Money is one of the biggest factors that prevent people from traveling. When people ask me about my travels, their biggest question has to do with finances because they don’t know much about travel on a budget.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Travel can be expensive. It depends on your accommodation style, when you go, and more. However, traveling doesn’t have to be expensive.
There are plenty of great ways that you can travel when you have limited money. In fact, I’ve been traveling the world full-time for two years and I’ve mastered the art of traveling on a budget.
In this post, I’m going to give you all of the tips and tricks you need in order to travel when you’re broke af. You’re probably going to want to take some notes while you’re reading this post.
Before I spill the beans, it’s important that you understand that I’m not encouraging you to travel if you have to go into debt for it. Debt is a no-no and you’ll make me very sad if you don’t obey this rule of mine. The purpose of this post is to show you that you can travel on a limited budget and that travel doesn’t have to be expensive. I’m not trying to get famous for being known as the travel blogger who encourages others to travel regardless of their financial situation.
Back to what you came here for — here are twelve genius ways that you can travel while being broke.
In This Post:
The Golden Rule for Travel on a Budget
If you want to live a life that’s filled with adventures and travels, you better get used to saving as much money as you possibly can. If it’s your dream to visit all of the destinations on your bucket list, you have to make it a priority.
Take a few moments and reflect on some of your recent purchases. Which items did you buy that are totally unnecessary? The money that you spent on those items could have been put towards your travel fund instead. You’ll have to practice lots of self-control when saving money for travel. However, it’ll be worth it when you’re hanging out in Bali.
The bottom line is that travel requires money. In order for you to prioritize travel, you’re going to have cut certain expenses and be mindful of your spending.
At this point, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed as to how you can save money for travel. Lucky for you, teaching you how to save money for travel is my jam. Here are a few posts that will help you:
How to Travel When You’re Broke AF
“But, Disha, I have student loans to pay. I also have a mortgage and medical bills. I want to travel, but I don’t think I can. What do I do?” I got you, boo. Keep reading.
Travel During Low Season
This trick alone will make travel on a budget possible for you. Various destinations around the world have a particular time of the year where it becomes a tourist hotspot. During these periods of time, things will be more expensive in that destination. You can expect to may more for tours, housing, food, and more.
Do some research and figure out when the off-peak time is for the destination you want to visit and go during that time. This trick alone has saved me thousands during my travels.
For example, I went to Koh Samui, Thailand in October which is considered low season because it’s rainy season. I snagged an amazing Airbnb for 1/4 of the price that it normally is. I also stayed at one of the top hotels in Dubai during the low season for 1/5 of the normal price.
Plus, you’ll have a more pleasant time because there won’t be heaps of tourists everywhere. It’s a win-win situation.
Speaking of Airbnb, here’s a discount code just for you. You can get up to $55 off on your first trip.
Choose Your Accommodation Wisely
I personally like mid-range accommodation when I travel. I’m not a fan of hostels, but I’m also not going to drop serious money on a five-star hotel.
If you’re flexible about where you stay, you’ll save some money. If you visit Southeast Asia, you can snag some pretty great places for a decent price. However, if you travel to Paris, the odds of that happening are a little slim.
Take some time and research which accommodation options lie within your budget. Depending on who you book with, they may offer a price match guarantee. If you find the booked accommodation for a cheaper price on another website, they will match the lower rate and give you an additional percentage off.
I went to Dahab, Egpyt and booked a Marriott hotel. A few days after I booked it, I found a cheaper price online. I called Marriott and they matched the price. Plus, I received an additional 25% off of the matched rate. All in all, we got the room for $29 per night and that included all-inclusive meals for two people.
If you’re on a very limited budget, I recommend staying in hostels. It’s a great way to make friends and you’ll save money.
If you want to stay in hotels, I highly recommend using Hotels.com. If I don’t book with Marriott, I book with Hotels.com. You earn one free night for every ten nights you stay. I used Hotels.com when I was traveling around Asia and I have accumulated so many free nights. Plus, it’s free to sign up for their loyalty program.
Try House Sitting
This is exactly what it sounds like — you watch someone’s house while they’re away and take care of it. Sometimes, they’ll have pets and you’ll take care of them as well. In exchange, you get a free place to stay. Sometimes, you might even get paid.
My brother-in-law has done housesitting in Australia for over a year now. He has gotten heaps of outstanding reviews and he lands housesitting jobs to keep him busy for the majority of the year.
We visited him for a few months and did some housesitting with him as long as we had the homeowner’s consent. In those three months that we were there, we paid for our accommodation maybe two weeks. The rest of the time was filled with housesits. We actually saved up quite a bit of money because we didn’t have to pay for housing. On top of that, we got to hang out with cute dogs.
I don’t have much experience with housesitting other than the few months I did in Australia. However, my friends who regularly housesit highly recommend using TrustedHousesitters. In my opinion, this is one of the best ways to travel on a budget.
Find Work Abroad
If your job sucks and you’re not getting paid well, why not find a job abroad? There are so many job opportunities abroad. You just have to flexible and open to the opportunities that are available. Yes, you might not find your dream job abroad. However, you get to be in another country and save up some money to travel.
Some jobs that you might find interesting are cruise ship worker, au pair, hostel worker, dive instructor, tour guide, yoga instructor, farm-worker (popular in New Zealand and Australia), and bartender.
A job that interests many is teaching English abroad. Depending on where you go to teach, you can make pretty good money. I know people who have taught in Thailand, China, South Korea, Taiwan, and more. I even know a few people who have saved up $10K+ while teaching abroad. Now, that’s impressive.
