If you are looking for ways to travel on a budget, travel more often, or learn the top tips to save money at any life stage… you’re in the right place! I am partial to a good bargain and strive to be money mindful in everything I do.
Traveling is something I knew I wanted to experience, learning and growing from visiting new places and cultures is priceless. As you save money on travel, it gives you opportunities to see and adventure more!
I began my traveling lifestyle with my family growing up, and have managed to continue through a busy college life and working a nine to five. Life brings many costs, but there are ways to enjoy travel through any stage! My husband and I were married in 2015 and have since been to places like Australia, Alaska, Hawaii, 16 National Parks, and more!
Below we share with you our top tips to save where it counts, and be mindful during the planning/ research stage of your adventure.
9 Top Tips to Travel on a Budget
- Balance Priorities
- Find Deals on Attractions
- Choose Flights not Destinations
- Research Accommodations
- Consider Alternate Transportation
- Mindful Meal Planning
- Chat with the Locals
- Thrift and Buy Second Hand
- Be a Tourist in Your Own State
1. Balance Priorities
If you find yourself unable to travel as much in your current situation, set a clear goal of what you want for the future. Think about your expenses and income and how you can move more towards travel.
Some of the best advice I’ve heard is to balance your priorities. And that having fun and enjoying life should be a priority! Take a look at everything you spend towards your “fun fund” and see where you can make adjustments.
What does that look like?
This will look different for every person/family. Maybe instead of buying coffee everyday, you can make your own at home and put the extra in your travel fund. Small changes in your priorities really add up! My husband and I decided that we would live in a smaller space so we could put more money towards travel. This is just one example, but however you want to shift your spending will really help in the long run.
Once you have your priorities decided, write them down! Make it a reality and keep your goals in sight to make them happen. You’ll be surprised how much you can save when you are consciously thinking about the future!
2. Find Deals on Attractions
A great way to travel on a budget is to save on your activities. It’s usually more expensive to purchase excursions when you are there on the spot. To avoid this, do some trip-planning before you leave to your destination.
When we went to Australia in 2016, I researched cheaper attraction options and stumbled onto the iVenture Card. This made a HUGE difference in savings and we ended up doing a lot of activities I wouldn’t have normally planned. The card includes package options and is available in 17 destinations around the world. Places like Cape Town, Dubai, Los Angeles, Barcelona, and more!
If you are looking for a pass for the U.S. and Canada check out the CityPASS, Go City, or the USA Sight Seeing Pass (FLEX Pass). You can save up to 60% by purchasing a pass, making it even more possible to travel on a budget! Groupon also has some great deals and when you sign up for emails, you can get 20% off your first purchase.
I also recommend checking for free entrance days, the National Parks and State Parks have certain days each year you can visit for free. To learn more, check out the website here.
3. Choose Flights not Destinations
Flights are usually the most expensive part of travel, especially if you plan to fly internationally.
A great way to achieve your travel dreams is to not be picky on where you go (to a certain degree!). You can keep an eye out on deals for specific places, but we like to look for the best deals for dates we have work off.
That way, you can save incredible amounts for when flight prices are at an all time low! Looking for flights after peak seasons will help you save as well. In March 2016 we saw flights to Australia for $500 round trip! It didn’t take us long to book since flights from Phoenix to Sydney are normally $1,500-$3,000. We also found flights to San Francisco for $50 round trip and you can read about the travel plan here!
Another trick is to sign up for flight email alerts. You can do this through google or other great companies that track when flights are cheap. One of my personal favorites is Scott’s Cheap Flights. They have a free version or you can purchase the upgraded membership. Never pay full price for flights again!
4. Research Accommodations
Spending money on room and board is another area in travel that can get expensive. Find deals and places that will save you money, so you don’t have to rely on whatever is available. Companies like Airbnb or Vrbo can be great options for unique and cost-friendly stays.
If you don’t already, you can sign up for a rewards program and earn points towards hotel stays. Also, some stays will allow you to bundle nearby attractions. For example, our stay at Westgate in Florida came with 2 free tickets to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Check out the link for all the details!
Camping is another great way to get out and explore for a low fee. Camp on National Forest land for free dispersed camping.
5. Consider Alternate Transportation
For the most budget friendly option, look for destinations that are walkable or have a good public transit system. Our time in San Francisco was great because almost all the attractions were within walking distance. There were also options to rent bikes or scooters.
When a rental car is needed, check out the new way to rent a car through Turo! We have a post that goes in depth on why it is such a great option, to read click the link: Why You Should Use Turo for Car Rental.
6. Mindful Meal Planning
Another tip to cut costs is to think about how you are going to eat while on your trip. This mindful practice will help you make decisions when you want to splurge on a night out or save with simple breakfasts or lunches.
I like to visit the local grocery store while traveling and stock up on fresh food that I can package for meals and snacks.
Then, I plan on when and where I want to spend more of my food budget. A fun part of travel is trying the food and drinks in the area, so it doesn’t have to be something you miss out on!
7. Chat with the Locals
A great way to have incredible experiences is to open up and talk to locals. It may feel nerve racking, but chatting with people that know the area can lead to some interesting adventures! They may have the best advice for cheaper places to eat, or free activities that you wouldn’t find online.
In Alaska, we chatted with some people on the trail and learned about a gorgeous lookout point and fun places to eat! You can also search your destination on social media platforms (Tik Tok, Instagram, Pinterest, etc) and see if there are any “local secrets” or “hidden gems”.
8. Thrift and Buy Second Hand
Something I LOVE to do when traveling, is to visit the local thrift shop. There you can find unique souvenirs and save a lot of money while also being environmentally friendly.
In Alaska, I found my favorite mug that had two moose on the side and “Alaska” written across it, so perfect! And in California, I was able to find fun Disneyland shirts for almost a 10th of what they cost in the park.
To save money on items you will need while traveling, consider buying second hand. Do you need better winter clothes? Check out the thrift store, Facebook Marketplace, Offerup or the online thrift store ThredUp.
ThredUp is one of my personal favorites since you can search for brands. I purchased a North Face Jacket for under $20, and in basically perfect condition!
9. Be a Tourist in Your Own State
Another way to travel on a budget is to realize you don’t have to go far!
I think sometimes we believe travel is meant to take you far away. However, some of the most amazing experiences could be right around the corner. If you are unable to fund a big trip, become a tourist in your own state. Drive to a new destination, have a new experience and get to know your town more.
Treat your trip like a normal vacation, research, get ideas from other’s itineraries and have fun! Travel is about learning and growing with a new perspective on the world.
We hope these tips help you on your journey to travel on a budget! Read below for more posts and happy exploring!