How to Travel on a Budget – Top Tips for Traveling Cheap

Written By: The Planet D

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.  These budget travel tips will give you the tools to start planning your trip and making travel a large part of your life.

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.

How to Travel on a Budget in Style

Where are the cheapest travel destinations, and how to save money when booking your travels and how to find cheap accommodation? Just follow these budget-saving tips to find out and you’ll be able to travel more for less!

If you are looking for ways to save money for travel check out How to Save Money for Travel – 15 Tips to Get Started Now

Booking Flights

How to find cheap 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!)

how to find cheap flights with skyscanner

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

Cheap flight help you travel on a budget

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. For Example, 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 for Canadians. 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

cheap travel deals incognito window search

When booking your flights online, be sure to use an incognito window. Websites use cookies to track your previous searches and they’ll be able to see what deal they already offered you. 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

Budget travel tip rent a car

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 of money.

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 by bundling.

We also, recommend booking your rental car at the same time if you are thinking of driving to save even more money. 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

Choosing Your Destination

Budget Travel Destinations

Where you travel has a great impact on the cost of a trip. Traveling to developing nations is a cheaper option than hot destinations. Everyone wants to go to Bora Bora or Tahiti, but Thailand or the Bahamas have just as beautiful beaches and bungalows. 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 the 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

How to find cheap travel destinations
Thailand is just as beautiful and is a cheap travel destination

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.

Traveling to off the beaten path destinations will keep overpriced businesses in popular locations from digging too deep into your wallet. 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.

Plus the local people of the not so well traveled places will be happy to have your business.

The Cheapest Destinations to travel

Budget travel destination Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe

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.

Southeast Asia

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.

The Baltics

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. Considering Estonia is just a stone’s throw from Scandinavia, it was surprising to see how reasonable it was. Lithuania and Latvia are hot emerging destinations.

The Balkans

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.

Portugal

Everyone is always 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!

Canada

If you are American, British, 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 to be had complete with beautiful mountains, luxury travels and world class cities.

Yet if you are from Europe or England you’re saving nearly 50% on the dollar! American’s save anywhere between 25% – %30 on the dollar at any given time.

Mexico

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.

Central Asia

Central Asia is a great Budget travel destination
The views from the top of the pass were amazing!

Going off the beaten path into Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan or Mongolia will give you the opportunity to travel on a shoestring. 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.

Nepal is an affordable adventure travel destination and our personal favorite, Sri Lanka is not only very cheap, but it has amazing beaches, culture, adventure, and cuisine.

India

India is probably one of the cheapest destinations we’ve ever visited. It was in India that we started our blog and had a very low travel budget for travel. 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.

Central America

This is another excellent cheap vacation destination. While Costa Rica has gone up significantly over the years, places like BelizePanama, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua are still budget travel-friendly.

South America

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 CaribbeanGrenada 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.

Ways to Travel for Cheap

There are several ways to travel cheaply. From traveling independently to booking alternative accommodation. We’ve broken down alternative ways to travel on a budget to help you get those creative juices flowing.

How to travel for cheap

Travel Independently

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

Off peak season in Greece

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.

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 and make sure 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

Travel cheaper by hiring local guides

We have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for less than $900 and we have been to Everest Base Camp for less than $1000 for a 14-day trek including meals and accommodation. 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

cheap travel tips 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. Ask your taxi driver or guest house owner for recommendations. Or do what we do, go for a walk and see what’s packed with people!

Shop at Local Markets

Shop at local markets to stay on budget

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 conversation pieces for years when on display in our home. (well, when we had a home)

Shopping at the local markets not only saves you money, but you contribute to the local economy. Make sure to be ready to barter, it’s all part of the fun. Read our tips 10 Proven Tips: How To Bargain Like a Pro When Traveling

Take Local Transport or Walk

Cheap Travel Tip Take local transport

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. You’ll have way more fun sightseeing locally than from behind the glass of a tour bus.

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.

Take Advantage of Free Attractions

Travel on a budget look for 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 European 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.” 

Picnic

Budget travellers can save money on food

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.

Travel Cheap with Alternative Accommodation 

Cheap accommodation like camping

Camping

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 as we camped our way through Europe! Camping is a lot of fun, we made friends and we could stretch our travel budget for longs.

We camped all the way from England to Mongolia on a road trip and stayed at cheap campgrounds with full ammenities. Plus we pulled over on the side of the road and camped many times for free!

Hire a Campervan

Budget travel in 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

Budget travel by staying in Guesthouses

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!

Chain Hotels

cheap travel with chain hotels

Then again, there are tried and true chain hotels to choose from that are great for the travel budget. 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 Etap Hotels in Europe don’t even have a check-in counter to save on costs so you simply use your code once you pay your fee.

Stay in Hostels

Stain hostels to save money and travel cheap

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

travel cheap with apartment rentals

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 hotels. Check AirBnB for rates on the destination your thinking of.

Stay for Free 

Housesitting in Berlin

Housesitting, Couchsurfing, and work exchange are some of the best options to travel cheaply and save a lot of money on travels.

Check how to stay for free around the world to and How to Become a House Sitter – Tips Start House Sitting in 2021

Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Rewards Credit card for travel on a budget

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.

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.

Recommended travel rewards cards are American Express Platinum or Chase Sapphire: See the entire breakdown of rewards and benefits here.