Finding a teaching job abroad isn’t as hard as it sounds. The only requirements are that you speak English fluently and that you have a TEFL certification (depending on where you teach). Being an English teacher abroad is in hot demand.
Unfortunately, I don’t know much about teaching abroad or how to find jobs abroad. However, my friend, Nina, is a guru in this area. She has heaps of posts about working abroad and teaching abroad. You can find them here.
Get Free Flights
The best way to score free flights is to sign up for travel credit cards. Please do not sign up for travel credit cards if you’re currently in debt or you’re bad with money.
There are several amazing travel credit cards out there and it can get overwhelming when you’re trying to figure out which credit card is best for you. Before I signed up for my first travel credit card, I spent some time on Extra Pack of Peanuts doing some comparisons. The bloggers behind this genius website list the best current credit card offers and they update the list regularly.
Most cards offer an awesome sign-up bonus. When I signed up for my Chase Sapphire Reserve card (which is the best in my opinion), I got a 100,000 point bonus after spending $4000 in the first three months of having the card. Unfortunately, their sign up bonus is now 50,000 points. But, 50,000 points are still generous and the card is worth it.
I don’t sign up for travel credit cards unless their signup bonus is good. That’s the best way to accumulate miles. I’ve gotten hundreds of thousands of miles just from the signup bonuses. Additionally, I use my card to pay for everything which equates to more miles. I rarely use cash.
The more you travel with, the more you’ll pay in checked baggage fees. Some airlines charge an arm and a leg for checked baggage fees. Sometimes, it’s almost the same price as your ticket price if you’re flying a budget carrier. That makes no sense to me.
Odds are, you’re overpacking anyway. We all think we need to pack twelve dresses and six pairs of shoes when we’re only going on vacation for a week.
One of my key rules to travel on a budget is to pack only what you need and try to travel with just a carry on to avoid pesky baggage fees. Plus, you don’t have to worry about your luggage getting lost.
Free Walking Tours
One of my favorite ways to travel on a budget is to take advantage of free walking tours. They’re a great way to explore the local hotspots with a local perspective for free. Plus, it’s a good way for you to keep track of which places you’d like to return to while you’re in that city.
Heaps of cities around the world offer free walking tours. Before you get to your destination, do a search on this website and see what you can find. Sometimes, you have to book in advance so be sure to pay attention to that. My favorite walking tours that I did were in Sydney, Australia and Sofia, Bulgaria.
Use Your Student ID Card
Another fantastic way to travel on a budget is to use your student ID card. I’ve saved so much money on museums and attractions just by having my student ID card.
Be sure to remember to bring your student ID with you though. I forgot to take mine with me when I was sightseeing in Delhi and missed the saving opportunities. I could have saved $20 that day if I brought it with me.
Make Your Own Meals
When I’m traveling through expensive countries, I try to stay in an Airbnb as much as possible so I can make my own meals. Your trip to Rome won’t be ruined if you cook a meal once per day.
We made meals at home when we were traveling through Switzerland and Norway. There is Norway we could afford to eat out for every meal. Haha — get it?
Generally, we cook one meal at home and eat out for one meal when we’re visiting expensive countries. That alone saves us so much money. Plus, it’s fun packing your lunch and having a picnic at a local park. I just don’t see the point in spending heaps of money eating out unless it’s Southeast Asia. In that case, gimme all the street food for less than $2 a meal.
Take Advantage of Redeye Flights
This is perhaps my least favorite way of traveling on a budget. However, I’ve saved money doing this and so will you. Essentially, a red-eye flight takes off late at night and arrives early in the morning. People don’t typically want to experience this kind of discomfort so the fares are cheaper. I’ve taken several red-eye flights. While the flights felt like pure hell, my bank account was quite happy.
Get Your VAT Refund
Before you exit the country, make sure you get your VAT refund if they’re offering it. VAT stands for “value-added tax.” It’s an added tax on consumption rather than income. The tax can range anywhere from 15-25%.
Remember to hold on to all of your receipts. After immigration, you’ll see a “VAT Refund” counter and that’s where you’ll go to claim your refund. You hand the worker your receipts and they’ll give your refund. You’ll have to fill out some paperwork too.
So many tourists leave the country without claiming the VAT refund. Don’t do that. When you have to travel on a budget, every penny counts.
Choose a Budget-Friendly Destination
This might seem like a no-brainer to you, but this point needs to be iterated. Just because you find a $50 flight to Zurich from London doesn’t mean you should book it.
Zurich is expensive and it’s not quite budget-friendly. I mean, you could travel on a budget there. However, it’s going to be painful. Just because the flight is cheap doesn’t mean that the rest of your trip is going to be cheap. You need to think about how much you’re going to spend in total on the trip.
Some of the most budget-friendly destinations in the world are countries in Southeast Asia. You can find food and housing for every budget in most countries there. If you have an insatiable travel bug and you need to travel on a budget, this is where I recommend you go.
Lastly, just because you want to save money on travel doesn’t mean that you should skimp out on travel insurance. Be sure to protect yourself against unexpected illnesses, theft, and more. I use SafetyWing and I love them.
Between all of these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to confidently travel even when you’re broke AF. I hope my post on how to travel on a budget has been helpful to you and has given you inspiration. Do you have any other tips for traveling on a budget that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments below.
Disha Smith is the founder of Disha Discovers. She quit her job in 2017 to travel the world to explore new cultures and experience new adventures. She has since been to 95+ countries and counting and has lived in South Africa, Thailand, Croatia, and Australia. She has done all kinds of travel ranging from luxury to budget backpacking, and her mission is to inspire others to discover their own sense of adventure and to help them plan a life full of meaningful experiences through travel.