International travel may be taking off once again, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have the budget to book a holiday overseas.
Many of us have seen our incomes take a hit during the pandemic, which probably has you wondering how you can work in some vacation time without racking up too much debt.
While international travel can be expensive, there are many ways you can cut down on costs. Often, it just takes a little more planning, creativity, and sacrifice.
There are dozens of ways you can still manage to enjoy a getaway without having to be stressed about how you’ll pay it off later. Here are my top dozen ways you can travel on a budget post lockdown.
Essential Tips for Traveling on a Budget
Choose Your Destinations Carefully
Saving money on travel begins with choosing an economical destination. If you’re on a tight budget, you may need to shy away from booking a trip to places like Dubai, Singapore, Switzerland, Iceland, or Antarctica.
However, there are countless destinations that offer rather cheap holidays such as Southeast Asia (think Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia), as well as South American and African nations.
Even a European vacation is attainable on a budget if you stick to Eastern European nations like Poland or Romania (click here for a 5 day itinerary to Romania).
When selecting a travel destination, be sure to not only see what the costs of lodging, flights, and activities will be but also what the currency exchange rate will be between your home country and the nation you are thinking about traveling to.
Stay Away From Tourist Traps
Doing everything the guide books or posts in your social media feed say is a “must see or do” in a country could see you falling into tourist traps. Not only does this often equate to costing you more money, but it also prevents you from seeing the real authentic side of a destination.
Whether it’s a landmark, famous street, restaurant, or activity that’s overhyped, you can be willing to bet you’ll pay a premium to experience it. Businesses feed off this peer pressure or FOMO and can charge a premium to tourists that fall into these traps.
Instead, opt for sticking with activities and places that not only fall within your budget but are also ones that you actually want to experience based on your own personal desires and not those of others.
Another form of a tourist trap is not having your wits about you while traveling. This means avoiding common ways locals may try to deceive you.
Avoiding dodgy taxis with questionable meters or rates, people that seem overly eager to assist you, and being duped by fake currency or unfavorable exchange rates are all ways to avoid losing money.
Avoid Peak Season Travel
Having flexibility of when you book your travel can also save you a great deal of money, sometimes as much as 50% off normal rates during a destination’s peak season.
It’s always cheaper traveling during the low or shoulder tourist seasons, and although you may have to endure less than ideal weather or certain attractions not being available, you will get to enjoy far fewer crowds.
Not only are hotels and attractions more economical during off season, but flights too often become quite cheap. And if you consider time to be a form of currency, you’ll also benefit from spending less time in lines or having to book reservations when traveling during the off season.
Travel Discounts and Coupon Codes
Many businesses and attractions offer special discounts or online booking coupon codes that can save you money. If you’re a student or senior, many popular attractions often offer reduced concession rates.
You sign up to various tourism boards, airlines, hotels, or businesses and possibly be sent special email offers.
There are also websites like NetVoucherCodes.co.uk that not only offer a wide range of travel deals, but also coupon codes that will help you save on everyday items like household goods, health and beauty products, and clothing which will help you better save for trips.
Many cities also offer special city passes for travelers that will often allow you to access a large number of attractions for a fraction of the standard rates if you were to book each separately.
Also look for unlimited public transport passes that are often available to tourists for a set period of time.
Search for the Cheapest Flights Online
Searching for flights and comparing a range of options has never been easier than it is right now.
Websites like SkyScanner and Kayak are well known for their comparison services, and you should always make the most of them before going ahead and booking a seat on a flight.
When you compare options across a range of providers and platforms, you’ll eventually find a rate that suits your budget. Don’t be the person who rushes into purchasing flights without comparing the options first.
Alternatively, look into whether you have enough frequent flyer miles saved up that you can cash in for reduced airfare or possibly a free flight.
Couchsurfing or Workaway Experiences
Many travelers allocate the greatest portion of their travel budget towards accommodation, but there are several ways to score free places to stay.
