Ever wonder how some people afford to travel so much? We all aren’t going on Instagram sponsored trips or racking in millions every day to do it! But I for sure have picked up tons of budget travel secrets from my last few years of traveling. I travel often in big periods of time, usually the whole summer, with a few trips in between the rest of the year. So I have to sustain my money to get me through months of traveling!
The amazing thing about this blog is that I have the opportunity to share everything I’ve learned with people like you who love to travel and want to do it more!
I’ve divided my secrets into four main categories of travel to help organize them – flights, accommodation, food, and activities
Hopefully there’s tips in here that you didn’t know about and will be able to use for your future travels!
Some of these links are affiliate links, meaning if you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my full disclosure!
Budget Travel Secrets for Flights
Know the Travel Season
Getting a good deal on a flight could easily depend on when you’re traveling. When looking into your destination, research what their high and low tourist season is to best know when to plan your trip.
You can use the app Hopper to get an idea of how flight prices for your destination are going to change over time.
Obviously, most people travel on holidays and in the summer when vacations are more possible. Depending on the destination, there are also local holidays to keep in mind. In August in Italy for example, it is their holiday month, meaning Italians are all on holiday, lots of things are closed, and accommodation/flights will be more expensive.
Just like any other travel research, get to know your destination to see if its the right fit for your budget at the time you have available to travel. It will always be cheaper to let your availability dictate your destination if you’re flexible about where you want to travel.
Use Cheap Flight Databases as a Baseline
Websites like Skyscanner have grown in popularity in the last few years for seemingly offering super cheap flights. What Skyscanner does is gather prices from other flight search engines and compile them to their database, as well as pair up flights/airlines that are separate bookings.
Sometimes it can be an amazing resource and you find a super cheap, trustworthy flight!
But I find most of the time there are too many hurdles with Skyscanner. A lot of their options are super long flights, require you to transfer airports, or once you click on the actual flight, you see the website with the lowest price is not really trustworthy.
This is why I recommend using Skyscanner mainly as a baseline to see what it can find for cheap flights. Then, compare it to more established flight search engines or the airline booking directly.
A feature that Skyscanner has though that could really benefit a budget traveler is their “Everywhere” feature. You can literally just search for the cheapest flights to anywhere, which could be perfect for a budget traveler who doesn’t have a specific destination in mind.
They also have daily flight deals if you’re spontaneous!
Book Directly Through Airline
Honestly, I almost always book my flights directly through the airline. It’s not the most common “budget secret” that a traveler would recommend, but I find it’s almost always the best flight route for the fairest price, and it’s also the most trustworthy.
There are also perks to booking straight through airlines. You can earn miles if you join their rewards programs (which are usually free) that you can use towards other flights.
There are also some really low fares they offer if you are not bringing luggage – for example, United Basic Economy is half the price sometimes of a regular Economy flight if you’re going carry on only. This could be perfect for weekend getaways (or if you’re an amazing packer!)
While not as popular in the US, low-cost airlines offer super cheap fares in places like Europe. RyanAir and EasyJet are two of the most well-known.
Of course, while the fare is super cheap, if you bring a bag or want any kind of extra, it’s going to cost you.
But if you’re a budget traveler ready to simplify and get the best deal, budget airlines are the perfect way to see so many places for so little money.
Did you know the prices of flights are also determined by the area from which you are searching? Our browsers have our location and depending on where you are, flights can be more expensive.
Using an incognito browser and VPN allows you to change your location on your computer to somewhere that if perhaps less affluent in order to get cheaper rates.
One thing about being a young traveler is that there are actually specific resources and opportunities out there to make travel more affordable and possible.
One of those resources is StudentUniverse, which is a flight search engine specifically for travelers 26 years old and younger to get discounted flights as well as coupon codes for specific destinations!
You can also find discounted hotel and car rental rates at StudentUniverse. Sometimes, there isn’t much of a difference in price from normal sites. But other times it makes a HUGE difference! It just depends on your destination and availability.
And why not check out the discounts and see if they have a promo that applies to you!?
Budget Travel Secrets for Accommodation
Airbnb Travel Credits
One of my favorite ways to travel is Airbnb. I love being able to stay in an apartment and in a local spot of town and of course it saves me money!
You can find very affordable options for Airbnb compared to hotels. Even better? You can earn travel credit by referring friends.
By sending them your link to sign up, they will get a travel credit to use on their first stay, and one their first stay is completed, you receive a travel credit for referring them! The credit is anywhere from $25-$35. It may not sound like much, but it’s literally free money!
Update: Apparently, Airbnb has stopped their referral program for travel credits. I’m not sure if it will ever resume in the future (I hope it does!) but you can read more about it here.
If you’re a die-hard traveler, use holidays like Christmas, your birthday, or whatever you celebrate and receive gifts from to ask for accommodation gift cards!
Airbnb takes gift cards, as well as almost every major hotel chain or search engines, like Marriott or Hotels.com!
I find that at the end of the day, finding a place you are comfortable staying in and at a good price comes down to research.
