9 Budget Tips to Make Travel Your Ultimate Priority + 7 to Make Your Travel Budget Go Further

This ultimate guide to budget travel tips is meant to help anyone who has dreamed of having adventures but isn’t sure where to start.

Table of Contents

Maybe you want to maximize your PTO to visit San Diego, or perhaps you’re thinking about taking a road trip but aren’t sure where to start.

Whether you’re looking to explore locally around the US, or your next International adventure you’re in the right place.

To help you plan your next trip no matter your budget, find some helpful resources plus 17 tips on budget travel below.

Budget Travel in the USA

Budget Travel Globally

Budget Travel Tips

Tips for Budgeting to Travel More

1. Create A Budget

This nearly goes without saying, but if you are trying to stick to a cheap travel budget the first thing you need to do is write it out! 

Our first year of budgeting full-time was spent just tracking our expenses. 

We created a spreadsheet on Google Docs and split it out into categories like Monthly Bills, Groceries, Transportation, Eating Out/Dates, Personal Purchases, and other miscellaneous categories.

Specifically, to do this for budget travel, try to track or backtrack the expenses from your last several trips. How much did you spend on food, excursions, shopping, hotel stay, and travel, and for how many days? 

Also, pay attention to the general cost of the area and use that to project your next trip. Going to Europe for a week could be more expensive than in Latin America, for example, but it depends on where you are and what you do. 

Now that you know the general cost of your trip, you can start saving up for it.

After creating our budget spreadsheet, we just input every expense that we made and categorized it. After creating this habit of tracking our spending and gaining an idea of what we would realistically need, we started to write out the budget goals for each category to track our income and where the money would go for each month.

We even plan out how much of our savings goes to each category – one of which is specific to travel. That way, instead of just looking at our savings and trying to force a trip out of it, we can save up and be strategic about making travel a financial priority.

This helps us look at realistic goals for saving and prioritizing travel with our budget. By doing this we have been able to travel to places like Paris and Hawaii while my husband was still in graduate school on a student budget!

2. Unsubscribe

Cancel that subscription! One quick way to save up a few dollars here and there is to stop those monthly subscriptions that could be draining your future travel fund. Make a list of all your monthly subscriptions and see which ones you can comfortably eliminate. 

Try to compare their importance with your goal to travel more. If you can, try to eliminate them all! Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Stitch Fix, Ipsy, Youtube Red, Dollar Shave Club, Spotify, Rent the Runway, Trunk Club, Try the World, Wine Clubs, the list goes on and on but these can really add up! Try to see if you can add this monthly subscription to your travel fund instead.

We would much rather cancel our monthly subscriptions for a year and spend a week at this Costa Rican resort instead!

Swap going out for staying in

The next three tips focus on cooking at home instead of eating and drinking out. It sounds obvious – but sometimes it is!

3. Eat In

While this is certainly not my favorite piece of advice, it is an incredibly necessary one because though I dislike taking time to cook and eat in, I dislike being stuck at home instead of being on the beaches of Mexico even more! Looking back to tip #1, try to add up how much you are spending on meals out and delivery. For me, this was way more than I thought! Taking that extra time to plan out your meals and cook at home instead of eating out or ordering delivery can add up over time. Boom! That’s now in your travel budget.

4. Pack Lunch

Similar to tip #3, bring food from home instead of spending extra money on meals when you head to work. If you are going to be out and about for the day, pack some snacks because you know good and well you’re going to want to buy something out if not! Of course, it’s okay to treat yourself now and then, but in the long run, the less you spend now the more your travel savings will add up.

5. Make Coffee At Home

If you consider yourself a coffee connoisseur, it could save you some serious cash for travel if you invest in some nice coffee gear at home instead. While a quality espresso machine may be out of range, getting a nice brewing system, milk frother, or even a homemade creamer/syrup setup can be a great way to still have your morning treat without forking over $4-$10 a morning. Imagine how quickly that can add up, and possibly cover your eating-out budget on the next trip instead! If you don’t like fancy coffee, try just getting a coffee maker with a timer to help you brave those early mornings with a hot cup in hand on your way to work without needing to stop in the local cafe.

Palm Trees on the Big Island in Hawai’i – budget traveling can take you far for less!

6. Use what you have

Not only is “shopping your home” a great economical decision, but it is also sustainable. This is a tried and true method that many low-budget travelers are very familiar with. They say “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” or in this case, don’t replace it!

Don’t feel pressured to buy all the things you don’t have on a packing list or the newest gadget release. If you can make what you have work, use that instead of buying something new!

We do this to a ridiculous level, even reusing pretty candle tins as containers around the house and empty spaghetti jars for leftovers. This is a green decision that will save you some green.

7. Use Public Transportation

Not everybody has this option, but for those of us who live in a city with public transportation, taking advantage of this can save us hundreds of dollars. I have a coworker who lives not very far from me but spends hundreds of dollars a month on transportation through ride shares, while I spend $0 on public transportation to the office and around. 

