How To Travel On A Budget And Still Have The Time Of Your Life

One of the top reasons I hear for why a person doesn’t travel more is that they feel they don’t have enough money to do so. However, it’s very possible to travel on a budget and still have a great time! Many people think that they need to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars in…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 25, 2023

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One of the top reasons I hear for why a person doesn’t travel more is that they feel they don’t have enough money to do so. However, it’s very possible to travel on a budget and still have a great time!

You don't need to go broke in order to go on a vacation. Yes, you can travel on a budget, it's all about knowing budget travel tips and tricks!Many people think that they need to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars in order to have a good vacation, and/or that vacations are only for those with high incomes.

Well, that’s simply not true.

I know many people who successfully travel on low incomes, travel for free, travel for cheap, and more – and yes, they have a great time even when budgeting!

And, you can do it too. Yes, you can go on an amazing trip and still travel on a budget. It may take a little bit of effort and planning, but it can be well worth it in the end.

By finding ways to travel on a budget, you can go on a stress free vacation and not have to worry about money. This makes a vacation much more enjoyable, because who wants to think about money when they are trying to relax?

Here is how you can travel on a budget!

 

Sleep on people’s couches.

I’ve never couch surfed, but I know a few people who have couchsurfed in order to travel on a budget, including my sister.

Couchsurfing is great because you can get a free place to stay, while meeting cool and friendly locals.

With couchsurfing, sometimes you’ll sleep on a couch, perhaps in a separate bedroom, or some other arrangement that you’ll know about beforehand.

 

Stay in hostels to travel on a budget.

Hostels are great for budget travel. They are usually quite affordable, and you can often find hostels for less than $20 a night depending on where you’re traveling to.

My mother is over 60 and lately she has been traveling all around the world. In the past year she’s gone to Switzerland, Canada, Korea, all over the U.S., Europe several times, and more. And, she has stayed in a hostel or couch surfed almost every single time. My sister often jokes that my mom has more couch surfing reviews than the average person.

 

Be flexible with your flight.

Have you heard of someone getting an insanely good deal on an international round trip flight and you just couldn’t believe it?

Yes, those $300 roundtrip tickets to Europe actually do exist!

To save the most money on your next trip, one of the best places to start is to look at ways to save money on your flight.

My favorite way to save on airfare is to go to SkyScanner, enter your “From” destination as wherever you plan on flying from, and then for your arrival destination click “Search Everywhere.” You can see this below:

You don't need to go broke in order to go on a vacation. Yes, you can travel on a budget, it's all about knowing budget travel tips and tricks! Here's how to Skyscanner to get the best deal on a flight!

Then for your departing and returning dates, choose “Whole Month ” and then “Cheapest Month.” Here’s how to do that below:

You don't need to go broke in order to go on a vacation. Yes, you can travel on a budget, it's all about knowing budget travel tips and tricks! Here's how to Skyscanner to get the best deal on a flight!

This shows you tons of places to go to and on the cheapest budget.

 

Join Facebook travel groups to find the best deals.

I’m a huge fan of travel-related Facebook groups. I love hearing about the amazing places that people travel to, and they often share great deals, such as limited time flash sales. Flash sales are a GREAT way to save money on travel, and without Facebook travel groups and other places where people share deals, it would be quite difficult to ever find out about them.

My two favorite travel-related Facebook groups are:

  • Girls Love Travel – This is a travel group for females, and it’s probably the fastest growing Facebook group. In just about a year the group has grown to over 160,000 very active members. There are often amazing flights deals posted here, and one that was recently shared was a $400 roundtrip flight to New Zealand.
  • Frugal Travel with Holly Johnson – If you want to travel on a budget, then this is a great Facebook group to join. This group was created by my friend Holly, who is a travel and credit card rewards expert. This group is more about budget travel through credit cards bonuses.

 

Travel in the mid or off season.

Traveling during the peak season is almost always going to cost you more than if you traveled to a destination during the mid or off season.

I like traveling in the mid season because the weather is usually similar to the peak season, also it’s usually less crowded and cheaper.

