65+ Pro tips on how to travel on a low budget

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When I started writing this post, I was planning to share just a few tips I use to travel on a low budget. But once I started, I couldn’t stop, so I reached the amazing number you can see now. And I’m sure not all of these tips will apply to all situations, but most probably some will.

The most basic thing you have to remember is to always plan and research as much as possible. Nothing will make you spend more than your own lack of knowledge. So, if there’s just one thing you’ll take from this post, take this one: always do your homework, no matter how boring it may seem. Let’s get to it then!

Want to travel more without increasing your budget? Check out my eBook on ways to travel on a low budget and make it happen!

130 tips on how to travel on a low budget - eBook

Planning

1. Plan, plan, plan!

As you might have expected based on the introduction, this is the best thing you can do to limit your expenses. Everything will be more expensive if you are not prepared, and all unexpected situations will make you spend money, especially if you don’t have a choice.

Timing is everything!

2. Travel in the shoulder season or low season

Traveling just outside the usually crowded times will get you better prices for everything: flights, accommodation, meals, activities, and so on. The weather is usually not that bad and you also share the places with fewer crowds.

Choose your destination wisely

3. Choose less touristy places

Everyone and their mother want to visit Paris. Everyone knows and wants to go to Bora Bora. But have you thought of visiting Stockholm instead of Paris and Vanuatu instead of Bora Bora? Try a cost simulation and be amazed at the price difference you will find.

4. Choose cheaper destinations

Maybe your bucket list is full of very expensive places to visit, but try to also look into very affordable destinations. Most of South East Asia is pretty cheap for the average Western European or North American, and I think some parts of South America as well. You can find a paradise in Thailand and pay just a few dollars a night. Try and prioritize these parts of the world.

5. Avoid countries where you need to pay for your visa

This might not apply to you if you have a “strong” passport, but most of us don’t have that luxury. In this case, choose countries where you can enter without a paid visa, or at least research this so you know what to expect. You can make an account on iVisa for this, if it’s easier for you.

6. Use the “anywhere” function from Skyscanner to find cheap places to go to

You don’t have to always know where you should go. Let the budget take you where you can go instead. With the “anywhere” function from Skyscanner, you’ll find great places where you can go, and you might even find some cool destinations no one knows about yet.

Planning properly is one of the most important things you have to do when traveling on a budget.

Reduce your costs

7. Sometimes, it’s better to buy a pre-made package vacation

Especially in exotic places. I have never used it, but most people swear by Groupon for these sorts of deals. In any case, it doesn’t hurt to compare prices. Do a simulation and see what comes up.

8. Use a local SIM card to have internet

You can use an older phone as a wi-fi hotspot and share it across your group. This will avoid roaming fees from your usual service provider, and you probably don’t make that many calls anyway, so you won’t use your basic phone connection at all. Another option would be to use Solis Wi-Fi, especially if you travel often. Use my code for a discount!

Use my Solis discount code to get 15% off!

9. Always use a private window to check prices for flights and accommodation

Maybe you noticed that if you search for some flights long enough, the prices start to go up almost by the hour. This is because you’re creating demand by continuously looking for the same destinations over and over again. A private browsing window can prevent this from happening.

10. Play the patience game

If you want to buy a new gadget, like a new GoPro, wait until they launch the newest model and then buy the previous one at half the price. The same applies to a new phone, new Kindle, or other expensive electronics. I know it’s not exactly a travel hack, but aren’t you happy you know it now?

11. Invest in high-quality items

I know it’s counter-intuitive, but investing in high-quality gear will get you saving money in the long run, and you’ll have a nicer feel. For example, I just love my Samsonite suitcases (really, I wrote a detailed review here, this is how much I love them) and backpacks, I will brag about my Yoyo Babyzen to anyone that is willing to listen to me and feel overall better since I started investing in better quality shoes, like Saucony or Ecco.

Just ask for it!

12. Tell everyone if you’re celebrating something

It can be your birthday, wedding, engagement, anniversary, you name it. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes you get free stuff because of it. And by everyone, I mean flight crew, hotel staff, tour guides, anyone that can give you anything. We did this in the Maldives and enjoyed a special dinner.

13. Know your rights

This is how you know you can file a complain for some services and get at least part of your money back. One obvious case is when your flight is delayed, you can either complain to the airline directly, or you can ask for help from AirHelp or CompensAir.

