Traveling on a Budget: Ways to Save and Enjoy

Tara Seboldt
Mar 08, 2022

Planning a vacation can be a lot of fun—until you look at the cost. Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean you have to give up unique experiences.

There are plenty of ways to save money on travel, follow COVID-19 precautions, and have a memorable trip.

Check out our top tips for traveling on a budget below. 

Traveling On a Budget Tips

Whether you’re planning a solo getaway or a group trip, saving money is always a plus.

Plan an affordable vacation using these budget travel tips.

1. Save Money Using Apps

Technology can help you cut your travel costs. Apps like Skyscanner or Hopper help you save on airfare when booking flights.

You can use apps to track flight prices to your destination. They’ll send you a notification when cheap flights become available.

2. Get a Travel Rewards Credit Card

Travel credit cards can be a great way to save money on travel. Most let you earn rewards like airline miles or travel miles each time you make a purchase.

You can redeem these points for travel, such as hotel stays or rental cars. Just be sure you use your credit card responsibly in order to avoid going into credit card debt.

3. Go in the Off-Season

Some vacations will cost more during different times of the year. You can get nearly the same experience and save a lot of money by going in the off-season.

This is when fewer people are going to the destination. Lodging and other travel costs are lower due to lower demand.

You also get the benefit of safer travel by avoiding peak-season crowds. 

4. Consider Alternative Lodging

Traditional hotels tend to be expensive and come with a lot of added costs—such as resort fees or Wi-Fi charges. Looking at other options can help you save.

For example, hostels are cheap alternatives for solo travelers. You’ll rent a bed in a dorm room instead of an entire room. Make sure you choose a hostel with rules and guidelines that you’re comfortable with.

If you’re traveling as a group, an Airbnb could be cheaper than a hotel, per person. Rather than paying for individual hotel rooms, your group can go in on a condo or house that fits everyone.

Outdoorsy travelers can save money by camping or backpacking. Many national forests have free camping areas. Plan to hire a travel guide or do your research if you’re less experienced.

5. Have a Plan for Unexpected Costs

No matter how much you plan out your trip, unexpected costs will probably still pop up. If you budget every dollar you have to plan expenses, you won’t be able to cover the unplanned ones.

Having an emergency fund or purchasing travel insurance could help cover unexpected emergencies. You could also consider a vacation loan to help you get quick cash for surprise vacation expenses.

Get up to $500 while building your credit.

Traveling On a Budget with a Family

Lots of people are ready to take a family vacation after two long years of COVID restrictions.

Use these travel hacks to keep your family safe and save money on your next vacation.

1. Get Off the Beaten Path

Choosing a destination that’s out of the way lets you avoid crowds and save money. Road trips are a great way to take the road less traveled.

You can try touring through lesser-known national parks like North Cascades a few hours outside of Seattle or Great Basin in Nevada.

Train travel is another great way to get off the beaten path and see more of your destination.

You can travel cross-country or throughout Europe by train for much less than it would cost to drive. Trains also make day trips easy if you’re visiting Europe.

2. Eat In

Eating out as a family adds up quickly. Even if you stick to cheap fast-food meals, you’re likely to run through your food budget in a couple of meals. You can save a lot of money on meals by eating in.

If you’re renting a place with a kitchen, it’s easy to pick up dinner essentials at the local grocery store.

Even in hotels, you can avoid eating out. Take advantage of free breakfast if your hotel has it. If your hotel room has a fridge, stock items to make sandwiches.

3. Keep it Local

Traveling long distances as a family, especially with smaller children, can be stressful in addition to being expensive.

Playing tourist in your town can be a cost-effective way to enjoy new experiences and still come home to your own beds at night.

Look into recommended activities on your town's chamber of commerce site to get started and discover something new.

4. Consolidate Baggage

Finding cheap flight deals for the whole family is difficult enough. Then you have to deal with baggage fees.

Cut down on checked bag fees by consolidating everyone’s belongings into one large suitcase—using packing cubes is a great way to stay organized.

Just make sure you’re below the airline’s weight limit for checked bags to avoid an extra charge.

5. Stay Up to Date on Travel Restrictions

While pandemic restrictions have been loosening, it’s still important to be careful to keep you and your children safe. Closely monitor current travel restrictions right up to your trip. 

Vaccination, testing, and isolation requirements can change at the last minute. For example, New Zealand is planning to allow international tourists at the end of April 2022. However, this could change based on current conditions.

Unique Doesn’t Mean Expensive

You don’t have to give up your grand travel plans just because you’re on a budget.

Here are several ways to have a dream vacation while traveling on a budget.

Rent an RV or Camper Van

Road tripping across the country is an unforgettable experience. Paying for hotels and meals every day is not. Consider renting an RV or camper van instead of taking a car on your travels.

Being self-contained in an RV lets you bring your lodging almost anywhere. You can also usually cook your meals to cut down on eating at restaurants.

Look for cheap or free campsites on Campendium or

Go Glamping

Dreaming of a cabin in the mountains or villa on the beach, but not the price? Glamping is a popular option to get a luxury experience at a great price.

Glamping, or “glam camping,” involves non-traditional tents like yurts or canvas tents on foundations.

Many glamping services even include electricity, A/C, heat, and water to keep you comfortable.

Choose Less-Expensive Destinations

You can save money by finding alternatives to popular destinations. Rather than taking the family to Costa Rica or the Caribbean, try booking a beach getaway on the Gulf Coast.

If your family likes skiing, avoid the expensive mega-resorts and look for low-cost tickets at a smaller hill.

For international travelers, your travel budget will go a lot further if you choose a destination with a good exchange rate.

Traveling to Italy could be too expensive, but eastern Europe could fit in your tight budget. You can further save money by sightseeing using free walking tours and taking public transportation.

Similarly, Bali is the most expensive area to travel to in Southeast Asia, while a trip to Thailand or Taiwan is more budget-friendly with plenty of sights and food tourism to enjoy.

Final Thoughts for Traveling on a Budget

You can save money on your next trip by following these travel tips.

Be sure to keep you and your family safe by monitoring the COVID situation at your destination.

Booking refundable or flexible airfare, lodging and transportation can help you change your travel plans as needed.

This way, you can take the trip of your dreams—with a fraction of the worry. 

Tara Seboldt

Tara is a financial writer with over five years of professional writing experience. She previously worked at a financial planning firm. Tara uses this professional experience to help readers better understand their finances and make smart financial moves. When she’s not writing about money, Tara enjoys spending time in the Idaho mountains hiking, camping, and skiing.

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