Budget travel isn’t magic, and it’s not even all that hard! There are many ways to save money while traveling. As expert on traveling on a budget we want to help you guys learn the most important tips and tricks on how to save money and extend your travel budget!
Many people are under the misconception that travel has to be an expensive endeavor. This is especially true for Americans, as our way of life makes the seven day/three thousand dollar vacation the most common form of travel.
And sure, if you look at travel as an expensive vacation, or as a flight back home for Thanksgiving, then yeah, you aren’t going to get your money’s worth.
The reality is that travel can be CHEAPER than your day to day life. It really can. We have been traveling full time since 2014, and our individual monthly budgets almost never exceed $1,000 USD. That is less than the cost of rent alone, per person, in our home of New York City.
So, how do we do it? How do we travel on such a small budget?
Truth be told, we use a combination of different tactics and approaches to keeping our costs down.
For more on that subject, check out this article, which discusses the basics of affordable or budget travel. It covers some of the initial aspects of learning how to change your perception of what travel is, and how you experience life on the road without spending a ton of money.
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Budget Travel – How to Save Money While Traveling
How can YOU backpack or travel on a budget? We put together a list of things we have done, and continue to do, to save money while traveling. We hope it gives you some ideas on how to keep costs down next time you travel.
If you guys have any questions please feel free to reach out via e-mail, Twitter, or the comments below and let us know!
Change your Travel Mindset
This is pretty much the number one “trick” to budget travel. You have to snap yourself out of the notion that travel is the same as a vacation, and that it entails staying in fancy hotel rooms, and eating at all the “best” dining options where ever you go.
Once you realize that you can save a ton of money on your travels by simply forgoing luxury you have taken your first, and biggest, step towards really cutting costs down. This will enable you to travel more, travel longer, and make your travel budget suddenly seem much much larger than it would have been if you were blowing all your hard earned cash on fancy hotels.
Budget Travel – CouchSurfing
The couchsurfing community used to be a thing of beauty about a decade ago.
It’s still pretty good these days, and couchsurfing can be one of the absolutely BEST ways to keep travel cheaply. Who doesn’t want to spend a couple of nights rent free in say… New York City? Paris? Hong Kong? Barcelona? Rio?
So, yeah, couchsurfing has serious money saving potential. And it’s a great way to meet a local (by literally living in their home) and potentially make a friend for life.
So, sign up for a CouchSurfing account. For best results host some couch surfers before embarking on your travels so you can get some positive reviews on your profile.
We would like to take a moment here to urge all female couchsurfers to seriously consider ONLY staying with female hosts, and for female hosts to only accept female surfers. Stay safe and travel smart, gals!
Save Money While Traveling by Staying in Hostels
Hostels are great. Full stop.
Hostels are one of the primary means of keeping your costs down while traveling. Sure, in theory you can couchsurf eternally. Theoretically. Maybe. Barring that, hostels are your best friend when backpacking on a budget.
In general hostels are safe (we hate how a horror movie made the word “hostel” sound scary), are a great way to meet other travelers, and most importantly they are almost always cheaper than any other accommodation option.
So yeah, if you want to save money while traveling stay in hostels over hotels.
Travel on a Budget – Workaway and Helpx
While usually not ideal for short trips, both of these two websites are goldmines for long term budget travelers.
Want to live in France for a month rent free? Sign up for Workaway, devote 25 hours a week to your host, and enjoy the rest of your time in a country that is usually not included in the budget travel conversation.
Helpx is a similar site you can check out for work in exchange for room and board.
Here are some other ways how to make money traveling.
Budget Travel – WWOOFing
WWOOF is a similar organization to Workaway, but based around organic farms.
WWOOFing is a great way to learn about farming, go green, and stay in the country of your choose while receiving room and board in exchange for four to six hours of work a day.
Budget Travel – Learn How and When to Haggle
Haggling is customary in many parts of the world, and learning to haggle is a nifty skill that every backpacker of budget traveler should have in their back pocket.
While you might not want to haggle over the price of street food, or over fifty cents, it pays to haggle with hostels/hotels over room costs, especially when traveling in low season or staying in the same place for five or more days.
Likewise, haggle with tour operators especially when booking a tour or excursion for two or more people. In addition you should haggle over luxury items you buy from local vendors who will always start with a high ball price and will almost always be willing to come down by a minimum of 10% or so. In some countries you can haggle the prices down to half of what was originally asked (China we are looking at you!)
That said, we always make sure not to haggle with people who are clearly impoverished. You should never haggle over a few pennies with a shoeless fruit vendor, for instance. Use empathy and practical judgement when determining who to haggle with. A few pennies won’t hurt you one way or the other, but those same pennies can be the difference between having a meal and going hungry for many people around the world.
