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How to Travel on a Limited Budget

Four Methods:

Travel is often considered a luxury, but it’s very possible to see the world without breaking the bank. Start off by deciding exactly how much you want to spend and where you’d like to go, if you have a preference. Then, aggressively search for the best flight and accommodation deals. Taking advantage of free local entertainment, like walking tours, is another great way to save. You just might surprise yourself with how much you can see and do on a limited budget.


Budgeting for Your Destination

  1. Choose a cheap destination.Some places are considered bargain travel spots all year round, such as Canada and Panama. They generally offer thrifty options for lodging, eating, entertainment, and airline tickets. You can find many of these places by choosing “everywhere” as your destination on a travel website.
    • Another smart option is to identify a high traffic place, like Paris, and then travel to a smaller city outside of it. This is called “secondary” travelling.
  2. Go during the off-season.Most places have a tourist off-season when fewer people come and prices drop. For the Caribbean, this is usually April to August. Europe’s off-season is January to March. Visitors to Africa find better prices from May to September. You can also contact your accommodations directly prior to booking and ask them when their off-season begins and ends.
    • Off-season often coincides with less than ideal weather, so make sure that you consider this when packing your bags.
  3. Gather information on your daily expenses.If you plan to eat out, look up menus for restaurants at your destination. Or, go online and find the average cost of staple groceries, such as milk, for that area. If you are going to drive, search online for gas and toll costs for your destination. You can also buy museum or other tickets in advance, so that you’ll know how much you are spending for entertainment.
  4. Create a budget.Start by choosing your destination and the number of days that you’d like to travel. Then, estimate how much you’ll need to buy a flight. Use the information that you’ve gathered on food, entertainment, and other expenses to determine a daily cost of living. Add up all of your costs until you have a total estimate for the trip.
    • If you divide your total trip estimate by the number of days you are travelling, you’ll know the cost per day. This will help you to determine if you can afford a longer trip or if you need to cut it short.
    • Look over your trip costs and see if there are areas where you can cut costs, such as eating in more instead of dining out.

Getting There on a Budget

  1. Comparison shop for airfares.Check discount airfare sites, like Skyscanner, at least once a day looking for deals to your destination or just a low price ticket anywhere. The more flexible that you can be with your destination and dates, the better options you’ll get. Don’t be afraid to travel budget airlines, as they’ll likely offer fewer amenities but cheaper fares.
    • Sign up for email or text alerts on the websites and they will reach out to you when prices drop. You can also sign up for an app, such as Hopper, which will track flight prices for you.
    • Before you press that final “Book” button, make sure that you know exactly what you are getting, including any associated taxes or fees. For example, some websites may tack on extra administrative charges to the initial price.
  2. Fly during odd hours and schedules.If you are looking for a deal, grab the first flight offered in the morning, as it will usually cost less. The same goes for Wednesday travel, as it’s often much cheaper than a weekend ticket. Consider taking an “open-jaw” route, which means you’ll fly into one city and leave from another.
    • It’s also a better deal to fly on Tuesday or Saturday. Avoid Friday and Sunday travel at all costs, as they are the priciest.
    • If you can’t do an early morning flight, your next best options are the times immediately surrounding lunch or dinner.
  3. Avoid extra airline fees.Go to your airline’s website and read through their fee listings. This will tell you if they’ll charge for priority boarding, checking in online, or bags of a certain weight or number. Some airlines also make you pay high prices for any food or beverages. In this case, you can save a lot of money by bringing some snacks onboard.
  4. Drive if you’ve chosen a local destination.If you’ve got a reliable personal car, go ahead and use it. Another option is to get a rental car; just make sure to comparison shop for rates. If you are uncertain if flying or driving will be cheaper, go online to a “gas tool” website and enter your route and car model. The site will provide you with a cost estimate.
    • The parks service in your area might even provide suggested scenic drives on their website.

Lodging and Eating on Your Trip

  1. Choose a hotel.Find a hostel at your destination by going to a listing website, such as Hostelworld. Read through the descriptions carefully and make a list of those locations in your price range. Then, take a look at the recent reviews. Hostels are often good options for travelers who enjoy a lively, young, group-friendly atmosphere.
    • Be aware that many hostels place multiple people in the same room, even from different parties. Make sure that you are comfortable with this before booking.
    • Some hostels have communal kitchen or laundry spaces which can save you some serious money when travelling.
  2. Rent a room.Many websites, like Airbnb, now offer travelers the option of staying in someone’s home. You can do everything from renting a large house to staying on a couch for a few days. Carefully consider what you prefer before booking, such as how much privacy you’d like. Read all available reviews and contact the owner with additional questions.
    • Many of these sites handle the payment process, so that no cash is exchanged on site.
    • Trust your instincts when going this route and never stay in a place that you feel is unsafe.
  3. Stay with friends or family.Head to a place where you know you have a free spot to stay. Make sure to give them your dates well in advance to make sure it’s okay to come. If you are lucky, your friends or family might even offer to serve as free tour guides of the area. To help out and still save money, you might offer to buy groceries or cook during your stay.
  4. Make your own meals.Stop by a local market and grab the makings of a picnic. Book a room that has a fridge or kitchenette that you can stock with groceries for your vacation. Eating out can be an experience, but so can chatting with locals as you decide what food to buy. This is a great way to try out an area’s specialty foods.
    • If you don’t have the option to make full meals, grab a few snacks at a local store to carry with you.

Keeping Yourself Entertained

  1. Spend time outside.Nature is one of the best cheap options for entertainment when travelling. Do a little bit of research in advance to find out what your destination has to offer in the way of outdoor activities. You might find that they are known for hiking, fishing, camping, or kayaking. Choose an activity that is weather-appropriate and don’t be afraid to push your limits a bit.
  2. Go on free walking tours.Many cities throughout the world have experienced guides you will show you the sights for a few hours. This is an especially great option for historic places or university cities, where students often act as guides. Find one by searching your city’s name and “free walking tour” online.
    • Go to a travel website and look for reviews about your particular guide, especially if there are multiple options.
    • Even though a tour may be free, most guides do expect some sort of tip.
  3. Use a student, age, or profession discount pass.If you get an International Student Identity Card (ISIC), available through numerous travel websites, it will help you qualify for a wide range of discounts at museums and other attractions. Teachers can often get discounted admission to tourist sites as well by showing their ID. If you are over 65, it doesn’t hurt to inquire about lowered prices either, as many tourist spots provide senior rates.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    Since when is Paris a city?
    Top Answerer
    Paris has been a city for well over a millennium.
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  • Always ask about pricing in a bar or restaurant prior to ordering. This will let you know what to expect on your final bill. And, when you get your bill, read over it carefully before paying.
  • Before you travel, investigate the attitude toward gratuities in your destinations. Most places request a 10 percent tip or even less.


  • Make sure to keep your safety in mind. Plan your travel carefully, so that you don’t feel the urge to sacrifice your well-being to save money.
  • If you choose to exchange currency, only use bureaus that post both the buying and selling rates. This will let you know if the place is upselling the currency or not.

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