14. Just plain ask for upgrades or discounts

With a smile on your face and a polite inquiry, you might get a better deal. It will not work all the time, but you might as well try. What’s the worst that can happen? They might say “no”. So? You didn’t lose anything, asking is always free.

15. Ask for gift cards

When people ask you what you want for your birthday, Christmas or graduation gift, tell them you’d appreciate a gift card for travel-related expenses. They’re going to buy you a gift anyway, so why not have them spend their money on something you’ll use?

16. Use discounts offered by your employer

Some companies have special rates negotiated for certain services all across the world. If you’re going to rent a car anyway, see if there’s a discount for you and your colleagues for a rent a car company. Maybe you can use it for your trip. Here are a few gift cards ideas you can ask for:

It’s all about the money

17. Pay attention to currency exchange rates

Depending on your bank and the currency, this can add up. I use Revolut exactly for this reason. Living in Europe and traveling locally, I need a card that doesn’t charge me for currency exchange. It has been a lifesaver for the last 2 years.

18. Reserve things online in advance

Sometimes they’re cheaper like this. For example, our car in Iceland was 15% cheaper if reserved online, and some tours might have a similar discount as well. It’s worth your time researching a bit, in my opinion.

Want to travel more without increasing your budget? Check out my eBook on ways to travel on a low budget and make it happen!

130 tips on how to travel on a low budget - eBook

Tips on how to get very cheap flight tickets

Flexibility is key

19. Be flexible with the dates

If you don’t have specific dates when you need to travel, try different dates around the same time of year. You can find wildly different prices if you just move 2 or three days with your dates. Skyscanner is great for this, as it allows you to search for a whole month, and shows you when are the cheapest fares you can score.

20. Be flexible with the destination

Make your bucket list and have alerts for all the places, so you can decide on a trip based on the available flights that seem to be friendlier to your budget. You don’t have to have your plans set in stone for the next 5 years, no matter what any HR will ask you at an interview. Try to go with the flow sometimes!

Mix and match

21. Choose a flight with a layover instead of the direct one

Sometimes the straight line is not the shorter way to get somewhere, in terms of money. Since most people avoid layovers, you have a chance on finding a good price if you choose to do this. Still, pay attention to the tickets as they may hide additional fees if you have to change airports or sleep in a hotel overnight.

22. Hunt error fares

This is a risky one, but it may work just fine. If you find an error fare, book it right on the spot. Then book accommodation and other stuff only with free cancellation. Then, you wait. If it gets confirmed, you might go across the world for a few bucks. Some sites where you can find error fares: Jack’s Flight Club, Secret Flying, Scott’s Cheap Flights, Dino the Tourist.

23. Look into companion tickets

This is a very cost-effective way of traveling as a couple. Some airlines have good offers for companion tickets, and you should be looking into this as soon as possible. More detailed information here.

24. Use search engines but buy only from the source

Search with Skyscanner, but buy only from the airline. If you buy from somewhere else, buy travel insurance to have your back covered in case of cancellation, lost baggage, or other issues that may appear. Check out Travel Insurance Master which aggregates multiple insurance providers.

25. Be brave

If you can travel last minute, you can score awesome prices. You just have to be very brave to do this. Or to decide on a few destinations, and see which one you can go to. I advise you to take this approach only for closer destinations, as you can move easier if it doesn’t work out.

Airplane view of the Swiss Alps - the view is priceless, no matter if you travel on a low budget or not
At least the view is free, right?

Stay connected

26. Set up alerts

For every travel site you’re following, there’s probably an alert you can set up. The same applies to all airline sites. Try to set up alerts for your desired destinations so you can book if the price goes below your budget.

27. Social media is your friend

Follow airlines on social media. They sometimes publish very good offers on social media. And you’re checking your Facebook more often than your email anyway. So why not get a notification when they finally open up those tickets to the Caribbean?

How to find cheap places to stay

Variation is key

28. Check accommodations on all platforms

Sometimes, the same accommodation can have 3 different prices on 3 different platforms. That’s why I always look at least on both Agoda and Booking. If you’re into AirBnB and HomeAway, look at those as well. You should have accounts on all of these platforms and see where you can find the best price.

29. Always try the hotel’s page as well

Or try to contact the owner, if it’s a smaller place. You have a chance on finding a better price or being offered a discount. But keep in mind that this way you won’t have the Booking guarantee or help in case something goes wrong. You’ll just do it like in the old days when we didn’t know about search engines for accommodation.

