How to Travel on a Budget (or For FREE): Top Money-Saving Tips & Hacks

by Budget Travel, Travel & Adventure49 comments

Aileen, I am grateful for the wealth of information you share with us! I have not found another blogger out there that is as detailed as you and for that… THANK YOU. You’ve helped me very much in planning my travels this year. I loved your ‘money saving tips to start a life of travel’ post best, but can you also share with us your tips on how to travel on a budget? I will appreciate it very much because I’m sure your additional tips for that will definitely help me even more!

Kach from USA

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Thank you, Kach! With more than 7 years of leading a nomadic travel lifestyle, I’ve surely learned some travel hacks that helped me make the most of all of my trips without spending a fortune.

They will certainly help you too, and today, I’m sharing with you the following tips on how to travel on a budget — after all, you really don’t have to be rich to make your travel dreams come true!

How to Travel on a Budget

» Before You Travel «

Plan your Journey

Find Blog's Niche with Blue Ocean Strategy

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If you want to make the most of your travel fund, it is definitely important to plan your trip accordingly because there are a lot of ways that you can save more on range of costs — from accommodations to flights, and more.

  • Use Rome2RioArguably the BEST transport search engine in the world, this website is helpful for discovering how you can get to anywhere with whatever transport method (airplane, bus, train, car, ferry, etc.) at the cheapest price! This platform has been a huge lifesaver for me and you should definitely take advantage of it too.
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  • Travel during low season or ‘shoulder season’ (somewhere in between low and high): This is a no-brainer but it’s a golden rule especially if you want to travel on a budget. After all: timing is key when making your travel plans — once you do, you can achieve cheaper prices across everything (from food to transportation)! Typically, the high season to avoid is summer and winter; BUT this is a case to case basis as dependent on your destination(s), so it’s best that you research this beforehand.
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  • Try to be in fewer places but for a longer time: If you go on a rush to tick countries off of your bucket list, you will find that taking too many flights or train journeys in such a short span of time will quickly eat away at your travel fund. So try and do more of slow travel; not only will you get a better ‘feel’ of the country that you’re in, but you’ll also get to spend lesser as you grab hold of more discounted prices (example: availing a discounted 1-month rental at AirBnB will be cheaper than the total sum of multiple short hotel or AirBnB bookings).
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  • Travel with someone in order to share costs: It’s always great to travel solo, but if you really want to save, it’s best to find a friend or partner who is willing to go on the same journey as you do so that you can split costs 50:50 — surely a win-win situation for the both of you!
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  • Travel to low-cost-of-living countries and/or visa-free countries first: This advice applies best especially if you’re someone like me who holds a third world passport. By doing this, you will avoid costly visa fees and you will also spend less (since such countries ordinarily have lower cost of living).

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Grab the Best Deals on Transportation

Travel Planning

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  • Research the best mode of transportation to take on your every route: If time is not an issue for you, a ferry ride, a night bus, or a night train is usually cheaper than a flight ticket. Often times though, it’s the other way around especially when you’re in Europe; so again, make sure to check sites like Rome2Rio since it can help you compare these all.
    • When it comes to train travel, know your options too as you learn how to travel on a budget! A one-for-all rail pass will give you big savings if you’re going around a certain area for the majority of your trip (example: traveling around Japan with a JR Pass or traveling around Europe with a Eurail train pass). However, when it comes to shorter trips, point-to-point tickets are commonly cheaper. That being said, ensure that you do your research well as you compare all of your options.
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ADDITIONAL TIPS: I generally don’t bother with first-class train tickets especially when first-world countries are concerned, because second-class sections are often of the same quality (and leg space) such as that of the first-class. Meanwhile, for travels within large continents, consider doing ridesharing (different from hitchhiking which I don’t really recommend). There are various providers for every destination and the best ones that I know of are…
For Europe: Blablacar
For USA: Zimride
For Japan: Noritomosan
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Another thing that you can try when you’re in Europe is Busabout which is a hop-on-hop-off bus service that can be an alternative for Eurail or Interail passes. For rentals, websites like Turo (for renting vehicles direct from locals) and RVShare (for renting RVs and campers direct from locals) are great.

