Traveling on a Small Budget

Have you been dreaming your whole life of traveling to new and exotic places? Roaming through Rome, enjoying an expedition through England, or trekking the Grand Tetons? Or maybe you just want to fly home for a long-awaited visit, but feel you can’t fit it into your tight budget this year?

Sure, we all know someone who seems to know all the complicated travel tips for earning points and free flyer miles, and claim to actually earn money while away, but all of that is super-complicated and who has the time, right?

Is there an easier way to travel on a budget? Are there some simple travel solutions that can save real money when we travel so that our wanderlust dreams can come true without breaking our budget—or maybe only cracking it a little?

Prepare with a Pre-Plan

As much as we’d all love to be able to indulge in some impulsive, fly-by-night travel when the whim overwhelms us, that’s not going to be practical on a budget. Last minute flights are much, much, more expensive than those planned well in advance. Instead of waiting, plan ahead to travel on a budget and follow these hallowed hacks for discount traveling. 

Off-Season Sojourn

Traveling off-season is the secret to traveling cheap. As much as you might want to go home for the holidays, it’s going to cost you. A trip during any major holiday should be booked a year in advance in order to get the best deals. But for your low-budget vacation, off-season travel will save you a lot of money.

One way to work around the holiday travel problem is to choose to travel on the day of the holiday itself. For instance, ticket prices on the actual day of Christmas or Thanksgiving tends to be very inexpensive, since the majority of travelers will be flying before or after that day. In fact, these tend to be the most restful flights, because there are so few fellow passengers. Grab your best neck pillow, and plan for a long in-flight nap. You may not be home for Thanksgiving, but you could be there in time to enjoy the leftovers with your family, or they might even be willing to delay the big meal until your arrival.

Flexible Flying

Another great tip for pre-planning, budget-friendly travel is to be open-minded about your destination. Instead of fixating on a specific place for your trip and then looking for flights and hotels, look for great flight discounts and consider vacationing in those places. Often you will find inexpensive flights landing in all sorts of exotic locations that you hadn’t thought of, but which will give you an amazing vacation on a discount. Vacationing in smaller towns rather than major capital cities can often offer more local color and culture, and often results in a more memorable trip. 


Traveling mid-week is another important hack for budget-friendly flying. Tuesdays are the least traveled day of the week, making it easy to find super-cheap flights, especially if you choose low-cost economy airlines. What you save in flight-frills on low-cost airlines can help pay for your lodgings upon arrival.

Booking in a Bundle

Travel bundle-booking is another travel tip that can win you bargain-basement prices. Look for deals that offer flights and hotel stays together at a discounted rate. Some bundle deals also add cut-rate rental cars that can end up costing you less than a week of Uber rides.

Destination on a Discount

One really great money-saving travel tip is to choose an Airbnb rather than a hotel. Or if you chose a flight with a hotel discount included for only a day or two, after your cut-rate hotel nights run out, think about switching to an Airbnb. Often these will cost much less than a hotel, and they are roomier. Finding an Airbnb with a kitchen can also save you money on food. You can shop at local farmer’s markets and enjoy the culture of your chosen destination and also save a bundle on what you’d spend eating at restaurants every day of your trip. In fact, what you save on eating three restaurant meals a day, means you can indulge in one really memorable restaurant meal per day, and have the fun of posting Instagram pictures to make your friends drool.

An Airbnb with a kitchen will also save you a lot of cash if you fill the refrigerator with local beer and wine instead of paying by the glass at every restaurant meal. Airbnb can also offer the advantage of the owner’s knowledge of the area. A good Airbnb owner can point you to less touristy places, like little-known local restaurants with great food, or to fun local events. You can pick up a lot more of the local flavor by going where a local directs you, rather than following the guidebooks that tend to point you toward pricey places where you’ll mostly find fellow tourists rather than locals.

You can also save money on activities in your destination area with a simple Google search for free activities. Look for local community calendars and event schedules. Visit small local museums, markets, and antique stores.

While making your way to these activities, take local buses instead of paying for taxis and Uber rides. While you are out and about, try eating food from street carts and local vendors rather than sitting down in an over-priced restaurant.

Return Trip Tips

Don’t load up on souvenirs. In fact, when traveling on a budget, it’s best to skip the souvenir shops completely. Often, travelers get caught up in the excitement of a new destination and end up buying overpriced items from souvenir shops that eventually end up in storage. That $100 hula skirt that you couldn’t resist just ends up taking up space in your closet and making you roll your eyes at yourself later on. Also, too many souvenirs may make you end up having to check luggage which increases costs on your return trip. If you do find yourself with too many souvenirs to fit in your luggage, look into the possibility of mailing your items home. Sometimes the cost of shipping is less than the cost of checking extra baggage.

If you are overseas, take advantage of the duty-free shops inside the airport for any souvenirs that you do end up buying.

The worst thing you can do with your travel dreams is to just wait around and let them remain only dreams. Instead, start Googling for airfare deals and plan out a workable budget. By following these budget-friendly tips, you’ll find that your wayfaring wanderlust isn’t as far out of reach as you thought. Just Google—and go!

Resources— EducationFirst, Huffpost, MoneyCrashers, Forbes