Wanderlust: a strong impulse to explore the world. And when you have that strong impulse, that need to see and explore the world, you’ll find a way to do it. And you’re determined to chase your dreams by finding ways to travel on a low budget.
You’re going to do what it takes to fulfill your wanderlust.
If you’re committed to travel with a low budget, you’ll work towards traveling the world one step at a time. Maybe you give up buying that Starbucks coffee for a month. Or you decide not to buy that new pair of knee-high boots. Or maybe you decide to bring lunch to work instead of buying it every day.
Travelling does not have to be expensive.
Decide what you’re willing to pay for (like a direct flight to save time) versus what luxuries are least important to you. But it’s possible to travel on a small budget.
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1. Plan in advance, and plan early.
Obviously: if you’re going to travel on a budget, know how much you’re going to spend and how much you should save.
- Have an idea of what you want to do
- Estimate expenses
- Cut your spending + save
When you have a tangible goal you want to achieve, it’s easier to save. When you know what you need to save, you can figure out what you need to set aside week after week with your paycheck.
Know what you’ll need to spend now so you can enjoy your vacation later.
Don’t put yourself in a situation where you regret not being able to afford doing something fun. You traveled all the way to a place, so save up and do it right!
Some expenses you can expect:
- Getting there (airfare, gas costs, train/bus, luggage costs)
- Accommodations (hotels, hostels, airbnbs, couchsurfing)
- Transportation (uber, lyft, rental car, tolls, gas, etc.)
- Daily Activities
- Special Attractions
2. Use TripAdvisor to research and plan activities
So you want to estimate how much you’re going to need to save for your trip. One of the best ways to see popular activities at your destination is to use TripAdvisor.
- TripAdvisor lists the types of activities in any given area
- You can find company info – like their website
- You can use TripAdvisor to research what other people have to say
Seeing what others recommend or how they felt about their experience can help you decide whether or not you want to shell $70 on that outdoor experience. Or if others found it wasn’t worth the money.
3. Use VentureCost whilst you travel to understand your spending
Knowing how much you’re spending day-to-day is so helpful!
When living back home, I used a credit card for every transaction. In many countries abroad, paying with cash is much more common.
Now, I use a free website called VentureCost to track my spending.
You add the city where you’re travelling and the length of time you’ll be there. You add how much you’ll be spending on accommodation during the trip. From there, you can just add and track your spending simply with VentureCost!
It’s a browser-based app, so I bookmarked VentureCost on my phone so I can easily access it whilst
Bonus: You can see others’ budgets and how they spend money in the same city! This makes it much easier for you to plan budgets for your trip.
4. Save more by stacking rewards.
When you’re not saving… maybe you’re shopping. We all have to do it – buying toiletries, coffee, groceries. Whatever. But when you do have to do any shopping, stack your savings!
I wonder why people don’t stack savings. To take your hard-earned dollar as far as possible:
- Use rewards cards when you shop.
- When you shop online, use Ebates. Ebates gives you cash back on purchases you were probably going to make anyway (like toothpaste on Amazon, or deals on flights/hotels!). It doesn’t even cost anything to sign up. In fact, they give you $10 after you sign up and make your first purchase!
- When you shop in-store, use Ibotta. Ibotta is just like Ebates – you get cash back on your everyday freaking spending…just by scanning your in-store receipts.
Then you can use that extra money on your vacation. And who doesn’t want extra spending money?!
Protip: Book what you can using Ebates. This includes flights, hotels, rental cars. Like I said, you get cash freakin’ back for booking, so why not?!
6. Research cheapest ways of getting there
Do your research! Know exactly how much baggage costs will be when you travel. Although budget airlines might boast a ridiculously low price, they might charge an extra carry-on bag fee.
There are a few great websites that help you find the cheapest way to get there.
If you are traveling from city to city, book an overnight bus, flight or train ride. That way, you save on hotel accommodations for that evening! Do your math and calculate the cost of renting a vehicle vs. taking public transportation!
Protip: Being flexible with your travel dates can help you find a much better deal.