Budget Travel – Farmer’s Markets
Who doesn’t love a good farmer’s markets? Fresh veggies, yummy fruit, and loads of local flavor and culture can all be found at many a farmer’s market. We love visiting the markets in new places along our travels, and we always find it to be a rewarding experience.
And of course, farmer’s markets generally sell fresher and CHEAPER food than you will find in supermarkets, making them a great tool for wise backpackers, budget travelers, and YOU to employ.
Cook Your Own Food and Try Street Food
Cooking your own meals with fresh produce you purchased from local shops and markets is one of the primary ways you can keep costs down during your travels around the world. We can’t stress this enough. Traveling doesn’t not mean you have to eat out all the time. If you feel like you are missing out on the local cuisine by cooking your own meals, eat out during lunch as opposed to dinner. Lunch portions are generally cheaper, but just as delicious, as their dinner counterparts.
When you do eat out, try to sample street food. Street food isn’t huge everywhere in the world, but it is very common in many countries we have visited. And it’s obviously going to be cheaper that a restaurant dining experience, while still allowing you to explore local culinary delights.
When traveling in developing countries stay away from leafy greens and any uncooked food, especially if you are new to travel and have a untested digestive system.
Budget Travel – Make use of Airbnb
Airbnb used to be a great option for budget accommodations, but as its popularity has skyrocketed, so have the prices found on it. However, you should always research Airbnb options when considering accommodations in a new destination. It is still possible to find good deals, especially on single rooms in larger apartments.
Airbnb is a particularly when you are traveling in a group of 3 or more people. There are places in the world (especially in Europe) where an Airbnb apartment that can accommodate 4 or more people is cheaper than a three dorm beds in a hostel, as crazy as that sounds.
If you’ve never booked an Airbnb before, check out our article with top tips for booking an awesome Airbnb apartment (or room).
Want to book accommodations? We recommend using the following sites:
Budget Travel – Teaching English Abroad
Getting paid to travel is pretty much a dream. You might be surprised to learn that there are many countries in the world that will pay you a salary to teach English as a second language, and even pay for round-trip flights, and sometimes pay housing.
For anyone looking to travel the world and get paid, teaching English abroad is a great option. Additionally, for the long-term traveler you can recharge your bank account and extend travel by months if not years.
Most countries require a TEFL or TESOl certificate for teachers, which you can find more info on at MyTEFL.com. Classes can be taken online or in person.
Check out an article our friend Claire wrote about how she moved from Candada to South Korea to teach English abroad.
Looking to Get TEFL Certified? Just a Pack readers can get a 35% discount with MyTEFL. Click below and use the discount code.
Budget Travel – Keep Organized Tours to a Minimum
Avoid using tour companies whenever possible. Plan your own bus route, take your own walking tours, and so on. However, if you are trekking into the wilderness always hire a guide from a reputable company unless you really really know what you are doing.
Travel During Low Season
While low, or off-season, travel is sometimes not ideal, it doesn’t always mean crappy weather and deserted streets. Again, do some research on weather conditions but generally expect cheaper prices and a reduced amount of annoying vacationers during low season travel.
We have visited many destinations around the world in during what was considered to be “off season” and found that the experience was usually better than visiting during the height of tourism season due to cheaper flights, cheaper hotel or hostel rooms, and best of all…less tourists crowding around main attractions!
You can read more about traveling during low season here.
Budget Travel – ATM Fee Reimbursement
First of all, stop carrying loads of money on your person when you travel. In most developed countries ATM access is super easy, and pulling small amounts of money out at a time keeps you safer than you would otherwise be.
As for ATM fees, it may seem like a small surcharge, but ATM fees can really add up over time. Most banks charge a 3% conversion rate when withdrawing money in a different country and local ATMs slap on a fee of their own.
Open a bank account that refunds you those fees, such as a TD Bank Premier Checking Account.
Budget Travel – Travel by Bus
Bus travel is highly developed in Asia and Latin America and is usually far far cheaper than a flight. Sure it takes longer but you get to watch the scenery whiz by, observe local culture, and you get a real sense of movement and distance. So unless you are in a hurry take a bus. Splurge on the First Class option when taking over night buses. For more on bus travel, and avoiding some of the dangers associated with it, check out our article on the topic.
Hope the above advice helps get you on the road. For specific prices in towns we have visited in our travels thus far check out our Traveling on a Budget page.
Cheers! Travel responsibly and travel well guys, and we’ll see you on the road!
Disclaimer – We have included a few handy little affiliate links in case any of our readers want to book accommodations. We receive a small commission for any sales made, without any additional cost to you, our dear reader.