It’s less expensive to travel in the mid or off season because it’s a little harder for hotels, transportation companies, and so on to sell their services and products when not as many people are wanting them. To find the best budget travel deals, looking at off season travel may be the best idea.

 

Make money while you travel.

Yes, you can make money while you travel! This is more suited for people who want to travel for extended periods of time or even full-time.

Making money while you travel will only help you to fund your vacations.

You can do things such as:

  • Run a website.
  • Au pair.
  • Find a job in the places you are visiting.
  • Freelance write or become a virtual assistant.
  • Sell products.
  • Earn passive income.
  • Housesit.
  • Work remotely.

Learn more at Make Money While Traveling – Yes, It’s Possible!

 

Work for an airline to travel on a budget.

My dad worked for an airline nearly his whole life, right until he passed away.

Due to that, we always had free or super cheap flights, most of the time in first class. This was a huge perk of his career, and many other people who work for airlines get this perk as well.

 

Earn free budget vacations by using credit cards.

If you can trust yourself to use credit cards to their advantage while not going into credit card debt, then you can use them to earn really, REALLY cheap travel. If you don’t believe me, I recommend reading this – How To Take A 10 Day Trip To Hawaii For $22.40 – Flights & Accommodations Included.

Yes, it’s actually possible to go to Hawaii for less than $25 – all by using credit cards and gaining sign up bonuses and other points through them.

Credit card points can be used towards many different things, such as free flights, hotel stays, cash back, and more.

Each month, I put nearly all of my expenses on credit cards, which turns into points that I can use. AND, I don’t pay a penny towards interest or credit card charges because I always pay my credit card balance in full each month. I use my credit card as though it’s cash – I do it all for the points!

Please head to Best Rewards Credit Cards to learn more.

 

Fly with a budget airline.

You’ve probably searched for flights and have seen huge price differences. Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit tend to offer super cheap pricing, like unbelievably cheap plane tickets. A ticket on a normal airline may be $200+ each way, and the low-cost airlines may only cost $40.

Examples of random flights I found through budget airlines:

  • Austin, Texas to San Juan, Puerto Rico for $70 on Spirit Airlines.
  • Fort Lauderdale to Cincinnati for $48 on Allegiant Airlines.
  • Los Angeles to Las Vegas for $25 on Frontier Airlines.

Learn more at Are Budget Airlines Worth It? Here Are 6 Of The Best Tips To Cut Your Costs.

 

Housesit to travel on a budget.

Housesitting is becoming very popular these days, and there is usually a big demand for reliable housesitters with positive past reviews.

We even know of a couple who have their house on a housesitting website, and they often have housesitters, so I know it’s a real thing!

 

Find cheap travel destinations to travel on a budget.

Some travel destinations will be much cheaper than others. Due to this, you may want to research what cheap travel destinations are out there and which ones you may be interested in so that you can save the most amount of money!

 

Stay in an Airbnb for a better travel budget.

Whenever we go on a trip that we don’t bring our RV, we almost always stay in a short-term rental that we find on Airbnb.

An Airbnb is occasionally someone’s home, but I’ve found that most of the time they are just vacation rentals that a person is renting out.

I enjoy Airbnbs over normal hotels when I’m on vacation, because there is usually much more room, a backyard (a huge plus since we usually travel with our dogs), a kitchen, they are great for when traveling on a budget, and more. An Airbnb is usually very beneficial if you’re traveling with a big group. You can split the cost of a larger space with numerous people, which can make it often cheaper than a hotel.

 

Sign up for a hotel’s loyalty card.

No matter where we stay, we always sign up for a hotel’s loyalty card so that we can earn free hotel stays for the future. This allows you to accrue points on the hotel’s member card (they are usually completely free) and accrue points on your credit card as well (if you can use credit cards responsibly). I have earned free hotel stays this way, and it’s always nice to earn double the points.

So, even if you book on a hotel discount site such as Booking.com, you can still use the hotel’s loyalty card. Don’t forget that!

There are also other benefits to signing up for these cards. Sometimes you can score free hotel room upgrades, early check ins, late checkouts, additional discounts, and more.

 

Be flexible with the dates for your stay.

