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How to Travel on a Budget: 10 Easy & Useful Tips

How to Travel on a Budget: 10 Easy & Useful Tips
Jason Wuerch Sep 25, 2019
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Vacations are very expensive which is why 1 in 4 Americans are skipping a summer vacation.

Plus, an additional 22% are not sure if they can afford to take a vacation, according to this Bankrate survey that consisted of over 2,600 adults.

If you are finding it difficult to save enough for a vacation, then know that you’re not alone. 

Americans spent a whopping $100 billion on summer vacations in 2017.

Due to the rising costs and the volatile nature of currencies, the cost is said to be increasing at a rate of 12.5%.

The average family spends about $4,800 per year on vacations.

This equals to $1,200 per person.

The figure shows why a large number of people cannot afford to book a holiday.

In fact, in a recent survey, over 50% of American confessed to having fewer than $1,000 in the emergency account.

But, can you go on a holiday for under $1,000?

The answer is a resounding ‘yes’.

If you plan properly, you can even have a nice holiday for under $500 per person. 

Let’s get to know how:

Tip # 1: Plan A Few Months in Advance

The earlier you plan, the more time you will have to make changes to the itinerary, according to your changing financial situation. However, when we talk about planning, we don’t only mean to decide where to go and when to go but also to draw up a travel budget.

We can’t emphasize enough on the importance of budget in your day-to-day life. Refer to your budget and verify how much you can afford to spend on this holiday. 

The figure will help you determine everything from where you can go to for how many days you can go to what all you can do.

Next, sit down with your family and plan together. This is very important because everyone must be on the same page regarding the trip. Plus, do not make the mistake of ‘surprising’ your family members with a plan. 

All your efforts would go in vain if they are occupied on the dates you plan to go. 

Vacations require a good few days off from work and other such commitments. Planning in advance would give everyone enough time to do the needful.

Tip # 2: Be Careful When Selecting a Destination

A lot of things have to be taken care of when it comes to this factor. This can be difficult especially if you’re going with friends or family since you will have to take care of everyone’s choice. It can be pretty difficult to make everyone happy.

Hence, sit down together and choose a destination. If you are footing the bill, then it is best to select a few potential options and let others pick one. This way there will be fewer arguments. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting a holiday destination:

Visa Costs

Based on the passport you hold, you may get free access to some countries. However, some countries are known to offer very expensive visas. The Russian tourist visa, for example, costs about $270. 

Some overall cheaper countries such as Bangladesh and Algeria are very also expensive when it comes to visas, each charging $160 for tourist visas.

Keep this point in mind and select a destination that offers affordable visas. 

Ticket Price

International travel, in most cases, will be more expensive than domestic travel. If you are low on budget then it is best to travel within your country.

Here’s how you can save money and book cheap tickets:

  1. Use platforms like SkyScanner and FareCompare to compare prices before you make a purchase.
  2. Use private browsing and clear cookies when searching for tickets. You may see higher prices if you have been searching for tickets or related content for a while. If the airline knows you’re more likely to buy, they may show a higher price.
  3. Always check the official site for tickets. In some cases, the prices may be cheaper on the official website due to promotions and other such reasons.
  4. Buying tickets in person from the airline office might be cheaper in some cases. It is best that you make a call and inquire about the prices and compare all four options (third-party sites, agents, official website, airline office) before you book and pay for tickets.
  5. Direct flights are shorter but typically more costly. If layover is not an issue then consider flights with a stopover. You may be able to save money this way. 
  6. Low-cost airlines are not always cheap. In fact, the additional cost of food and seats may make your ticket more expensive. Make sure to keep this point in mind when buying tickets.
  7. Timing can be a difference maker when it comes to airline tickets. It’s best to book about three months in advance for international travel and one month in advance for domestic travel. According to this survey, tickets can be 25% more expensive when bought only about a week in advance. However, do not finalize tickets until everything is in place, especially if the ticket does not offer 100% refunds or flexibility.
  8. If possible, try to book your tickets in January and on a Sunday. That’s when the prices are said to be the lowest.
  9. Pay attention to airline points as well. They may help you save money. 

Things To Do

This is another important factor to remember. A destination that has a lot of things to do will end up being very costly. What’s the point of going there if you can’t afford to do it all?

If possible, choose a place that has a lot of public parks, museums. Planning smartly can also help. Islands, for example, can be cheap or expensive based on how you handle things.

If you are only looking for tranquility then you can go to an island. You will only have to spend on food, money, and hotel. You will be able to spend days surrounded by serene waves without having to spend a penny on activities. However, the same trip can turn out to be very costly if you are into adventure and want to try different experiences such as snorkeling, diving. 

