Are you looking for cheap ways to travel? Have you been dreaming of a cheap trip around the world for ages? Planning a cheap vacation might seem overwhelming because it can be difficult to know exactly where to start. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of the best tips and tricks to help you save on your next trip.
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In this guide to planning a cheap trip, we’ll be talking about how to save on all the different parts of your trip: flights, accommodation, transport, and more. That way, the next time you’re planning a trip, you can figure out exactly where you’re spending the most money and then use our tips to help you save in that area; that’s the best way to get the cheap trip you’ve always wanted.
We’ve picked up plenty of tricks for cheap travel over the years, so we’ve written several specific guides to help you save on trips:
However, if you don’t know where to start, we have you covered! This ultimate guide sums up the 30 most important travel for cheap tips grouped in the following topics:
Learn the 3 key tips for planning a cheap trip
Before you look at any destinations or book hotels or flights, there are three key things that you absolutely need to do if you want to know how to travel on a budget. Not all cheap travel tips are complicated. In fact, these ones are very simple, but you need to make sure that you use them from the moment you start planning or even thinking about your cheap trip. Using these tips from the beginning can really make a difference in the price of your trip.
1. Set a realistic budget and track all your expenses to travel cheap
The first and most important thing you need to do is to calculate your travel budget. After all, how can you travel on a budget if you don’t even know what your budget is?
Start off by designing a budget for your trip. Calculate the total amount of money you’re willing to spend on the trip, and then decide which things are worth spending that money on. It’s your trip, so you can plan it any way you want to. Prioritize the things you want to see and do, so you don’t spend much or any money on things that aren’t as important to you.
Then, get the big costs, like flights and accommodation, out of the way, and plan a realistic idea of what you’d spend per day on things like food, tours, and transport. Write down these numbers and keep them in mind. If you don’t know when or where you’re traveling yet, don’t worry. Just set a maximum amount you’re willing to spend on your trip, and then, after you choose your destination, you can get into specifics.
This is one of the best ways to travel for cheap because you’re going to need to track your travel expenses anyway, even if you’re still just planning. There are actually many useful ways to track your travel expenses. I love the Travel Spend app because you can add expenses very quickly, even when you’re on the go; it works offline; and foreign currencies are automatically converted into your home currency. Plus, it helps you stick to your budget, and you can even split travel expenses with your travel buddies.
2. Research prices beforehand – The best way to travel for cheap
If you really want to travel inexpensively, make sure you research prices before you purchase anything. This will help you avoid scams and paying any more than you actually need to.
You might get gouged on anything from street food and cabs to hotels and shopping, even with the currency exchange, so check travel for cheap blogs to figure out how much things cost in other countries. If you are traveling to a country where they use a different currency, write down the most common exchanges so that you know them off the top of your head (i.e., how much 1, 10, 20, 50, 100, 150, 200 USD is in the local currency). That way, you’ll always have a rough idea of how much things cost abroad.
3. Get comfortable with discomfort
Traveling abroad for cheap doesn’t often equate to traveling in comfort or style. If you really want to travel cheaply, you’re going to have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable because you’ll be doing things like going on low-cost flights, sharing bathrooms in hotels, and traveling by bus.
Get used to taking super early or late flights and sitting in smaller seats. What you save in money may be “spent” on discomfort, so try to mentally prepare yourself ahead of time!
Be flexible to travel on a budget
Now that you’ve made your budget, it’s important to stick to it. One way you can do that is by being flexible with the dates and destination of your trip whenever you possibly can. Opening your mind up to new forms of accommodation, transportation, and even food can also be very helpful when you’re planning a cheap trip, but if you want to save as much money as possible, focus on being flexible with dates and destinations.
4. Find the cheapest destinations to travel to
If you have a really small budget but you still want to travel the world, try being flexible with your destination.
Websites such as Kiwi or Skyscanner can help you look for cheap flights. Just set “everywhere” as your destination, and the website will show you the cheapest destinations you can travel to from your nearest airport.
