10 Tips You Can Use for Budget Travel

Rene Cizio

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I’m am always looking for a way to travel more, but as someone who hasn’t always had a lot of money, I’ve had to be crafty. I compiled these 10 tips that help me travel more affordably. I hope they help you to travel more too.

The biggest thing that makes travel a reality for me is flexibility. I’m as flexible as a contortionist when it comes to getting a deal on travel. I have a loooong list of places I want to go, so I’m as ready as a two-dollar whore when something pops up.

I browse travel sites more often than most people browse Facebook, so I’m aware of the going prices. Because of that knowledge, I’m ready to pounce when I see something good. It doesn’t matter to me when I go, or even where, just that I go somewhere. There is something to do and see and learn and enjoy anywhere a plane, train, boat, bus, or car can take you.

I use travel apps like TravelZoo, Expedia, CheapOair, Hopper, Skyscanner, and others. Because I know the going prices, I can make a split decision when I see a great deal.

Departure dates

I also travel on the day the best price is available. I’m fortunate I don’t have to take days off only at certain times or give a lot of notice. Many travel apps will show you flight prices for a few weeks out. These change every day and I will move my dates to accommodate a better price.

If you can, travel mid-week instead of weekends, which are more expensive because that’s when everyone wants to fly. I take time off work Wednesday through Wednesday because those are typically the cheapest days to fly. You can get a cheaper flight and it allows me to split my work week, so I don’t miss much. This has the double bonus of keeping my colleagues happy because they don’t have to compensate for my absence.

But how do you have the time?

I have a full-time job (grateful, but boooo), so I have to be crafty with the time off I have. I make the most of my vacation days by linking onto company holidays. If, for example, the holiday is a Friday or Monday (best case scenario), I’ll take the other Friday/Monday day off, giving me a four-day vacation. You can do a lot with four days friends.

Even if I only have a three-day weekend – that’s an opportunity to find somewhere to go.

Long trip short trip both better than no trip

I take short trips. Some people have this mentality that a trip has to be a week or more. I don’t subscribe to that belief and it’s enabled me to go more places.

I had a colleague who once scoffed at me for going to Europe for five nights. She said it’s a waste of time to go for less than two weeks. Since she said that I’ve been to Europe three times and she hasn’t gone once, I guess she’s still waiting for that magical two week’s worth of time and money to show up.

My point is – change your mindset about what travel has to be. Shorter trips cost less time and money. You may not be able to do “everything” you want at that time, but it’s better than nothing.

Travel in the offseason

I generally wouldn’t go to Paris in the springtime, Amsterdam during tulip season, New York at Christmas, or to Japan when the cherry blossoms are blooming. If you do, you’re going to pay a premium because everyone wants to see those things at the same time. I pick my travel battles.

If you absolutely must go during those times, that’s ok, just know that’s why it’s expensive and if you go right before or after you’ll do so for probably half the price.

I usually travel in the winter to places people want to go in the spring and fall to places people typically go in the summer, etc. Off-season travel can be had for a fraction of the price and it’s just as nice.

Membership/frequent flier

I subscribe to every point membership for airlines and hotels that I can find. Even if I don’t think I’ll ever save enough points to reap big rewards, being a member provides other benefits. I’ve received free hotel wi-fi, seat upgrades, gifts at check-in, and free food and beverages for signing up.

I have an airline credit card that I use for everything so I can accumulate travel points. The trick is to pay it off each month, or you’re not saving anything. Each year I earn enough for a free flight or two plus a companion ticket. Cha-ching.

But, I don’t always fly that airline. Because I always go for the deal, I have to be flexible with carriers to travel more. Sometimes I’ll even fly super cheap budget carriers. I just set my expectations accordingly.

Nobody likes baggage

Carrying a bunch of stuff is expensive and dreary. For personal travel, I usually only take a backpack and avoid checking any luggage. Checking bags costs at least $30 each per flight. There’s a lot more I can do with $60+ than lug a bunch of clothes around the world.

As a bonus, you’ll save time by not waiting for baggage too. And have you ever had a bag lost (shudder)? Avoid it by not checking one.

I pack clothes that are lightweight and easy to keep clean, so they don’t take up a lot of space and can be worn multiple times. You can’t fit a lot in a backpack, so I’ve also hand-washed clothes in my hotel room sink. The time to cost ratio definitely plays out in my favor.

Minimize Food & Shopping

This is the hardest tip. It comes from years of practicing minimalism and saves me the most money. I don’t buy things. Stuff. Souveniers.

I’m always baffled by people that travel and spend hours shopping in the same stores they have at home. I don’t buy anything except stickers when I travel unless I find something so unique I can’t live without it. But, I learned to live without many things in the name of travel, so that rarely happens. Try it!

I also don’t spend a lot of money eating at expensive restaurants, especially in a tourist area. I try to go local and eat at the street vendors – which are a fraction of the price.
Vacation Hotels

“Vacation hotels” are expensive, but I don’t take vacations. I go on adventures, so my needs allow flexibility here. I’m able to forgo a hotel with 100 amenities or places to lounge. I am out doing things and exploring all day. Everything I need for the day is in my backpack and I don’t return to my hotel until it’s time to go to sleep.

I stay in sufficient places, but generally not anything to write home about, which saves a lot of cash.

If you want a fancy hotel, you’re going to pay for it. So ask yourself – how much time are you going to spend in it?

Travel (or at least book) solo

Finally, a perk to being single It’s annoying to change the default from two to one, but you’ll find more options on last-minute flights to travel more when you do.

Airlines will sometimes discount leftover single seats, so book impromptu flights one seat at a time for the best deal. You won’t be able to sit together, but you’ll have more cash between you and double the seatmate complaints to share later and what’s better than that?

You may not be able to do all of these things, but any of them will help you travel more. You don’t need a lot of money to travel more; you just need to be flexible.

Leave your best money-saving travel tip in the comments.

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Solo nomad writing about travel and experiences www.middlejourney.com

Detroit, MI
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