Travel doesn't have to break the bank. In fact, you can travel on a budget and enjoy the finer things in life without digging deep into your pocketbook.
How to Travel on a Budget in Style
We would love to be able to tell you all that we're independently wealthy and don't have to worry about a cent, but that is not the case.
We have to think about every penny we spend on travel.
So we want to share our tips for traveling on a budget.
Just follow these budget-saving tips and you'll be able to travel more for less!
Table of Contents for Budget Travel
Click on the links below to skip to any section that you want to read, you will be able to come back to the top at any time.
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Part 1: Booking Flights
1. Flexibility for Travel Dates
If you are willing to be flexible on travel dates, you can possibly save hundreds of dollars on your flight.
Flights may be cheaper if you fly on the weekend as opposed to flying on Monday morning.
Shop around and compare.
We have found business class flights on one day for the same price as economy flights on another. (by flying on different dates, we got a business class flight for the same price!)
It pays to look at different days up to 5 or 6 days before or after your desired dates of departure.
We use Skyscanner and punch in our dates as flexible.
It does a comparison of flight prices a couple of days before our preferred flights and a couple of days after.
All you have to do is click on the arrows to see what prices are the next day or the day before your desired departure.
Check Different Airports for Departures
If you live in a city not far from other hubs, check out their rates to see if there is a better deal at a nearby airport or even a different city airport.
We live in Toronto, but sometimes flying out of Hamilton (which is about a 40-minute drive from TO) can be cheaper than flying out of one of the Toronto airports.
Do the same for your destination airport. Flying into Tokyo's Narita Airport may be more expensive than Hanita.
Plus Narita is much farther out of the city than Hanita, so you may spend a lot more on taxis and shuttles to the city that may end up costing you the price you might have saved on the flight.
Flights out of a city in the United States may be cheaper than flying out of a Canadian departure city.
If you live near the border, it is worth checking departures from the closest American airport.
Many American airports offer shuttle services from Canada as well.
These are all things to consider.
Search For Flights Online Incognito
When booking your flights online, be sure to use an incognito window.
If you go incognito, you'll be able to find the freshest deals.
Also, flight costs vary from day-to-day.
Booking on a Monday may not have the best deals as buying on a Thursday and the same can be said for flying.
Book Hotel, Car Rental, and Flights Together
We like to find our own hotels when traveling, but we usually book our first night or two at a hotel online when we book our flights. When we book a hotel at the same time as our flights, we often save a ton.
We learned this little trick when we were Expedia Viewfinders and sat at the Expedia headquarters where they told us their insider tips.
By booking your hotel and flight together, you can end up saving a lot of money.
We also, recommend booking your rental car at the same time if you are thinking of driving.
When we booked our flight to Italy with Skyscanner, we searched for a rental car at the same time and ended up paying only $75 USD for a 10-day car rental!
That was cheaper than the gas we used for the entire 10 days!
Search for Deals to your Dream Destination Today with Skyscanner
From To Return One way DepartReturn Search flights
Part 2: Choose Your Destination Wisely
Where you travel has a great impact on the cost of a trip.
Travel to developing nations is a cheaper option that hot destinations.
Both destinations are beautiful, but one is cheaper than the other.
You can take it even one step further. Thailand is cheap, but Vietnam is even cheaper!
And same with the Bahamas. It is affordable to travel to the Bahamas, but Honduras is much cheaper to travel to.
How to Find Cheap Places to Travel
Look for places that have a good infrastructure for independent travel where you can stretch your dollar and make it last longer.
We can stay on a beach bungalow in India for $10 a night as opposed to booking an expensive week at an overcrowded all-inclusive Caribbean resort.
A Guesthouse in Honduras can go for $20 to $30 per night and meals at these destinations can be as low as $2-$3.
Beer is as low as a buck a bottle.
Traveling to off the beaten path destinations
will keep overpriced businesses in popular locations from digging too deep into your wallet.
Plus the local people of the not so well traveled places will be happy to have your business.
The Cheapest Destinations to travel
There's a reason South East Asia is popular for backpackers. It's a very cheap travel destination.
While Thailand is starting to go up in price, it's still very reasonable. Especially in places like Chiang Mai where many expats and bloggers live.
You can't go wrong with many places in South East Asia. Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia…they are all still some of the cheapest destinations to travel on earth and some of the most beautiful places to see in the world.
One of our favorite cities to visit in Europe is Budapest in Hungary which is very affordable.