However, don’t just look for the destination with the cheapest flights. Traveling involves a lot of other expenses besides flights (food, hotels, tourist attractions, etc.), so you’ll also want to check how much each destination will cost in terms of accommodation, meals, tours, etc. A flight to Southeast Asia or South America might be more expensive than a flight to a neighboring country, but keep the cost per day of visiting that country in mind, too.
When you’re doing your cheap trip planning, remember that the most popular places for tourists also tend to be the most expensive. Try looking for cheaper alternatives that aren’t as popular yet so they’re still cheap.
5. Book your trip at the cheapest time to travel
One of the best ways to travel for cheap is to be flexible with the dates of your trip so you can travel at off-peak times of the year. This flexibility is key for getting cheap travel, since travel will always be more expensive during peak tourist season. Of course, you can’t always be flexible with travel dates, but if you can, try to allow flexible dates in websites such as Kiwi or Skyscanner to find out if there are any specific date when the flights are usually cheaper.
Off-peak times of year don’t just mean the off-season. Try to also avoid traveling on weekends, holidays, and any other dates when lots of people will be traveling. You may even want to take very early morning flights, as these flights will usually be the cheapest. We’ll get into some more specific tips for getting cheap flights below.
Find a great flight deal to travel the world cheaply
Flights are generally one of the biggest expenses for a trip, but it is totally possible to find cheap flights for your next cheap trip around the world. I recommend doing a lot of research on flights and not simply buying the first one that you see. If you want to find great flight deals, be sure to check out our article on how to find cheap flights and use the tips we’ve shared below.
6. Flight search sites are the best way to travel for cheap
One of the first things to do when you’re planning a cheap vacation is to find your flights. I always recommend using search engines rather than airlines’ official websites because search engines can do a much wider and more varied search for you, which will save you a lot of time and help you find the best deals. Prices on airlines’ official websites can often be more expensive, too.
Two great flight search engines are Kiwi or Skyscanner. Skyscanner is awesome because it shows you the cheapest days to fly during the month(s) you want to travel and even allows you to set up price alerts for price drops.
Kiwi can also help you find some great discount flights. Their best feature is their ability to create multi-airline routes, which are cheaper than booking a flight with a single airline. Not a lot of other search engines will combine different airlines’ flights to get you the cheapest route, so Kiwi is pretty unique in that respect and the website I’m using to plan cheap trips most of the time.
7. Buy your plane tickets at the right time to travel cheap
Although there can sometimes be last-minute deals on flights, my advice is not to wait until the last minute to find the best deal. It may seem tempting, but it’s much better to organize your trip ahead of time and start looking for flights a few months before you leave. The longer you have to look for deals, the more time you have to research and find the best one.
You can use the Hopper app to help you find exactly the right time to book your tickets. The app creates a graph of flight prices and analyzes it to tell you if you should book your flight now or wait for prices to drop. If the app tells you to buy your tickets now, book your flight right away because if you wait, prices will probably go up.
8. Set airfare alerts and catch error rates to travel on a budget
Cheap travel planning gets much easier when you set alerts that tell you when flight prices drop. Websites like Skyscanner and Kayak allow you to set these kinds of alerts, so you’ll always know if a flight’s price has dropped so you can buy your airline tickets at a cheaper price. I always advise using price alerts to find the best prices for flights.
Another tip for traveling on a budget is to try to catch an error rate. An error rate is a flight price that an airline mistakenly enters that is much cheaper than normal. Because the price is an error, it usually isn’t up for very long, since airlines will correct the mistake as soon as they notice it. However, if you act quickly, you can snag the flight for the error rate while it’s still live and get yourself a sweet deal.
Get inexpensive accommodation and take a cheap trip around the world
Accommodation is another of the biggest expenses for a trip, especially if you’re traveling somewhere and staying for a long time. However, as with flights, it’s still possible to travel cheap and save on accommodation, especially if you give up some luxuries.
Although you might be very comfortable staying in a nice hotel, it’s not always necessary to do so. Are you really going to take advantage of a hot tub and gym, or will you be too busy sightseeing? If you don’t think you’ll use the amenities that a nice hotel offers, don’t bother shelling out for them. Choose an accommodation that only gives you what you need. The tips below will help you find affordable accommodation, but if you want to learn more, check out our guide on how to get cheap hotels.
