4 Tips for Visiting Virtually Anywhere on a Budget

Brittany

So you’re broke.

Guess what? In this day and age, most of us are. If you think you can’t travel while on a budget (even an extreme budget), think again. I’m going to teach you how to create a travel budget and actually stick to it. Together, we’ll get you traveling my friends.

First off, let me introduce you to the budget travel meaning, or what it means to travel on a budget: a budget traveler reduces travel expenses in every way possible, in order to travel as cheaply as possible. This includes finding budget accommodation like a cheap hotel, a hostel dorm, or even a couch. It means finding budget transportation, including cheap flights, taking a car, and traveling by bus. It also means finding budget food and entertainment - buying groceries rather than eating out or attending free concerts over paid museum exhibits.

I don't think it's absolutely necessary to travel on a budget all the time. However, budget travel does lend itself to sustainable travel fairly easily. We can all certainly do our part to make travel more sustainable into the future. This isn’t always the rule, but sustainable travel is accessible travel. Say it with me folks!

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Photo by Nicole Geri on Unsplash

Find the Right Way to Get There

Before you start up the Google Machine and lookup best budget travel destinations, consider first how you’re even going to get there.

When I’m booking my travel and I’m trying to save some cash, I first tend to look at several different airlines, bus, or metro sites. This could be its own post, folks. There are a LOT of resources out there on finding budget flights, cheap flight deals, or similar.

When going the budget route I always, always, always find my flight or bus ticket prior to even deciding a destination. Not the other way around.

  • Flights: To keep it incredibly simple, start with my number one fave: Google Flights. Scroll down and find that blue line that says “Explore Destinations”. Then, make sure you enter in your baggage (when I’m flying cheap air I always stick to one carryon only).

My favorite sites and apps? Try: Google Flights; SkyScanner; Scotts Cheap Flights

  • Alternatives: Flying tends to be the fastest and cheapest option, but not always. If you are on a time crunch, flying is usually the easiest way to go. However, if your priority is saving moolah, consider a bus or metro ticket. For instance: when looking at a recent trip to Reno, NV from Salt Lake City I found Amtrak Tickets for $79 RT. A flight for the same dates would run $185 RT. Yes, the flight takes significantly less time. However, $106 can be a big deal when budgeting for travel.

My Favorite Sites and Apps? Try: MegaBus; Amtrak; Greyhound; or Omio

Stay for Free (or at Least...Cheap!)

Yes, it’s possible to find free places to stay around the world.

I know, I’ve done it. Some of my most memorable trips have included 100% free accommodation. I’ve stayed for free in the USA, France, and Germany. Including a free stay with an older couple in Jay, Oklahoma near the Wichita Falls National Wildlife Refuge that turned out to be much more fun than expected.

So how did I do it?

Well, honestly my number one tip is to just make friends with people. Most of my free stays - in Washington D.C., Germany, Chicago - have all been with people I previously knew. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends in other cities if you can crash on their couch or in the guest room. Unless you’re a complete ass or they have a fresh baby they have to take care of, the answer is usually “Yes! I miss you!”.

If you don’t have friends that live outside of your hometown, make some! I know that’s easier said than done, but I’ve made friends with people who live in New York, Edinburgh, Prague, and Doha because I’ve gone out of my way to talk to other people. Potential free accommodation, right there! Uh, I think it goes without saying, but don’t make friends just because you want a place to crash. Yeah?

My second tip? Don’t be afraid to couch surf or volunteer. My three day trip to Paris? I slept on the futon of a person I met on the internet. Yeah, sounds crazy, but it can be done. There are entire apps, sites, and Facebook Groups dedicated to this exact thing. If you have the time, try volunteering for a few weeks in exchange for your room and board. Sites like WorkAway or WorldPackers are perfect for people who have a little extra time and some skills they want to exchange for a free room.

Finally, consider housesitting! This is a great option for couples and those with children - or anyone who just doesn't feel like sleeping on someone's couch. A site like TrustedHouseSitters offers stays for free at incredible places in exchange for taking care of people's houses and pets while they're away.

My Favorite Sites and Apps: Couchsurfing.com; WorkAway; WWOOF.net; World Packers; TrustedHouseSitters

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Photo by Atikh Bana on Unsplash

Watch What You Eat

Not because you’re on a diet or anything, but because it will save you money!

While at your destination, get a hotel or Airbnb that you can cook in. Buy most if not all of your food from the local grocery store. Even if you don’t cook every meal yourself, you’ll save a lot of money. For instance, in Iceland, eating a burger at a restaurant was going to cost me about $22 a pop. Chicken and sides? $40 or more. I bought three days of food at the BONUS grocery store for that amount and splurged on one vegan sit-down meal in Reykjavik the day I arrived.

I don’t regret it at all - in fact; it led to some amazing picnics in memorable places.

Be conscious of your food budget at home and abroad. If a place is known for one food in particular and you're dying to try it, build that into your budget! Don't be afraid to set aside a "splurge" section of your budget for those must-have treats. However, in the long run, not eating out for every meal (and ensuring you carry around a snack or two) will save you dough.

Stop Spending...Before You Go!

On that note...even before going on vacation, limit your spending on fast food, take-out, and overly-expensive luxury foods. Stick to whole foods, unpackaged, and take the time to make your own food from scratch. You will start saving a lot of money, which can be added to your vacation fund.

In fact, re-imagine your entire budget. What can you cut out from your current budget to refunnel into your travel savings?

Obviously, if you’re on an extreme budget and eating ramen noodles every night you might want to rethink your travel plans. However, if you’re reasonably stable but on a tight budget, think twice about your “splurges” and “extras”. Are you spending $50 every two weeks for a full set? Drinking a $6 latte every morning? These things add up, and those little expenditures can be used to drastically increase your vacation budget. If you go to Starbucks every day and spend $6 - that’s over $2K you could instead funnel into your travel plans. Buy yourself a french press, and a mini electric whisk and make your lattes at home - then reap the benefits when you’re sipping espresso on a Parisian sidewalk.

With the tips above and a solid financial plan in place, you can visit practically anywhere on a budget. Hell, you could even visit the Galapagos on a budget if you wanted - I believe in you.

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I am a travel writer and sustainable lifestyle blogger. As a world traveler, I love giving others tips on budget travel, new cultures, and how to see the planet in a sustainable, ethical way. I also write on being a digital nomad, hiking and outdoor activities, as well as living an adventurous lifestyle.

Santa Fe, NM
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