The lie: traveling is expensive
The truth: convenience is expensive
Does traveling cost money? Sure, but simply existing costs money too.
You are probably thinking I am an elitist with the means to travel and I am not considering the “real” costs associated with traveling. I am not, I am a single mom who was still able to travel while only making $25,000 a year.
It took me years to learn the tricks for traveling on a budget I am about to share with you. More important than any trick I have for you, is deciding what you get out of travel.
If you travel for the purposes of vacation than you probably should stop reading now, because my travels are far from glamorous and they are often more work than vacation.
Traveling is essential to my being, it is stitched into the very fabric of who I am, it is the fuel behind my creativity. I crave travel and adventure to the point that without it I become restless and spiral into depression. Traveling on a budget is an absolute must for me.
So How Can I Travel the World for Cheap?
Research, research, research!
I always begin researching transportation to my intended location first.
Is it feasible to drive? Will I have to pay for parking daily if I drive? (Places like NYC have very limited parking and it almost always is not free) What are gas prices like along the route to my destination? Will I be able to drive there in one day? If driving is going to take more than a day then will I need to take extra days off to account for the drive? Will my car need any maintenance before or after the trip?
If I decide that flying is more feasible, I began doing market research on the best time to fly from my location to my destination. This means I almost always travel to places in their off season. It is a small sacrifice I am willing to make to be able to travel more.
I then begin looking for different airports in the surrounding cities of my location and destination, and then study those trends on prices as well. If I am going to have a layover, I break the flights into separate tickets to see if that makes the price cheaper.
When I went to Ireland, I saved myself $200 dollars on my flight by doing this. I knew that I would layover in JFK before flying to Dublin, so I bought a round trip flight from my location to JFK, and then purchased a separate round-trip ticket from JFK to Dublin.
This of course takes work as well, because you have to make sure your baggage is sent to your final destination, and you also have to account for flight delays so that you don’t miss your second flight. I am willing to sit in an airport for five hours if it means saving $200 dollars though.
Once at my destination I use public transportation if it is available or Uber/Lyft. In places with public transportation check to see if there are weekly passes or daily passes, this is usually a cheaper option than paying each time you board.
If I buy a pass that is for more days than my trip, I will give my card to someone in the airport who can use it.
Bonus tip: I use the app Hopper to assist in researching flight prices.
Unlike Expedia it will actually make predictions on if the price of the ticket is expected to drop over in the following weeks or months.
It will also allow you to watch flights and will send a notification when it predicts that a flight is at its cheapest. Hopper has a 95 percent accuracy rate on predictions.
You can buy your plane ticket through the Hopper app with just a few clicks. It is my top recommended app for budget traveling.
Bonus-bonus tip: Use a capsule wardrobe.
Learning to create a capsule wardrobe where you can make several outfits with a few clothing pieces will save you from needing to check luggage at an airport.
Some airlines charge as much as $50 dollars per checked bag. I can usually eat for less than $10 dollars per day so $50 dollars is 5 days’ worth of food.
Make Your Vacation Cheaper
Tip two: if possible, find camping locations at your destination. There are usually places to shower at campgrounds and even wash clothes.
When I say there are campgrounds everywhere, I mean even in NYC there is camping options available on Governor’s Island. Not to mention, buying food to cook over a fire or grill is much cheaper than eating out any day.
If camping is not an option, then there is sure to be an Airbnb cheaper than the local hotels.
If you must stay in a hotel try to stay outside of big cities, hotels are usually cheaper in those cities. For example, when I travel to NYC I never stay in Manhattan, Brooklyn is cheaper and more authentic.
Couch surfing is another option where you trade a service for accommodations. I’ve had friends go to foreign countries for months and be provided with free accommodations in exchange for house duties, babysitting, English lessons, or help on their farms.
Bonus tip 2: If you get an Airbnb, try to find one that serves breakfast.
This is one less meal you will have to pay for while on your trip. Some of the best meals I have ever had were in the homes of Airbnb hosts.
Eat Cheap While Traveling
Tip three: Food! I suggest buying food at grocery stores and cooking, the same way you would at home. If you will be away all day, pack food you can carry with you and have a picnic.
Food trucks and carts are other options cheaper than eating at restaurants. One of my favorite things to do is to research if my destination has a farmer’s market and when. I love the farmer’s market in Brooklyn. Fresh food always tastes better anyway.
If you are wanting to go out to eat you can always ask the locals what places are good within your budget.
For the flight, did you know you are allowed to bring food on the plane?
Also bring an empty water bottle to fill up once you are past security to keep from having to spend money on expensive airport bottled water; plus, you will be contributing to cutting down on plastic use, a win-win for you and the environment. (Don’t forget your reusable straw)
Save Money on Attractions
Tip four: I do not usually go to tourist attractions in big cities.
I am not willing to spend money going to the top of a fancy building unless there is some sort of spectacular view and even then, I am going to search for free ways of achieving the same goal.
I keep my entertainment while traveling to free or cheap. I look for places to hike, free museums, parks, cheap shows, live music at restaurants or bars.
A quick Pinterest or Google search will give many ideas on free or cheap activities in your desired destination.
Traveling on a Budget is Completely Possible
There you are, remember I told you my travels are far from glamorous, but they are almost always adventurous.
There have been so many unique experiences I’ve had while traveling this way that I know I would not have had if I traveled more conventionally.
Once I was invited to come watch a band perform that my Airbnb host was in. I have gotten to connect with people and make lifelong friends this way too.
I hope these tips help you set yourself free of the lies that keep you from traveling. A little money can go a long way if you are willing to give up conveniences.
Trust me when I say that I have never once regretted traveling, but I have regretted years of working for a corporation that barely paid me a living wage.
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