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  • Get cheap flight tickets: Make use of flight search websites that scan through all available airlines worldwide on your route. Through this way, you can gain access to the best ticket prices possible. Apart from Google Flights, my go-to-platform is Skyscanner. Of course, you could always go directly to an airline’s website; but most of the time, websites like Skyscanner displays better deals with no hidden charges.

ADDITIONAL TIPS: Some travel websites can track your searches and they can raise their prices after knowing that you’re interested in a certain route at a particular date. In order to curb this ‘feature’, always use an ‘incognito window’ or clear your cache before searching on your browsers like Google Chrome or Safari.
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Secondly, try to book your tickets no more than 3 months before your departure dates; this is because fares are customarily discounted and ‘locked in’ on the 8th week from your travel date. If you book too early or too late, you might not enjoy those sale deals.
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Lastly, studies say that you’ll find the lowest airfares on a Tuesday around mid-afternoon up to Wednesday. The reason for this is that most carriers release sales during this day; plus, it’s customary for some airlines put their prices up on Friday. If no competitors match their price, they will start putting it back down around Monday to Tuesday.

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  • Get free flights: Sign up for a travel credit card and start earning points and miles as early as now! There are also a lot of credit cards available locally and internationally that can already give you bonus points right from the moment that you sign up.
    • If you’re from the U.S., you can check this article for the best travel credit cards available.
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  • Watch out for ‘error fares’ and vacation package deals: You could sign-up to e-mail alerts on flight search websites so you’ll be notified when the price fluctuates for your particular route. Try to also research for the local budget airlines that are well-known in the destination you’re in so that you can keep a lookout for their promos. Otherwise, you could also subscribe to websites like Secret Flying, Holiday Pirates, or The Flight Deal that regularly post error fares and crazy flight deals for any given time period.
  • Join travel contests: The chances are slim BUT there’s no harm in trying your luck. So far, I’ve won 2 travel contests and one day, you might win too! In order to be properly updated of these travel contests and giveaway, I regularly post them over at a Facebook community that I created called as the ‘Ultimate Travel Group‘ (how’s that for a travel group name?).
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Get FREE or Cheap Accommodation Anywhere

Hotel Deals: How to Travel on a Budget

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  • Get in touch with friends, family members or relatives abroad: Ask them kindly if they are able to accommodate you during your stay. Depending on your relationship with them, you can stay in for free or not (as a sign of courtesy you might still have to pay, but that would often be not as expensive as booking your own hotel etc. Add the fact that now you’re connected with them, you have people who can already tour you around!)
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  • Travel on a budget by taking advantage of other accommodation options: A lot of people think that booking into a hotel is the only answer for getting accommodation abroad. Surely that’s not true, and it’s time for you to know of the other ways that you can get cheap and even FREE accommodation around the world through things like couchsurfing, housesitting, home stays, and more.

ADDITIONAL TIP: If you’re going to book a hotel, forgo paying for breakfast because even if they’re convenient, they’re almost always NOT worth the price. It’s best that you just go to a cafe and mingle with the local crowd. Also, avoid booking into an accommodation that’s near the city center to access cheaper prices.

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Implement Other Money-Saving Tips

