Summer is in full swing, and visions of tropical drinks, exciting new landscapes, and adventure await. But summer fun comes at a cost. If you’ve got a case of wanderlust, but need help turning your travel dreams into reality, we’re here to help. In this post, we’re giving you eight tips for traveling on a budget—from pre-trip planning to savvy spending once you’ve landed.
1) Use daily travel costs to create a savings goal
Before you even select a destination for your upcoming trip, do some research online to help you pick a place that suits your budget. It’s easy to purchase a flight and book accommodations thinking your trip is then paid for, but the reality is, you’re going to incur plenty more expenses once you’ve landed—including food, transportation, and attractions. Search online forums such as TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet to get some insight on day-to-day expenses and travel recommendations.
Once you have an idea of how much you should plan on spending, you should be able to identify a savings goal to work toward as you prepare for your trip. Use a personal finance app to help you stay on budget for your upcoming travel expenses.
2) Use budget airfare sites to book flights
One of the biggest costs of travel is transportation, but with budget-friendly travel sites, you can save hundreds of dollars. TravelPirates, Scott’s Cheap Flights, and Kayak are a few websites you can use to compare ticket prices and find deals for last-minute flights, as well as advanced bookings.
Keep in mind: many economic airlines will charge extra for baggage, seat reservations, and food and beverage fees. Make sure to consider these costs before booking your trip!
3) Choose your credit card wisely
If you’re looking to save on travel, you may want to look into getting a travel credit card. Many companies offer travel rewards programs that translate to mileage points, cash back, or discounts on travel expenses. Before you make any reservations, see if you’re qualified for a travel credit card to help you cut costs. Another thing to consider when choosing a card to travel with is the foreign transaction fee rate. These fees are added on top of your purchases when you’re using your card in another country. They may seem minimal at first, but they definitely add up.
4) Travel out of season
Travel prices tend to increase during a destination’s peak travel season, and summer is one of the biggest offenders. If your schedule allows for some flexibility, try to book trips during the off-season. Depending on where you’re headed, the off-season may be different, so do your research ahead of time to see when prices are the lowest.
Note: If you’re traveling out of season, you may experience different weather conditions or availability for certain activities.
5) Find a balance between splurging and overspending
It’s important to make some time to treat yourself while you’re on vacation, but one five course meal could totally derail your budget if you’re not careful. Give yourself a budget for spending on extra items, souvenirs, or splurges, so you’re not tempted to go crazy with your credit card once you’re there.
6) Embrace alternative accommodation options
Instead of going the hotel route, consider one of these cheaper accommodations instead:
- Rent a space on Airbnb or VRBO
- Stay for free with Couchsurfing
- Visit with family and friends
- Book a hostel on Hostelworld or Hostel.com
7) Travel like a local
Many popular destinations upcharge on costs where there’s a high volume of tourists (generally close to major attractions). Oftentimes, these restaurants and shops are less authentic and catered toward visitors rather than the local crowd. If you want to score better deals (and better meals), ask the locals for their recommendations.
And while you’re eating like a local, you should see the city like a local too! Embrace the area’s public transit system, or walk and bike your way around. It’s cheaper, gives you a sense of adventure, and provides a whole new perspective you might not get in the backseat of a cab.
8) Get paid while you’re away
If you’re hoping to travel for a longer period of time—say a month or an entire season—you may want to look into work options while you’re there. Sites like Workaway and Worldpackers connect travelers with hosts and employers so that they can earn money or trade help for lodging in a number of countries.
No matter how tight your travel budget is, there’s always room for a little adventure. Use these tips to help you plan your next budget-friendly vacation.