How do nomadic, round-the-world trip and budget travelers make their dollar stretch when they don’t have a daily 9-5 job to replenish their spending? Well, there are ways to travel for cheap!
Money is the best known killer of travel dreams. While travel influencers and Instagrammers make a travel lifestyle appear glamorously easy, we all know traveling is not a cheap hobby. Traveling is a privilege that has to be afforded.
How I afford travel?
Readers and viewers want to know how I afford traveling too. In order to create my videos and blog, I have to find countless ways to afford my travels. Sadly, there is no magic wand aside from hard work. Boooo… I know, you didn’t want to hear that, right? If I’m not in an office making an hourly wage, I’m freelancing in video production, job hunting, and I’m on my blog working long hours at creating content and converting statistics or pitching business opportunities. I’m in it with you! But over time, managing a tight travel budget and schedule, I’ve learned budget travel hacks to make my dollar stretch and I’m happy to share those with you.
Saving money on your travels
46 Ways to Travel for Cheap
Unless you’ve socked your life savings away or have a regular 9-to-5 job that allows you a short spurts of a vacation, many of us are looking for ways to make our dollar stretch when we travel.
Choose less expensive destinations
A lot of people think travel is expensive. It doesn’t have to be. A large part of what determines your budget is your choice of destination. Sure Europe is sexy! I’d love to visit it just to blog and film it. But with the cost of the Euro in relation to the American dollar, I might fit one week into my budget, where I can get one or two months of travel in Southeast Asia or Central America. I have to think about my choices carefully.
These days, I’lI choose less expensive destinations, where I can travel longer with less money.
1. For every splurge, cut back on something else. (For me, that’s food, souvenirs, bars and posh restaurants, or a pricy attraction!)
2. Travel to countries with a lower economy than yours. (Yup, I covered that in the previous paragraph)
3. Keep a daily budget–It makes you accountable for everything gives you an idea of where to cut back. I jot my daily expenditures in a notebook ; for longer journeys, I create an Excel spreadsheet.
4. Give yourself a daily allowance. This keeps you from spending. If I give myself a $20/day budget ( I put that money in my wallet and leave the rest in the hotel) then I’m more cautious of where I spend my money. Once I hit my daily limit, the spending has to end.
5. Are you vacation mentality or slow travel mentality? Vacationers with limited time are often seeking convenient tourist options; they may burn through their money quicker. Slow travel has the ability to choose cheaper and more local options.
Booking your trip and itinerary
Cheaping on transportation without losing out on a quality experience is one of my expert skills, so I’m fleshing this out a little more. Many cities have their own Insider budget hacks. They exist but it’s up to you to research and find them, like a good coupon.
6. Avoid taxis, Uber or Lyft it. These days, more and more travelers and locals are reverting to rideshare apps, where you can hail a ride-on-the-fly and see your prices in advance. Many around the world are reporting the cost of these services to be cheaper than taxis.
7. Use public transit like the bus or metro.
Tip: Check to see if the public transit offers daily or package tourist packages! Cities like Seoul, Tokyo, Fukuoka, New York, Bangkok, Shanghai… offer tourist metro/bus pass packages with unlimited rides and even discounts. Living in Korea, I enjoyed hop-on/hop-off city bus tours for under $10. Other places offer discounted rides for those who purchase a reloadable transit pass, such as Istanbul and Hong Kong.
8. Walk and burn calories.
Walk walk walk… you know those food videos I film? This is how I burn those sinful calories off! What is my no pain motivation? Exploring on foot allows me to travel deeper, photo hunt and film my YouTube videos!
9. Travel slow.
Take local vs express routes, long-distance buses vs. bullet trains. In Japan, a JRailpass offers discount packages for express train travel, but you can go even cheaper by taking local metro. Of course, the local route makes stops at every station along the way. In Korea, I used to make weekend trips to Seoul from Daegu, but the Korail was a $75 OW trip which took anywhere from 2-4 hours in transit. $150 RT is almost the cost of a domestic flight. Instead, I often opted for the 4 hour express bus at $24 OW. Before you discount the quality of a Korean bus, it sometimes had satellite TV and it looks like the bus on the Gangnam Style music video. That’s a savings plus an adventure.
10. Take the overnight train or bus.
11. Opt for overland travel vs. flights.
Overland travel is when you take ground transportation (i.e. railway or long distance bus) across the border of a country. It’s significantly cheaper than the cost of a flight. It’s the equivalent of buses vs taxis. One of my fave resource websites for overland travel is Man in Seat 61 (www.seat61.com).
Read/Watch my most epic solo travel day in India for inspiration, where I turn a long trip of multiple connections into an adventure.