You have to do a lot of comparing between sites, as well as applying the features that are most important to you to every search.
Always start your accommodation search with what is necessary for you – if you have a car, look at places with parking available, if you want to cook, make sure there’s a kitchen, etc.
Also, research the location. The closer you are to the city center, the more you are most likely going to pay.
However, if you don’t have a car, staying in the city center may be a cheaper option for you because then you wouldn’t be spending money on transportation to get to the main areas you want to see.
Hostels as a whole get an interesting reputation. I believe it’s because there are so many different kinds of hostels and levels of quality between accommodations.
If you’re the most budget-conscious traveler, a hostel is for you. You can find super cheap hostels that are basically a place to sleep with no real amenities.
But there are also some hostels that have the amenities, private rooms, and other features that are still at a low price but maybe have a bit more comfort than what you traditionally picture as a hostel.
I’ve written quite a lot about hostels already (they are great places to make friends, are they safe for female travelers, etc.) I continue to suggest my favorite hostel chain, Generator hostels as well as Hostelworld.com, which is basically the hub of finding hostels that fit your preferences and budget.
Budget Travel Secrets for Food
Eating out is one of the most costly parts of traveling. It’s also a part of the fun! So, I’d always include some eating out into your budget.
But I also think one of the best ways to save money is to cook! Especially if you are staying in one place for a while.
Groceries are obviously much cheaper than restaurant food and you can really customize how much food you need.
Eat Local, Not in City Centers
In most places, the main squares and areas of the city center full of the main attractions are also full of tourist trap restaurants. The food is not the best and it’s overpriced, but it’s in a convenient area to attract visitors like you!
To save money, all you have to do is go off the beaten path just a little bit. Seek out local restaurants just a few blocks from those main restaurants.
I find it’s also best to plan ahead when you are eating out. If you research restaurants on TripAdvisor or Culture Trip, you can see the menu and prices before. Therefore, you’re not scrambling to just eat anywhere because you’re hungry and you end up overpaying.
Start with Less, Order More if You’re Hungry
I find this is a way I can save money even in my daily life! Sometimes, I don’t have the biggest appetite and I completely end up over-ordering food.
Another huge reason why this is important is that outside of the US, for example in Europe, there are no “doggy bags.” You can’t box up the food and save it for later.
That means anything you don’t eat is money wasted! Plus, avoiding overeating is one of the best ways to stay fit while traveling.
That’s why I try to start with ordering a normal plate of food and then see if I’m still hungry to take a side dish, a dessert, another plate – whatever it is!
Pack Snacks & Lunches
One thing you can do to save money, even if you opt for a hotel room which wouldn’t have a kitchen, is to buy snacks and lunch food at the grocery store to save money on eating out.
Creating a picnic is not only a memorable experience, but it also saves you money. No tipping, no cover charge, no dinner bill – just some snacks and great company in a beautiful location!
Budget Travel Secrets for Activities
Free City Events & Museum Days
One of my favorite ways to see as much as possible when traveling on a budget is taking advantage of free things to do!
Some cities/countries have days in the month where museums are free to enter!
And another example, if there’s a church you would like to see, attend mass on Sunday (if you’re comfortable with that of course!)
Furthermore, look up events happening in the city you’re traveling to!
This allows you to experience places more as a local as well rather than a tourist. You might see some amazing places that you didn’t know about because they’re not on the tourist radar.
Know What to Skip & What’s a Must Do
I think of all the budget travel secrets, it all comes down to one thing – balance.
Overall, I believe a good budget travel plan is all about give and take. You budget on one thing, so you can splurge on another.
At the end of the day, when we travel we want to see and experience as much as possible! If you’re traveling on a budget, prioritize what is a must-do for you.
Take time to browse Pinterest, write your must-do lists, and research them before your trip!
This way you have the time to prepare and work those experiences into your budget, rather than be unprepared and lose track of your spending!
Free Walking Tours
Another amazing way to see all the famous sites or local neighborhoods along your travels is walking tours. Often, you can find self-guided walking tour maps through a city’s tourism agency or through bloggers like myself!
Many hostels also offer free walking tours at specific times during the week!
General Budget Travel Secrets
- Get a SIM Card for your phone. – If you’re traveling for a long period of time, it will be much cheaper to buy a SIM card where you’re traveling than paying for the international use of your home phone plan.
- Opt to use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. Read my full guide on using ATMs and money abroad for more savings tips.
- Don’t forget to factor in extra expenses on your travel budget plan that you don’t always think about. (i.e. parking, tolls, etc.)
- Pack LESS! Make sure to leave extra room in your luggage for souvenirs and stuff you’ll buy along the way. You don’t want to end up paying overage charges for an overweight bag because they get so expensive!
Do you have any budget travel secrets you wanna spill? Tell me in the comments!
Don’t forget to pin these budget travel tips to your Pinterest!
Traveling can actually be more affordable than you think if you budget the right way! Hopefully these budget travel secrets will have you rethinking how you travel in the future so you can travel more and spend less!