You may not believe me when I say this, but travel is more accessible now for budget travelers than ever before. If you haven’t taken the leap into travel, you may think that everywhere is so exotic that there isn’t a way to travel cheap, but what if I told you there are HEAPS of tips for traveling on a budget that will have you booking your dream trip in no time, without compromising your expectations? See where we’re going with this one?
See, when I was young I thought travel was a sandals commercial. That there wasn’t a way to see crystal clear water and white sand beaches without spending $10,000/night *shudders* on an over-water bungalow in French Polynesia or booking an expensive all-inclusive resort package. Once I took my first trip abroad, I realized just how cheap travel can be and now I want to share my best tips that I use on all my trips to save coin and not blow a fortune so that I can travel more and for longer, which is always the goal, right? Travel is one of the things that I care so deeply about in the world, so if I can help y’all even plan a sweet, short-term trip somewhere cool, that makes all this worth it.
In this post, we are going to cover 21 tips for traveling on a budget that will help you maximize your savings on the road. Already planning? Use these tips to help you save money for travel!
This post may contain affiliate links for the products I mentioned, but as always, all opinions are my own. I make a small commission, at no extra cost to you, when you make a purchase or booking through these links. This helps to support this space and keep me blogging, which I am so extremely thankful for.
Looking for more trip-planning resources For traveling on a budget? Check these out!
Clearing Up The Misconceptions
Yes, travel is a privilege. No, you don’t need to be rich.
To be as frank as possible, life is not a Sandals commercial. You know. Those ones that would come on as a kid that would showcase stupidly clear water and a luxury resort at obnoxious rates? They just looked so ~expensive~, and ~unattainable~ for the average joe. So through my rose-colored, childhood glasses, I associated ALL travel with being this experience that only rich people had access to. After hopping around the globe these last years, I can tell you that the majority of people you’ll meet while traveling are on a tighter budget than you may think. Yes, including myself! I do save quite a bit for traveling so that I can be comfortable, but I’ve still never paid over $20 for a night of accommodation anywhere that I’ve laid my head. I am a fairly stingy gal, but this doesn’t mean that I haven’t been able to go to some amazing places and not sold half my left kidney to do it…
In this post, we are going to be gathering the best tips for traveling on a budget so that you can put travel on your priority list and get excited about making it an attainable goal for yourself!
21 Tips For Traveling On A Budget
AKA how to travel the world when you only have like $5
1 | Travel Where Your Money Goes Far
My first and BEST tip for traveling on a budget is traveling where your money goes far. What this means is that if you’re coming from countries with a strong currency (USA, Europe, Australia, etc.) you become “richer” in countries with weaker currencies. Did you know the US Dollar is one of the world’s strongest currencies? Yes! #ramen4life in the United States can mean ballin’ LARGE in a huge portion of the world. Where can you go to stretch your money and make budget travel a cakewalk? Let’s take a look!
Excellent Budget Travel Destinations
Asia | Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, The Philippines, Nepal
Eastern Europe | Georgia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Albania, Ukraine
Central America | Nicaragua, Costa Rica
South America | Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina, Bolivia
East Africa | Tanzania, Morocco, Egypt, Rwanda
North America | US National Parks
This list is in no way official, but it is a good starting point to getting you somewhere super cool. Obviously I haven’t been to all these places, so I cannot speak for all of them, but a helpful resource for researching what things cost in specific countries is Budget Your Trip. You can look at any country in the world and look at what it costs to travel that destination for days, weeks, or months, and even look at accommodation, transport, food, entertainment, tips, and alcohol prices. I always start here so that I can get a grasp of what to expect so I can budget properly.
A region that I can speak for and praise for its affordability is Southeast Asia. Oh, how I adore this region of the world. Now, I really want to get into some examples from my trip to Bali to put things into perspective. Buckle those seatbelts because these might just blow you away!
One night at the Bread and Jam Hostel | $6 USD
Two plates of street rice (Bali, Indonesia) | ~$1 USD
A nice dinner (Bali, Indonesia) | $4 USD
Daily scooter rental (Bali, Indonesia) | $2-4 USD / Day
You know the destination is great for budget travelers when you can add up daily costs like these and come out under $25-$30/day! If you can swing this in the country of your choice, then you’ll be able to save very quickly for your adventure, and then instead of a week in Europe, you can spend THREE weeks in Europe!
This is one of the main reasons why I love Asia so much is because you can have a more-than-average experience AND you are able to travel for longer. This is why so many people flock here! When it comes to traveling on a budget to cheap destinations like these, the most expensive part of your trip is getting there. Even then, you can easily score a cheap flight with ongoing airline deals.
