How to Travel Cheap:
See More of the World for Less Money

How to travel cheap

How to travel cheap?

That’s the question many of us are asking ourselves after almost a year of being stuck at home during the pandemic.

While we may not be ready to book our plane tickets quite yet, it’s not too early to start planning your next getaway. In fact, planning early is often one of the best ways to save money.

Traveling doesn’t have to break the bank.

This article offers advice on how to travel cheap with tips from frequent travelers.

Keep reading for tips on…

Planning Your Next Vacation


Decide Where to Go

Where to next?

The distance from your preferred travel destination is likely to impact the cost of your trip, so it is wise to plan ahead.

If you are just looking for a quick getaway to a quiet beach (no specific beach in particular), you might be able to find something close to home and save some money.

Otherwise, if your destination is far from home, expect to pay more.  

From my home in Los Angeles, CA, the cost to fly to Europe vs. Asia is roughly about the same. 

However, there are many locations in Asia where the dollar stretches very far once you land.  Everything from food, souvenirs and lodging is usually cheaper than most European countries. Plus, they have amazing beaches that are probably on your bucket list, and they are definitely worth checking out. 

While most Western European countries are either on-par or more expensive than many parts of the USA, there are places you can go in Central / Eastern Europe that have that old-world charm and are reasonably affordable if you are willing to stroll off the beaten path.


Decide When to Go

Being flexible is the key to capitalizing on great travel deals.

If you want to go to Paris in the middle of the summer to take amazing pictures by the Eiffel Tower… 

That’s great! But so does everyone else. 

Airfare, lodging, and even tours are likely to be more expensive because there are plenty of other tourists to fill those airplane seats and hotel rooms.

Traveling during the off season will not only allow you to save money on your expenses, but you will also beat the crowds and escape the summer heat. 

Timing is everything.


Decide What to Do

Before any trip, I like to book tours and tickets to attractions ahead of time whenever possible. 

This allows me to thoroughly research my destination and compare pricing of different tours so that I know I’m seeing what I want to see for a price that works with my budget.

Sure, you might be able to find deals that are not listed online once you land, but I’d rather spend my vacation time doing vacation activities as opposed to doing research.

Paying for Stuff


Cash or Credit?

Ahh the age-old question… cash or credit?

When I travel, I like to have a few bills in the local currency to give as tips and just in case I happen to dine at one of those weird restaurants that don’t accept credit cards (like it’s the dark ages or something).

But for the vast majority of my purchases, I will use a credit card.  

Paying with credit allows me to track my spending electronically, allows me to earn loads of rewards points, and limits my potential losses if my wallet were to get stolen.  You can easily freeze your account and replace your credit card, but any cash you carry will likely be gone.  

Be sure that you are using a credit card that does not charge a transaction fee for international purchases. 

If you want to learn how to travel cheap, this is an easy way to save 3% in fees on all of your purchases overseas.

Unlocking Travel Perks


People like free stuff.

Airlines and hotels definitely know this, so most of them have launched their own loyalty programs that reward repeat customers with free flights, free hotel stays, free upgrades, and other exclusive perks.

Even though it might take longer to earn a free flight with most airlines now awarding miles based on the price of your ticket, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. 

It’s easy to sign up and won’t cost you a thing.  

Plus, if you open up a travel rewards credit card, you’ll be on the fast track to earning status, bonus perks, and points towards your next vacation.  Many cards even offer huge sign-up bonuses to new cardholders which can equal a free flight or a few nights at a hotel just for opening an account!

Many people who want to learn how to travel cheap underestimate the power of travel rewards programs and how they can help you make your dream vacation a reality.

Accumulating Rewards Faster


You might think that you’ll never be able to accrue enough points or miles to redeem for that dream vacation unless you travel for work or take a lot of vacations.  

While this may be true for some folks, many people earn more points by using their travel rewards card to make everyday purchases than they ever would traveling for work.   

Even if I’ve said it before, this bears repeating: “Get yourself a travel rewards card.”

The benefits of opening a travel credit card boils down to two things: points and perks.

Points

You’ll obtain bonus points or miles for every hotel stay or airfare purchase, but don’t forget you’ll likely earn points on things you pay for regularly like gas, lunch, and your cell phone bill.

These points can be redeemed for free flights, upgrades, or free night stays.  And YOU get to choose when and where you use them.

If you're serious about learning how to travel cheap, save your points and redeem them for free nights or flights. These are often your biggest expenses, so getting them for free will do wonders for your budget.

Perks

Additional perks of owning a travel rewards credit card are numerous.  

If it’s an airline credit card, you’ll likely get free checked bags, priority boarding, and perhaps even lounge access.  

