| July 9th, 2023 | 8 Comments

Budget travel isn’t magic, and it’s not even all that hard! There are many ways to save money while traveling.

As experts 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 keep our costs down.

Budget Travel – How to Save Money While Traveling

backpacking girl standing on a street in Spain with two backpacks

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 or the comments below and let us know!

Please note – Some of our selections contain affiliate links. These allow us to earn a small percentage every time you make a booking. Using our links enables us to provide all the information found on this site free of charge.

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.


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 absolute 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

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.

Do some research (TripAdvisor and HostelWorld are good places to start) online, and check out our growing list of the best hostels in the world for hostels recommendations.

So yeah, if you want to save money while traveling stay in hostels over hotels.

Workaway and Helpx

Save Money while traveling workaway

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.


Woofing while traveling

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.

Learn How and When to Haggle

save money while traveling by learning 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 highball 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 judgment 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.

Farmer’s Markets

save money while traveling buy buying local produce and cooking your own food

Who doesn’t love a good farmer’s market? 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

Cheap Food While Traveling

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.

Make use of Airbnb

Cheap Travel with 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 discount

Airbnb is particularly good 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:

 1 2 3 

Teaching English Abroad

Teaching English Abroad to Save Money

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.

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

Cheap Off Season Travel

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.

ATM Fee Reimbursement

Credit Cards” by Sean MacEntee is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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.

Travel by Bus

Travel Cheap 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!


Written by Randi

Randi is the co-founder of Just a Pack and owner and founder of the vegan site, Veggie Visa.

She's a vegan, loves to cook, is happiest when lying on a beach in a foreign country, and her favorite ice cream flavor is salted caramel.

Randi's written work has been featured in publications like Marie Claire, xoJane, and A Women’s Thing. She has a background in marketing, culinary arts, and is a Certified Health Coach.


8 thoughts on “How to Save Money While Traveling – Budget Travel 101

  1. Great tips, and even this old guy can do some couch surfing 🙂 Thank you for the good tips, and information.

  2. Great tips. Cooking is a big cost saver !!! I like the idea of help exchanges but Im not persoanlly a fan of the type of work…but. Ive only tried one so far. I do think it’s an opportunity for a real cultural experience though given you find something you’re interested in.

  3. Great article!!! I have never heard about workaways…what a fun opportunity that would be to meet the locals and really experience the culture. Another way I’ve found to save money is to book my hotels through triphop.com. You earn cash back just for doing something you already have to do for a trip…finding a place to lay your head. Which, by the way, who knew about couch surfing…another idea I will definitely keep in mind.

  4. LOVE this great list. We are hoping to be able to do some of this in the near future. We currently do use Aribnb which can be a lot cheaper, Sadly it is going up like you said 🙁 We also love the atm fee reimbursement cards. They definitely make traveling internationally much easier and safer. Only take out when you need instead of having a lot of cash on you. We also try to take public transportation when possible. We are preparing mentally, and hope to make it happen one day soon. Thanks for sharing. Much appreciated.

    1. Thank you Samantha! Very happy for you guys, you will be embarking upon a great and life-changing adventure! Let us know how your progress is, uhhh, progressing and maybe we’ll see you guys on the road!

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