Tip #3: Avoid Expensive Resorts and Hotels

If you truly want to save money then you need to stay away from lavish, five star hotels. They may offer luxury but they can be very expensive. 

If you’re traveling alone, then opt for a hostel or dorm room. They are cheaper but you’ll have to share the space with other travelers.

Some backpackers enjoy staying in dorm rooms. It can be a nice experience. You’ll get to mingle with like minded people. You can use platforms like and Expedia to search for affordable hotel rooms.

These websites allow users to filter choices based on budget and preferences. This way you will not have much of a difficulty in finding what you need.

Moreover, most hotel booking sites have a unique price matching policy. This means you will be able to get a discount if you find the same property at a cheaper rate somewhere else. Consider using Pruvo to get immediate alerts when prices drop. 

If that’s not your cup of tea then you can try a service like Airbnb. It allows you to stay with locals. 

Airbnb has a huge selection of properties including cheap and luxurious options. While it’s a great choice, you may not get the same perks that hotels offer. For example, there may be no free WiFi or parking.

Such factors can add to the cost hence be careful when selecting a hotel or room to stay. 

Lastly, collect loyalty points and inquire if you can use your airline points at the hotel. Many airlines have such relationship with hotels. Searching a bit can help you save a few dollars. In fact, you may even find free places to stay.

Note: Pay special attention to extra charges including taxes and service charges. Plus, make sure to check out on time, otherwise you will have to pay for an extra day.

Tip #4: Skip the Holiday Season

Don’t get us wrong, we don’t hate summer vacations but if you are serious about saving money then you need to skip the holiday season.

Prices are high during ‘season’. Everything from airline tickets to hotel rooms is more expensive due to the increased demand.

It’s best to plan during the off season. This way you will get to save money and also enjoy more. Tickets are usually expensive during summer holidays, New Years Eve, etc. Skip these holidays and search for the best time to visit a destination according to prices.

However, remember that what you can or cannot do in a city also depends on the season. For example, you may not be able to visit Cappadocia, Turkey, during extreme winter, when prices are lower, due to blocked roads and snow.

However, going during the ‘off season’ has other benefits as well. Since there will be fewer people, you will not feel crowded. Plus, there will be little waiting time for rides and tickets if you decide to go to amusement parks or watch an event.

Tip #5: Negotiate and Ask for a Discount

You will not get it if you do not ask for it.

There is no shame in asking for a discount. While some sellers are known to inflate prices when they identify a tourist, some are willing to give a discount to tourists. 

It can be of help if you know the local language. Use it to bargain and bring down the prices, especially if you feel the seller has inflated prices based on your tourist status.

It might also be wise to know how much others are paying for the same product before you make a counter offer.

Tip #6: Buy Discount Cards and Avail Offers

Avail every opportunity you can to save money. Most countries are popular for offering discount books and tourist cards that can help you save money – up to 50% in some cases.

Such passes are very popular in Europe but you will find some in other countries as well including the UAE, Turkey, and Singapore.

While discount cards can help you save money you should only invest in one if you intend to use it.

For example, there is no need to buy a museum pass if you have no interest in visiting museums. Similarly, a buy-one-get-one-free book would be of no use if you are traveling alone.

Other than this, some destinations also offer student discounts, senior discounts, etc.

Make sure to search the web for all possible discounts and use ‘em wisely. Some places are even free on some days. For example, many Dubai bars offer special ladies nights for women when the drinks are on the house. 

In addition to this, also consider using travel discount apps. They offer some amazing deals.

Note: Such cards and offers come with an expiry and special terms and conditions. Go through the details before you buy one. 

Tip #7: Buy Travel Packages

Sick of all the paperwork and planning? Get an agent onboard and get rid of all the trouble.

Most people never turn to travel agencies because they ‘assume’ it would cost more.

Yes, you will have to pay an agent fee and other such charges, but you may actually get to save money in the long-run.

The best thing about working with an agent is the ability to remain in control of your budget. 

Let the agency know how much you are willing to spend and they will plan your holiday accordingly. Moreover, most agencies will not charge you unless you buy a package, so why not inquire?

If you don’t want to work with an agent then look for travel packages online. Expedia, for example, offers hotel+airline bundles that can help you save up to $50 per booking.

Tip #8: Don’t Pack What You Do Not Need

The heavier your bag, the more difficult it will be to carry it around. Pack light and avoid everything that you do not need.

This is important from a financial perspective because you will have to pay extra charges if your luggage weighs more than the permitted amount.

This can get troublesome, especially if you intend to take domestic flights abroad, because most domestic airlines do not offer the same baggage allowance as international airlines.

In addition to this, you should also account for additional purchases if you intend to shop abroad. All this can add to the weight and make your luggage heavier.