2 | Get Travel Points For What You’re Already Spending Money On
For some of us, making or setting aside more money isn’t always possible. I have been fortunate enough to save large chunks of my income, which is why I am able to travel as much as I do, but I realize that a lot of us have them bills to pay. Why does being alive cost so much money? You know, I ask myself this question everyday single day of my life and can never wrap my mind around it. SO, my first tip for traveling with little money is getting travel points for the money that you do spend.
Seriously, I cannot believe I didn’t do this sooner. With how much money I have thrown towards flights, accommodation, food, groceries, gear, gas, I should have so many redeemable rewards, but I was late on this bandwagon. Travel rewards, or travel points, are points through credit card companies that you can redeem for flights, car rentals, and accommodation. For example, after working very hard to raise my credit score over the last couple of years, I finally qualified for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. During the time of my application, they had a welcome offer that would give you 60,000 bonus points if you spent so much money within a span of 3-4 months. I had trips to plan and some gear to invest in, so this was very feasible to me (thankfully) and I ended up receiving the bonus. Those 60,000 bonus points are now redeemable for around $800 USD. That’s a roundtrip flight to Europe, Asia, anywhere in the US, or South America, and I received that for spending money that I already planned on spending and that I was already putting forward for gas, groceries, and other expenses.
Not only are those points redeemable for flights, but you can spend them on Apple products, Amazon purchases, car rentals, cruises, etc.! I never realized before just how these points translated across the other brands that I support, but the opportunities are endless to redeem these suckers, with the best being a flight, in my opinion. Once you receive these points, you keep earning with every purchase you make. It’s more than worth it. Especially if your bills eat up a lot of your monthly income!
It took me around two years to qualify for this credit card since I had to build my credit score literally from the ground up when I was 18. If you don’t qualify for this card now, I recommend starting with a different card to build up your credit score so you can qualify for this one. I used Credit Karma to keep track of my score as the years have gone on and it’s really helped me understand how these scores work and how I can improve my own. I use my credit cards like debit cards, so I am never spending money that I do not have and my cards are always paid off 100% at the end of the month. It’s so easy to get carried away with them since it’s an illusion of “free money”, but it’s important to be responsible about your purchases and only spend money THAT. YOU. HAVE. Make spending money work in your favor and start getting those points! You can apply for the Chase card here if you’re interested or you can check out the best credit cards for beginners here.
This is my BEST tip since you can knock out your largest travel expense just by paying your bills!
3 | Travel In The Off-Season
Alright, look. I get it. Let’s set the scene that is a cult classic for all of my Lizzie McQuire lovers out there (y’all already know where this is going lol):
It’s summer. The temperature is a robust 85 degrees. You’re standing at the base of the Trevi Fountain holding your cone filled with raspberry gelato before tossing your Euro into the fountain. When all of a SUDDEN, an Italian boy sweeps you off your feet and… Okay, maybe we don’t all dream of riding off on a scooter with an Italian boy named Paulo, especially with that closing performance *shudders*, but we all dream of spending a summer in Europe. It’s THE vibe. It’s THE aesthetic. It is IT. And this is exactly why it’s so damn expensive! The demand for travel during this season is high and people in the travel industry jack up those prices because they know people will pay them. On top of that, Italy is a highly sought after travel destination in the first place, so when you mix the two, be prepped to throw that chedda’ into the fire. The same goes for, say, visiting Nw York for Christmas or New Years. Massive events like that make prices skyrocket!
While experiences like these are worth the splurge, and something that I do still want to do someday, you can visit these places in the shoulder and low seasons for a fraction of the price and still have a good time while saving money and being around fewer people. Whenever you look at flights, guesthouses, and activities, compare the prices to the prices of the low/off-season and consider altering your dates if you can!
4 | Buy A Local SIM Card Instead Of Paying Your Home Phone Carrier
One of the most discreet budget-busters is paying to use your home SIM card while you’re traveling. If you have a phone plan that includes international data/coverage, then you may not need this, but if don’t pay for it or already have it on your monthly billing, then this is going to save your life.
International phone plans, on average, come out to be around $10/day. While this doesn’t seem like much, if you’re traveling for around ten days, that comes out to $100 respectively, and that’s $100 that I am not willing to spend. So what do I do? I get a local SIM card that allows me to make local texts with a certain amount of data for around $10-$20 for my WHOLE trip. Generally, you can get them in the airport or whatever major city that you’re flying into, but if you’re unsure, just google “*country* SIM card” and there will be all the information you need.