Sometimes, you just have to risk it

30. Go without accommodation

You can find available rooms at a heavily discounted price in most places. HotelTonight is a good place dedicated only to this niche, and you can use the other platforms as well to find cheap places. Also, if you see there are rooms still available on a platform, you can go directly to the hotel and book a room for a fraction of the price.

Following these tips to find cheap places to stay might get you to stay in this beautiful ryokan in Japan overnight.
Cozy ryokan room

Have a strategy in place

31. Avoid hotels with plenty of stuff you won’t use

You’re paying for them through the room price anyway. A few examples are: fitness area, pool, breakfast that starts too late and you’re already gone, children’s playground, and so on. If you don’t use it, don’t pay for it.

32. Ask for a frequent customer discount/card/program

If you’re going to a few hotels all the time, you might get a small benefit by registering in their program. Especially if you’re sometimes traveling for work, you can register as a regular and use the status for private trips as well. It never hurts to ask anyway, so why not do it?

How to pack light and avoid baggage fees

Pack less

33. Wear all the heavy stuff while on the flight

But don’t overdo it though, you don’t want to draw attention. You can wear your winter coat even if you leave a sunny place, but don’t wear ski boots on the flight. They will notice something is wrong with you. Also, you don’t want to be that guy. Everyone notices that guy.

34. Use fewer liquids if possible

Nowadays, more and more people move towards shampoo and conditioner bars, using soap instead of shower gel, and you can even buy toothpaste capsules that come in a jar. They’re not only more environmentally friendly, but they’re also lighter, so you don’t risk having them trigger a TSA alarm and they won’t spill in your bag. Check out the ones I use and absolutely adore! And if you’re going for a plastic-free approach, check out this post on reducing the amount of plastic you use, written by a fellow blogger..

Plan better

35. Don’t add the bag at the airport

Try to pay for it from home and print your label. This is often cheaper than adding it directly at the counter, and you usually know one day before that you’re going to need an additional bag. You can use some baggage tags to secure it.

36. Have travel insurance

It might seem surprising, as you will pay for it for each trip. But the cost is minimal and if you will need it, you’ll be happy you have it. Needing emergency care is stressful and expensive as it is, so at least take this issue out of your plate before you leave. Try Travel Insurance Masters to get the best deals for your trip.

Buy smart

37. Choose a quality bag

If you intend to use it often, don’t choose a cheap bag that will fall apart quickly. This way, you don’t have to change it every year, and it will be cheaper in the long run. Also, it has a smaller risk of being screwed by the airline, which makes it less stressful for you.

We use Samsonite products for this exact reason: they’re a bit pricier, but they’re very sturdy, nice looking, and have a 10-year guarantee worldwide. In other words, if you take it back damaged in less than 10 years, they give you a new one, no questions asked.

38. Buy reusable

This is a good idea not only for physical items like cutlery, make-up remover pads, or feminine hygiene products but also for digital items like planners. Instead of buying a printed travel planner, buy a digital one and reuse it. Don’t share them with other people though, that is just nasty and illegal, but reuse them for you as much as possible. Check out my Travel Planner Trello Template that’s a perfect example!

39. Use an e-reader

I know, you love the smell and feel of real, paperback books. I’m the same, a library geek. But when traveling, carrying books is not a good idea. Invest in a good e-reader that you can fill up with all the books you need. I have a reMarkable for this purpose, but you can choose from a big variety of Kindles as well.

40. Buy a baggage scale

It costs less than 10$ and it will prevent unexpected fees. You can check your bag at home and make the necessary adjustments, so you will never have a surprise at the airport when it’s a bit too late. It’s also small enough for you to take it on vacation and check it after you buy souvenirs as well. You can buy one here.

How to eat on a budget while on vacation

Take advantage of your accommodation

41. Have a rich breakfast

If you have breakfast included at the hotel, fill up to you can skip lunch and go directly to dinner later. Also, choose wisely what you eat so you have a filling meal. Skip the sugary stuff and get your protein intake higher instead.

42. Skip the all-inclusive

If you don’t drink a lot, half-board is usually enough. You can eat a late breakfast and an early dinner so you won’t starve, don’t worry. But this way you’ll also be able to skip the fixed times for lunch, when you sometimes want to be wandering around, not being tied to your hotel.

Don’t be such a tourist!