9. Use the best hotel booking sites for cheap trip planning
One of the best ways to travel for cheap is to use the best websites for finding hotel deals. That way, if you want lots of amenities, you can get all the amenities you need and stay in a nice hotel while still paying a good price.
For hotels, I always recommend Booking.com, a website where you can find hotels anywhere in the world and that tends to have the best prices. Their website is very easy to use, and if you book with them enough, you can attain “Genius” status, which will allow you access to even better hotel deals.
Of course, the most affordable accommodations are always the first to get booked up, so try to book quickly.
On Hotels.com, you get free cancellation on most rooms, and their rewards program gives you one reward night after you’ve stayed 10 nights with them.
Whichever website you use to help you find hotel deals, make sure you do your research and check prices on various websites so you can be sure you’re getting the best deal.
10. Get a $50 coupon for your first booking on Airbnb
Airbnb is a great way to save on accommodation and travel the world cheaply. If you’ve never used it before, you can get a discount of up to $50 on your first reservation just for being a Capture The Atlas reader!
On Airbnb, you can find everything from rooms to entire houses, making it an excellent option if you’re looking for other forms of accommodation besides hotels. If you want to learn more about Airbnb and, most importantly, get your coupon code, check out our guide to Airbnb.
11. Give couchsurfing a try and travel the world for cheap
If you’re looking for alternatives to Airbnb and hotels, there are plenty of options to get accommodation and still travel inexpensively.
Trustedhousesitters.com is a website where you can arrange to take care of someone’s pets in exchange for accommodation, which is perfect if you love animals.
You could also try Homeexchange.com, which allows you to stay in another person’s apartment or home while they stay in yours. You do have to match your travel dates in order to be able to do this, but you can also use points that you have accumulated from previously exchanging your home and travel on any date you want.
However, the cheapest way to travel is couchsurfing. Couchsurfing can be a great way to travel cheaply, but it isn’t always perfect or reliable. Some pros of couchsurfing are:
- You get free accommodation! You’ll probably be staying on someone’s spare couch or in a spare room. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, hosts will even make you a meal as well.
- You get to meet new people! People often host couchsurfers because they’re interested in meeting other people from around the world and hearing about their travels.
- You can do it through a trustworthy and organized website! Couchsurfing.com will help you find hosts in the city where you want to stay. You can view their profiles and decide which ones you’re interested in staying with.
However, there are also some cons to couchsurfing:
- You can’t always find accommodation. Once you’ve found hosts that you want to stay with, you can send them requests via the Couchsurfing website, but they have to accept your request before you can stay with them. If no one accepts your request, you have nowhere to stay! Additionally, we’ve found it difficult to use as a couple, since hosts generally don’t want two guests staying with them.
- You don’t get much privacy. If you value your privacy, couchsurfing probably isn’t for you. You will have to share a space with at least one other person, and you most likely won’t have a room to yourself.
Some people love couchsurfing, while others have had bad experiences with it. If it sounds like something you’d be interested in, it’s definitely worth trying, but if it’s something you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing, don’t push yourself.
12. Camping is a great way to save money on your trip
This is one of our favorite options for a low budget trip. It’s not just a chance for you to get in touch with nature; it’s also one of the cheapest possible options for accommodation.
If you like camping, I recommend using a tent as accommodation on your next trip. Of course, you’ll need all the necessary equipment to camp, such as a tent, sleeping bags, flashlight, and more. We have a list of all the equipment you’ll need to camp in our article on backpacking.
However, going camping does not always mean going backpacking, since there are plenty of well-equipped campsites. You can also find free campsites here.
Choose the right transport when planning a cheap vacation
Yet another important expense for a trip is local transportation. You need to be able to get around, no matter where you’re traveling. Nevertheless, it’s totally possible to save on transportation, as I will explain below.
Sometimes, however, renting a car is the only useful option. We’ve written an article on how to get cheap rental cars, which you should check out if renting a car is the best option for you, but make sure to check out our cheap travel tips below first.