Money Saving Tips for Travellers

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  • Start exercising the habit of living frugal: So that it becomes second nature to you as you aim to learn how to travel on a budget. While you’re at it, start cutting any unnecessary costs that you are still paying for like magazine subscriptions, cable connection, etc. If you own an apartment or house, once you start traveling too, you should either sell or rent it in order to get more money for your trips.
  • Stay updated with seasoned travelers’ advices: These can be from travel bloggers like me, or from well-known travel celebrities and websites. Besides, there are always new helpful technologies and tips that constantly redefine the world of travel and it’s from these people and mediums where you can learn of such things for as soon as possible.
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  • Ascertain your luggage and carry-on weight or specifications before your trip: So that you can avoid any additional charges once you check in at the airport. It helps to note that there are various limits for every airline out there so you should check those out before leaving home. Meanwhile, if in case you’re going on shorter trips, try to keep all your stuff within your carry-on limits in order to avoid paying for check in luggage (unless the airline provides the space for free).
    • In lieu with this, make sure that you pack properly for your trip! The last thing you want to do is to spend money abroad just because you forgot your phone charger or a warm pair of jeans.
    • RELATED READ: Top Packing Guides
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  • Consider working while you travel: There are TONS of remote and overseas jobs that would allow you to explore the globe WHILE earning at the same time. Examples would be working as a digital nomad, English teacher, au pair, and more. To see a detailed discussion…
  • Be a travel blogger or writer: Like what most of you already know by now, one of the things that enables me to travel more (apart from my work as an online entrepreneur) is this travel blog because a lot of tourism boards, companies, and brands typically give me all-expenses-paid trips in exchange for doing promotional work.
    • As such, to start a travel blog of your own can give you the same opportunities — BUT do know as early as now that building an influential blog that organizations would be interested in partnering with WILL take time and effort. Nevertheless, if you’ve got the time and passion for this kind of profession, it’s definitely worth a shot!
    • RELATED READ: How to Start a Travel Blog
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» During Your Travels «

Be Flexible & Pick the Cheapest Transit Method

How to Travel on a Budget

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  • Walk as much as you can: It will help keep you AND your wallet in shape. The price for public transportation might not seem much at first but if you add it all up, it can be a pretty hefty sum. Anyhow, walking around can also help build up your travel experience since it can lead you to scenic places that you wouldn’t normally find on a map!
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  • Or make the most of public transportation: There are times that walking just won’t cut it. Therefore, if your destination is simply just too far, go for public transportation and avoid taxis like the plague.
    • When you decide to this, calculate the number of rides that you might have to take and see if a ‘day pass‘ for public transit will be cheaper than buying individual tickets. Sometimes, city passes that already gives you access to attractions and museums have added perks of free public transportation too so you better check those out!
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  • Be flexible with your accommodation bookings: It helps if you’re not so strict with your schedule or itinerary because as you travel, you could meet local folks or families who would be more than glad to accept you in their home for free. You might even find cheaper accommodations especially if you want to stay longer in a particular town or city. Lastyle, there could even be hostels that are willing to take you in with no pay per night as long as you help them with some chores.
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Mind Your Spending Habits

How to Travel on a Budget

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  • Avoid getting your currency at the airport: They usually offer the worst exchange rate. The better alternative? Either go to the city center to canvas for a better rate, or withdraw from local ATMs with your debit card — as long as you keep in the mind the charges of your bank.
    • TIP: Make your withdrawal less frequent and worth the extra charge or fee by taking out larger sums.
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  • Do as the locals do: To travel on a budget, try out street food, dine in local restaurants (that are not within 6 blocks from a major tourist site), shop for your own food at a local market, cook your own food, go to a local pub during happy hour, etc. etc. etc.
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  • Dine with a local: websites like WithLocals connects you to local hosts who would happily share with you their home-cooked local cuisine at a price cheaper than what you’d normally pay at a restaurant. To add, this is also a great way for meeting new people!
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Get Travel insurance

Travel Insurance

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  • Save yourself from potential hassles and costly troubles: Buying a travel insurance might seem like an unnecessary expense that will bite a chunk off of your travel fund, however it’s absolutely imperative to buy one so you can avoid spending more on events that can almost always happen during your trips: lost luggage, delayed flights, missed flights, cancelled flights, unwanted injuries, hospitalization, and SO much more!
    • If you’re asking for the best-for-value travel insurance out there, SafetyWing is the answer with the cost starting at only $10 for a week of travel. One of the things that I love about them too is the ability to re-extend your insurance while you’re on the road — which is unlike most travel insurances that want you to be in your home country for extensions. That’s certainly a feature that will help us nomads and non-stop travelers alike!
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Bonus Tips on How to Travel on a Budget