43. Don’t eat in super touristic areas

You should go at least 4-5 blocks further away from all the buzz to find a better deal, but you’ll usually have at least a 30% discount and a more authentic feel. A good indicator is if you see locals eating there and if they have English menus. If they don’t, great, that’s your place!

44. Try the local menu

If you get to choose between the English menu and the one in the local language, take the one in the local language and use Google Translate or DeepL to translate. Some restaurants put bigger prices in the English menu, and you’ll get to avoid this and get to know the culture better.

45. To tip or not to tip

Find out if you have to tip or not. In some cultures, the tipping culture is to just round up to the nearest dollar, in some others, there’s no tipping culture, and in some places, a 10-15% is the minimum expected. Do factor this every time you decide on a place to eat, as it may add up if you do it daily.

46. Where do the locals eat?

Observe where professionals or students eat during lunchtime. It has to be affordable, professionals wouldn’t be able to eat there every day otherwise. And students are broke as hell everywhere in the world, so they know all the cheap places.

Balinese soup - a delicious meal when you're trying to travel on a low budget

Bring your own

47. Drink tap water if drinkable

And use a water filtering bottle if not. You can save up so much money by not buying bottled water every day, and the environment will thank you SO much. We have a Chilly’s bottle that we carry around everywhere, and you can also buy a bottle with a filter if you think it’s best.

48. Skip Starbucks

Cut the expensive drinks like coffee and milkshakes and have a coffee mug that you can fill from the hotel breakfast or make yourself a coffee at home. These threats can get very expensive and will drive your budget over the cliff. You can resist without them for a vacation, don’t worry.

Reduce some stuff

49. Eat only one big meal a day

Or two meals, if you don’t have breakfast included. But spending on three full meals will get you bankrupt, and you’ll waste so much time. Instead, fill up at breakfast and have a late lunch. You can fill in the blanks with some snacks you have at the hotel.

50. Reduce eating and drinking out

A bottle of wine or a few beers to have at home can be OK compared to bars, as the added tax on alcohol in bars and pubs can be more than 100% in some cases. You can drink at home, it’s socially acceptable if you’re on vacation, don’t worry. At least I’m not judging you if it helps.

Choose wisely

51. Eat where employees eat when at the airport

They know where the best value food there. We all know airport food is where our taste buds go to die, so the most you can do is make the best out of it. If possible, eat a good meal before arriving, so you can skip this altogether.

52. Eat fast food from time to time

There, I said it! You can eat fast food from time to time but choose wisely. In certain places fast food is of acceptable quality and it can be filling, in other areas, it’s crappy quality, has millions of calories and you’re hungry again in an hour, and in other areas, it’s more expensive than a good local food dish.

Get the free stuff

53. Go before closing times

Some bakeries will give stuff for almost nothing, and sometimes even free at the end of the day, just to get rid of excess stock. They’d have to throw them anyway as they go bad overnight, so why not give them to people? Once in France, I wanted to buy a baguette and I got 4 instead. Made some nice croûtons with them, so they didn’t go to waste.

How to save money on transportation costs while traveling

Play it simple

54. Use public transportation as much as possible

I shouldn’t need to explain this any further. Even in your daily life, using public transportation instead of driving or, even worse, hiring a car and driver will be cheaper. Also, the environment will thank you, and you’ll have less stress as you won’t drive. Plus, you get to taste the local culture and mix in with the people.

55. Never take a taxi from the airport

Public transportation is always the cheapest option to get to the city. Sometimes even express buses can be pretty expensive, so look into some different options on how to get to the city. Unless, of course, you’re landing at 1 AM and there are not that many options. In that case, try to at least split the bill with someone.

Inside a bus in Japan - public transportation is usually the cheaper option to get around while on a trip

Batch up

56. Buy multi-day or weekly cards

If they make sense, of course. There’s no point in doing this if you’re just staying for two days. But if you’re spending a week somewhere and intend to use the public transportation intensively, look into weekly cards as the price per trip will be much cheaper this way.

57. Hop-on, hop-off

These are sometimes available for buses, trams, trolleys, and even trains. And sometimes they cover exactly the tourist places, so they can be quite convenient in terms of time as well. Do your homework and see if they’re included in a city pass, or if they have discounted offers.