Once you get to your destination, you’re going to take your phone to wherever they swap them at and they will do the whole setup for you. This gives you a local phone number to use. This is my preferred way of staying connected while I travel because I don’t have to rely on Wifi to communicate with loved ones and if I am ever in trouble, I can call the local police. I am even able to text friends from home without additional charges so it’s a MASSIVE win and something that I’ve done since I first started traveling. If you want to save even more money, then you can opt for free Wifi only, but this gives me an extra sense of security that doesn’t cost much.
5 | Track + Find Flight Deals
The cost of flying, most of the time, is the most expensive part of any trip. Getting from a to b can be costly, but if you can find the right deals, then you’ll be shocked at what you can get flights for these days. The best way to find deals is through Scott’s Cheap Flights. I prefer this service because I don’t have to do any type of digging and finessing to get something cheap and there are some seriously good deals that show up on a daily basis. All you have to do is sign up, put in your preferred home airport, and then you get daily flight deals sent to your email. Or if you don’t check your email often, they’re all posted on the website to browse! It is free, but there is a premium option that grants you access to ALL the deals, rather than a select few. It’s around $40/year and it’s worth its weight in gold. Trust me.
I see flights to Europe for under $500 ALL. THE. TIME. I see flights to Asia for $450+ ALL. THE. TIME. And the best part about it is that the deals are on trusted sites so you don’t have to go to a sketchy, unreliable third party website to get a deal. I just got a flight from Dallas to Tokyo for $300 roundtrip and I was able to book directly with the airline! If you’re really serious about saving money, use this site!
Another reason to track flight deals is that you can base your trip off what flights are going on sale. Once you’ve saved money and are able to buy a flight, you can keep updated on daily deals, so once something catches your eye that is budget-friendly, you can book it immediately and snag the deal! If you have a certain destination in mind but haven’t been seeing any deals, you can always use my tips for finding cheap flights so that you can book your dream trip for less.
6 | Base Your Trip Off What Is Free To Do
If you don’t have a lot of money to put towards excursions, then do some light research and you’ll find that there are so many free things to do no matter where you are in the world. When I am choosing my travel destinations, I often pick ones that are nature-based since seeing nature is, well, free! That way I can either save that money or put it towards local restaurants that I want to try out. If you are exploring a larger city, consider grabbing a city pass. This is a one-time purchase that gives you access to 10-20 (ish) things around the city so you don’t blow a bunch of money on entrance fees. Also, look up street art, free walking tours, and even free entrance days for museums and galleries!
7 | Cook Your Own Meals When Possible
Although one of my favorite parts of traveling is the food, cooking your own meals is an EXCELLENT way to cut down your costs. I don’t recommend cooking every single meal because restaurants are an aspect of travel that really add to the uniqueness of a destination. Especially if local cuisine is on your radar. You can learn and immerse yourself into the culture a lot more by eating at food stalls and mom and pop shops, so definitely hit those up, but if you can manage one meal a day that you cook for yourself, you can save quite a bit of money.
One big component that impacts your food budget for your trip is where you are going. While eating out in Western Europe can set you back like 20-30 euros a day, depending on where you go, eating out in Asia is significantly less expensive. This is another plus of visiting Asia because you and your tastebuds can enjoy going out without having to worry about what you’re spending because meals generally sit under $3-5 dollars, and sometimes they’re even cheaper than that!
8 | Avoid Touristy Areas
This tip truly goes without saying, but the more iconic the destination is, the more expensive the prices will be. Certain destinations, especially major cities, will jack up the prices of things simply because they can. They know people are going to travel there regardless and they can charge more money to be there. Low radar destinations, on the other hand, almost always have cheaper prices. Regions that are off the radar are like Central Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Countries in these regions tend to be cheaper, and a lot of the time, really underrated!
Avoiding touristy areas can be seen in a lot of different ways, so don’t feel like you cannot go to Rome, Venice, or Paris because it’s super touristy. What it can mean is staying outside of the city, or adding another small town to your itinerary, eating where the locals do, going to really cool sites that not many people visit, and visiting a cheaper alternative to something that’s really popular. A good example of this is going to the Myvatn Nature Baths in Iceland for a fraction of the price as the Blue Lagoon.
My tips for avoiding these areas are: look for accommodations outside of hubs, look for cheaper alternatives and underrated cities, and explore more places where the people are fewer and the locals are plentiful.
9 | Bring Your Own Water Bottle
It’s 2020, there is no use in spending money on water bottles every day. Not to mention it’s so wasteful. There isn’t really a secret to this. Just bring your own water bottle on your trip (we all know I prefer this one) and ask your guesthouse to fill it up for you before you leave. Most of the time they will do it for free and it’ll shave dollars off your daily spending. If you’re in a major city or the airport, Starbucks will always fill your water for free with ice!
