In college, my friends would always ask me how to afford travel as a student?! I have been traveling since I can remember and I know some of the best travel saving tips so you can learn how to travel on a budget in your 20s!
I have been fortunate enough to have traveled for both work and leisure numerous times. I actually worked in the travel industry for 4 years and have realized you don’t need to be rich to travel.
You can travel on any budget and any income. You just have to be willing to do some research, be patient, and get out of your comfort zone!
Here are 20 ways to save money while traveling
1. Be Flexible
If you have a certain place you want to go, then be flexible about the time of year you travel. If you only have one week you can travel, then be flexible with the destination. It is almost impossible.
If you just HAVE to go to Paris in the Spring, you’re limiting yourself and missing out on great deals. Perhaps Paris in winter isn’t your dream and you hate the cold, but it’s still Paris!
Download the Skyscanner app and put the destination to ‘anywhere’ and look through the cheapest options. I booked a $30 flight to South Carolina doing this and it was one of the most random and fun weekend getaways I’ve ever had.
Another awesome benefit of this app is you can set up alerts so you get notified when a price drops. I have about 30 alerts up at a time for different trips I want to take. I was able to book a roundtrip ticket from Miami to London (no layovers) for $350 when regularly the price was over $600 thanks to this app.
2. Create a Travel Budget
It’s not a good idea to eyeball a trip. If you’re just swiping your credit card without any self-control or writing down your expenses, you’re going to find yourself a little bit (or a lot) shocked once your statement comes in. What you should do is set up a budget with how much you’re willing to spend on things such as transportation, lodging, food, and entertainment. It’s easy to get excited when you travel and want to enjoy yourself but having a set plan will actually allow you to enjoy your trip more (and not have to pay it off in the span of months after).
3. Pack Light
There is NO SHAME in repeating outfits on a trip. What is horrible is paying those absurdly high luggage fees airlines have. Try and pack only the essentials, you don’t need to take every top you’ve ever owned. Also, if you’re on a road trip, the lighter you pack the less you spend on gas plus the less wear and tear on your car. Win-Win.
4. Find ‘Hidden City Ticketing’
Hidden City Ticketing is pretty genius. It’s based on the idea that airlines price their tickets based on demand and not the distance traveled. For example, if I wanted to go from Miami to Denver, I might book a flight that is Miami -> Denver -> Calgary and just skip the last part. Keep in mind you should only travel with carry-on as your luggage will end up on the final destination point. Also, don’t book roundtrip, book two separate one-way tickets. If you skip the last leg many airlines will cancel the return trip thinking you never traveled.
If this seems like a lot of work, check out SkipLagged which does the research for you.
5. Travel during Shoulder Periods
Shoulder periods are off-peak times when prices for both airlines and hotels drop. They vary from country to country but are typically when children go back to school (September-ish), after New Years (early January) and after Spring Break (April). An added bonus is the places you visit won’t be as crowded as when you travel in peak season.
6. Find Cheap Destinations
Check out this years list of the Forbes list of 38 cheapest places to travel. Just because they’re wallet-friendly doesn’t mean they aren’t loads of fun. I also have a list of the 8 cheapest cities in Europe that are amazing! Your dollar really goes a long way here. Scroll through these posts and make a list of the ones you want to visit, then set up your alerts on the Skyscanner app (tip #1!) and wait for the prices to drop more!
7. Pack Snacks
Airport food is very much overpriced and you shouldn’t rely on eating out for every meal of the day. Pack a couple of protein bars or individual packets of pretzels (whatever you fancy) and take them with you on the trip. I typically pack one light snack per day so I don’t find myself paying outrageous prices on street food.
8. Earn Miles and Travel Rewards
There are plenty of credit cards that reward you with miles. I used to have one that was branded with American Airlines, but that becomes very limiting. I now recommend a card similar to Chase Sapphire Preferred because you can use the miles on different airlines. They have a $95 annual fee but that’s waived for the first year.
When getting a credit card that gives out miles, make sure they give you a sign-up bonus, the annual fee is waived, and you aren’t limited to a single airline.
9. Book Travel In The Middle Of The Week
It’s been rumored for years now that prices drop on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I have personally done some comparisons of the exact flights searched for on a Sunday and Tuesday and the prices do in fact drop. It isn’t a huge difference but a couple of dollars here and there really go a long way.
10. Browse Groupon Travel Packages
The travel packages on Groupon are incredible. I have seen many packages that include transportation and hotel for almost nothing, many of these are even all-inclusive. It’s not uncommon to see international packages for as low as $500 a person!
11. Catch Public Transportation Everywhere
Whatever the locals use to get around, use it. Rent a Citi bike, catch a train, tuk-tuk, anything. Just don’t travel in a taxi or get a driver. Your expenses for the day will nearly triple if you move around on a private transport.
Beyond saving money, it’s the greatest way to see the city the way locals do.
12. Take Overnight Trains
This is a win-win, not only will you not have to spend money on one night at a hotel, but you get where you need to go without taking time out of your precious daylight.
13. Spend More Time In Fewer Places
I know many of us get two weeks off a year and we want to see as much of the world as possible in that time frame, but when you are packing seven cities in 14 days (or something similarly exhausting), your costs will greatly rise. Just the transportation alone will double your trips cost. Slow down and really get to know a region.
14. Follow on Social Media
Companies are now releasing promotions and hot deal directly on social media. Follow your favorite hotels and airlines on Twitter/Facebook to be the first to know about these great deals.
15. Rent Apartments
A personal favorite of mine because I feel like I get a real local experience when I stay in an apartment or AirBnB. Iif you travel with a group and cook most of your meals, this option is a fantastic money saver. An added bonus is most AirBnB hosts are super friendly and can give you tips on what to do and see.
16. Stay in Hostels
Another option if you are traveling alone (or in a pair) is a hostel. Hostels are definitely not for everyone and you should compare carefully before booking. Search hostels worldwide at Hostel Zoo, a free hostel comparison site. A nice benefit of hostels is they are typically well located and save you money on transportation.
17. Walk as Much As You Can
Walking is free everywhere and although not an option in some cities, most European cities are very foot-traffic friendly. Pack a pair your comfiest sneakers and explore.
18. Rent a Bike
A cheaper option to many subways (especially in the UK) and faster than walking.
19. Eat Street Food
Street food is cheap, quick, and you see it being prepared directly in front of you. I especially like it because I can see if the ingredients are fresh or not, which is a real problem in some third-world countries.
20. Find Free Stuff To Do
Most cities offer a variety of free things to do. Go to a park. Explore a museum. Go to a street fair, market, o cultural event. Get lost in the city and just wander around. It’s amazing what you’ll find if you just open yourself up to the possibilities.