7. Stay in an Airbnb
My FAVE way to travel is using Airbnb. When you book an Airbnb, you can book a room, apartment, or even a castle (YES!!! Epic, right?!) with a private host!
For a cheaper experience you can book a room in your host’s house or apartment. Or if you prefer your privacy, you can book a private apartment or home allll to yourself. Whatever you decide, Airbnb offers a unique experience for your vacation! It actually gives you the opportunity to live and travel like a local.
Pay attention to host reviews. After reading the reviews, you’ll get a clear indication of others’ experience with each Airbnb. Is the host unreliable or hard to get ahold of? Was the apartment dirty on multiple occasions? Even if the pictures are great, don’t settle for a cheap room that could be dirty on arrival. Find one of the plenty of incredible hosts who go out of their way to make sure you enjoy your experience.
Leverage a lower rate with a host who doesn’t have any reviews. If you are really going for the budget accommodation, try negotiating a lower rate with a host in exchange for a detailed review. For the reasons stated above, reviews make or break a host’s business. So they may be willing to lower their rate knowing that you will review their Airbnb after your stay.
If you don’t have Airbnb, sign up here so you can claim a $40 travel credit. This credit never expires so you can sign up now and save the $40 for a future trip.
8. Use TripAdvisor to find cheap hotels & hostels
If you couldn’t tell, there are so many ways to use TripAdvisor to do your vacation planning, including searching for accommodations in the area.
After you open the TripAdvisor website, search for hotels or hostels in the city where you plan to visit. From there, read the reviews other travelers have written about their experience at each property. If you are interested in a specific property, you can also use TripAdvisor to compare the cheapest rates through various websites.
Bonus: If you’re traveling during low season, don’t book a room in advance. Visit different hotels and negotiate a lower walk-in rate. Just don’t be a salty Susan if the hotel of your dreams is fully booked for that night!
9. Housesit or Volunteer
If you really want to travel on a budget, consider working while you travel.
Housesit with Trusted Housesitters. You have to pay to join most housesitting websites, but after the membership cost, everything else is free. Housesitting websites connect you with houseowners around the world who need someone to look after their home, or their pets. It’s a great way to visit a place and earn a free accommodation. Click here to browse Trusted Housesitters housesitting options.
Volunteer with Workaway. While Workaway also has a membership fee, just like with Trusted Housesitters, everything after that is free. Browse your dream destinations and see the different types of volunteer experiences that area offers. The work exchange can vary from teaching English, to construction, to computer/website work. Click here to browse the different Workaway opportunities!
10. Avoid foreign transaction fees
If you are traveling internationally, and don’t want to carry travelers’ checks or large amounts of cash around, you should definitely make sure you have a card that does not charge foreign transaction fees. Some countries have cards that do not charge you ATM fees as well.
My favorite debit card to travel with is officially my Charles Schwab card. If you open a (free) Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account, you can get rebates on any ATM withdrawals made with your debit card. Basically, after you are charged an ATM withdrawal fee, they give it back to you at the end of the month.
So if you need cash in a jiffy and you’re traveling internationally (or anywhere for that matter), you can go to an ATM and withdraw from this account! Although you are charged for the ATM fee, Charles Schwab credits your account with the ATM fees at the end of each cycle!
Either way, do your research and make sure you have at least one card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
All this budget talk doesn’t mean you’re skipping the fun stuff.
Don’t take “planning a trip on a budget” to mean “having less fun”. Save enough so that you can enjoy your trip! Find the perfect balance between cutting your spending and enjoying a memorable vacation.
And don’t forget to use Ebates to search for flights, hotel accommodations, and rental car rates. If you’re still not ready to commit to any purchases for your trip (or you’ve already paid for everything), just use Ebates while you shop and put any cash back you earn aside for your travel budget.
If this guide helped you out, don’t forget to pin or share! Or, if you need to reference these tips down the line, don’t forget to bookmark it!
All in all, folks, the wanderlust is real and it’s hitting me hard. I can’t be the only one counting down the days until my next vacation, right?
Where are you traveling in 2018? I want to hear how you travel on a budget!