Are you looking for ways to travel without breaking the bank? With a little bit of planning, you can have an amazing trip without overspending. In this article, we will discuss the best tips and tricks that can help you save money while traveling. From finding cheap flights to budget-friendly accommodation options, we’ll cover it all so that you can make the most of your vacation. So get ready to explore the world on a budget!
Yes, this is your simple guide to how to travel on a budget. And no, you will not miss out on food. You will not miss out on experiences. In fact, staying on a budget can absolutely enrich your overall travel experience.
There are tons to plan for without even getting to the experience of being in a new place, which can make for an expensive endeavor. For this reason, it’s important to utilize these budget tips for getting the most out of your travel experience. Over the last few years, hostelgeeks has been looking for sneaky ways to travel all around Europe at a shockingly low cost and you are the lucky recipient of all the sneaky tips and tricks we have stored on the matter! Well, you and anybody else who chooses to read this article.
Read: How to Volunteer at a Hostel 2023 – The Pros, Cons, and Websites to use
In this guide we cover:
- Tips to Travel on a Budget
Read: 39 Simple and effective Travel Safety Tips
So to start, while travelling can be quite expensive, there are also hundreds of ways to make sure that you can spend very little while still having an incredible experience. In fact, the goal of travelling at a low cost has put me into some really crazy situations that ended up being the highlight of my travels, and it’s a wonderful way to connect with and experience the country in a more local and authentic way. So my friends, without further ado, let’s dive in!
For those of you who are too busy to read through the whole article, here’s a list of tips for your time-saving convenience 🙂
- Volunteer to stay in places for free and sort out your accommodation in advance
- Find some online freelance work to make some extra cash throughout your trip, or offer your services to the hostel
- Make local friends and other travellers get the inside scoop on cheap ways to move around and explore. Local friends also means people with cars and connections, while travel friends are also people you can later stay with when you visit their country, and vice versa
- Connect with the travel community in your hometown for advice and hookups. Friends in the travel industry can get you all kinds of perks and discounts
- Be smart about buying tickets. Get a VPN or use incognito browsers to avoid prices going up. Check flights on multiple platforms to compare, and check the entire month rather than specific dates
- Get a travel credit card to reap the benefits and travel points
- Free walking tours!
- Cook and bring food for the day rather than eating out all the time
Here are a few other handy guides we’ve designed with long-term and budget travel in mind:
- Long-Term Travel Insurance? A simple step-by-step guide
- iVisa.com in Review – your visa for around the world
- Smart Packing List for 2023 (23 clever things to pack)
- Kiwi.com in Review – Cheap flights & booking hack
Tips to Travel on a Budget
The most amazing way of travelling pretty much for free is through volunteering. There are tons of websites that allow you to look for and set up volunteer gigs weeks or even months in advance, all from the comfort of your own home!
Volunteering is and always will be one of our favourite ways of travelling because it’s the perfect combination of having a routine, feeling productive, and still having downtime to travel and explore at a more mellow pace.
When you first started travelling, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by moving every few days to a new city and constantly feeling pressured to make the most of your time in each place and rush around like a crazy person in order to see every single tourist attraction, while still feeling pressure to go out and enjoy the nightlife.
Pretty much, these costly trips ended up being just another source of feeling pressured to be hyperproductive and compress everything into a few days before moving on to the next spot and doing the same.
Returning home from these holidays, feeling more drained and exhausted than at the beginning. Volunteering allows you to stay in one place for longer (usually places will ask for a two-week minimum commitment) and really settle into a routine. You work for a few hours a day and have the rest of the day off to explore and maybe even take day trips to nearby spots.
You also usually have at least one or two days off in the week, which means that you can do some overnight trips to places that are a bit further away. The glorious thing about volunteering is that you don’t have to pay for housing and sometimes even food is included, which means your costs are pretty much the same as they would be back home, if not less since you’re not paying for an apartment.
Since you’re staying in a foreign country for free, you don’t feel nearly so guilty taking a day or two to relax and just chill, giving you the opportunity to process everything you’ve done and seen and mentally prepare for the next onslaught of adventure and stimuli (perhaps onslaught is a harsh word, but there were times I really felt attacked by my own inability to slow down and rest throughout my trips.)
Volunteering also gives you a longer-term home base, which makes you feel more rooted and grounded and calmer overall, allowing you to really enjoy the exploring you do because you don’t feel overwhelmed by all the new sights on top of moving beds every few days.
Last but least, it also allows you to make friends that will stick around for longer than a few days and form deeper bonds, adding to the grounded vibes and also giving you more people to explore the country with, people you feel safe and deeply connected to.