Traveling in countries where clean drinking water isn’t readily accessible is more challenging, but it still is doable. A lot of people recommend this filtered water bottle, but an excellent, cheaper option is this water filter. These are most popular in the outdoor community for backpacking, but they are pretty versatile and useful for instant access to clean drinking water in lesser-developed countries.
10 | Use Local Transport
Yes. Yes. YES. Local transport!
The cheapest way to get around ANY country is by using local transport! For some trips, this isn’t always doable, especially if you’re road-tripping across the US or visiting places where you’re much better off renting your own car, like in Iceland. But for the most part, buses, trains, overnight trains, scooters, and country-specific local transport are the cheapest ways to get around. If you’re planning a visit to anywhere in Southeast Asia, the sheer amount of transport options for the stupidly cheap price make it one of the most easily traveled regions in the world. That’s a huge statement to make, but when you can get a ten-minute tricycle ride in the Philippines for less than fifty cents, exploring couldn’t be more accessible.
11 | “DIY” Tours
I’ll admit… I am not a huge tour person, to begin with. I’ll pay for specific tours/activities that I cannot do myself like island hopping and swimming with whale sharks, but any tour that involves activities that I can schedule and access myself you will not catch me on about 90% of the time. Essentially, you’re just paying more money for someone else to organize your sightseeing for you. The main downsides of guided tours are that they are generally more expensive than seeing it yourself (most of the time) and you get to the sights when ALL the other tours do too. This means sunrise and sunset missions are impossible and you’re traveling at the busiest times of the day. Another plus side to organizing sightseeing yourself is that you’ll probably get to see MORE because you are on your own time and can stay out as early or late as you’d like.
To clarify, tours like this and this are kind of the realm of what I am talking about. Some activities you just cannot do without booking a tour, like hiking up a volcano, swimming with sharks, a glacier walk, etc.. These are the activities that I generally consider as a “splurge” on my trips. I try and do at least one on every trip I go to. In Iceland, it was the Blue Lagoon. In the Philippines, it was swimming with whale sharks. Both of these totaled out to be around $80 USD each, but these were things that I specifically budgeted for while everything else I tried to do for free or cheap. Before you go booking things, consider the cost to rent a car, pack some sandwiches, and do it yoself (DIY)!
12 | Travel Slower + Longer
It sounds counterintuitive to say that extending your trip will save you money, but a lot of things lower in cost the longer your stay, like flights and accommodations. I almost want to keep this next part a secret, but it’s too good to not share…
So flights to Tahiti were on sale, and I was thinking to myself, “Aaren, the flight is cheap, but there isn’t one place on the island that is cheap to stay at.” THAT WAS UNTIL I FOUND THIS. My eyes sparkled looking at the “$14/night” cost and at that moment I considered what it would be like to spend a whole month living out my tropical, island life dreams. I changed the dates to mimick a bucket-list, 30-day stay, and to my surprise, you can book that spot for 40% OFF if you book for the month. Which brought my grand total to around $250 for the MONTH.
It’s little hidden nuggets like these that will really save you money. Granted they do increase other budgets like food, but if the pros outweigh the cons, I’d say go for it!’
Whenever you’re looking at flights and stays, play with the dates to see if you can get a better deal for a longer stay!
13 | Research Scams + Know What Things Cost/Conversion Rates
No matter where in the world you travel, people are going to try and scam you for money. Different areas have different levels of petty crime, so it’s best to do your research to avoid spending more money than you have to. Some of the main areas where scams take place are taxis, local transport, street shops, pickpocketers, and “arranged scams“, as I call them.
The reason why these work on tourists is for a few reasons: they don’t know the conversion rates, they think people are trying to be nice, or they don’t want to be rude. All this to say, they don’t feel bad about scamming you, so don’t feel bad for possibly coming off as rude or asserting yourself if need be. Before you leave, make sure you familiarize yourself with common scams, pricing, and the conversion rates so you don’t end up spending 15x the money you planned for, or more. I like using the XE currency converter website and app on the road because it keeps live updates of conversion rates and is super user-friendly.
14 | Pack Light
I am not the most stubborn person on this planet, but one thing that I will absolutely NOT pay for is luggage. After paying hundreds of dollars on a flight, some airlines expect you to pay additional fees for checked bags. COULDN’T be me. The way that I solve this is by traveling light and taking only a carry-on when I fly. If the airlines grants a free checked bag with my flight, generally I’ll check it so I don’t have to lug it around the airport, but most checked bags are around $25+ each way, so I really try to avoid paying it.
It’s really not as difficult as it seems. Once you realize how little you need while you’re away (like how you pack ten shirts and wear the same three), you’ll try and shave down your packing lists again and again as you explore more.