The downside to this is that you pay with your time, and you end up toting around a lot of things because you can’t leave them in your car. The upsides? No searching for parking, worrying about car insurance or having it broken into, and oh yea, a weekend in Hawaii.

8. Buy Reusable

If you do have to replace items, try replacing them with longer-lasting or reusable options. For example, we have stopped buying things like cotton face pads, paper napkins, and Ziploc bags. To initially purchase the reusable options is an investment, but over time as you don’t have to keep replacing the disposable options, this will save you money!

9. Minimize Bills (Where Possible)

For some, this is as easy as living at home with mom and dad. If this isn’t an option for you, like it isn’t for us, try to do this in other ways. One way to prioritize your travel budget and save money on bills could be living with roommates or splitting your phone bill with friends. 

For us, it meant living in a smaller cheaper apartment with utilities included, and not owning a car. This isn’t the most glam option, but I’m not even thinking about it when I’m lying on a beach in Hawaii – just saying!

How To Make Your Travel Budget Go Further

Now you have all this extra cash saved up from your dedicated budget scams. Now what? Here is how we make our travel money take us further on a budget!

1. Stay Local

For me, the two biggest costs of a trip are travel and accommodations – staying somewhere local can easily cut out one or both from your travel budget. Sometimes you can spend years living in a place and never see it as a tourist does – so try being a tourist in your own town! 

Look up an old fashion tour guide, visit a museum or two, or just head off to explore with no plan. This is a great way to get a mini adventure in on a dime and makes for a great host when visitors come to town.

Granville Market in Vancouver, BC, Canada – exploring a local farmer’s market is a great way to be sustainable and budget friendly at the same time.

2. Research Ahead Of Time And Compare Prices

A little research makes your budget go a long way, so it’s time to pull out your Pinterest! This tip can be time-consuming, so if you’d rather save your time be willing to pay a bit more for your trip. For me, the research before a trip might be time-consuming but it is one of the ways I start to get excited about the upcoming vacation! 

For example, on our trip to Paris, we learned we could visit the neighboring Champagne region and go wine tasting. There were a lot of tours offering round trip service from Paris, but it was loads cheaper to take a train into Reims and bus around to the Champagne houses, so we decided to do this instead.

Be sure to keep a document with ideas of things to do and the cost as you go so you can reference back to it. A bonus is that when it’s time to leave, you’ve already done all the work and can relax and enjoy the trip and your wallet can too! Some of my favorite ways to look through ideas are:

  • Pinterest – you can search specific topics and save them onto boards and sub-boards, making it easy to organize. Follow us on Pinterest here!
  • Instagram – there is now a great feature to save posts and organize them into collections. You can also search by location and hashtag. Check out our Instagram here for lots of travel tips!
  • Youtube- many of my friends and travel buddies love to subscribe to travel vloggers on Youtube. This is a great way to see things to do in a place + get travel inspo.
  • Subscribe- blogger subscriptions are free and we put a ton of time and research into creating travel guides and travel tips for our subscribers so you don’t have to do as much work!

3. Go Where & When The Deals Are, Or Travel Off-Season

Use search sites like Google Flights, Hopper, Skyscanner, or Momondo to search for the cheapest flights to your destination or sign up for services like Travel Pirates or Scotts Cheap Flights who do this for you and email you when flights to any destination take a dip.

This is how we flew round trip to Paris from Seattle for $320 last March for my birthday! If you are more flexible with your dates, travel when it’s cheaper, and if you are more flexible on location, you can use the Google Flights search engine to see where the cheapest destinations are from your given location.

Keep in mind the destination’s general costs as well; for example, flights to Iceland might be cheap but food, gas, and accommodations will more than make up for what you save.

If you aren’t able to be flexible about spontaneous deals or want to travel somewhere specific, consider going during the off-season. Typically, this will be in colder months, unless your destination is popular for winter sports and festivities. For example, we scored round-trip tickets to Paris from Seattle for around $330 per person and traveled during the winter.

A crepe is held up in front of the Eiffel Tower - traveling on a budget can still be fun!
Traveling on a budget can still be fun! We snagged these budget flights to Paris in the off-season and still had an incredible time.

We were bundled up, but starry-eyed because Paris is always a good idea, as they say. If you want to visit a certain destination, try doing a bit of research about their high and low seasons, and save some of your budget on cheaper accommodations and travel costs. However, make sure you find out that the things you want to do are still available.

When we went to Paris, many things were closed due to the slow season and the bitter cold. We couldn’t go to the top of Notre Dame because of the temperatures and many cafes and champagne houses were closed.

4. Again, Eat In

Unfortunately, eating out can eat up a lot of your travel budget, so getting groceries and cooking during your stay is one way to stretch your travel budget a little further. Rent a place with a kitchen and hit up the local market or grocery store. You can try out new ingredients or even take a cooking class with the money you saved on eating out, and then try your hand at recreating the dishes back at your hostel or hotel.

5. Choose Local Accommodations

Ahhhh, hotel stays can be luxurious and relaxing, but consider looking into local accommodations to save on your travel budget. A local bed and breakfast, for example, could possibly cost less and give you a more personal touch PLUS breakfast. 

