In this article, I chose the main 20 tips for traveling cheap I can give you, from my experience. We all know one of the reasons why many people don’t travel is the budget. But what if I tell you that you don’t need a huge amount of money to travel? There are so many possibilities to explore the world without spending a fortune. There are many unnecessary things people spend money on in vacations that can be easily avoided.
1. Traveling cheap off-season
If you have the opportunity to travel off-season, do it! There are multiple advantages to this, like traveling cheap or small crowds. There are some things to take into consideration when traveling off-season though. For example, in some countries of Asia off-season means more typhoons. Be aware of the downsides of each location in the off-season. For example, I went 4 times in Thailand off-season and I had a great time. There was some rain, but nothing too bad. Meanwhile, in Cambodia or the Philippines (El Nido) we had rain almost every day. We went biking in Siem Reap and very heavy rain came to say hello to us. Fortunately, we arrived home after around one hour with no problems, even if the visibility was close to zero.
2. Choose traveling to cheap places, like Asia or Eastern Europe
It’s incredible how a month in Southeast Asia can cost less than a week in Western Europe. Obviously, it depends on what you’re giving money on, this makes a huge difference when trying traveling cheap. If you want a 5-star hotel in Thailand and a hostel in Western Europe, they will cost the same. But if you want the same type of accommodation, the prices are very different. I gave $80 per night for a private room in Amsterdam and $30 per night for a private two-story house with a pool in Bohol, the Philippines. Eastern Europe is also very cheap. I gave some examples of 10 cheap countries you can see in the blog here. 🙂
Chiang Mai, Thailand, august 2018 – one of the cheapest cities I’ve visited so far
3. Check sites that find cheap flights for you
There are multiple ways to find cheap flights. For example, if you go to the Skyscanner website and select “Anywhere”. It will find you cheap flights to anywhere in the world from the city you live in. Here is also important to be very flexible with the dates and locations. Getting great deals on airplanes can help you a lot with traveling cheap, you can easily save more than $200 like this.
Another way to find cheap flights are pages that businesses cheap flights. For example, Fly4free and Secret Flying are two free pages that promote cheap flying. A paid service is called Scott’s Cheap Flights that also helps you find cheap offers from which airport you wish.
4. Cook meals at home most of the time
A huge part of the money spent on vacation is for food. If we learn to eat food on a budget, we can reduce the costs a lot. Cooking food at home can make a huge impact on traveling cheap. Therefore, in my case, I try to eat mostly from supermarkets. It’s true that we should also try local food, but that doesn’t need to happen every day. It’s okay to eat once or twice at a restaurant local food, it won’t add much to the final cost. Still, most of the time you can save more than $40 per day if you cook food at home, which is great for traveling on a budget.
There are exceptions though. For example, in some countries, local food is so cheap that you can eat from there with no worries. I’m talking about countries like Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines etc.. Prices in local restaurants can be even 10 times cheaper than in touristy restaurants. So, another great suggestion would be to choose restaurants where locals eat instead of touristy ones.
5. Traveling cheap by being flexible
It’s very hard to find great flight deals if you have fixed dates to travel. Also, cheap and beautiful accommodations are mostly found months before the vacation. They are usually sold out months in advance if they have a great price/quality rapport.
Therefore you need to find cheap plane tickets months in advance. For this, you’ll need to be flexible with the dates. This is because when offers appear, they aren’t for a full month or week. There are only a few dates that have great deals, and they may not be the one you have free. If you can be flexible, you have this as a very big advantage for traveling cheap.
Another reason why you should try to be more flexible is related to #1 of this article. Traveling off-season will save you lots of money if you can travel in that period.
6. Book flights in advance (at least 2 months)
Continuing with what I was saying at point #5, this is a very important thing.
Booking flights in advance will save you lots of money spent on accommodation if you want to travel on a budget. This will also help you find more beautiful ones that aren’t already sold out. When you have months in advance to check for accommodation, you’ll have lots of choices. You’ll find yourself not knowing which one to pick, instead of struggling to find one nice on a budget.
