The Dummies Guide to Traveling on a Budget

Jessica Peterson

Traveling on a Budget

Budget travel doesn’t excite many of us. We may picture dingy hotel rooms, crowded buses, and zero-elbow-room flights when we think of traveling on a budget. The older I get, the less I want to travel like a piece of cargo. But if you want to see the world and ain’t got a lot of money, you’ve got no choice but to put some brainpower into the planning process, as well as making sacrifices as you go. So, if you are living on a tight budget, perhaps because you are in college, and want to travel, you can. You just need to be better organized and beat the system. For seasoned travelers, some of these suggestions might seem obvious, but many of us need a Dummies Guide to Traveling on a Budget.

Book in Advance

Traveling on a Budget

Great savings can be made simply by booking in advance. Many travel operators offer fantastic early booking deals, so keep your eyes open. Expert Vagabond has an excellent article about how to find cheap flights such as booking trips in January.

Shop Late Deals

Traveling on a Budget

Late deals can be equally cheap. This is especially useful if you can be flexible. If you’re studying an online course such as an online MEAD program from Rutgers Online, and you can travel at short notice, look for late deals on accommodation and flights.

Read: Top Tips for Finding Cheap Flights by The Blonde Abroad. She recommends using a fake location when booking online to get the best price!

Travel Out of Season

Traveling on a Budget

Peak seasons, such as school holidays, can be ridiculously expensive. If you can avoid them, your travels could be a lot cheaper. If you have children and have to travel in season, avoid the biggest tourist resorts or travel at the very beginning or end of the holidays.

Steer Clear of Tourist Hotspots

Traveling on a Budget

Tourist resorts are always more expensive and they quite often don’t give you an authentic view of local life. Avoid large tourist hotels and consider local B&Bs or hostels instead. Airbnb (get $25 off) is another great way to save money on accommodation. You can also save money by avoiding big branded restaurants marketed at tourists and instead eating where the locals eat.

Travel with Just Hand Luggage

Traveling on a Budget

If your luggage allowance is included in the price of your flights, then great, but quite often it isn’t (even United Airlines is offering a la carte services now). In these cases, buy a small suitcase that meets hand luggage requirements and only take what you absolutely need. Remember, most places have shops and launderettes, so as long as you’ve packed essentials, you’ll be fine.

Don’t Eat Out

Traveling on a Budget

You can save money on vacation, just like you do at home. Eating out every night is a lovely treat, but it can get expensive. If your accommodation includes some basic cooking and food storage appliances, make part of your experience shopping for food at local markets. Try local ingredients and learn to cook native cuisine. It’ll not only save you money, but give you a great new skill to show off once you get home. Another simple way to save money is to walk instead of using public transport.

Volunteer

Traveling on a Budget

Volunteering is a great way to travel the world, help people in need, and in some cases get free accommodation. Volunteering should only be done through a trusted agency, so make sure you do your research before signing up for anything.

Check out my Travel Resources page for more help for traveling on a budget.

Jessica Peterson
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Jessica Peterson

Jessica Peterson is a travel filmmaker, photographer, and journalist. She released her first documentary film about indigenous culture on Guam in 2016, after having lived nearly 7 years on the Pacific island. Jessica is currently on the Great American Roadtrip in her Airstream trailer.
Jessica Peterson
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  • Thank you, Jessica, for useful tips. If I may, I would like to add couple suggestions:
    1. using public transportation is a great way to save money and, sometimes if you lucky, make some local friends along the way
    2. perhaps not for everybody, but couch surfing could be an alternative solution to sometimes pricey accommodations.
    Cheers!

  • It’s amazing how much you can save when you book in a low season, and yes I agree that it is always a big money-saver to cook a few meals rather than eating out every night when travelling. We also always have breakfast in, and often pack a lunch for the day of exploring.

  • There are some important points here, I also travel off season and everything’s not only cheaper but quieter too. Like you said booking hotel in advance can save money as well as last minute. I agree with taking only hand luggage too, so long as it’s a short trip.

  • Hi Jessica, good post and nice pictures – as usual. I always book as far in advance as I can too – it definitely works out cheaper; low season is another money-saver (with the added bonus of not having to line up to see attractions, rides etc.). Good read. Thanks for sharing!

  • Some great tips here! I try to book in advance where possible but as I’m super flexible when it comes to my dates and where I go, more often than not I take advantage of super last minute deals and fly off on a whim. Travelling hand luggage only is another big one! Not only do you save money on checked luggage but limited space means you’re less likely to splash out on souvenirs.

    • Hi Rhiannon. Which destinations have low last-minute fares in your experience?

  • Jonnie

    Some really good tips, for this broke college student!
    byjonniemarch.com

  • Jackie Taylor

    Awesome tips & advice! I’m definitely going to keep these in mind for when I travel again this Spring. I’m always happy to save money while travelling!

  • Neha Verma

    Great tips. I have always been frugal but recently started traveling on a budget. I am practicing some of the things you mentioned here like traveling off season and also shopping late into the season for better bargain deals and discounts…its working well 🙂

  • La Vida Viva Travel

    Agree with everything here! Some great tips, particularly not travelling during peak season – you can save so much money on everything! Hand luggage is good too – I’ve painfully paid $100 for luggage for a flight before!

  • Great info!! I always plan in advance and do find that it saves a lot of money. The whole ‘shop late deals’ piece scares the heck out of me although I’m sure you can get good deals that way too 🙂 And off season does make such a difference! One of my go-to travel buddies is on an academic schedule so we travel every July and it is SOOO pricey then, oh my gosh.

    • Yeah, it can be scary to shop last minutes if you NEED to be somewhere at a certain time.

  • Michaela Terese Harrison

    Great tips, I also try and a save money planning my next holiday. Always book in advance

  • Tasha Haley

    I usually abide by all of these tips when I travel. Traveling out of season is the best for saving money. I am always very flexible on my dates too which helps save money also