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Five Tips for Traveling on a Budget

A lack of funds is one of the top reasons that people state for not traveling as often as they’d like. It often feels like wherever you’d want to travel to is crazy expensive, requiring months of saving before you could possibly book anything. If you’re trying to see more of the world without having to spend a pretty penny, read on for our top five tips on traveling on a budget!

#1) Finding the right accommodation

Accommodation can be one of the biggest expenses when traveling, whether you’re spending a weekend in your home city or backpacking in another country. When choosing a place to rest your head, it’s important to consider the centrality of the accommodation, as well as the amenities it offers. Your hostel may cost $15 a night, but if you have to pay for Wi-Fi and commute 20 minutes to the city center, you’re probably not saving as much money as you might think. On the other hand, an Airbnb could cost $45 a night, but allow you to have an entire home to yourself, as well as offering free Wi-Fi and boasting a central location. This also means that you can cook your own breakfast, letting you save on food, too.

Maybe homestays and hostels don’t really fit your travel style. Consider, then, choosing a bed and breakfast over a luxe hotel. Keep in mind that you probably won’t be spending too much time in your room, as you’ll want to maximize your experience in the area you’re staying in.

Boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts offer a more personal feel, and while they may not have rain showers or fancy champagne waiting for you in the room, they offer more in terms of personality and quirky design. 

Sometimes, it is the accommodation itself that is a tourist attraction. In Cuba, for example, casas particulares are one of the most popular ways to lay your head and are considered one of the first ‘Airbnb’ experiences.

Finally, you might want to consider taking shorter trips, since spending fewer nights on vacation means saving some money on accommodation. This is smart if you’re only exploring one city or area, and won’t be spending the money you’ve saved on long-haul transportation. There are many cities that can be properly experienced in a weekend!


2) Eating the right meals

Most people don’t want their food to eat up a huge portion of their budget (unless they’re joining a food tour). Some just eat so they can re-energize and continue exploring, while others explore the country through its food. After all, for foodies, For foodies, eating good food is an important aspect of travel, especially when a simple dish can pack both history and culture into a few delicious mouthfuls. Luckily, you can find a balance between these two travel philosophies, letting you eat right and save your wallet some pain.

Take advantage of your accommodation’s kitchen areas, coffee makers, free snacks, and food storage containers. Grab a granola bar from your Airbnb’s cupboard, make yourself jam and toast in a hostel’s kitchen, or make your own coffee in your hotel room before you leave. Just making (or finding) your own food for one meal per day can really save your budget. If you are a big breakfast fan, you can pack a sandwich in your bag for lunch, or make pasta for dinner instead of sitting down at a fancy restaurant.

Also, switch it up every day! Maybe you live for your cold brew in the mornings — spend half the trip making it at home and the other half grabbing a cup of joe at an iconic spot in town. Just because you have a budget doesn’t mean you have to skimp on what makes you happy while abroad.


3) Shopping on a budget

Shopping can be an exciting venture while traveling, but it can also put a dent in your hard-earned money. Maybe you’re in Sorrento, Italy, and absolutely need the bottle of limoncello from yesterday’s rooftop bar. Or maybe you’re in Morocco and just can’t leave the medina without purchasing some handcrafted bowls. Or you could be in Ghana and find the perfect woven baskets for your living room back home.

These keepsakes will serve a purpose, as well as remind you of your amazing vacation each time you look at them, so these are the souvenirs you should shell out for.

Before you even leave home, you can identify the best-known, best-crafted goods and products from the city or country you’ll be visiting. Then you can budget for those purchases, whether you’d like to buy chocolate from Belgium or wine from France. This way, you know the product you’ve purchased represents craftsmanship, history, and personal memories. Also, strategizing your purchases beforehand assures that you won’t be lured in by corner shops selling key chains, t-shirts, or other tchotchkes that will collect dust.


4) Finding free experiences

Sometimes when we’re traveling, we get caught up in the expensive lifestyle: eating in the most famous restaurants, visiting the most historic museums, renting the most stunning car. We fail to recall that, most of the time, the best ways to experience a new place don’t cost anything at all.

So, the next time you’re visiting a new destination, we recommend slipping on your sneakers and hiking to a beautiful viewpoint. This could be Crater Lake or the Cliffs of Moher — either way, you are immersing yourself in nature and seeing the unique sights of your destination.

If hiking isn’t your thing, you can still make it a point to walk everywhere for one day of your trip. Walking is the most underrated way to see a city. When you walk, you notice things that wouldn’t catch your eye if you were in the back of an Uber or zooming by on a train. This gives you the freedom to stop in random shops and discover gems that you won’t find on Pinterest.

Many museums, tours, and sites also offer their attractions for free on certain days. This could happen on the first Monday of every month, state holidays, or special promotions. A quick search online will let you know the best dates and times to visit that won’t damage your budget as much as if you had gone in blind.


5) Remembering to cut yourself some slack

Budget in some leeway so you don’t feel constrained once you’re on the road. There’s nothing worse than feeling as if you can’t do something because you can’t afford it. But with a little extra wiggle room, you can account for the unexpected joys of traveling.

A general tip is to add one more day of expenses to your existing budget — that’s food, transportation, and accommodation. This way, you can be sure you have a travel ‘emergency fund’ that can go toward a spontaneous night out or a gorgeous souvenir, or account for an unexpected bump in the road. You can then spend your days as you please, knowing that if you spend a little more than you thought you would, your bank account won’t be crying.

Travel is a great escape. Who wants to dampen that by worrying about money? By prioritizing what is important to you and cutting back a little bit on what isn’t, you can travel frequently, experience more while you’re away, and avoid any post-trip guilt when you get back. If you’re saving for a trip right now, here are our smart ways to boost your savings!

Do you have any budgeting tips? How do you keep your costs down while you’re abroad? Let us know, and thanks for reading!

Written by Grace Poulos