52 Tips For Budget Travel
What matters on any trip is how well you manage your budget, and how you use those skills to create a better trip. Spend less on big-ticket items so you have plenty left for the items that matter most!
Planning the Trip
1. Plan to go offseason. Hotels and flights won’t be able to fill their open spots as easily so you will be able to find good deals.
2. Think about using AirBNB, Couch Surfing, or a similar service instead of a hotel. Not only will the accommodations be cheaper (and maybe free!), but you’ll be staying with locals who will be able to help you find more ideas for inexpensive and fun activities in the area.
3. If you’re going abroad, decide if you’ll be using a calling card or unlocking your phone to use a local SIM. Do plenty of research on which is best for you, but you could easily get a bill over $1000 if you use your phone as-is.
4. Do some research about the area before arriving. Oftentimes there will be free museum days or discounted tours.
5. Decide if you’ll be going with friends. If you’re driving or staying at a hotel, you can save money by splitting it between multiple people.
6. Be flexible with your dates. You can save a lot of money by simply shifting your trip ahead or behind by a couple of days.
7. Know if the country you’re going to is one that haggles. If it is, you’ll waste a lot of money by paying the tag price when you can negotiate.
8. Buy a guidebook. By planning ahead, you’ll avoid wasting money.
9. Consider “repositioning” flights and cruises. They will only be one-way tickets, but the savings are worth it.
10. Go to a country with a good exchange rate. For example, $1 is equivalent to .89 Euros or 60 Indian Rupees.
11. If your credit score is around 700, you can easily get an airline credit card. Many of them have sign-on bonuses of between 30,000 and 100,000 frequent flyer miles.
12. Register for airline price alert emails to make sure you know about any good deal the minute it becomes available.
Booking the Trip
13. Booking last minute can cause you to pay a fortune. Rates drastically increase the closer it gets. Book early whenever possible.
14. If you’re not sure of where you want to go, kayak.com/explore shows flight rates from your airport to any airport in the world within a given month, season, or even year.
15. When booking from a discount site like Expedia, Priceline, etc be sure to read about the company you’re booking with. Many have hidden fees that you may not know about until you reach the airport.
16. Fly on Tuesday and Wednesday rather than Friday and Sunday. These days generally have lower rates.
17. Rule of thumb: If flying to Europe, book 5 months in advance. Asia – 4 months. The Caribbean, Mexico, and Latin America – 3 months. Domestically, between one and three months is ideal.
18. If it’s possible, book over the phone. Get an idea of rates online, but sometimes you can get a lower rate by speaking with a real person just by asking.
19. If you do book online, clear your cookies before booking. If the website knows that you’re looking for a certain flight, they may increase the price.
20. Flying with a partner airline can help to accrue frequent flyer miles with the group. For instance, under Delta you can earn with Air France, Virgin Atlantic, KLM, and more.
21. Many rental car companies are also partnered with airlines. For example, my Enterprise booking next weekend is earning me 900 frequent flyer miles to my Delta account. If you have a reward account with an airline, check their list of partnerships to see what the requirements are.
22. Understand cancellation fees for all of the bookings you make. Ideally, you won’t be cancelling, but you should know just in case. Sometimes the fees are incredibly high.
23. Avoid middlemen when booking. Travel agencies can make it easier if it’s your first time, but they are getting a cut of the money you’re paying.
24. Sometimes round trip flights are cheaper than one way. It wouldn’t hurt to check the round trip rates as well to make sure you’re getting the lowest possible.
25. Just like every online retailer, there may be coupon codes floating around if you just do a simple search.
26. Bundling your flight and hotel will get you a better deal than booking them separately.
27. Bid on hotels and flights on Priceline. You won’t know the company you’ll be using until after you finalize the booking, but the potential for savings is extremely high.
28. It’s free to sign up for reward programs and you may save a lot of money.
29. Follow different airlines on social media. They sometimes release coupon codes exclusive for their followers.
Before You Go
30. Don’t buy your Over The Counter medicine while in the US, it’ll usually be much cheaper to buy it abroad.
31. Don’t waste your money on travel-size shampoos and lotions. The cost per unit greatly increases the smaller the product.
32. If you’ll be traveling during your trip, compare the rates of flights, trains, and busses prior to reaching so that you’ll have a loose plan and not spend extra money on last-minute bookings.
33. At the airport when you’re checking in, ask the desk clerk if there is a seat upgrade waiting list. If someone doesn’t make the flight, you could get bumped at no extra charge.
During the Trip
34. Spend time in areas that locals hang out rather than tourists. Prices will be inflated in areas frequented by foreigners.
35. Avoid souvenir shops. Your best souvenirs are memories and photos, not overpriced tchotchkes.
36. Unless you’re in a country with a food hygiene issue, eat where the locals are eating. The food will be more authentic and at a fraction of the price.
37. While on your trip, work or volunteer. If you can find a small job, you’ll be able to earn some money while traveling which will offset some expenses. Also, some volunteering services will provide accommodation or food in exchange for your help. (pro tip: sometimes volunteering can make part of your vacation tax-deductible)
38. Don’t get in a meter-less taxi. Without an agreed-upon rate, you may be charged an exorbitant amount.
39. Shop with family businesses. Rates are usually much cheaper than national chains.
40. Ask for under 25, group, and senior discounts. You could save a lot of money and the worst they can do is say no.
41. Understand the currency and exchange rate. I’ve seen people literally holding a handful of coins and asking shop keepers to take the amount. This leaves a big opportunity for theft.
42. Buy maps abroad. They won’t be nearly as expensive as they are back home.
43. Avoid ordering room service. The cost is so much higher than if you went out of town to explore your surroundings.
44. Don’t over-tip. Most countries don’t tip at the same rate that we do.
45. Museum passes can save you quite a lot of money for several days worth of activities.
46. It may be cheaper to sleep on overnight flights or trains rather than spending the money on a hotel.
47. Rather than taking a cab, walking will allow you to spend much less money and also see more of the city you’re in.
48. Wear a money belt to deter pickpocketers.
49. You follow a budget while at home, follow one on vacation as well.
50. Know the taxi route before going to avoid unnecessary detours that will cost you more.
51. While going out, be sure to pack day snacks. You’ll readily have food available and won’t have to spend money in restaurants.
52. Stay in a town outside the city. In London, I stayed in a lovely nearby town called Crystal Palace. It was only a short underground ride to the city, and we saved quite a bit of money.