A flexible schedule can save you a decent amount when booking where you will sleep. Staying on the weekends will usually be more expensive, and choosing a destination’s high season will most likely cost you more money as well.

If you can, you may want to do some research and see what the accommodation rate is when just changing the date by a day, a week, or more. This is an important money saving tip and can possibly save you hundreds of dollars on your vacation.

I once looked at a hotel that charged over $300 a night for a room, and just a few weeks later they had the same room for less than $50 a night. That is a HUGE difference for the same exact room.

 

Ask for a discount to travel on a budget.

My last vacation money saving tip on your stay is to simply ask for a discount. When you are looking at hotels, motels, short-term rentals, and more, simply ask if there are any discounts available. I usually book my trips at the last moment, and asking for a discount usually works for me because places are trying to fill up any remaining rooms.

Sometimes asking for a discount will work, other times it does not. It’s just a simple “Are there any available discounts I can receive?”

The worst that can happen is that they say no. The best is that they’ll say yes!

 

Find cheaper ways to get around locally.

Once I get to my destination, my favorite way to travel is to use Uber. It’s usually much cheaper than a taxi, which helps to travel on a budget.

Uber is a ridesharing company similar to a taxi service. Uber uses a phone app (I LOVE how easy their app is to use) so that passengers can easily find an Uber for their next ride.

All you need to do is open the app on your phone and request a ride. You can then see who will be picking you up, how long it will take the driver to get to you, and more. It makes finding a ride very easy.

 

Hitchhike (but be safe).

Okay, so this may be frowned upon in some areas and by some people, but this can be a way to get around if you’re safe and know what you’re doing.

Hitchhiking is somewhat common in popular hiking areas and in some parts of the world.

When my husband and his friend went to hike the Colorado Trail in Colorado, they hitchhiked because there were no taxis. The person who picked them up was on the cell phone the whole time, and when he finally got off the phone he told them that many people hitchhiked in Colorado to get from a hiking spot back to their car.

 

Use your student ID to travel on a budget.

If you have a student ID, then you should definitely use it while traveling! This can get you discounts on many different things, such as attractions, transportation, food, clothing, and more.

A discount can help you to save more money and travel on a budget, of course!

 

Eat like a local to travel on a budget.

Eating like a local is the best way to dine while traveling, as you can save money most of the time and have a more authentic vacation experience.

 

Buy groceries and eat out less for budget travel.

Yes, it can be fun and even a little more relaxing to eat out when traveling to a new place. However, you can save a little bit of money by eating in at least once a day, especially if you’re not going to get something local or special anyways.

You can easily save money by eating out one less time each day on your vacation by just  buying groceries and making a meal where you’re staying.

I hope you enjoyed my tips on how to travel on a budget! What other budget travel tips do you have to share?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Go Finance Yourself!

    Great list. Taking advantage of credit card rewards is a big one for me. My wife and I just booked an 8 day trip to Hawaii using credit card points. Traveling in the off season is also a big one. It’s more fun to travel somewhere tropical during the winter when it’s cold outside, but it can be a lot cheaper to go during the summer months. Last minute deals are also a good way to save money if you can swing it. We had friends that went to Vegas last year on a whim. Flights and hotel for two of them was around $500.

    1. Yes, last minute booking can sometimes mean great deals!

  2. I’m bookmarking this for our honeymoon in 2018. We’re starting to plan a little now but hopefully we can get a good deal on it!!

  3. The Financial Tech

    Great tips. This year I will travel to disneyworld with my kid and my wife. We took advantage of a promotion that saved us 25% on the price of the park entrance. We have waited until a promotion was up and took it. For our flight, we are still looking but since it’s in the off season of september, we are waiting to see if the price will go down or see a promotion.

    1. Great job! I didn’t even know that they had discounts on their tickets.

      1. The Financial Tech

        Yeah they had 25% for Canadian customer in January.

  4. It’s amazing how well asking for a discount works, beyond just vacations. And so few people ask!

  5. All really good suggestions! We always plan trips on a budget….I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. We did a Europe trip in November and a Disney trip last February both done on budget. So many people don’t realize it can be done.