You can also look up shared homes on websites like Airbnb, just make sure you read the reviews and confirm the listing is reliable.

If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to save $55 on your first stay!

Another option is to stay in a hostel, as these days a hostel can come in a wide range from grungy backpacker party hostels, to more upscale digs that can rival a hotel. Finally, if you are determined to travel but spend as little as possible, you can camp out, rent a sleeper van, or even go Couchsurfing for free. That’s how we ended up road-tripping around the Big Island of Hawai’i for my birthday one year – planning to camp around the island for a budget trip!

A wooden structure with a sign that says "Kara Creek Salon" is decorated with horse ranch decor - staying in homeshares like this are a great budget travel tip!
On a cross-country road trip we stayed at this ranch to avoid camping in extreme temperatures – staying in homeshares like this are a great budget travel tip!

6. Use Public Transportation, Or Walk

We know this isn’t an option at every destination, but if it is then we recommend using it! Most places with a metro line will even have daily, weekly, and monthly passes that can save you money depending on how long your trip will be. 

Buses can also be a great option, and you also see more of the local life where you are – just be sure to do your research to get on and off at the right stop! Walking is also such a great option because it allows you to see more of the area that you would never see if you just drove around everywhere. You can walk off all that delicious food on your trip, get to know the area better, and save money too. Win–win–win!

7. Cash In On Miles And Points

An easy way to rack up free travel money is to sign up for rewards programs for airlines and hotels. Sometimes they can even pay into each other. These programs are free and you’re throwing away free travel credit when you don’t sign up. If you have recently traveled, you can often go ahead and sign up and backdate the credit if it wasn’t too long ago.

If you are budget savvy and won’t be tempted, try signing up for a credit card, especially one from an airline, to cash in on a bonus miles offer. Our advice is to only do this when you already have the cash to pay it off. Getting into debt isn’t going to save you any money, so if the temptation is there, it might be better to skip this tip.

Standing in front of a mural in Montemartre in Paris, France. We walked nearly 10 miles a day and used the metro to get around, saving us a ton of money on this budget trip!

Hopefully these budget travel tips can help you save money and travel to more places.

Of course, a final option to afford more travel is to have a career in travel. Have you considered ramping up your remote skills, or possibly working for an airline? There are endless possibilities, both for a 9-5 job and as a remote employee who can travel.

Where are you headed to next? Let us know which tips work the best for you and what you would add to the list in the comments! 

Need some inspiration? Check out our travel destinations for inspiration, itineraries, and travel tips.

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A pinterest pin with images of the Brookyln Bridge, Tulum ruins in Mexico, Smith Park in Oregon, and Guatape in Colombia along with text that reads "Budget Travel Tips"

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  1. I couldn’t agree more with all these tips! Once I started analyzing my regular spending, my travel money was hidden behind lattes and impulse buys. Now, I couldn’t imagine spending my disposable income on anything but travel!

    -Sarah // https://www.sarahltravels.com/

  2. These are some great tips! Especially about reusable items because it’s not just great for your wallet: it’s great for the planet. Talk about a win-win. I would also add to look at free activities you can do at your destination. For instance, lots of museums in Europe offer free admission on the first Sunday of every month. I love doing Free Walking Tours because they tend to be better than the pre-booked tours, but you’re only paying the guide a tip. And sometimes there are equally beautiful, but less famous sights that don’t come with a crazy pricetag.

    1. Yes – these are also great things to add! We almost always look up free museum days when we travel. In Seattle its the first Thursday of the Month, in NYC on Fridays, etc. I often forget about the free walking tours, but those are great too. Thanks for including these!

  3. I agree with all you’ve mentioned above. We can travel stylish without overspending and opt for alternative means.

  4. I think the big thing is to choose local accommodation and not to side with these big corporate giants! It can be a touch less "convenient," but WAY less expensive.

    1. So true! In addition to saving coin you’re also putting money into a small business rather than a corporation which makes a huge difference for the local owners and gets you more in touch with the place you are visiting. So many pros.

  5. These are definitely incredibly informative and helpful budget tips that if followed can help save money for travel. Traveling off-season is truly so much more budget-friendly but with schools off in summer, at the moment we end up planning most of our extended vacations during that time which does require planning well in advance to keep the trip budget in check. Your tip regarding taking the train into Reims and then bus to Champagne sounds great! So true about canceling some subscriptions – those can really add up to the monthly expense and cutting down those for a short period to save for a future trip sounds worthwhile.

  6. These are some great tips on how to save money for travel. I totally agree that eating in and cutting down those subscriptions can go a long way. And yeah, it is true that eating out while traveling does use up a lot of funds. Cooking and eating in is great advice.

  7. I do agreed for all recommend for travel in budget. Stay local and use public transportation are both greatest ways for the budget travelers. Normally I traveled with my friend as budget traveler also. We walk for travel around in the local city. We cooked by ourselves to save money and we try to travel especially low season to save hotel price. The topic is so useful for everyone who want to travel many times a year with less budget.

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