I was fresh out of college and finally had a paycheck of my own, I was ready for some adventures! But that paycheck was small and traveling on a tight budget requires some creativity. A lot of budget travel advice recommends intimidating or confusing hoops to jump through with flight bookings or credit card points I didn’t qualify for. Traveling that way felt unattainable, so I did it my way. Here are some attainable ways I’ve learned to travel the world on a budget and satisfy that travel bug without draining my bank account. No points scrounging or seedy airlines in this post!
1. Stay In A Hostel or a Cheap Hotel
A place to stay can easily eat away at most of your budget, so making concessions on accommodations can help.
Hostels are dorm-style rooms where you share a space with a few other people. Hostels have gender-specific or co-ed rooms and contain lockers for securing your stuff. The prices vary depending on location and the number of people, but you can find hostels from $20 – $80. The pricier the town, the costlier the hostel. Select a hostel with a kitchen to cook your own meals so you can be even more frugal. Check out HostelWorld for your next travel destination.
If you prefer more privacy, consider staying in a hotel on the outskirts of town or one that doesn’t have amenities. Hotels are also more expensive over the weekend and peak season, so you if you have the flexibility the best time to travel is mid week and the off season.
2. Travel Cheaply On A Cruise
Off-season cruises can cost as little as $400 or $500 for one week. Once on the ship, you don’t have to spend any money; all meals and entertainment are included. Entertainment options range from stand-up comedy, poolside games, trivia, and more! If your budget allows, shore there are several affordable excursions or you can explore on your own. If you research ahead of time, you may find some excursions cheaper directly from the vendor rather than through the cruise line, but if you are delayed getting back to the ship they may not wait for you.
Carnival Cruise Lines offers the Early Saver Price Protection, which guarantees the lowest price (as advertised on Carnival) if booked 91+ days in advance. It’s simple: if the price of the cruise drops below what you paid, you’ll fill out a form and they will either reduce your fare or give you onboard credit. To have your fare reduced instead of getting onboard credit, I recommend paying the deposit and waiting to pay the remaining balance until the last minute.
3. Cook or Bring Your Own Food
The cheapest way to eat is to limit the number of times you eat out to once or twice a day instead of every meal; that way you can still get the local travel experience without blowing your budget. Pick up a few staples a local grocery store and bring on-the-go meals with you while you explore. My friends laugh at me when I cram oatmeal, peanut butter, and protein bars in my suitcase, but bringing non-perishables from home to avoid elevated prices in places with a higher cost of living is another way save.
4. Go Camping
Everything about camping is budget-friendly. Camping comes with a low-cost “room with a view”, cooking, a BYOB policy, free activities, and no pet fees. Not to mention time in nature and time away from electronics is great for your health.
5. Travel With Friends
Reduce the cost of travel expenses by sharing the burden with your friends. Splitting the cost of hotels and rental cars bring the price person down.
6. Road Trips are the Cheapest Way To Travel
It’s about the journey, not the destination. Flying to a destination can be costly, especially if you are flying somewhere remote that requires a rental car. Make driving a part of the vacation by finding interesting stops along the way. In 2016 I road-tripped from Austin to Arizona and New Mexico, stopping at several national and state parks along the way. An 8-day vacation cost me less than $300 because we split the cost of the car, gas, campgrounds, entrance fees, and food. See how I combined tips 3, 4, 5, & 6 to make one affordable vacation?