Couchsurfing is a great option for social travelers who aren’t afraid to meet and stay with strangers. This is a global community of hosts who offer up spare rooms free of charge to travelers. It’s pretty safe so long as you read previous travelers’ reviews of their hosts.
Another option worth considering is workaway experiences where you can trade your labor for free accommodation and possibly even meals.
This works especially well for backpackers looking to travel for an extended period of time, since you are generally required to work a set number of hours per day or week which can take away time form the places and activities you were looking to experience while traveling.
If both these options aren’t to your liking, you can of course look to budget hostel or dorm-style accommodation to cut costs.
Look for Free Things to Do
Having fun doesn’t have to cost money. No matter where you travel, there are always free activities to consider which may be more rewarding than expensive paid attractions.
They say the best things in life are free, and that is often true when you seek out a destination’s free botanic gardens, parks, lookouts, and museums.
Many popular cities offer free walking tours that not only allow you to learn a bit of the local culture and history but may also see you connecting with other travelers. This can be a great activity if you are a solo traveler looking to meet people.
You can also browse markets without necessarily purchasing anything, escape to a local beach, or connect with locals who may inform you of or invite you to free events.
Cook Your Own Meals
There’s always a temptation to eat out at restaurants while traveling. Yes, dining out is more convenient but the costs of doing so can really add up over the span of your holiday.
Depending on where you travel, you can often see a large part of your eating-out bill being thrown away on charges that don’t even include food and drinks such as cover charges and gratuities.
Seeking out accommodation that provides you with your own personal kitchen or shared kitchen facilities will allow you to stock up on much cheaper drinks and food from a local supermarket.
You will often find that this option will allow you to try more local flavors than you would experience when dining out due to food being cheaper and a greater selection of local foods being available in the grocery store.
You can alternatively seek out hotels that offer free daily breakfast or lounge access that may provide you with complimentary hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and snacks throughout the day.
Travel with Companions
Traveling with a friend or family member will allow you to share some of the costs of travel such as accommodation and taxis. You may also receive discounts on activities the more people you book in with.
If you’re tight on cash, you can also choose a travel destination where you have family or friends living. This will allow you the possibility of staying with them and saving on accommodation and possibly transportation costs.
Be sure to book a trip at a time that is convenient for them, where they may be able to better entertain you and show you around their local area.
Consider a Cruise
While cruises may seem like an expensive travel option because they carry an expensive price tag, they may be a much more economical way to travel when you consider everything they include.
Cruises combine your accommodation, meals, activities, and transportation all in one. They are an especially good option when visiting archipelago destinations, as they allow you to often see a large number of islands without having to book multiple ferries or flights which can add up quickly.
Utilize Credit Card or Hotel Loyalty Points
If you haven’t already, sign up for credit cards that offer travel rewards for making everyday purchases and join hotel loyalty programs. Many hotel loyalty programs are free to join and some credit cards carry no foreign transaction or annual fees.
Signing up for some credit cards may give you substantial point bonuses you can use for free flights or hotel stays for simply spending a set amount within the first three months of activation.
You then accumulate travel reward points simply for buying groceries, fueling up your vehicle, and paying your monthly phone bill.
Meanwhile, signing up to hotel loyalty programs may see you gain free stays after booking so many nights, discount offers being emailed to you on your birthday, and achieving special status tiers that can score you things like lounge access, upgraded rooms at no additional charge, and free daily breakfast.
Reducing the amount of stuff you travel will allow you to avoid baggage fees which seem to only be increasing each year. Not traveling with a lot of luggage also means you will not have the space for a lot of souvenirs or trinkets, therefore forcing you to not make impulse purchases.
Reducing the amount of stuff you bring on your travels also means there is less chance of items getting lost or damaged, which will save you from having to fork over cash to replace items.
Stick to packing just the essentials and realize that most items can be purchased internationally if you find you do actually need something you didn’t pack.
These are just some of the ways you can enjoy travel while needing to stick to a restrictive budget. I hope you can utilize these tips to once again get traveling and see the world.