My motto? The more you save, the more you can travel. That’s why I love finding–and sharing–budget travel tips. Whether you’re traveling solo or with a large extended family, flying or driving, staying close to home or ranging further afield, you’ll find plenty of ways to save, with our best budget travel tips.
Where to Go
Love a place, but not the prices? Research where you want to go, and then find similar cities or areas that offer much of the same…but for less. Love London? Try Edinburgh! Fascinated by Tokyo? Visit Osaka (the food’s better, in my opinion!). You’ll also find smaller crowds, and smaller prices.
How to Get There
You might prefer flying, or driving, but do your research as to what is most cost effective for your travels. If you’ve got more than a few people, roadtripping might become the journey; if you’re traveling with a crew, flying might make more fiscal sense. Research the best days to purchase flights for less, and how far in advance.
Don’t forget trains and buses! Depending on where you’re headed, you can score some pretty amazing deals.
Save on Gas
If you’re driving, use gas buddy or another gas station app to find the least expensive gas around. Use a loyalty card, if you can, to rack up points and save money on your fuel.
I’ll never forget my dad telling me that when my tires had low air, I used more gas. WHAT?! Keep your tires at the recommended air pressure to save money on fuel. Other money-saving tips for roadtrippers: pack light (more weight=more gas); change the oil and filter for cleaner driving; and fill up your fluids. Nothing ruins a budget more than unexpected car repairs.
Where to Stay
There are always many options for accommodations when you’re on a budget. Some people prefer hostels (and there are bookable private rooms, if you’re traveling as a family).
We swear by home or apartment rental, so that we can have a kitchen to cook in (and save money that way!). I also love to get to know a neighborhood, and this is one way to do so.
There’s couchsurfing and Airbnb, if you’d like to connect more with hosts.
Research hotels with great breakfast buffets or evening aperitifs. This is a great way to support small boutique hotels with up and coming chefs…and a delicious way to start (or end) the day! Kimpton hotels often have wine evenings, hot chocolate, and, of course, good coffee to start the day!
If you travel during the academic break, look into dorm rooms. Once the students are gone for the summer, universities often rent dorm rooms quite inexpensively!
Consider camping, or renting an RV. You’ll gain a whole new view of where you are.
When to Go
High season is probably the worst time to try to travel on a budget. We love to travel during the shoulder season–the months before and after high season, when the weather is still great, the crowds are gone, and the prices are quite budget-friendly.
You’ll also find more local events, because there are fewer tourists and crowd-pleasing festivals.
What to Eat
Shop the markets! You never know what you’ll discover to eat. Ask around for recipes, too–that’s how I learned to make fish chowder, in Ireland.
Head to your local grocery store, and spend some time perusing the aisles. You’ll find new treasures and flavors, and save money, to boot.
When eating out, eat at lunch or an early dinner for budget prices. Try ethnic restaurants, which are often less expensive than traditional ones. And get out of the tourist areas to find great, inexpensive local restaurants!
Shop street markets (wisely!). Buy street food from stands that have long lines and high food turnover. If you’re in an area of the world where the water isn’t safe to drink, be sure you practice excellent food safety (peel your food!).
Love wine? Head to a wine tasting, instead of ordering a bottle with a meal. If you’re smart, and you love that wine, buy some to take home (souvenir!). You’ll still have saved a bundle.
Visit local coffee shops, instead of big global chains. If you’re renting a home with a kitchen, buy locally roasted beans and brew them yourself. Enjoy on the porch, while watching the sunrise.
What to Do
Find the Free
I’m all about finding the free. Free museum days, free parks, free events, free concerts, free outdoor theatre…the list is endless. Of course, support your local artists and organizations with tips–it’s still cheaper than buying big ticket items!
Some cities have free walking tours. When you research online, see what you can find!
Love street art? Most cities have gorgeous murals! Look online to find the best of where you’ll be. I can spend days doing this...
Libraries are great resources, both with their collections and art, and with the information you can gain just by asking at the information desk about events, music, theatre, and book readings.
Want to take a tour of the Great Barrier Reef? It’s pretty expensive! But did you know that just down the road at Cape Tribulation, you’ll find cheaper tours (and smaller tours) than at Cairns?
Thinking you’d like to head to a concert, but can’t afford the tickets? Universities often have free concerts from their music (and theatre) departments…and the talent is extraordinary!
What to Bring Home
We’ve all seen those signs:
Take only memories, leave only footprints.
That’s a genius concept, but sometimes we want a little bit more of a place to come home with us. Here are a few of our tried and true budget souvenirs: Visit a local market and purchase art or textiles (I love linen towels and scarves!). You’ll not only have a locally made product, but a memory of shopping for it, and talking with the artist.
Did you find a favorite coffee shop on your journey (of course you did!). Buy a bag of your favorite roast, and a mug to go along with it. The coffee will be consumed happily, and your mug will remind you of many happy and delicious times.
Keep your tickets and programs, and make a collage at home.
Buy a cd from a street musician (especially if you sat there, entranced, for a while, listening!).
What are your best budget travel tips?