If it’s a hotel card, you’ll likely get free room upgrades, complimentary breakfast, and maybe even free night stays.

Additionally, many cards offer airport lounge access, protections in case your flight is canceled, and no fees when using your card overseas.

Getting There and Getting Around


In the Air

Save money on flights

After you have your destination set and you’re visualizing all the adventures you’re about to have, it’s time to figure out how to get there.

If it’s more than a few hours’ drive from hone, chances are you’re probably going to get there in a plane. 

With ticket prices fluctuating daily and numerous search engine options out there, buying airfare can be overwhelming.

However, knowing how to do your research and finding the best deal can save you hundreds of dollars.  

You probably know that you can earn free flights by earning miles, but did you know that airfare is often cheaper for flights departing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays?

That’s right.  Learn how to travel cheap and get the best deal by using the strategies outlined in the link below. 

>> Learn More: How to Save Money on Flights


On the Ground

Once I arrive at my destination, I’ll likely take a cab to my hotel for the least hassle approach and to get settled quickly.

I might consider taking the metro / subway if available to save money, assuming there is a stop nearby the hotel.

Once I drop off my bags and am ready to explore, I typically try to get around the city like the locals do.  Afterall, the locals know how to travel cheap since they do it every day.

This means taking the metro, riding a tuk-tuk, and even using the ferry service to get around. 

Cabs are often the easiest and most direct approach no matter where you are, but can be pricey.  In some countries, like Thailand, cabs are dirt cheap and are probably your best mode of transportation.

While not as widely available as in the U.S., rideshare is becoming more and more common in other parts of the world.

Where to Stay


Hotels

Clean hotel room

There are many options for lodging once you arrive at your destination, but hotels are obviously the most common.

I have stayed at hidden gems and locally-owned boutique hotels, but sometimes I opt to stay at a major chain hotel just because you know what you’re going to get.

It may not be fancy, but you can expect a certain level of cleanliness that is most welcome after a day of exploring in a foreign place.

Prices vary of course, but smartly shopping for hotels is a huge part in knowing how to travel cheap.

Use a site like Hotels.com to browse the available inventory of rooms from all chains and boutique hotels. Then compare that price against the price to book directly with the hotel.   

As stated previously, being flexible with your vacation timing will help you chances of getting a nice room at a great price.

Finally, remember that loyalty to a hotel chain has its rewards.  If there’s a hotel brand where you often stay, consider joining its rewards program. 

Staying a few nights and unlocking benefits like late checkout, room upgrades, free stays, executive lounge access, and free breakfast make your travel that much more enjoyable and can save you money as well.


Hostels

Just the word “hostel” can conjure up images of bad, low-budget horror films.  While the reality is not that extreme, hostels can be a bit of a mixed bag.

I’ve stayed at a hostel in Paris that was very much like you’d expect: full of backpackers and college kids sharing bathrooms and sleeping spaces. I’ve also stayed at a hostel in Edinburgh where I had a spacious room with a hot tub and a delicious free breakfast.

If you’re ok with sharing a living space and are focusing on how to travel cheap, staying in a hostel can be a great way to save money.

Do your research online before booking a hostel.  Check out as many pictures and reviews as you can so that there are no surprises.


Air BNB

Like hostels, booking an Airbnb can be a bit of a mixed bag.

I’ve heard stories of people renting spacious vacation homes with an amazing view of the beach.  However, I’ve also experienced my own Airbnb horror story that has kept me away ever since. 

Even though a place I rented in London looked very nice from the pictures online, the place in person was anything but. I won’t get into the gory details, but let’s just say that the place was disgusting.  In fact, it was not even the unit I booked online. To top it off, the owner decided to ghost me when I questioned him about the place.

Luckily Airbnb quickly refunded my money, and I proceeded to the nearest Marriott where I knew I could count on a clean room.  

However, I hope that you never have to experience what I went through.  Renting an Airbnb can be a great way to save on lodging costs and stay in a local neighborhood, but just remember to do your research.  And then research some more.

Make it Happen


How to travel cheap

Hopefully some of these strategies on how to travel cheap save you money on your next trip.

For more money-saving ideas, check out this article.

And remember, all of this planning means nothing if you don’t take action.

Make a budget that works for you – set aside some money from every paycheck and stick with it! 

Set a goal to save the money you need by a certain date and make it happen.

The future you lounging poolside will thank you later.

Share Your Ideas on how to Travel Cheap


Now that you’ve heard my tips on how to travel cheap, help others do the same.

Share your best travel deals and how you found them in the comment box below.

We would love to hear from you!


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