Benefits of traveling with carry-on only
- You don’t have to wait in line at baggage claim
- No additional fees
- No lost luggage
- Not as much weight to lug around
- You know where all your things are
15 | Work While You’re Traveling
If you’re looking to travel longterm, the best way to travel for cheaper and longer is by working while you travel. Yes, it doesn’t sound like the most glamorous thing, but it gets you out there and SO MANY people are doing this! Working while you travel is perfect because it shaves costs off big-spending categories like accommodation and food, while also (possibly) bringing you money in so you’re making money on the road. Please know that before you set off on all your foreign extravaganzas, you need to make sure you do it legally and get a working holiday visa for whatever country you’re going to.
There are many ways to make or save money while you travel, but these are the “big kahunas”:
WOOFing stands for “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms”. Phew! A mouthful, but a great way to secure free housing and free meals. The whole concept is you go and work on farms all around the world in exchange for either food, housing, or both in some cases. You live with your host and most places require 4-6 hours of work in exchange for food and housing. This is a good option for you if you don’t mind manual labor, aren’t afraid to get down and dirty, and truly want to immerse yourself in the local culture. Duties vary depending on where you go, but you’ll be expected to do things like gardening, seed sowing, composting, fencing, milking, winemaking *wink*, etc..
One of the better features of WOOFing is your stay is negotiated with your host, so it can range anywhere from 1-2 weeks to six months. So if you really want to country hop you can, or you can chill in one spot for a little while. In order to see the farms available, you’ll need to pay for a membership fee, but after that, you have access for a full year (I believe). While I haven’t used this service yet, I really want to go to work on a Japanese farm eventually to advance my Japanese. It sounds absolutely lovely. If Japan doesn’t interest you, they have some other really epic spots that are part of this program: Tanzania, Madagascar, Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, and more! Read more about how the program works here! Just remember that you’re not paid with currency, so having a little bit of money aside is necessary for this.
Another good way to exchange “work” for a place to stay is through housesitting. I was kind of shocked that this was a thing when I first heard about it, but it’s really genius. You watch someone’s house while they’re away and you get a free place to stay, possibly with DOGS, in return?! HELL yeah. Unlike WOOFing, your meals aren’t paid for, but you do kn0ck off the price of housing which is a huge budget item!
In order to view sitting opportunities, you have to pay for a membership to the site, around $10-$15/month depending on the plan you choose, and you’ll have access to unlimited “sits”. The initial cost can be a good chunk of change, but it pays for itself as long as you use it to its full potential. Read more about how housesitting works here!
If you’re interested in getting both a place to stay and food (and money depending on the host), but you don’t want to do farm work, Workaway is a great option for you. Another plus of using Workaway is that there are more opportunities in more countries, so if you didn’t find farm work for where you want to go, you might be able to find it here. Jobs you can find here are teaching English, harvesting, hostel work, housekeeping, and building. It isn’t limited to just these things because the listings touch down in all areas of work, so you’ll have to browse around and see if anything catches your eye. Speaking of, this is one of the benefits of this service, you can view listings without having an account, and you don’t have to pay a yearly premium for it.
An ‘au pair‘ is someone that travels to a foreign country to help with family and household duties. It’s essentially a nannying job, but you travel overseas, or whatever country you want, really. There is a lot more that goes into au pairing than it seems. It’s actually a ton of work with not as much downtime depending on who your host family is, so you really need to make sure that this is right for you and something you’re truly interested in. I found some really good au pair tips that might help you get a little insight into what the job is really like, so check those out to make sure it’s ticking off all your boxes.
Nannying or au pairing is going to knock out one major expense, housing, and solve another, employment. You can sign up for free on AuPairWorld, FindAuPair, and Aupair to find families that align with you. It’s important that you enjoy kids and looking after them because if you don’t, you might just be very unhappy with your decision, and if you find that you want to leave, you lose a job and housing, so keep that in mind and prepare accordingly. Read more about how to become and au pair here.
This was sort of already covered since these jobs typically make their way onto Workaway, but working in hostels is a great way to travel on a budget. This is more like a structured job, but you still get housing and sometimes food/pay depending on the hostel. A really good resource for finding these opportunities is on Hosteljobs, and you can use these tips to pick up a job in your dream city. Jobs can be a little competitive, but once you secure yours, you can basically keep hostel hopping to see the world.
One of the biggest upsides to working in hostels is that they are a lot more relaxed and social than say, a hotel. You meet likeminded, budget travelers every day and the atmosphere of most is very warm and welcoming, which is why I tend to gravitate towards them when I book my own trips. Plus, they’re cheap! Duh lol. If you want to have greater chances of finding this type of work look at Europe for the summer months, Central/South America in December through April, and Southeast Asia for peak season. The best place to look for a location-specific job is on Hostelworld, the best booking platform for hostels all around the world!