Flights and Layovers
12. Only take flights when you really need to (I’ll talk about flight hacking at a later date)
13. Use carry-on luggage to knock off extra luggage fees.
Minimalist travel is key for solo travelers, as we have to carry our own luggage and gear. The advantage to carry on luggage is more than just avoiding fees.
14. Utilize layovers as extra travel adventures.
I’m a huge fan of milking the time I’ve got.. everywhere, including airports and layover destinations. Some airports like Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul offers free city sightseeing layover tours. Turkish Airlines even offer a complimentary hotel accommodation to valuable passengers for 7-10 hour layovers. Know your airlines and choose wisely!
15. Book a hotel with an airport pickup service.
Some hotels offer free shuttle or guest pickup service and this saves time, stress and money finding the hotel on your own.
16. Spend the night in an airport.
Sleeping in airports ain’t so bad. Some airports have sleep pods or comfy chairs to sprawl out. My favorite website for researching airport facilities is Sleepinginairports.com
17. Learn to catch Zzzs whereever you go.
Learn to sleep anywhere. I know some folks are light sleepers, but if you can relax into any space, sleeping on a bus, airport or even a chair won’t bother you. One of my superhero travel talents… I can even sleep standing up!
18. Stay at budget accommodations: hostels, guesthouses, couchsurfing
19. AirBnB (Use my GRRRLTRAVELER referral code and get $40 off your first booking )
20. Housesitting. Travel bloggers and long-term travelers I know have had good experiences with trustedhousesitters.com ($95 annual fee); mindmyhouse.com ($20 annual fee)
22. Take the overnight train or bus and save a night at a hotel and a day in sightseeing.
(This is #11 but it’s a very good tip which I use a lot, so it deserves a repeat! )
23. Ask if your hotel has early check-in fees.
This helps if you arrive early in the morning due to #22. Some overnight buses and trains arrive into a city at early AM hours. It’s really inconvenient, but not if you know you have a bed to crash in after arriving.
24. DO light snacking as a substitute for a heavy restaurant meal.
25. Eat street food or at local restaurants Read: 11 Food Safety Tips to avoid getting sick
26. Use re-usable/refillable water bottles.
28. Shop at local grocery stores and bring a spork and make your own meals.
29. Shop at local produce markets and buy fruits for snacks on buses/trains.
Social and Activities
30. Groupon it. Groupon probably doesn’t exist in every country but I’ve been surprised to find it exists outside the U.S., in a total of 28 countries! Save at spas, restaurants, gym memberships, even travel!
31. Share transportation.
Find other travelers to split costs with. For solo travelers who are shy but super cheap, let your wallet do your talking for you.
32. Find other travelers to share accommodation expenses.
Yes. Share accommodations with a stranger. Single travelers can avoid single supplement fees, by finding a trustworthy traveler to split costs with. Obviously, you have to be discerning, safe and smart about who you choose. Being female, it’s easy for me to size up another female solo traveler and approach them with the intention of hooking up with a shared room.
33. Choose travel partners who are budget-minded.
If you travel with vacation travelers, you’ll be paying for upgrades or maybe even eating at a restaurant and splitting a bill in half vs pay only for what you ate. Travel with someone as cheap as you. Read: Things that Make or Break Travel Partners
34. Avoid drinking alcohol and night clubbing. These activities burn a hole in your wallet quickly.
35. When taking a tour, choose operations that allow add-ons to group tours vs. single supplement fees for being a solo traveler.
36. Seek out free walking tours. They exist!
37. Learn to haggle… well. Read: How to Haggle like a Rockstar
38. Avoid shopping (duh.. but if you’re a heavy shopper, you need this reminder)
39. Shop where locals shop for food and toiletries
40. Work volunteer for free room and board through HelpX.net
41. Work volunteer on farms around the world for free room and board via WWOOF .
Some travelers swear by this as the cheapest way to go. As a female solo traveler, I’m always concerned about safety, so I’ve avoided it. Also, it takes time-invested effort to get a crashpad; sometimes, it feels like a friend matchmaking service. You’ll have to convince people why you make a good guest.
43. Research free luggage storage at your hotel or at airport stored luggage.
44. Pack light so that you bags can fit in train lockers
45. Americans often have premium travel insurance. It’s nearly impossible to get the cheap rates other countries do. If you’re a backpacker, the best insurance I’ve found is World Nomads. They charge you based on your country, travel dates and destination and their coverage is full package from standard trip cancellations to theft and at risk activities.
46. For regular travelers, I get an annual insurance for $129 through Allianz Travel Insurance. The coverage is lighter than World Nomads but it covers a standard coverage and is great for business travelers.
What are your ways to travel for cheap? Leave your tips in Comments so we can all benefit from it.
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