Poland, Austria, Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria, and excellent budget travel destinations.
We couldn't' get over how cheap Sofia Bulgaria was when we visited.
The Baltics are an up and coming destination and are very reasonable.
We were in Estonia and it is a fascinating place to visit that is good for the budget.
Lithuania and Latvia are hot emerging destinations.
The Balkans are another cheap destination in Europe.
Romania, Croatia, Montenegro, Greece, and Turkey are a part of the Balkans and are fantastic places to travel on a budget.
Everyone is raving about how cheap Portugal is.
In fact, a lot of expats are starting to live in Portugal because it is so reasonable.
It's an excellent place to travel cheaply in Europe where you get excellent beaches, culture, and food!
If you are American, English or European, Canada is one of the top inexpensive places to travel simply because our dollar is so weak.
It's an amazing country to visit with so many adventures and beautiful mountains and scenery, yet if you are from Europe or England you're saving nearly 50% on the dollar!
The US saves anywhere between 25% – %30 on the dollar at any given time.
Mexico is one of our favorite countries to visit and it's one of the cheapest travel destinations out there.
Sure all-inclusive vacations to Cancun or Puerto Vallarta can run you a pretty penny but traveling independently on a budget can be very cheap.
Vacation rentals are affordable, hostels and guesthouses are cheap and bus travel is very easy and affordable in Mexico.
Off the Beaten Path
Tourism is just starting to blossom and tours and hotels are very reasonable.
Getting around more off the beaten path destinations can be a bit more difficult, but the pay off of going to places where few have been is worth it.
India is probably one of the cheapest destinations we've ever visited.
We made our money last for months in India and stayed in some very find accommodations like bungalows on the beach in Goa, a beautiful private guesthouse in Kerala and a gorgeous hotel overlooking Lake Pichola Udaipur.
This is another excellent cheap vacation destination.
Peru is still a favorite of ours and it is affordable.
We found Brazil to be quite reasonable and Ecuador was downright cheap when we were there.
There are so many inexpensive places to travel the list can go on and on.
In the Caribbean, Grenada is always at the top of cheap destinations lists.
So when planning your travels, think really hard about the destination.
Sure, you see a lot of pictures of the Maldives or Tahiti in your Instagram feed that make you want to go there.
But you can get the same luxury and beauty for a fraction of the price if you choose wisely.
Part 3: How to Travel for Cheap
If you want to travel on a budget the best way is to do it independently.
All-inclusive resorts may be easier but you are paying for the convenience and really, don't you want to sample the local culture?
Travel During Off-Peak Times
It's well known that travel during high season is expensive.
But what isn't so well known is that traveling in the offseason or shoulder season can be just as fulfilling as traveling at peak times.
We've been to Santorini when it was close to closing for the season and had balmy weather. We also got a steal on a luxury hotel with infinity pool.
Off-Peak is Different Everywhere
But remember, what is “off-peak” seasons change around the world.
The Caribbean travel may be low season in the summer months of June – August, but it is high season in South America during these times.
Do your research to find out when the best time to travel to a destination is and then look for shoulder-season deals.
We spent shoulder season on the Amalfi Coast in Italy and had incredible accommodation and car rental deals while still enjoying excellent weather and fewer crowds.
Hire local guides
We booked our treks to each mountain once we arrived in the country.
By hiring a local guide, we know that all the money we spend goes to them instead of the tour company.
Eat at local restaurants
If you want a truly authentic experience, eat where the locals eat.
If a place is filled with local people, you can be sure that the food is fresh, delicious and affordable.
Shop at Local Markets
Forget shopping at Duty-Free stores or boutiques, shop at local markets for handcraft designs and handmade clothing.
We have walked away with amazing works of art for bargain basement prices that have been conversations pieces for years when on display in our home. (well, when we had a home)
Shopping at the local markets not only save you money, but you contribute to the local economy.
Make sure to be ready to barter, it's all part of the fun.
Take Local Transport or Walk
Booking tours from your hotel is expensive.
We've gone outside, hailed a taxi or tuk-tuk and asked them how much to be hired for the day.
Or you can go downtown and find a local travel agent and ask them how much to hire a guide and driver for the day. They can take you on a tour and you'll see a different side of the city.
Or grab a map and a guide book and walk yourself, hire a bicycle or hop into a rickshaw.
You'll have way more fun sightseeing locally than from behind the glass of a tour bus.
Take Advantage of Free Attractions
After taking advantage of all the free attractions, museums, and discounts, we barely spent anything on our European vacation.