While packing light will potentially save you money, it doesn’t mean you should avoid what you absolutely need. For example, don’t avoid packing that jacket cause it takes a lot of space or weighs too much.

You may have to buy a new jacket later on, which would add to the cost and the weight problem will still be there when you return.

It’s best to make a checklist of all the essential items. Revise it once and stick to it. Moreover, use the same checklist when repacking so that you don’t forget anything at the hotel. This is a common problem and can cost people a lot of money.

Tip #9: Avail The Right Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is an expense but it can save you a lot of money if you play it right. Plus, it’s mandatory in some countries. 

Shop around for travel insurance. Compare different providers. Go through the terms and conditions and pick a policy that you find the most suitable.

You may also opt for a family policy if you’re traveling with family. 

For most people, travel insurance will not be of much use… you don’t really want to be in a situation where you’d want to avail it. But, if anything unfortunate happens, you’ll have your insurance to fall back on.

Tip #10: Spend Wisely and Eat Cheap

Do not waste money on expensive food and shopping if you can’t afford to. 

Consult the budget you made before taking off. Did you save money for shopping? If yes, only spend the specified amount of money on specific tasks.

While shopping is a luxury, food is a necessity. You can’t live without it but you can save money on food if you plan right.

Do not avail ‘room service’. Hotel prices are typically higher. Go out and enjoy street food. You will not only get to taste local cuisine this way but you’ll also save money.

However, make sure to only eat hygienic food. Also, always carry a water bottle and fill it if you get free access to drinking water. Buying water can be very expensive. Avoid cold drinks at restaurants and instead buy from stores. 

Lastly, do not waste food. If you have leftover food, bring it to the hotel and keep it in the refrigerator. You can ask the hotel staff to warm it up for you. Most hotels offer such services but some may charge a small fee.

Tip: Consider all-inclusive deals to put your worries to rest. 

5 Affordable Countries for Family Vacations

Low on budget but want to travel abroad? Check out these five amazing family destinations:

  • Malaysia: First on our list is Malaysia due to affordable hotels and food. Expect to spend only $100 per day here on food, hotel, and travel (family). Some amazing things to do here include visiting the beaches, parks.
  • Turkey: If you want to relive history then Turkey can be a good option. Expect to spend $100 here per day on food and hotel (family). Some amazing things to do include visiting the Blue Mosque, beaches, and Cappadocia.
  • India: India’s is fast becoming a top destination for tourists. Expect to spend $100 here per day on food and hotel(family). Children and adults will love the culture and Bollywood-touch.
  • Georgia: Georgia is among the cheapest destinations in Europe. Expect to spend $140 per day on food and hotel (family). The scenery is amazing and there are a lot of fun things to do.
  • Sri Lanka: If you are hungry for an adventure then pack your bags and visit Sri Lanka. You’ll get to experience wildlife and scenic beauty. Expect to spend $100 per day (family).

Is It Important to Holiday?

While holidaying is not a must, you can’t deny the fact that it offers several benefits.

According to some studies, holidaying at least once a year – for a week – can help people relax, rejuvenate. This is also why some companies have now started to offer paid holidays.

Moreover, going on a trip with your family can help bring you closer to each other. It’s a nice way to spend quality time together. 

Consider Turning Your Vacation Tax Friendly

Some governments have exempted LTC (Leave Travel Compensation) from taxable income. This means you can claim reimbursement for travel expenses from your company and enjoy a portion of your salary without worrying about taxes. 

While this feature is currently not available in all countries, you can still enjoy tax benefits by planning a holiday if you have your own business. Talk to an expert about how to make your vacations tax-deductible. 

The Last Word: Avoid These Costly Travel Mistakes

Make sure to avoid these travel mistakes:

  • Do not be among the 14% who have missed a flight. It can turn out to be very costly and result in a lot of trouble as well. 
  • Always compare prices before you buy and shop from duty-free shops to save money.
  • Do not opt for private vehicles even if you have a license to drive. Public transport is always cheaper. However, private transport may help you save money if you’re traveling in a group.
  • Some credit card companies charge 3% extra fee for international transactions. Similarly, currency conversion can be expensive as well. Compare the two options and pick the one that’s more affordable
  • Make sure to avail all discounts including discounts offered by your bank. These may include loyalty points and free access to airport lounges.

We hope these tips will help you save money.

It’s all about planning in advance and sticking to your budget. If this doesn’t workout, then check some tips on how to make money traveling

Jason Wuerch

My name is Jason Wuerch and I'm currently located in Madrid, Spain running a personal finance blog called Frugal For Less. My goal is to help everyone and anyone willing to make and save money through easy and simple ways that don't require much effort. Just because you're frugal doesn't mean you have to give up life's luxuries.

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