Read: How to Volunteer at a Hostel
It’s vitally important to remember that travelling is a very special experience. It’s a way for you to learn about other cultures and earn an understanding of an area different from where you live. That said, bills still need to be paid and sometimes your bills are paid, but you need some side cash to still have a good time. That’s where freelance opportunities come in. A lot of people think of freelance work being primarily writing or doing some sort of video work, which is correct. However, that isn’t all there is to be attached to freelance work.
If you end up deciding that you’re not up for spending two weeks in one place, or you simply don’t have the time, don’t fret. Many hostels will have a program where you can trade a shift of work, maybe washing dishes or cooking breakfast, or maybe even cleaning bathrooms if you draw the short straw, but they will allow a free day or night of lodging in exchange for some work. This isn’t an option at every hostel, but there are quite a few that offer it. It’s always worth it to just ask if where you’re staying has the option.
You can always choose to book for just a few nights, or pay upon arrival, and inquire about any options to work in exchange for a bed. Many hostels are happy to let you clean, cook, or maybe you can help paint a mural or build beds. If you’re crafty or creatively or technologically inclined, then it may be worth it to offer those skills as a freelancer. The biggest benefit of freelancing is that it can be done from anywhere there is an internet connection.
So you can have a full-time job as a freelancer and do it from a cafe with a beach view in Bali, or in the heart of London. If you’re good with technology, maybe they’ll be eager to get some advice on building or updating their website. I’ve had many friends who spent months travelling around and staying in hostels for free because they were able to do some labour in exchange for staying there.
If this isn’t your cup of tea, you can also try to find some online freelance work and put in a couple of hours a day in order to cover your costs for the day. It may sound like a lot, but waking up at seven instead of nine to do some work on your computer over a cup of coffee in a local cafe isn’t such a big deal, and it gives you a chance to connect with locals and still maintain some sense of routine and productivity on your trip.
Plus, buying that extra beer at a club won’t cause you to feel quite as guilty if you know you will cover those expenses the next morning 🙂
3. Make local friends
To add on, when you stay in one place for longer, you can connect more with the local community and learn about cool spots to check out, often off the beaten path and much cheaper for this very reason. Local friends may also have cars or connections in the tourist sites, or maybe even a weekend cabin somewhere in the middle of nature which could provide a very welcome getaway for free!
In general, we really recommend trying to connect with people throughout your travels because you never know who you can meet, or where you’ll see each other again. The number of friends I’ve made on my trips who later hosted me on a trip to their country is crazy- travelers are generally super open-minded and welcoming, and maybe even after an hour of talking will gladly welcome you into their home and hearts 🙂
Staying with a local also means you have the insider’s scoop on what to explore and some tricks to do so more cheaply. Often, museums and other tourist attractions will have specific days or times that the tickets are at a reduced price, and for obvious reasons, this isn’t advertised too much to tourists.
Local friends also have other local friends who work at cool spots and can get you discounts and maybe even some free drinks! But be genuine people! Don’t connect with someone just to use them or to get something out of their connections- there are so many amazing people in the world, it’ll happen naturally. You just have to be open to meeting cool people and the god of awesome connections will hear your prayers!
4. Connect with the travel community in your hometown, and befriend those in the travel industry
You also don’t have to wait to travel in order to make travel friends and connections. It’s kind of a common joke in the industry at this point, but it’s actually very true. If you date or are best friends with someone in the travel industry, you get to reap the benefits of their job. For example, being with someone that works for an airline gives you the benefit of free flights. When the most expensive portion of a trip comes down to the airfare getting there, this is a HUGE benefit.
It also leads to the ability to make last-minute trips so you don’t have to go so hard on your planned trip. Instead of spending thousands at one time for a giant vacation to, let’s say New York City, you will be able to make multiple short trips that will ultimately cost the same. This spread makes it easier to justify the price because it’s not all at once and it’s less impactful on your wallet.
But the benefits aren’t limited to aviation! Travel agents get INSANE deals on vacations for themselves. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it because it helps the travel agent promote a location and all the great things there when they get to do it first for extremely cheap. And of course, those that are into camping and backpacking really just need someone that will guarantee a safe trip. So, the benefits of having someone in that industry are pretty quickly realized.
Many travel agencies give their employees great discounts and hookups, and if you’re lucky enough to befriend a flight attendant or pilot you are pretty much guaranteed to get some sweet deals on flights. While I have yet to connect with somebody in the flight industry personally, I have friends who have and ended up getting free or super cheap flights thanks to their connections.
Try to check out if there are any meetups or groups of travel enthusiasts in your town and connect with the community- if they can’t get you stuff for free, at the very least you’ll connect with some wonderful humans who can become future travel buddies or give you the inside scoop on cool places to visit and what to do there 🙂
5. Buying tickets the right way
Okay, so you’ve planned out your trip, forted out accommodation, and now it’s time to buy the tickets. Something sneaky that many airlines and travel companies do is they keep track of how many times you’ve visited their website and looked at a particular flight/accommodation/tour and every time you return to look, the prices get a little bit more expensive.