Another advantage of doing this is having more time for planning. For example, you could get discounts for early bird bookings. You can do traveling cheap easier with this in multiple ways.
7. Don’t buy extras when traveling (luggage, seats, etc.)
A very good way to save money is to not buy extras if you’re traveling cheap. Let’s start with the baggage: you should never pack too much. Would you believe me if I told you that I traveled for 3 months with only one backpack? All I needed was my passport, laptop, phone, chargers, clothes, and just some other small things. To be clear, with “clothes” I don’t mean 10 t-shirts, 4 pairs of jeans, and 2 pairs of shoes. Nope. 4-5 t-shirts, 1-2 pairs of jeans and 1 pair of shoes should be enough. That being said, it’s better not to buy extra luggage as it can get pretty expensive. Try to fit everything in the free baggage you have (depending on the airline) if you want to travel on a budget.
As for the seats, unless they are very cheap, it’s not worth it. For long flights, you will either sleep most of the time, play games or watch movies. For short flights, it’s just not worth it. You could also ask someone to switch seats with you in case you’re a couple. This has exceptions, of course. If you’re with a child, it’s better to buy seats to stay close to him/her.
8. Use public transportation or walk when traveling
Avoid using taxi/Uber or anything other similar to them if not necessary. For example, if you need to choose between walking 20 minutes and taking Uber, pick the first one. Unless you’re running out of time, it’s a great way to see other parts of the city too. It’s nice to see parts of the place you’re visiting other than the main attractions. This is also one of the main things you should do for traveling cheap, it will reduce your costs a lot. When I went to Phuket, I noticed that even though Uber was not that expensive, using it often got me to spend lots of money.
If you don’t want to walk too much, public transport is also a great choice. Unless it’s a place with bad public transport, it will be fast and cheap. I love using public transport between the city attractions, it saves me lots of money instead of using a taxi. If you want to go around the country, it’s better to rent a car/scooter instead of renting a driver. We rented a car in Hawaii and it was not that expensive after all, I also have an article here about that wonderful trip.
9. Currency exchange – SAY NO TO airport exchanges, use revolut
Whenever you want to exchange money from the airport, don’t do it if you are traveling on a budget. It will cost you way more money than exchanging outside the airport. Also, be aware of the taxes when you withdraw money from ATMs.
Personally, I use Revolut to withdraw money, it has excellent exchange rates. The only downside is that it has a monthly limit for no-fee withdrawal, but I never reach that limit honestly. Even though there is this fee, it’s better than the exchange at the airport. Also, when you are two, you can both use the card so you don’t surpass the monthly limit. 🙂
10. Don’t book accommodations far away from the center
Let’s say there is an accommodation with $50 per night far away from the center. Then another one for $70, per night closer to the city. Transportation from outside the city to the center would cost at least $5 one-way. Which means you will save maximum of $10 per day by staying at the one that’s far away. Still, you lose lots of time on the bus or metro that you could spend visiting. If you take more buses, it will be cheaper to stay closer to the center, which matters if you like traveling cheap.
Another great thing about staying closer to the center is when you want to stay late outside. There are fewer buses at night or none. Staying half an hour or more on the bus after midnight could also be tiring. Taxis and Ubers are expensive at night, especially if your accommodation is far.
11. Visit free attractions first
There are so many beautiful attractions that can be seen for free. For example, exploring nature is almost every time free. Also, there are lots of museums that won’t cost anything. Obviously, it’s okay to go to paid attractions too, but you should give priority to the free ones. This is, of course, if you want to travel on a budget. I always noticed that people traveling cheap chose to first go to free attractions, and then to the best paid ones.
