I’ve traveled a lot since my sophomore year of college, and every time I take a solo trip I get questions from friends and co-workers about how I’m able to travel so much. The unstated part of that question is, How can you afford to travel so much when you’re so young? It’s true, I do travel quite a bit for a recent college grad, and the simple reason I can afford to do so is because it’s a priority for me. I make a conscious effort to save most of my paycheck and remind myself of my upcoming trips whenever I’m tempted to splash out on something expensive.
With that said, simply prioritizing travel and doing my best to save money isn’t all I do to ensure that I can take trips without doing much damage to my bank account. Below are 10 easy ways I save money while traveling that anyone can implement on their own vacations. There’s more to saving money on vacation than finding cheap flights, though — you should also take into account your daily budget, how much you’re willing to spend on meals, and more.
Travel during the off-season
Traveling during the off season has its pros and cons, but for the most part I really enjoy it! Traveling during off-peak season often means you can book flights and accommodations for cheap, and some attractions and museums have off-peak admission prices as well. Plus, you typically see fewer tourists and it often feels like you have the place all to yourself. My most recent off-season trip was in October, when I flew out to Quebec City for 5 days. I scored super cheap flights and lodging (my AirBNB and round-trip plane ticket cost just $400!), and I got to enjoy the historic old town sans tourists. The only major downside was that I froze my butt off, but all in all it was totally worth it!
Do your research ahead of time to see when the off-season is for your bucket list destinations. I’ve traveled many times during what I thought was the off-season, only to discover it’s actually a popular time to visit.
Choose alternative lodgings
I almost never book myself a hotel room, because they’re usually quite expensive and it’s impossible to cook in hotels. Even hostels are becoming more expensive in certain parts of the world! Instead, I prefer couch surfing or staying in AirBNBs. Not only do these lodgings feel much more comfortable and homey, but they’re also cheaper to book. Not to mention that most couch surfing and AirBNB hosts are more than happy to suggest restaurants to try in the area and offer tips for seeing the sites nearby. With that said, it can sometimes be tricky checking into an AirBNB late at night if your flight has been delayed. So if you’re traveling somewhere where you don’t have cell service, it may be worth booking a hotel room for that first night since a hotel concierge is guaranteed to be on call to let you into your room.
Read more: How to Couchsurf Successfully (and Safely!)
Eat breakfast in your room
I rarely buy breakfast when I’m traveling. Instead, I hit up the nearest grocery store and stock up on instant oatmeal, fruit, and whatever else I think I’ll need for the duration of my trip. Even if I’m staying somewhere with limited kitchen space, I can always make a bowl of instant oatmeal. Making breakfast in your room will save you so much time and money in the morning, leaving you with extra cash to spend on more exciting things, like museums and tours.
Bring snacks and drinks with you
While I’m at the grocery store, I’ll stock up on basic snacks and drinks as well. (I typically only buy bottled water if the country I’m in doesn’t have safe tap water). I try to grab somewhat healthy, filling snacks that pack well and that can withstand temperature changes. Bringing snacks with me while I’m exploring helps me spend less money on lunch, and it keeps me from buying baked goods and other treats impulsively.
Walk whenever possible
Exploring on foot is your cheapest option no matter where in the world you are. If you plan on walking lots to save some cash, make sure to take this into account when you’re packing. Opt for sandals and shoes with good arch support, otherwise you’ll be hobbling back to your room at the end of the day. If walking isn’t an option, use public transportation instead. Whatever you do, avoid taking an Uber or taxiing places, since those will cost the most money.
Find alternatives to major attractions
Most of the time, the expensive attractions you’re tempted to shell out money for aren’t worth the hype. As a rule of thumb, I don’t spend money on views and rarely spend money on tours. Yes, the view of the city from the top of an old bell tower is lovely, but you can usually get a similar view elsewhere for free! And there are lots of pay-what-you-want walking tours you can sign up for as well. You’d be surprised how few people think to look these things up, but budget-friendly options are out there. You just have to do a little digging to find them!
Bring only a carry-on suitcase
An easy way to save a few bucks is to pack everything you need in a carry-on suitcase. Many airlines will let you check one bag free of charge if you’re traveling internationally, but otherwise you have to pay $20+. As daunting as it seems, it’s totally doable to pack everything you need for a long trip into just a carry-on. I once traveled through Italy for 3 weeks with only my carry-on suitcase and had no problems. Remember: you can always do laundry on the road, and there are pharmacies selling face wash and shampoo in every city.
Use points to book lodging and flights
When I moved to NYC, one of the first “adult” things I did was get a credit card. I get points every time I make a purchase with my credit card, and after a few months I typically have enough points for a plane ticket back home. If you know you’ll be traveling later this year, save up your points and spend them wisely. Anything you can save on flights and lodging will help you stay on budget!
Only spend cash
I mostly use this trick when traveling abroad since I can use my credit card in the US. If I only have cash on me, then it’s easier for me to see exactly how much money I have left to spend. I usually allot myself a daily budget and bring that amount of cash with me during the day, and if I have leftover money at the end of my trip I’ll re-deposit it into my bank account. Using cash in foreign countries also prevents you from paying fees at ATMs to withdraw money.
Fly during the middle of the week
Another trick I have for scoring cheap(er) flights is to book my trips during the week. Weekend tickets are almost always more expensive, no matter where you’re flying in and out of. Just make sure you’re taking long weekends and holidays into account, because those can mess up flight prices and schedules.
Budget travel is more accessible than you think, and it doesn’t limit the experiences you can have. Yes, you sometimes have to think outside the box to find budget-friendly activities and alternatives to major attractions, but overall traveling on a budget should be as much fun as if money weren’t an issue.
Tell me: What’s one way you save money while traveling?
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