This, my dear friends, is no coincidence. The companies are keeping track and raising the prices because they know you’re interested and the rise in price will make you more likely to stress out and impulsively book out of fear that it will only get more expensive. The inflation of how much you pay them, in the end, is just the cherry on top.
To combat this cruel and psychologically maniacal system, we recommend getting a VPN to hide your IP address (an IP address is assigned to each electronic device and allows the company to track how many times you visit their website, giving them a reason to raise the price because they know you’re interested.) a VPN hides your IP and gives you the freedom to look at the website or prices as often as you like without the increase in price because you’re technically looking at the website from different devices/as different people.
Another version is using an incognito tab on your search engine or using an engine that doesn’t keep track of your history such as duckduckgo, my personal favourite. You can also try and visit the foreign version of the website by adding .uk or .es at the end to see the foreign version of the website. Companies know that people in the US have money and accordingly increase the prices on the American website. Last but not least, when booking a flight, we really recommend dedicating some time to finding the cheapest option by comparing websites such as google flights, Skyscanner, and kayak. By checking out various websites you can compare the prices and see what’s best for you.
There is also the fantastic option of selecting an entire month to see which days are the cheapest to fly on, and even looking into the price history of those flights to see if there is a pattern of dips and increases of prices- sometimes buying on a certain day of the week is cheaper than others. For example, rumours say that buying tickets within the US is best done on Wednesdays and mornings because fewer people are trying to book something at that time. Logically, it makes sense that buying tickets on Mondays would be a bit pricier, as people are back at work after a weekend of fun and looking for an escape. It’s also worth mentioning that travelling on weekends is usually more expensive, so if you can make your trip from weekday to weekday you’ll probably save a bit as well.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that you should book your tickets either way in advance, or within three months of your trip. Some of my friends also book tickets within days of their trip. This is not for the anxious or faint of heart and is definitely not recommended if your dates are inflexible. But, if you work for yourself or have a super cool boss who is cool with you changing things around, by booking a few days in advance you can get some mega-sweet deals on flights because the airlines are eager to just get the tickets sold- getting a bit of money for a flight that will happen anyway is better than none. I’ve seen this work out stupendously in some cases, but there is always the risk that you end up paying way too much for a flight as well.
6. Get a travel credit card
Something else worth mentioning is your payment method. Nowadays, there are lots of credit cards that are geared specifically towards travelling and give you all kinds of perks and benefits, such as travel insurance, car rental insurance/car rental collision damage waiver, lost baggage insurance, zero foreign transaction fees, and the list goes on! My credit card even offers a travel agency that helps you book stuff.
The best beginner’s card is probably the Chase Sapphire Preferred, as it gives you 60,000 points if you spend $4,000 within the first three months, which is around $750 in free money which you can spend on flights, accommodation, and even some tours and travel experiences. This card in particular costs $95 per year to maintain, and most travel cards also have a fee, but if you travel a lot and count up the benefits it’s well worth it.
We would go into all the additional perks, but this isn’t an article on different credit cards and their benefits so that won’t be a tangent we go on today. Bottom line, get yourself a travel credit card and reap the benefits baby!
7. Free walking tours
Okay people, let’s keep moving! Do I sound like one of those tour guides with a big umbrella, herding tourists around like sheep? Fantastic! This brings me to another great tip for exploring a new city. A super cool trend that is catching on in just about every major city around the world is free tours. If you haven’t already heard about this magical happening, prepare to have your mind blown.
While exploring a new city can be incredibly overwhelming, especially if you factor in language barriers and not understanding street signs, hiring a tour guide can be quite pricey and often you’re not even sure if it’s going to be worth it. The solution? Get the tour first, and then decide how much it was worth. These groups are usually created and employed by people who are genuinely passionate about history, culture, and their city. On top of that, they aren’t getting a concrete paycheck so you know they’re not in it for the money, and their interest in their work is genuine.
I’ve done walking tours all around Europe and Latin America and have yet to walk away unsatisfied. You get a scope of the city, a healthy dose of history, some really great tips on places to explore and visit, and maybe even a friend! I remember really loving this one tour guide in Barcelona and showing up four days in a row to do every version of his tour of the massive city and then sitting down over beers and burgers with him after the tours.
To this day, we’re great friends, and he is the best guide I’ve ever had. The prices of these tours are also super flexible/ if you’re really on a budget, even a couple of bucks is appreciated, but if you enjoyed the tour and can spare the money we really encourage you to pay at least ten bucks per person, as these people are giving their time and energy into giving you a good experience. To find these tours simply type the words free walking tour and the city name and you’re golden.
