Everyone should get out and travel even if you aren’t crazy rich. These are some of our best tips on how to travel on a budget!
We have been traveling full-time for over a year and a half and have no source of income (yet). We have had to stick to an overall budget on our travels and have learned a ton about how to best do that. It doesn’t have to be hard or overwhelming. These simple financial tricks will help keep you organized and give you some ways to make it easier to save some money!
We’ll cover how to travel on a budget, how to travel the world, travel on a budget meaning, how to travel on a budget in your 20s, how to travel internationally on a budget, and more!
This post is all about how to travel on a budget.
How to Travel on a Budget:
Track Your Spending
This is always our first tip when we talk to anyone about budgeting or saving money. Knowing where your money is going is the first step to making or keeping a budget and is necessary to start cutting any of your expenses. We use the free service Mint to track all of our spendings. It allows categorizing of each individual transaction. At the end of the month or year, we can look at the trends page to see where our money went. We keep our transactions up to date weekly and then take an hour or so to review our monthly expenses. Even if you don’t have a budget yet, we always recommend tracking your expenses and knowing where your money is going.
Set Up a Daily Budget
Setting up a daily budget has a more relatable feel to it than an overarching annual budget. We knew how much money we had overall and worked backward. Say you have $50,000 and want to travel for 1 year, you will have around $4,000 per month and $135 per day. $50,000 seems like so much and can be hard to wrap your head around when planning. And although $135 per day is just an average, it can help guide some of your decisions.
Don’t Make It Strict
This is super important. Don’t beat yourself up over a bad week or a really high spend week. It’s going to happen and as long as you are having fun, that’s all that really matters! Traveling on a budget is definitely a bit harder than having unlimited amounts to spend, but you are still traveling and seeing the world! Don’t make having a budget a chore and something you hate. It should be there to help you continue your travels for even longer, if possible. The less strict you are, the more comfortable you will feel tracking your spending and budgeting for the next month.
There are some people that budget for every single category of expenses. That is great but it can also be overwhelming and stressful. We only have a few categories and then a variable spending budget. For example, we have a monthly budget for flights, fixed expenses (Netflix, Health Insurance, etc.), and accommodations. Everything else falls under variable expenses and we have a total budget for that. Within that budget, we can spend on whatever we like including food, excursions, shopping, or personal items. This allows us to spend how we want each month and not be set up for a strict budget.
Spend On What You Like
Setting up a budget and cutting your expenses does not mean you should cut out everything “extra” in your budget. You should cut things you don’t really care about but you should make room in your budget for things you love. For example, Nate hates shopping. So we don’t keep an extra budget for shopping for him. That was something easy to cut out of our spending. But before we left for our world travels, we wanted to go to Disneyland. We made room in our budget for annual passes to Disneyland because that was something that brought joy to us. It was expensive and definitely an “extra” expense that was not needed. We were able to still hit our goals and have fun while doing it! If you care about cars, fancy dining experiences, diving excursions, or anything else, you should make room for it in your budget and only cut out the things you can do without.
Focus on Big Expenses First
It’s always a good idea to focus on the bigger pieces of the pie first when trying to save money. While traveling this will be your accommodations and transportation. The better you can estimate and save on these two categories the more impact it will have on your overall budget, especially compared to souvenir shopping and groceries. To save on accommodations, try staying in one location for a bit longer or you can always ask your host or hotel for a larger discount. For transportation, flying is usually the most expensive option, and choosing cheaper destinations will save you a ton.
Pro Tip: Use points and miles to get free flights and free room nights at big hotel brands. Check out our favorite travel credit cards that have allowed us to save over $4,000 this year!
Money-Saving Travel Tips:
These are a few of the best quick tips we have learned to help us save a few bucks while traveling.
Use Google Flights Explore
This is basically how I decide all of our destinations. I will go to the Explore tab on Google Flights (of course in a Private Browser) and scroll around the map and play with the dates to find the best option for our next flight. It can be hard at times to find a good deal but this is a large expense so the time is usually worth it.
Cook at Home
Booking an Airbnb or VRBO may be a bit more expensive but you may be able to save quite a bit of money by cooking at home! Even if you don’t have a full kitchen, you can always make sandwiches, wraps, or even ramen as long as you have a kettle! For nights that you are exhausted from exploring, this can be a great option to just relax in bed and save some money! We have a go-to list of recipes to make in a kitchen when we have one since you don’t always have a ton of ingredients or want to buy a whole bottle of something you only need 2 tablespoons of. Our list includes red sauce pasta with veggies, eggs and potatoes, chicken tacos, veggie burrito bowls, and fish or chicken and veggies on rice. Simple and all healthy ingredients you can find almost anywhere.
Eat Street Food
Street food is always inexpensive and usually delicious! You may have to look to find the best of the best but just know a crowd of people is always a good sign! You’ll have to pay cash for most street food but it’s always really inexpensive. You’ll get a great taste of the local food and get to meet tons of nice people!
The slower you travel the more you can save. Traveling fast incurs higher and more frequent transportation costs. You also have to pay more for shorter lengths of stay. On Airbnb, you’ll find a weekly discount and a monthly discount that is usually applied to longer lengths of stays. You can also negotiate for a better rate more easily if you are staying longer. We will usually contact the Airbnb host via Airbnb and give them our budget and timeframe. They have said yes in most scenarios.
Along the same lines as the last point, you can always negotiate anything. This is true for Airbnbs but also for any physical item or service you are buying. Even street food can be negotiated. Every mall, market, tour, boutique shop, and the street vendor is able to negotiate because they don’t answer to anyone else. There are likely no price tags and they just throw out a high price. It’s never their best offer and you can always negotiate down. Always be nice and considerate and always be willing to walk away.
The lighter you are able to travel, the easier travel will be and you will save tons of money. For most flights, you have to pay for a checked bag (around $30 per bag each way). This is true for trains and some buses too. If you have a long layover or want to explore but don’t want to carry your bags, you’ll likely have to pay for luggage storage. Super convenient but does cost extra. You’ll also be able to take smaller transportation with fewer things like a motorbike or a public bus.
Do DIY Tours
Tours can be so expensive so if you are able to plan a DIY tour, you will save a ton. With the internet and guidebooks, you can find so much information about your destinations and what to do. We usually do all the research ourselves and explore on our own time. We are able to save a ton of money but also have the freedom to stay as long as we want and do what we want. You could also book free walking tours which are always available in large cities, but remember you should always tip the guide at the end!
Travel with people
This is similar to traveling slower. It’s a bulk mentality, the more nights you stay, the cheaper it is. The more people you travel with, the cheaper it is. Even if you can’t travel with people full-time, it could be worth it to hook up with another couple or some friends from back home in more expensive destinations to help split the costs. It’s great for 2+ bedroom apartments and car rentals especially!