9 Budget Tips to Make Travel Your Ultimate Priority + 7 to Make Your Travel Budget Go Further
Make 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. We then literally 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 in order to track our income and where the money would go for each month. 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 is still in graduate school!
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 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.
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.
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 really add up over time. Boom that’s now in your travel budget!
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 every now and then, but in the long run the less you spend out the more your travel savings will add up.
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 set up 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.
Use what you have
Not only is “shopping your home” a great economical decision, 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 pressure 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.
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 literally 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.
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!
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!
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 like 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.
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 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!
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 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 to 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. 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 the cheaper accommodations and travel costs. However, make sure you find out 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 the Notre Dame because of the temperatures, and many cafes and champagne houses were closed.
Again, Eat In
Unfortunately, eating out can really 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 taking 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.
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 use this link to book your stay, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you, so thanks for helping support this site!
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 between grungy backpacker party hostels, to more upscale digs that can rival a hotel. Finally, if you are really 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!
Use Public Transportation, or Walk
We know this isn’t an option at every destination, but if it is then we recommend to use 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!
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 back date 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.
Hopefully these budget tips can help you save money and travel cheaper. 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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