Many cities in Europe offer discounts at museums after a certain hour or even have many free attractions.
Many museums in cities are free.
Most cities offer free walking tours where the guides depend on tips.
Check with the website of the local tourist board when you arrive or look online to see what things are free in each city.
City passes help to save a lot of money as well. Just do a simple google search like “Free Things to do in Paris.”
Travel to Europe can be very expensive but you can eat gourmet meals by shopping at the supermarket.
We've eaten like royalty after visiting a market and buying a nice bottle of wine for €2-€4 while indulging in fresh meats and cheeses for next to nothing.
Bring a blanket and a basket to one of the stunning parks on the continent and enjoy a real European experience.
Part 4: Travel For Cheap with Alternative Accommodation
We stayed in France, Spain, and Italy for six weeks in our tent.
The campgrounds of Europe are luxurious complete with swimming pools, spas, restaurants and sometimes free shuttles to major attractions. All this for less than €20 a night.
We rented a car for €600 for a month and paid less than €500 for the month of accommodations to camp through Europe!
We camped all the way from England to Mongolia, many times for free!
Hire a Campervan
New Zealand we hired a campervan to drive around and take our time experiencing the country.
A lot of people hire campervans in Europe. In Scotland, you can pull over on the side of the road and camp for free!
With a campervan, you have everything you need with you. You can cook, sleep and get around saving a lot of money on travel.
Independent Hotels vs Chains
Chain hotels are expensive, instead, look for independent guest houses or B&B's.
You can stay in a beach bungalow for less than $10 if you have the patience to look around for a bargain.
Use a guide book like Lonely Planet to find budget areas and accommodations. It can be done!
Then again, there are tried and true chain hotels to choose from.
Ibis and Etap Hotels are located all across Europe and are budget-friendly, yet have all the amenities you need like cable tv, wifi, private baths, and even breakfast at some.
Some of the Etaps in Europe don't even have a check-in counter and you simply use your code once you pay your fee.
Stay in Hostels
Save on your room to enjoy your time in your destination.
Hostels have come a long way in recent years and you can find many of the amenities that you will find in hotels including private rooms with bath and TV.
Plus, most hostels offer free wifi and a kitchen to cook your meals saving on eating out.
Hostels are a great way to travel cheap and meet like-minded people along the way!
HostelWorld is a good place to start looking for hostel prices and reviews at your destination.
Apartment Rentals or Air BnB
We love using apartment rentals to save money.
More people can stay together in one place to split the cost.
You can cook at home which will save you a ton of money. Plus, going to the market shopping is an adventure unto itself and is an excellent way to immerse in the local culture.
Plus, apartment rentals are normally in the heart of all the action for a fraction of the price of a hotel.s
Check AirBnB for rates on the destination your thinking of.
Stay for Free
Housesitting, Couchsurfing and work exchange are some of the best options.
We personally haven't done this, but we have met many people who have and they swear by it.
We have even had two people write guest posts on our blog about housesitting and staying around the world for free.
Check how to stay for free around the world to see how you can do it too!
Benefits of Travel Rewards Credit Card
Use a travel rewards credit card to accumulate mileage and receive bonus rewards for signing up.
You have to spend money anyway, so it only makes sense to accumulate rewards as you shop.
Recommended travel rewards cards are American Express Platinum or Chase Sapphire: See the entire breakdown of rewards and benefits here.
We use American Express Platinum (disclosure, we used to be American Express Ambassadors, but we do not work with them anymore. We still love and use the card for its travel benefits.
With our Amex Platinum, we can book our own travel, pay for it with our credit card and then call American Express to have them pay for the purchase with our points.
With our Amex Platinum, we are also automatically upgraded to SPG and Marriott Gold, Hilton Gold which allows a lot of perks like early check in, late check out and free Internet.
Our card also offers free car rental insurance which saves a bundle. We don't have to worry about the extra $15 – $20 per day of car insurance. If anything happens, AMEX takes care of it all.
Time and Patience
It is easier to travel on a budget if you have the time.
If you are traveling long term, you can really stretch your dollar to have a low daily travel fee.
Having time gives you options to take local transport, search for deals on guides and accommodation and to be able to shop at supermarkets and cook your own food.
We saved hundreds of dollars on our climb to Everest Base Camp because we had the time to search for a guide that suited our budget.
If you take the time and research your destination before you go, you'll be able to stick to your budget and have a more stress free experience traveling the world.
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