When you’re on a tight budget, finding the time and money to travel can be a challenge. While I was in grad school, my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I wanted to travel but we were struggling to make ends meet as it were! With a little careful planning, we managed to save enough money to take some pretty amazing 3-4 day vacations without feeling like we were missing out. Best of all, we did this while living paycheck-to-paycheck! Now that we are more financially secure, David and I still plan budget-friendly trips that allow us to see all the sights without draining our savings. Today I’m spilling all our secrets about traveling on a budget.
Traveling on a Budget
Airlines and hotels will give you better deals when you opt for flexible travel dates. If you have some wiggle room on when you’d like to travel, you can save quite a bit of money this way. Traveling in the middle of the week tends to be more affordable. The difference of flying out on a Thursday instead of a Friday can be as much as 100 dollars! Skyscanner also has a cool tool that allows you to see which days are cheapest to fly during any given month.
Consider traveling in the off seasons, especially if you’re planning on traveling somewhere warm. Off-season doesn’t have to mean the dead of winter. You can get great travel deals traveling just before spring break, for example. Not to mention, if you’re planning on going to a resort, there will be fewer patrons which means less crowded pools, beaches, and restaurants!
Get Flight Alerts
Flight alerts were a serious game changer for us when it came to traveling on a budget! Kayak has a great tool that tells you whether you should book your flight now or wait. You can also get price alerts sent to your e-mail so you know exactly when to book.
If you prefer an app, Hopper is another resource that helps you pick the most affordable dates to fly, and alerts you on the best time to book. Best of all, you’ll receive an instant notification so you are getting the best possible deal!
Book Secret Hotels
I used to be very nervous about using Hotwire’s “Hot Rate” hotel booking service. When you book a Hot Rate hotel, you get some basic information about the hotel, like its star rating, general location, and amenities. However, the catch is that Hotwire chooses a hotel for you in exchange for a great discount, up to 60% off! The name of the hotel isn’t revealed until after you book. I would be wary of booking a lower star hotel with this method. We have booked 4-5 star Hot Rate hotels for the price of a 2-3 star hotel and have not been disappointed! Having a top-rated hotel to come home to at the end of a long day touring the city has been nothing short of luxurious.
Use less Traditional Lodging
If hotels aren’t for you, there are lots of other affordable places to stay. Airbnb is a popular choice for travelers on a budget. It’s also a great choice for staying in culturally-rich cities and neighborhoods like New Orleans. You can find some pretty amazing historical homes to stay in that give an authentic flavor to your trip. You can’t get that in big hotel chains!
Hostels are another affordable way to travel in bigger cities, and aren’t as creepy as they sound. You’ll likely meet other travelers and maybe even make some new friends and travel buddies in the process! Hostels are only about 20-30 dollars per night people. If you’re just looking for a place to lay your head at night, this could be a great option.
Camping can also be a fun, affordable option when traveling if you’re willing to stay further out from tourist attractions. You may also want to look into being a house sitter in the city you plan to visit. You can stay in people’s homes for FREE by being a house sitter!
Check your Discounts
If you’re a student, teacher, nurse, veteran, or senior, you are probably eligible for a whole slew of travel discounts! Make sure you ask your airlines, lodging, car rentals, and tourist attractions what sorts of discounts they offer for your demographic. Insurance companies like AAA also offer lots of discounts on travel and attractions (and a whole bunch of other stuff like department stores! But that’s a post for another day).
Be your Own Tour Guide
Many tourist attractions like museums have free admission days, which is great for those traveling on a budget. Create an itinerary before you leave to make sure you’re getting the most out of your dollar. Keep in mind that some attractions may also have higher prices on weekends than weekdays, so plan accordingly. Many attractions that have guided tours actually have free admission. Save your money and take your own tour!
Make your Own Meals
You can save a ton of money by not going out to eat for every meal. Take full advantage of free breakfasts at hotels and B&Bs. Buy some sandwich fixin’s and make your lunches in your hotel. It’s not glamorous, but for the cost of a loaf of bread and some lunch meat, you’ll likely save yourself an easy hundred dollars. For those 21+, this goes for adult beverages as well! When you do go out to eat, research where you want to go ahead of time so you don’t get surprised by the cost.
Walk as Much as Possible
Make sure you bring your walking shoes! Save money on transportation by walking as much as possible. This is where an itinerary will come in handy again. If you have a plan on where you’re going, walking will seem much less daunting, and you’ll waste less time trying to get from place to place. Plus, you’ll get some exercise out of the deal, and you can feel great about that!
What are some of your secrets to traveling on a budget? Let me know in the comments!