life savings. Who said taking a vacation had to be expensive?
I traveled more in the past 4 years during college than I have in my entire life. I was able to go to over 11 different countries in 3 different continents spread across those 4 years.
Of course, I had to work for this opportunity. I consistently worked 25+ hours per week to pay my rent as well as my endeavors abroad. I tried a variety of little tricks to help save, ranging from a couple bucks a month to a couple hundred a month while waiting tables.
Now, I know that not all jobs or budgets allow what mine did. What worked for me may not work for you. However, I am hoping these tips on saving, booking, and traveling will give you some inspiration while taking your next trip.
8 Ways To Travel On A Budget
1) Start saving
Like mentioned above, I didn’t have a huge income, yet I was still able to make traveling the world a reality. How did I do this? Lots of different saving techniques. For example:
I funded my first 3-week European trip to Germany and France by saving all $5 bills that came into my possession. Now, this was a lot easier for me to do since I was waiting tables and relied on tips as my main source of income. Whenever I received a $5 bill, I slipped that baby into a box and deposited them into the bank every few weeks.
I also started a second savings account. This is so easy to do AND you might gain interest over time, increasing your fund! I found this as a super easy way to track my savings and it was also a lot of motivation seeing it grow and kept me from touching it.
2) Book your tickets on a public computer
I’m sure you’ve all heard of this tip before. Websites track what you are looking at on the computer and therefore, airlines and hotels will jack up their prices if you’ve looked at bookings multiple times.
To avoid this scam-like behavior from booking websites, go to a public computer where cookies aren’t stored and they can’t monitor your searches. The cheapest tickets will tend to pop up. Also check what days are generally cheapest to buy online depending on what time of the year and location.
3) Stop staying in hotels
I never stay in hotels. Never.
Hostels and Airbnb’s are a gift to budget travelers. Hostels are not my favorite but they can be okay when you only need a place to crash for a night and you’re really tight on money. They are also great ways to meet new people and explore whatever city you are in. Many hostels host bar crawls, meals, and other activities to get you out and exploring with other people for a very low cost.
Another one of my favorite things that have come up in the past few years is Airbnb. I have had such luck with this website. Like flights, prices can be very cheap but it all depends on how much you want to flex on location and what season you are traveling. I have stayed in amazing houses in Spain to little cottages in someone’s backyard in the Netherlands. This is also a great opportunity to live in neighborhoods like a true local as well as other perks, such as a kitchen.
4) Use public transportation
In America, we love companies like Uber and Lyft. Skip these. I don’t even know if they exist in other countries. However, what I’ve found in other countries is that Taxis are quite cheap as well as forms of public transportation.
If you’re in Europe wanting to travel to other parts of the country or another country in whole, I strongly recommend the train. This takes a little bit longer than flights, but the sights are so worth it. This allows you to see all different parts of the country you wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise. It’s also nice to kick back with a good book and plenty of leg room.
If you’re traveling to another city within reasonable distance, I would recommend using Blah Blah Car. This is essentially a carpooling system that allows drivers and riders to pitch in equally for gas money when traveling to the same location. Good for the environment and good for your pocket!
5) Go in the off-season
I cannot stress this enough. Going in the off-season will save you HUNDREDS. On flights, lodging, food, activities, etc.
Have you ever dreamed of going to Santorini in Greece, watching the sunset, eating baklava on your balcony overlooking the islands? Thought this was only a dream honeymoon for millionaires? Not even close! I did just that (minus the honeymoon part) for 4 days on another one of my European adventures. I went in March, so the weather wasn’t perfect, but everything else was. We had the whole beach to ourselves. Locals loved talking to us because there were no heavy crowds. Perfect villa in the middle of town at a cheap price. So worth it!!
6) Pack lightly
An easy way to avoid added costs and hassle is pack lightly. I follow a general rule of thumb: one carry-on suitcase and one personal bag (a purse or backpack).
Most budget airlines only allow these 2 bags (sometimes less) PLUS it avoids the hassle of possible losing your luggage (this has happened to me too many times) and dragging it around. Plus, if you book an Airbnb, many have washing machines, which makes it even easier!
An added bonus: leave extra room in your suitcase to bring some new threads or souvenirs from where you traveled!
7) Eat like a local
Fortunately, the majority of the people I traveled with were as frugal as me. On trips, we set boundaries in regards to where we’d eat and what our food budget was. A general rule of thumb we kept was only eat out once per city and somewhere the locals recommend. This way we could experience the area’s idea of good cuisine while not breaking the bank or being disappointed on a poor restaurant choice.
Another great place to find cheap noms are at the fresh, local markets. This is mostly focused on the European countries I’ve been to. I rarely come across markets like this in America besides some farmer’s markets. By going to the market, you don’t have to pay extra for the packaging or upcharges in the store. Plus, you’re supporting the locals and their businesses. Some of the best food I’ve ever had was from the Barcelona Mercado, sampling fresh fruit, fish, cheese, and jamón serrano. Another fun thing to do is take these goodies back with you and cook where you’re staying if it has a kitchen!
Wherever I went, I tended to make friends along the way. If I trusted them enough and new I’d be surrounded by other people I knew, I often sampled the gastronomy of locals when being invited to their home or social gatherings. Best part about this is that it is FREE! Be careful with this tip and always trust your gut.
8) Utilize student discounts
If you fall under the student category, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THESE DISCOUNTS! I repeat, do not forget your Student ID while traveling!
I saved so much money by simply presenting my Student ID. For example, I was able to hike to the center of where democracy was freakin’ established for free. Remember all those books you read and movies you’ve seen about Greek Gods? I was able to touch the monuments where all of that took place, the Acropolis, in Athens, Greece without paying a dime.
I also was able to get youth discounts on flights (I highly recommend booking your flights on StudentUniverse. They find discounts for students and youth under 25 years of age), cheap train tickets, and free entrances to museums and other sight-seeing locations. All because I was a student. Not a student anymore but recently left? Bring it anyway. They probably won’t know. 😉
See! It is so easy to travel on a budget. It’s all about prioritizing and making small sacrifices because I promise it won’t take away from your trip!
I am curious to hear from you other fellow travel junkies. Is there any tips and tricks you have when planning a vacation? Any secrets to saving some extra cash to spend on gelato? I’d love to know!!