Teach English As A Second Language
Aside from more volunteer type work, teaching English is probably the most popular way people work to travel, or work and travel. There are two different approaches that you can take to this, and it really depends on where you want to teach. Most of the “favorable” countries require both a bachelor’s degree (in anything) coupled with a TEFL/TSL certification. Countries include South Korea, Japan, UAE, China, etc.. These are more favorable places to go because they pay higher rates, offer more benefits to teaching there, and some even cover your housing for you. South Korea, for example, will pay for your housing and flight ON TOP of paying you a pretty hefty salary, around $2000 USD/month, sometimes more, sometimes less depending on experience level. Some people save tens of thousands of dollars a year doing this. It’s NUTS, but the work is well worth the reward! Alternatively, you can also teach through VIPKID (also requires a degree), but can be done anywhere in the world since it is online. They pay $14-22/hour and you set your own schedule!
If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, your country options aren’t as rewarding benefits and pay-wise, but you can still snag a good job. You do still need a TEFL/TSL certificate, though. To get this TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Langage) certification, the best thing to do is an in-person course with ITTT or online (cheaper) with TEFLPros or Premier TEFL.
Working Holiday Visa
Everything that I have mentioned above falls into this ‘working holiday visa’ category, but I am taking an alternative approach since you don’t always have to do farm and volunteer work to use this visa. I am very thankful to have a well-paying job here in the states, but for some, the $7.25/hour minimum wage (or anything less than $10, really, is PROPOSTEROUS and makes it really difficult to save your money. So what people do is take advantage of the high minimum wages in other countries, Australia, for example.
The minimum wage in Australia is around $12-15/hour. PLUS, they encourage vacation days, and some jobs even offer paid vacations! Seriously, this is worth looking into! The first thing you need to do is apply for an Australian Working Holiday Visa (or the visa for what country you’re going to). For Americans, you have the ability to get a working holiday visa in these six countries: Australia, Ireland, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada, and South Korea. If you’re a US passport holder, acceptance for the visa is a certain thing most of the time, but it is competitive. Once you secured your visa, you’re going to need to save some money. There are special requirements for the visa that you must know (read up here), but if you can snag a visa and get a pay raise, living and working in another country is excellent for traveling on a budget since you have both savings and an active source of income.
If moving to another country isn’t on your radar, a seasonal job might be a good fit! I first found out about these on TikTok and I fell in love with the idea of moving to another state to work in a National Park or a cool location in general. There is a massive guide for US National Park Seasonal Jobs here that will be super useful! While these jobs don’t generally pay you well at all, you are getting to travel and still make money. Plus, things to do in our National Parks are free anyway, so if you love hiking and the outdoors, this is an amazing fit for you.
Other seasonal jobs can be things like ski resorts, resorts, festivals, summer camps, or tour/travel guide jobs. I don’t know much about this area yet, so read this guide for more information!
16 | Don’t Book Last Minute
I would say that booking last minute is 10x more expensive, 95% of the time. On occasion, you can get great deals, but I don’t recommend it if you’re trying to travel on a budget. Plus, that is very stressful, not worth the riskiness of waiting, and a topic for anotha’ day. SO, the further out you can start saving and searching for deals, the cheaper you can get your trip.
17 | Stay In Cheap/FREE Accommodation
If when you go to look for accommodation bookings and all you look at are 3+ star hotel rooms and expensive Airbnb’s, you’re looking in the wrong places to find cheap accommodation. There are always ways to stay on the cheap no matter where you are. Where there is a will, there’s a way! For this budget travel tip, we will be exploring all the best spots to find cheap and/or free places to stay!
Okay so, I know I just said that Airbnb was expensive, BUT they do have loads of budget options listed. You just have to know how to find them. I have found that using the map tool is great to look for spots outside of the city, and sing the price gauge to dwindle the search into places that fit your budget. If you cannot find anything, see what the cost would be to extend your stay. Sometimes there are FANTASTIC discounts for staying for a month: 10, 20, 40% off!
Is it your first time using Airbnb? Use this link to make your account and get $50 off your first stay!
Hostelworld is the first place I go to when looking for places to stay under $20 a night. Hostels are shared rooms with other travelers and that is why they can knock the room price so low. If you don’t mind having some roommates and shared spaces, this is an excellent option for budget travelers. Hostels are a great way to make new friends or even gain a travel partner if you’re solo. Some people do prefer using Airbnb since they can have their own space, but if you’re really committed, try out a hostel and save a SHIT TON.
You’ll bee stoked to know that not ALL hostels are dirty, stinky, and unkept… Check out my favorite hostel I’ve stayed at for inspiration!