    1. Awesome I’ll check this out!

  6. I’m currently in Tokyo and paying $60 a night for 2 people. We have our own apartment and it’s nice! We used airbnb this time, although mom and I usually use hostels. I think I’m growing out of the hostel phase, but mom isn’t. I don’t know how she does it.

    1. Oh, and the heater broke so we are getting a full refund.

  7. Hostels are the way to go…. even if you want a private room, they are definitely much more affordable, and way more fun than hotels. As far as eating, I usually get so excited to walk and look around, that I would rather limit sitting down to a meal to just once a day and I carry fruits and nuts for the rest of the time.

  8. Great article! Lot’s of savvy ways to save while traveling! We are heading to Mount Tremblant this month on a ski trip. We bought our tickets ahead of time to save 20%.

    Thanks for the great article. We always take something away from reading from you.

  9. Jonny Hoyer

    If you are current or ex-military and have a military ID, ask for a veteran discount.

    I have had several discounts at restaurants, discounts for tickets, and also I’m given free access to National Parks in the US, all on behalf of asking if their business provides veteran discounts.

    $72 buys you a ski lift ticket at Whitefish Mountain Resort in Whitefish, Montana, but if you have a military ID? Veteran discount cuts the price of the ticket in HALF to $36. For a full day lift ticket at a beautiful ski resort in northwest Montana.

    I’ve also asked for veteran discounts for my meals at restaurants, and several times the waiter has asked his supervisor if he can grant me a 15% discount on the whole price of the meal despite the fact that the restaurant does not specifically have a military discount policy, and been granted a discount anyways. Then there are restaurants who are required by policy to give military discounts!

    Movie theaters occasionally give military discounts.

    A US military ID will also gain you free access to the majority of National Parks. In Glacier National Park, one veteran earns a whole car load of people free access to the park! This is great for a traveler on the road and saves money!

    There’s some more fodder for your canon! ;D (that’s a corny literary joke I just made up by the way haha).

    Best, Jonny

  10. Tons of fantastic tips, and since I’ve used many of them, I can vouch for the fact that they work.

    As you said, Skyscanner is great for finding cheap places to fly to. I also like using the calendar in Google Flights to find the cheapest day of the week to fly – it makes it blatantly obvious if you’d be paying way too much to fly on whatever date.

    Airbnb is amazing – we used it frequently during our 2 years in SE Asia everywhere from Bali to Vietnam to Mexico – some people have had bad experiences, but from what I can tell, that’s usually due to booking a place without a good history of glowing reviews. Not that ALL places without reviews are bad, you can find some gems… it’s just that you have a higher likelihood of running into a dud if no-one has vouched for them.

    In N. America, I also go to vrbo.com… they have lots of listings, and if there are tons of them for a given area you can often find at least one owner willing to give a substantial discount for longer stays (ex. 1 month).

    1. Glad to see how you save money traveling too. There are so many ways!

  11. This isn’t a question I’d be able to really answer as everyone’s situation is different. You may want to contact an accountant who deals with travel bloggers or bloggers in general.

  12. MillennialPersonalFinance

    Great, great post! I have used AirBnB quite often and it saves loads, especially if you’re willing to share a house/room. My friend stayed on another friend’s couch in Australia (where the cost of living is WILD) for nearly no cost and worked as a waitress (very high minimum wage there) and saved up to travel even further!

  13. I’ve never heard of SkyScanner before and I’m really excited to check it out! We’ve been talking about taking a trip somewhere, but nothing is really “in the works” right now. That might change soon!

    1. SkyScanner is great for planning trips too because you know where the deals are ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Wow, I didn’t know that there are so many different options!
    I’m from Europe and when I travel I sleep a lot in hostels. They are usually much cheaper than the hotels. So I can travel much more with the same budget ๐Ÿ™‚
    I will try some of you other tips like couchsurfing so thank you very much!
    Have a nice day!

  15. luxurybackpacking | Emma

    These are some really great tips! Our blog is all about how to travel in luxury for less so can really relate to some of these budget tips!
    Thanks for sharing hun <3

  16. Dyana

    I have a trip coming up in August, and it will be my first “vacation” that I’ve had in years. Like many, I thought paying off debt meant absolutely no traveling…boy have I been miserable lately! To help with the cost of the trip I have been racking up on credit card rewards and I’ll definitely be freelancing here and there while I’m down there!