Quit Your Job and Travel the World

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  • Always check for FREE stuff that you can do: Aside from using city passes that can give you FREE and discounted access to various activities, make sure that you research the FREE things that you can do in your destination without the need for purchasing a pass.
    • You can do this by doing research online, by reading my top ‘free things to do‘ guides, or by simply talking to locals (some of the many things you can experience: FREE walking tours, free festivals, free concerts, free museum days, etc.)
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  • Enjoy your senior, teacher, or student benefits: A lot of attractions abroad may offer up to 50% discounts if you are a senior citizen, a teacher, or a student. So don’t forget to pack your valid ID and check with every establishment you’re visiting if they can offer you a discount.
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  • Ask locals for advice: To avoid scams and exorbitant prices, you should ask people for advice on what certain things should typically cost (e.g. a taxi ride from the airport, the cost of a normal dinner meal, etc.) You can do this by posting questions online on travel groups, by asking the people you meet in hostels, the working staff in your accommodation, the locals that you meet, and more.
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  • Use FREE apps to stay connected: Instead of using your phone carrier’s costly service, make full use of free applications such as Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp, or Viber that lets you message, call, and video call your friends and family for free — wherever you may be in the world as long as you have an internet connection.
    • Speaking of which, do compare your roaming charges too in order to see if buying a portable pocket WiFi is cheaper. Check the costs of eSIMS like Airalo as well because it could be more affordable (use code AILEEN684 to get $3 credit). Otherwise, if you’re going to spend most of your time in an accommodation that comes with free WiFi, then there’s really no need for you to make additional purchases or payments in order to get an internet connection.
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  • Work while you travel: Much like what I’ve already discussed previously, consider working during your trips in order to travel on a budget. This will help you save up on food and accommodation, add more moolah into your bank account, and be able to travel more. There’s working online, volunteering, teaching English, being an au pair, and so much more!

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Overall

There are several other travel hacks and tips out there on how to travel on a budget, and if you’re a seasoned traveler like I do: please feel free to leave a comment below if you have other tips to add.

All in all: I hope that what I’ve listed above will prove to be of help to you.

Plus, I bet that as you go on trips all over the world, you will see for yourself that travel really doesn’t need to be expensive at all.

You will realize it as well that even if you travel on a budget (which is evidently a pretty easy thing to do), you can already achieve the best experiences possible! So go out there and quench your wanderlust.

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Have you seen my latest vlog?

How I Afford to Travel the World (Vlog)

About Me

About Aileen : Sidebar

Hey there! I am Aileen Adalid.
At 21, I quit my corporate job in the Philippines to pursue my dreams. Today, I am a successful digital nomad (online entrepreneur, travel writer, & vlogger) living a sustainable travel lifestyle.

My mission? To show you how it is absolutely possible to create a life of travel no matter the odds — and I will help you achieve that through my detailed travel hacks, guides, resources, tips, and MORE!

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49 Comments

  1. Greg Dean

    Awesome tips. Thank the gods for Google maps as well. I recently travelled to Japan. Using Google maps, I worked out the metro train system to get to all of my tours and event tickets, zero problems. And if I was slightly confused, I simply went to a train officer, showed them my Google map train itinerary, they just pointed at the platform and off I went. I could not have afforded those taxi fares.

    Reply
    • Aileen

      I’m very happy to hear this! Yeah, Google Maps is epic for mapping out routes like that, that’s why I sometimes find it weird when people say that Japan trains are overwhelming (makes me think that they haven’t encountered Google Maps yet haha).

      Reply
  2. Karen Arguelles

    Hi, Aileen! Thank you for these tips! Will surely take note of these on my next travel! :)

    Reply
    • Aileen

      I dearly hope it can be of help! :)

      Reply
  3. Rose

    Thanks for your effort in sharing this travel tips. My sister and I are planning to visit Langkawi and Phuket.

    Reply
    • Aileen

      Awesome to hear! Enjoy your trip :D Let me know how it goes!

      Reply
  4. Pankaz

    Thanks for sharing this great tips! Its really very helpful Good job AILEEN ADALID !!!

    Reply
    • Aileen

      You’re welcome :D Hope it helps you!

      Reply
  5. Nikhil

    awesome article with informative content

    Reply

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