We do recommend going on your first day in the city, and booking online so that you make sure the group doesn’t already fill up, especially if you know you’ll definitely go.
8. Cook meals and bring food with you for the day
Moving on to a favourite topic of mine, food. While exploring the cuisine of a new country is always incredible and exciting, you really don’t need to do so for three meals every single day. Eating out might not seem like a big deal when you’re only stopping five bucks per meal, but fifteen dollars a day adds up real quick, and in most countries, you can get accommodation for the night for that amount of money.
We really suggest making sure that your accommodation has a kitchen so that you can make your own breakfast in the morning, and pack a sandwich or two for the day. Not only do you save money by not going out to eat, but you also save a bunch of time by popping a squat and eating your sandwich wherever and whenever you want, rather than spending time to find a decent restaurant that isn’t too pricey, and then waiting for hours for the food to be cooked and brought to you.
The best way to start is by scoping out the kitchen and appliances it comes with, doing a big grocery shopping for the next few days, cook something tasty and cheap to bring with me for lunch (collapsible Tupperware are a must-have for thrifty eating habits on the road), and then come back to my hostel to cook dinner with new friends or to make friends with other guests.
I’ll usually go out to eat maybe two or three times during my trip for dinner, and love to do so with a big group of people so we can order plenty of different dishes and try a bit of everything. This way, you make the most of the day and spend it outside exploring rather than waiting for the waiter to remember that he’s working, you spend less money, and you’re probably eating healthier and feeling better for it because you’re not constantly choosing the cheapest food option, which usually ends up being the same fast food that you eat back home anyway.
Here we share with you the most asked question:
Why you should travel on a budget?
Traveling on a budget allows you to experience more of the world while spending less money. It also gives you the opportunity to meet more people, explore different cultures, and have unique experiences that you wouldn't have if you were spending more money.
Can you travel without a lot of money?
Yes, it is possible to travel without a lot of money. This guide is what it is all about. Depending on where you're traveling, there are a variety of ways to keep costs low.
Is travelling worth the cost?
Yes, travelling is definitely worth the cost. For some, travelling can provide a sense of adventure and exploration, teach new skills, and create a lifetime of memories and connections. For others, it can mean a chance to take a break from the everyday and relax in a new environment. Ultimately, the value of travelling is subjective and depends on the individual.
Where can I find a good and cheap accommodation?
Hostelworld.com and Booking.com are the easiest way to find cheap places and compare prices. Make sure you read our guide on how to book hostels with 15 tips to save money.
Any questions about hostels in town?🤔
Join our Facebook Group here!
Ask all your questions and connect with like-minded wanderers 🔥
To wrap up, travelling is no longer just for the rich or hedge fund babies, it’s for all of us 🙂
The world is your oyster! Start by checking out volunteer options and confirming that you really can travel for weeks or months without once having to pay for accommodation.
Next, try and check out the entire month when looking for flights, while using a VPN or incognito mode to make sure the prices don’t go up. Next, try to research if the places you want to visit have any discounts or reduced prices during certain days or times of the day, and use free tours as a way to get to know the city.
Make friends and try to get advice from locals, and try to cook and bring food for the day rather than eating out all the time. With all of these savvy tricks, you’re guaranteed to save quite a bit of money. Best of luck with your travels and remember to be open-minded, you never know when your future bestie might be sitting next to you on the bus!
Before you go: have a look at all of our ‘Best Hostels in …’ guides.
Last but not least: Share YOUR experience
Do you have any experience in this area? A bad one, a fantastic one? Share your experience in the comment sections below.
– – –
pin for later
Best Travel Websites we recommend ❤️
(Fresh Update 2023)
Booking Hostels and Discounts 👏👏👏
As a user of Hostelgeeks, you also have access to exclusive hostel discounts. For booking hostels, we use:
- Hostelz.com - hostel price comparison
We recommend installing the Hostelworld App. It is very useful!
How to find cheaper Flights ✈️
The first websites we always check are Skyscanner and Google Flights.
Find our step-by-step process in our review about Skyscanner.
Travel Insurance made easy 🤒
We are currently using Safetywing and Hey Mondo. We wrote detailed guides about these insurances:
- Our review of Safetywing, compared to others
- a detailed review of HeyMondo Travel Insurance
Smartest Travel Tools you need to know 🤓
- Onward Ticket - get a proof for onward travel
- iVisa - get your visa online fast
- Get Your Guide - for activities and sightseeing tickets
- Omio.com - for all types of transport
Find all our recommended travel tools and websites here.
Get your Smart Packing List (Free Printable)
Knowing what to pack and what not to pack is key. As an example, you need a one-fits-all padlock.
We put together the ultimate list of smart items to bring.