Let me be upfront, I have never used Couchsurfing before, but I know of a lot of people that have. Essentially, it’s an app and website that connects you with people in the city you’re in that will host you for free. AKA they let you crash on their couch, spare room, etc.. It’s exactly how it sounds. You’re staying with a total stranger and that’s part of the reason why I haven’t used this yet. I don’t have the cajones to and I don’t mind spending a little more money to have a booked stay. If you’re on a super, super tight budget, then this is an option to find free accommodation. Just make sure you stay safe and read these! Even better if you can stay with friends, friends of friends, or family, instead!
Camping is easily one of the most universal budget accommodations around the world. I was able to shave down my Iceland budget by pitching my tent and spending some time outside rather than booking Airbnb’s! This choice is heavily influenced by where you’re going and where you’re going to be based, so if you have a more rugged itinerary, then this is great, but if you’re on a city break, it’s not something that I recommend, but it’s definitely something you can do!
18 | Buy Souvenirs From Local Vendors or Opt-Out
I don’t generally purchase souvenirs since I mainly use photos for my memorabilia, but I know a lot of people collect things or get a little something. If you’re getting a souvenir, my best advice is to go local and to stay away from mainstream souvenir shops in tourist hubs. These shops are not only very unsustainable due to mass production and the fact that it doesn’t support the local economy, but they tend to be the same no matter where you go: t-shirts, shot glasses, underwear, themed items, etc.. When you shop local, your money is going directly to helping a family in town and you’re getting something really cool in return.
I am drawn to art pieces and pottery normally, but you can even get a unique shirt or tool that you can use every day. Buying one, quality item is going to put more value on it, and you’ll be less likely to go on a spending spree at shops in the main areas. Plus, if you’re traveling light, you may not have room for a ton of things anyway.
19 | “Free Breakfast” / “Breakfast Included”
Whether you love to chow down on food when you travel or not, snagging a spot with a free breakfast is one of the best ways to reduce your food budget. However, it does depend on where you’re staying, so compare the room cost with breakfast versus a room without and breakfast in town somewhere.
If you do have a free breakfast, my most ELITE tip on this list is eating first and then packing up something extra for lunch. When my mom and I were in the Isle of Skye, Scotland, we both had toast and coffee in the morning and then used the bread, peanut butter, and jam to make sandwiches for lunch! If you’re going to do this, I recommend being lowkey about it. It’s not against the rules, but after other people saw that we were doing it, a lot of the other people in our tour group began to do the same, so it turned into a conga line of people stashing food away. It’s a fantastic way to kill two birds with one stone and is perfect if you want to go out for dinner to enjoy a prepared meal.
20 | Eat Your Biggest Meal For Lunch
Most places you travel to are almost always going to have separate menus for lunch and dinner, with the lunch menus highlighting smaller portions and lower prices. If you want to go out and try restaurants that intrigue you, it’s best to go for lunch since you can still experience a nice meal out and not pay dinner prices.
With the prices being lower, you can also order smaller plates and share to try more things if you don’t think you’ll be coming back to this spot and/or city! With a large dinner, you may opt for something lighter for dinner, and therefore a cheaper option.
21 | Make a Proper Budget + Track It
You can conjure up a successful budget for your trip when you take these two things into account: your travel style and how much money you have (or how much you want to save). Travel styles vary from traveler to traveler, so here a quick little guide to give you a better idea.
Budget travelers align with the messy parts of travel. They don’t mind staying in hostel dorms, often with many other people, in order to save money. Their budget keeps them grubbing out at the local dives and seeking alternative adventures that are off the beaten path. They don’t tend to join group tours. Public transport is often their preference and they don’t mind delays and setbacks due to this cheaper option.
Mid-range travelers are exactly how they sound and they’re all about variety. They’re not trying to drop coin on a luxury resort, but they may not enjoy hostels either. They’ll either be enjoying a stay on their own or enjoying a mix of hostels and unique accommodations *raises my own hand*. Their budget keeps them hopping between the nicer cafes and street stalls to save money, and they have a bit of extra cushion to spend on bucket-list-worthy experiences.
Luxury travelers all about the fine things in life and want to be served while they’re traveling. Their budget allows them to stay in top-rated hotels, dine at the nicest restaurants, and even book private transport. Oftentimes, they like to have things booked in advance for them so they can relax. They don’t stress about budgeting as much since they want to splurge on their trip so they don’t feel that they are missing out on anything.
Create your travel budget
Budgeting for your trip is pretty straightforward since there are tons of online resources now to help you get a good idea of what things cost in certain countries. The first thing you need to do is figure out what country you want to visit and if it’s suitable for your budget. If you’re unsure, refer to my list in the first tip for traveling on a budget for cheap destinations and go from there.