With our Amex Platinum, (and Chase Sapphire as well) 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.

Travel Slowly

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. So are you ready to see the world?

Read More:

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use Booking.com and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • World Nomads - Digital Nomads or Frequent Travelers.
  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

Leave a Comment

34 thoughts on “How to Travel on a Budget – Top Tips for Traveling Cheap”

  1. Great tips! Flexibility is really the best way to save. Waiting last minute for flights is a real gable. Sometimes it’s seen as a desperate move for the flyer, and prices are upcharged. Other times, the flights are desperate, and it’s a great way to save. If you have flexibility in your schedule, it allows you to see the good and bad price offers on tickets and pick one that you feel is best.

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  2. In India it is always helpful to ask local people’s advice for best budget food and stay. The government websites are reliable source of information. Thanks for the budget travel tips.

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  3. Thanks for all your good ideas. The current pandemic is resulting in lots of changes. Just saw that Couchsurfing is no longer free, take a look at their new structure.
    Happy Travels!

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  4. As a budget traveler myself, I’m always looking to see more while spending less. Thank you for sharing these budget travel tips from your own experiences!

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  5. Great Article, Thanks for list to travel on budget. Definitely, I’ll use some tricks on my upcoming tours.

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  6. So many tips in just one piece of content, this article inspired me a lot for my next travel trip. I really enjoy Dave and Deb’s tips to the max. I hope I will have the chance to experience all of this.

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  7. These are such perfect tips. Everything here is such a great idea to help people achieve their travel dreams! Thanks for sharing.

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  8. Great tips! I save few more bucks by simple trick, I travel in off peak seasons or nearly peak seasons. It helps me in saving few bucks on hotel & flights. Also, I can avoid crowd which is the best thing.

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  9. Hello, I loved this blog because I felt this is just for me. You have mentioned each and every point very clearly and elaborated amazingly. I always travel with proper planning and budget. Extending expense thing scares me. I think so much about traveling, I believe in ‘money-saving’ motto. On the last vacation, I had gone to Nepal which is a very affordable country with amazing natural resources. I am going to share this post with my traveler buddies. Thanks for this blog!

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  10. Great tips! Thank you Dave and Deb for the article. There are many points that I can relate myself when I travel to another country.

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  11. Yeah! Thanks for sharing this information. It’s really helpful for me while I go for the tour. Bcz I also preferred a Budget trip and your blog helps me a lot for pocket-friendly. Keep it up. 🙂

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  12. Thank you for sharing these great tips. I’m using them regularly while I travel. Another way of making your trip more meaningful and also cheaper is volunteering aborad or giving some work for free accommodation and food. I’ve done that on three continents so far and I love it! It really makes my experiences unique and I learn so much about the places I visit. Highly recommended! 🙂

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  13. Opening in incognito seems useful, you can even check searching using VPN much easier with google chrome ! Hope that helps ! And really thank you Dave and Deb for the article.

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  14. I agree accommodation shouldn’t break the bank. Find cheaper but good alternatives. As for me, I look for hostels and guesthouses with basic necessities in it like wifi and own bathroom and I’m fine.

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  15. Some great cash-saving, tight-budget travel tips here! As for accommodation, I’ll add one budget tip I’ve learned – as you said, it’s great to stick with independent budget hotels, but it’s also good to book them directly as opposed to using booking or other service as such. Due to the overhead they will offer a better price!

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  16. This is really amazing article, when I went through it, i am impressed because there are so many points that i am able to relate myself when I travel I used to keep these things in mind. Thanks for posting such a great article man.

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  17. This list is great! I really like the idea of the travel rewards, I really have to look into that. Do you have any recommendations for european travelers?
    By the way, and along with the tip of eating local, me and friends developed a site that is right in the spirit of this: http://www.mealsharing.org. It’s all about connecting with locals ove home cooked meals. And it is true that when you eat with locals and when you go small, you can get so much more in return. For us it’s been an incredible experience and has made traveling more cozy and enriching.

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  18. Great tips! I definitely shop at local markets and eat at local restaurants whenever I can. I met a German traveler in Barcelona who loved touring New Zealand by campervan; now I definitely have to try it!

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  19. We agree with all of these helpful tips. We are currently in Thailand and can get a tasty meal from the local market for $1! If you are planning to travel long term you can balance out the more expensive destinations by also spending time in cheaper places. We have also saved a lot of money by house sitting (we recently stayed in a house in Kyoto, Japan for free for 3.5 weeks!), working in exchange for food and accommodation (WWOOF and HelpX are good organisations for finding placements) and couchsurfing.

    Knowing the exchange rate is vital. I love the xe.com app on our iPod Touch.

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  20. Love the cup o’ noodle in the BNB or hostel room. If that doesn’t scream budget, I don’t know what does. hah

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    • Yep, that is totally budget eh! That bungalow cost $150 for the month! Not bad eh. We had hot water and they cleaned it for us each day.

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  21. Thanks for all the travel guide tips. As someone who does some travel you’d think I would just get this stuff down pack by now. I think the bonus tips are simple but vital. I don’t know how many times while in my traveling to another country and forget to bring a calculator. It’s simple process but we make it difficult of course.

    Anna L.

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    • You are so right Anna. That’s what made us write this post. We have been doing basic how to tips for TV and we realized that many people don’t know these things. WE didn’t know any of this until we started traveling. It has all come to us over the years.

      Reply