12. Don’t spend too much on accommodations or go for hostels
If you want to meet other travelers and experience the backpacker lifestyle, you could try hostels. Obviously, you won’t have as much privacy and luxury, but it’s still a unique experience. Hostels help you save lots of money too, even central ones, which is great for traveling cheap.
There are other ways to save money on accommodations too. For example, getting private rooms instead of full apartments will make a difference in the final price. There are also extra things like parking that you shouldn’t look for if you don’t need it. There are multiple ways to save money on accommodations if you want to travel on a budget.
13. Use Couchsurfing
Using Couchsurfing is a great way to save money while traveling cheap and meet new people. Of course, you need to be careful where you’re staying and it can be difficult finding places to stay. Still, it can be a great new experience that you can do on a budget.
Also, you can use the application for events too. It’s a great way to find people to hang out with and meet people all around the world.
14. Use miles
If you travel a lot, using miles is a great way to save money. You can book very cheap flights using miles, with incredible discounts. One example of this would be Miles and More, offered by Lufthansa and many more. There are lots of benefits of the card, you can see here an example for Flying Blue.
15. Traveling cheap to multiple locations on the same trip
Let’s say you’re from London and you want to visit Bali, but you also want to visit Thailand and Japan. If you put all three on different trips, the flights will cost more than $1400. If you pick the cheapest flight to one of them, let’s say $400, you could combine all the locations. The flights between them will cost less than $600 because they are pretty close. This means that, in this example, you can easily save $400 on flights only.
In the photo attached here, I’m showing you my trip of 3 months in Asia. I was traveling cheap and saving lots of money by planning it like this. If I had to go to each of those countries separately, it would have cost me lots of money. This way, I chose to have cheap flights between them and combine all of them into one incredible trip. To show you an idea of the costs, all the flights cost me $1350, including Romania-Phuket roundtrip. This price would have been more than $3000 if I went to these countries separately, each flight being from Europe. Just 3 roundtrip flights from Europe to Thailand, Philippines and Japan would have cost me more than $1400, so it was a great choice to visit them together.
16. Check the price Airport – City for that place
Usually, low-cost companies land on cheaper airports, especially in Europe. So for example, if I find a $150 ticket on a full-service airline and a $100 ticket on a low-cost airline, it will be tempting to choose the cheaper one. Still, it’s very expensive to get to the city from some airports. For example, in Paris and Bruxelles I paid around 18 euro one way only. This means the final price would actually be more than $140. When considering traveling cheap, you have to check this one too, especially if you want to visit multiple countries in the same trip.
17. Use buses/trains/car instead of flying for close cities
There are some countries where it’s just cheaper to get to by bus or train. For example, in Europe, you can easily do a tour of multiple countries without flying. You can either rent a car or use buses/trains. Another example is Japan too, I would have traveled cheaper from Tokyo to Osaka if I did it on land. If I put the price city-airport together with the plane ticket, a bus/train ticket would have been cheaper.
18. Make money while traveling
One way not to feel pressed by spending money while traveling is making them in that time. There are multiple ways to make money while traveling. Some examples are vlogging, blogging, selling online, writing ebooks. There is plenty of time of work while traveling, for example, the first hours of the morning.
19. Plan everything in advance
Planning everything in advance will help you reduce the chances of unplanned costs. You can save lots of money by planning the transportation too. For example, I missed the fact that there is no train between Haneda Airport and the city after 11 pm, so we had to pay lots of money for uber. Planning can also help you book online with discounts. Many attractions offer this option and you can save a great percentage.
20. Book flights before accommodations
This is pretty obvious. Flight deals are rare, meanwhile, hotel prices are mostly the same all the time. It’s true, prices for a specific hotel can go up and down, but in general, the average is the same. Even if flights are not refundable and accommodations yes, it’s still better to check plane tickets first.
Another thing is that there is plenty of choice in accommodations. Flights are usually more limited, the deals are for only a period of time and a limited number of companies. After you have the flight ticket booked, you’ll have lots of choices for the accommodation.