    1. Awesome, where are you going?

  17. Derek

    Awesome tips. I’d add that you can do some house sitting or pet sitting for a place to crash. Some folks can be away for a week to 3 months. This site has a bunch of spots open.

  18. We went to Barcelona in November on one of those super cheap flights deals (less than $1000 roundtrip for two people) and has an amazing time. We pre-booked a few tours to get cheaper access and tried to eat a little out of the really touristy areas to reduce costs. Our travel dates and location were also flexible so when we saw the great flight deal to a place we wanted to visit we jumped on it.

    1. Great job. Sounds like a great trip!

  19. Just joined the Girls Love Travel Facebook group. Thanks for the tip on that one! Also, I totally forgot about Skyscanner. I used to use it to find cheap flights when I studied abroad in Europe. Great post!

    1. That Facebook group is one of my favorites! ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. These are some amazing tips! Being flexible and eating more “at home” during vacations can make a HUGE impact on your travel fund. It’s crazy how much restaurants charge lol!

  21. Love these ideas! I think blogging really makes traveling easier because you can work from anywhere!

    1. Yes, being able to travel and blog is amazing.

  22. Shanetta

    During college, my friends and I would stay in hostels to save money. It was great because we usually ended up meeting some great people and learn about places most tourists didn’t know about. It’s unfortunate how some people look down on hostels, because they can be an affordable alternative to hotels. I would say however that you really have to do your research. Even though there are some nice hostels around, there are a few shady ones that aren’t safe or very clean.

  23. Chris

    We are thinking of buying a Prius. Apparently, Prius camping is becoming a “thing”. You can leave the car on all night and use the heat or A/C. There are different web sites that show how to put the seats down and do different things, so you can sleep one or two people. You can sleep at campgrounds in tent sites or even in regular parking lots.

    1. Melissa

      I just can’t imagine that a Prius would be that comfortable, haha… I will definitely look into this. Thanks for sharing!

  24. Phyllis

    My husband is a paraplegic, so we have not yet traveled since his injury. Any tips for finding handicap accessible rooms/places to visit that might also be discounted. Very discouraged so far with limited availability and often not discounted. Thanks so much.

  25. Melissa

    I’ve saved a lot of money over the years by being flexible with travel dates. Using the itinerary price-tracking feature on Google Flights has also proven to be a great tool, too!

  26. Another one to add to the list is to use great swap services like LoveHomeSwap! It’s a great way to travel with minimal expense involved and stay at fantastic places all over the world. I highly recommend it.

  27. I’m all for being flexible with airline travel times/days. I’ve gotten some pretty good discounts by flying very early in the morning…on a Wednesday. The downside, though, is the hotel check-in typically being after 3:00 p.m.. When I know I won’t be able to check in for a few hours I make sure I know of some of the sights to see and places to eat.

  28. Great tips you have here! This is very much applicable to anywhere you go, and traveling within a budget is possible without compromising the quality of your stay. This helps a lot, keep it up!

  29. Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes

    Great list of budget travel tips! I’m definitely going to be using some of these for our next month long overseas excursion!

    1. Where are you going? Have fun!

  30. Love these tips! I just got back from a trip to Jamaica and already trying to plan for the next one.Joining facebook groups seems like a great idea to get tips on cheap flights. I am looking to go to St. Lucia which can be expensive so I’ll be sure to save this page ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. Jenny

    My husband and I have decided to go full time RVing and I remember reading a question to you about how to find health insurance for full timers but cannot remember who you suggested. Culd you help me out and just send me an email letting me know your information on this subject? I really enjoy your blog and have gained tons of information from your articles. Thank so much!

  32. Great tips! A lot of people focus on spending a lot of money on their holidays and travels. It doesn’t has to be that way. You take it to the next level with RV’ing your way around.

    That sounds like one happy yolofied woman to me (I wouldn’t dare to say fellow monkey…)!

    Keep up the good work!