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14 Tips for Cheap Budget Travel Planning

The number one question I get from readers is “How do you afford to travel all the time?!?” People think I’m either independently wealthy or have some kind of sugar momma footing the bills for my jet-setting lifestyle. The reality is that I make travel a priority and I’m constantly researching budget travel planning tips. Part of my travel is sponsored these days, but I traveled for years before I became a blogger on a very limited budget. Traveling obviously introduces people to new experience but it also changes us as people. The more I travel the more I grow. Use these tips to help spread your dollars just a little bit farther.

Building Your Budget Before Going

Reframe What Travel Means to You

I’m not naive enough to believe that international travel is accessible to everyone. Most people living on minimum wage in the U.S can’t afford basic necessities let alone luxuries like airline tickets. Travel isn’t limited to international destinations or fancy resorts, travel can be as simple as going to the closest major city to your home. Day trips and weekend trips are still a form of travel. You can do many of the same things being a tourist in your own area that you can when you visit another country.  It can be just as rewarding to explore your own state or country as it is to explore other areas of the world. Domestic travel and international travel can be made much more affordable when you give yourself a broader view of what’s possible.

Go in The Off Season

Most people would  to go to the mountains during the winter to ski or the beach in the summer, but these are the most expensive times to go to these places because of supply and demand. The more people that want to be in that location, the higher the cost will be due to the amount of availability in hotels and flights. Traveling during the off season is significantly cheaper on all fronts. Consider going during an unexpected time of year to save some cash.

Consider Traveling to Developing Countries

Traveling in some countries is cheaper than others. When you are initially deciding where you want to visit consider going to a destination where the cost of activities and accommodations will be cheaper. South East Asia is a great option for folks traveling with a limited budget. I traveled in Southeast Asia for around $30 a day. I spent more than that on one night in a hostel while I was traveling in Europe.  

I loved learning about Vietnamese history and culture.

Plan Ahead

This is probably the number one tip I can give. The farther I plan ahead the better I can manage my trips. I usually spend about six months planning a trip. It takes about that long for me to decide where I want to go, develop a budget and plan all the details of tours and accommodations. Everything that comes with travel is a cheaper cost if you plan and book ahead of time. The myth of last minute hotels is just that… a myth. It’s only true for cruises. Cruise lines do offer discount prices to fill cruise ships. Check out Last Minute Cruises for great prices. Waiting to the last minute not only affects cost but it also affects availability especially for hotels and flights, these are things that you want to look into well in advance. There are different theories on when the best time to book different flights and hotels but generally the farther in advance the better. Planning ahead also gives you time to search out the best deals, create a budget and research your destination. The more research you do the better prepared you’ll be for your trip.

Create a Realistic Budget

When you’re budgeting for your trip make sure you’re including all the expenses you might encounter. You should be accounting for the expected things like flights, meals, transportation, tours and accommodations, but you should also include an emergency or miscellaneous fund. Banking fees and currency conversion costs add up in other countries. Domestic travel expenses can creep up on you too. It’s better to over budget and underspend than flipping that around.  

Open a Separate Bank Account

Opening a separate bank account that is not electronically connected to your account will make it as hard as possible to withdraw money. Hell, go to a different bank. Make sure you can’t take that money out every time you “need” something.

Open a Credit Card With Great Travel Rewards

Lots of credit cards have points and rewards systems that will help you travel at a reduced cost. Alex of Alex in Wanderland uses the Capital One Venture and Starwood Preferred Guest Points. Most cards have a sign on bonus that helps users quickly rack up points.

Determine What Activities You’d Like to Do

I’m all for spontaneity, but I’m also all for being able to do the things I want to do when I want to do them. When I visited Thailand, volunteering at Elephant Nature Park was a fairly large expense. It was also one of my favorite things I’ve ever done while traveling. If I hadn’t researched and budgeted in advance I never would have been able to afford it.

Search for Deals

When you go to book  hotels and flights, don’t just go with the first one you come across. Shop and search around until you can find the best deal. Consider not only the cost but also location of hotels, times of flights, and other factors that will affect your trip. Find the best fit for all of these things, not only the money. For more information on booking flights check out How to Find the Cheapest Flight in 10 Minutes or Less.

Consider Crowdsourcing

The internet is amazing. The combination of the internet and travel is even more amazing. Consider using one of the many crowdsourcing sites to aid your travel. Some of my favorites include AirBNB for low-cost accommodations, Workaway for working in exchange for room and board opportunities and couchsurfing for chances to stay for free in a local’s guestroom.

While you’re away

Walk or Use Public Transportation

When you are in another city driving around can add up to a lot of spending cost. If you have rented a vehicle, on top of the cost of that you also have to provide the gas and pay for parking. Walking and using local public transportation around the city as much as you can will save money, but it will also give you a better feel for the areas you’re visiting. Only drive if it is absolutely necessary.  

Eat Cheap

Almost all hotel rooms have a mini fridge in the room, this is why I recommend taking home leftovers of any food that you may have not finished at a restaurant. You are then able to eat that as breakfast or lunch for the next day, you’re saving money by turning one meal into two! Don’t shy away from street food or lower cost options. I also sometimes buy some small breakfast items to put in my room to cut costs on meals. Food can be expensive, and the less money you spend on food, the more you have to spend on fun activities and experiences.
Or you could cook for yourselves. I know this sounds a bit crazy, no one cooks for themselves while they are on vacation, right?! Well, I don’t personally cook for myself even when I’m at home, but some of my blogger friends do. I’m lookin atchu Button and Bly. With all of the other costs of traveling, eating out can get to be very expensive. Hitting up a local grocery store and whipping up something back at the hotel will save a ton of money for you, especially if you are traveling with a large group. When I was in Thailand I took a Thai cooking class. It could be fun to try and recreate some of the lessons you learned at your hostel or hotel, especially if you’re planning on traveling for a longer time period.

Travel Light

This is another really big one, traveling with a ton of luggage can hinder your travels in a lot of different ways, but it can especially hinder your budget. If you are flying, it costs extra to bring along anything more than a small bag, and a carry-on suitcase. If you’re driving, having a heavier car results in poor gas mileage. PLUS having a ton of crap makes you less mobile… which is kinda the point of travel.

Don’t Buy Cheap Crap

Do you really need another crappy T-shirt or a random shot glass? My guess is no. You’re probably going to throw that shit away when you get home anyways. Only purchase things you’re really in love with. I try to make sure I have a place in mind for my item and it vibes with things I use in my everyday life.

Traveling can get to be really expensive, but as long as you plan ahead and work hard to find good deals, you can do it at a fairly affordable rate. Did I forget anything? Let me know what tips you’d add in the comments below.

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