The more, the better

58. A taxi can be cheaper

If you’re in a group of more than 3 people, the taxi can cost less than 3 public transportation tickets. But keep in mind that this is so much worse for the environment, so don’t overdo it, please! Walk more, group landmarks, and do anything you can to avoid this. Pretty please…

59. Rent a car

If traveling in a group of 4 or 5, renting a car might be cheaper. The same applies if you travel for longer in certain cases. Still, investigate first, as this is not always the case. Some countries are better visited by public transportation, and some others need to be seen by taking a road trip.

How to spend less on activities while on vacation

Get the free stuff

60. Self walking tour guides

You can become your tour guide! You just have to learn plenty of stuff about every place you go to, which is not as boring as it sounds. This is why you’re going there anyway, so why not learn something beforehand and impress everyone with your knowledge while traveling? I know, I must be fun at parties.

61. Hunt the free entries

There are plenty of places in the world that have a “free entry” day or specific hours when the entry is free or much cheaper than usual. Look them up and try to schedule in such a way that you make it work. We did this for the Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm and it worked perfectly.

Get the almost free stuff as well

62. Go to free walking tours

To be completely honest, you might pay a small fee in the end, but it will be what you can afford, not a specific price. Bonus, they are usually locals that are very knowledgeable and they can give you other essential tips as well, so you can find out good restaurants, great shopping places and sometimes some quirky events taking place nearby. We usually use Sandeman tours, but they are available mostly in Europe.

63. Look into city passes

It’s not always true, but sometimes they might be great value for money. Calculate the price for the landmarks visited separately and the price of the card for those days and you’ll easily see if you have a winner. Be realistic though, if you have 20 museums included and 2 days to spend there, you won’t see them all anyway, so don’t just buy the card because it offers you more. Check out GoCity as they have plenty of offers.

Shopping when traveling on a low budget

Shop less

64. Make your own souvenirs

I know you might think it won’t count as a souvenir, but hear me out. Instead of buying some made-in-China souvenirs from NY, you can take a few pictures and make them into a nice album or wall art when you return. You can even print your coffee table album. You can be as creative as you wish. And it will still remind you of the place, don’t worry.

Shop smarter

65. Go where the locals go

There’s probably nothing you can buy close to the tourist places that you won’t find further away in the city, in a grocery shop, a thrift shop, or even a supermarket. Ask the locals where they go and follow their advice, you’ll spend less than you think.

66. Act poor

If asked where you’re from, don’t say a country that’s perceived as rich (Switzerland, the US, Singapore, the UK), but say one that’s perceived as poor and/or too obscure to be known (I’ve had great luck saying I’m from Romania), and I’ve known people that scored at least a 25% discount for being from Slovenia.

67. Tax-free

Investigate if you can get a tax deduction on your shopping where you’re going, as some countries will offer you this option. Two good examples are Japan and the EU, and the tax can be up to 20% in some cases, so not exactly peanuts. GlobalBlue is a good option in some cases, as you don’t need to get back to the store to get your tax back.

How to travel on a low budget – the takeaway

Thank you for holding up until the end. I’m proud of you! I am. It took me a great deal to write all of these helpful tips on traveling for cheap, so I’m excited to share this with everyone. Now, don’t think that this list cannot be further improved. Let me know in the comments if there’s anything else I can add to it.

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6 thoughts on “65+ Pro tips on how to travel on a low budget”

  1. I always love reading different ways to save because some are so obvious to me and some I never would have thought of! Thank you for the tips!

    Reply
  2. These are amazingly helpful tips on traveling for cheap! This just goes to show there are so many interesting ways to save money while traveling.

    Reply
  3. 123 tips Oh My! Haha, I love it cause you literally covered pretty much all aspects of traveling on a low budget from where to go to how to get there and so forth! I loved how most of your points were about just being brave enough to ask! You would be surprised how much you can get with a smile and a sincere request.
    I will say though I am not 100% sold on your “Avoid countries where you need to pay for your visa” idea. Dont get me wrong, it sucks to have to buy a Visa, especially if you’re American, it is rather foreign to us. But, I have found that many of the countries that required me to have a Visa before entering were often cheaper countries to explore by a lot! Have you had a different experience?

    Reply
    • Hi Eric,

      As a European with a passport that does not get me places, I’m quite used to paying for visas.

      I didn’t say it’s a good idea to avoid those countries, but to maybe not prioritize them when you’re broke, and wait until you can afford more.

      I hope you enjoyed the other tips though. There’s something here for everyone. I hope!

      Reply

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