Step 1 | Get A Trip Cost Estimate
I like to estimate my travel budget heavily on people’s personal experiences, so I love to read trip cost reports like these (plus I am super nosy lol) where other travelers break down what they spent in x country. This gives me a pretty good average of what people are (really) spending. They also give you some insight to other traveler’s styles so you can know if you could travel for cheaper!
The next thing I do is get onto Budget Your Trip, and research duration costs in the country I want to visit: weekly and monthly costs. The website has drop-down menus that let you choose costs for what your travel style is: budget, mid-range, and luxury, so I have found it very helpful to get an accurate estimate. Doing these two things helps me get a rough cost of what I can expect to spend. This ensures that you’re choosing a country you can travel comfortably in for your budget.
EX. I want to go to Peru for a month. I tend to gravitate towards a mid-range type of traveler. When I logged onto Budget Your Trip, it gave me an estimate of around $1300 for the entire month. After looking at some trip cost breakdowns, one said around $1500 and another was $1600, so I am aiming to spend $1500. Don’t worry about being exactly right, just ballpark a number to get a good idea and see if it’s feasible. Normally travel budgets do not include your flight so keep this in mind.
Step 2 | Find Your Daily Budget
Using the number you got above, divide that by how many days you want to be away. This is going to give you your daily budget.
EX. I estimated spending around $1500 for a month in Peru. 1500/28=53. My daily budget is $53/day.
Step 3 | Give Yourself some Wiggle room
Always, emphasis on always, budget to have some wiggle room for extra spending or an emergency. I tend to float around the 20% range because I like to know that I have more than I need. If you’re really great at sticking to a budget, then 10% might be good for you, but if you tend to splurge a little, something as big as 25% might be a good fit for you.
To get your cushion number, you’re going to multiple your estimated trip cost by .10, .15, .20, or .25. This number is simply added to your total and not figured into your daily budget since this is money that you don’t have plans to spend once you arrive.
EX. My estimated trip cost was 1500. 1500 x (0.20)=$300. This brings my current trip total to around $1800 for the month.
Step 4 | Add-In Flights and Insurance
Flights and travel insurance aren’t generally put into daily costs, so you’ll need to do some light research to figure out how much these things are going to cost. For travel insurance, I always use World Nomads to get great, cheap insurance. You can get a trip estimate in seconds here. As for flights, these tend to get a little tricky since you can easily overpay for them. Use this guide below to gauge really good deals when you see them. In the meantime, use those trip breakdowns to see what other people paid and from what cities and use Kiwi to browse flights for the month you want to leave to get a price estimate.
Africa | $800 or below roundtrip
Asia | $500 or below roundtrip
Australia | $800 or below roundtrip
The Caribbean | $300 or below roundtrip
Central America | $300 or below roundtrip
Europe | $500 or below roundtrip
Hawaii | $400 or below roundtrip
South America | $500 or below roundtrip
EX. Flying to Peru is relatively cheap from the US and I’ve seen deals for as little as $350-$400 roundtrips on Scott’s Cheap Flights, but most people tend to spend around $600, so I will budget $600. My insurance was estimated to be around $150 for the whole month. This brings my total travel budget to $2550.
Step 5 | Research and Alter Accordingly
Once you start really digging in and planning your trip, you can start to mold your budget according to your specific trip. There is no doubt you’re going to find really cool tours that require some extra cash, so get to researching and then you can use your chosen activities, transport, and details to get something formulated for you.
Keeping Track of Your Travel Budget
As boring and mundane as budgeting and number crunching is, in order for you to stay on top of your budgeting goals, you need to be tracking what you’re spending. Out of the handful of budget-tracking apps that I’ve tried, I find Trail Wallet App to be the most user-friendly and simplest to use. Money can definitely put a damper on your trip if you’re always wondering about where you are budget-wise, and this app helps take that stress away.
With Trail Wallet, you download the app and the setup takes like five seconds. After that, you add your trip, total budget for your trip, daily budget, and it immediately takes you to the page where you can put in your first expense(s). You can even put your daily budget in the local currency, which can be a lifesaver when you first arrive. Something that I like to do is take out the money for my daily budget and only have that amount in cash in my wallet. I have my cards on hand in case of emergencies, but I limit my spending only to what I have with me. I used to drag at staying on a budget, but there is no way of deviating from your budget if you physically don’t have the money.
The main page of the app gives you a weekly overview, today’s date, remaining daily budget, total money spent on your trip, and more helpful numbers. It’s a great app and I highly recommend it!
What’s the cheapest you’ve ever gone for travel? Share with me in the comments below!
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