13. Use public transport or walk to take a low-cost trip
Want to know how to travel on a budget? Take public transport, like buses and trains, and walk whenever you can.
As soon as you get to your destination, you’ll probably be spending a lot on transportation. Going from the airport to your hotel and getting around the city can add up quickly, so find the cheapest option you can use to get around.
Use local buses, and try to avoid taxis and private transportation (i.e., Uber) whenever possible. Try to get places the same way the locals do. Take public transport only when you’re going to a place that’s too far to walk to, and walk most of the time. Walking is the best way to get to know a city; you’ll notice all kinds of local shops, cafes, and corners that you’d never see on a bus or train.
14. Rent a bicycle and travel inexpensively
Low cost traveling doesn’t always have to mean walking everywhere. If you’d rather travel on two wheels instead of two legs, renting a bike is a fantastic option. That way, you can avoid spending money on public transport, which adds up quickly, and get around more quickly and less strenuously than walking. Plus, like walking, biking everywhere is a chance to get to know the city you’re visiting very well.
We love biking. We biked around La Graciosa in the Canary Islands, and it was an absolutely perfect experience. We’d also recommend renting a bike if you ever visit La Habana, Cuba. And exploring Syracuse, Italy by bike.
15. Hitchhiking, the cheapest way to travel abroad
One of the cheap ways to travel that people often forget about is hitchhiking. It’s an option that’s worth mentioning, although I don’t think I’d hitchhike if I were traveling alone.
As with most things, hitchhiking has its pros and cons. Its pros include:
- You get free transportation. Hitchhiking is absolutely free, and it can be a great way to travel long distances cheaply.
- You can meet new people. Chances are that if someone picks up a hitchhiker, they’re probably looking to have a chat. You can meet all kinds of interesting people through hitchhiking.
Its cons include:
- It’s illegal in some places. If you do want to hitchhike, make sure to double check that it’s legal to do so where you are.
- It can take a long time for someone to pick you up. It might be hours before someone picks you up, but it also might be minutes; it all depends on the day, the location, the time, the weather, etc.
- You might be dropped off in the middle of nowhere. A driver might only be going so far toward your destination and have to leave you somewhere that’s quite rural or abandoned.
If you do decide to hitchhike, be sensible and careful. Here are a few tips if you decide to try it:
- Try not to hitchhike alone. It’s always safer to hitchhike with someone else.
- Wait somewhere where cars can pick you up safely.
- Use a cardboard sign with your destination on it to attract attention.
- Try to look presentable and friendly so drivers will be more inclined to pick you up.
- Always be prepared. Have some food, water, warm clothes, a charger, etc. on hand.
16. Take an overnight train for a low-budget trip
If you are going to visit different cities, overnight trains and buses are an excellent option because you can save on accommodation while you travel. Your accommodation and transport will be one and the same because you’ll be traveling at night while you’re asleep.
Overnight trains are equipped with beds, which are actually quite comfortable, so you can get a good night’s sleep while you travel. I’ve taken overnight trains before, and I’ve always had pleasant experiences. Not only you do save money on accommodation, but you also use your time efficiently, since travel and sleep happen at the same time.
17. Rent a campervan and travel cheap around the world
Of all the ways to save on transportation, renting a campervan is probably the best because you can combine the price of transportation with the price of accommodation, meaning that you only pay a single price for both. You will have the freedom to travel whenever and wherever you want, without schedules and limits.
Some countries are more RV-friendly than others, so that’s something to keep in mind when you’re choosing your destination and transportation. The US, for instance, is an RV paradise. There are many free RV campsites, so if you are planning to rent an RV in the US, check out our guide.
If you want to rent a campervan for a cheap trip, use Outdoorsy, the best website for renting campervans. Outdoorsy is a platform that connects RV owners with users who want to rent a caravan for a few days. It’s a peer-to-peer rental, so it’s basically like an Airbnb for motor homes.
Ways to sightsee on a budget
Traveling on a budget doesn’t just apply to transportation, accommodation, and flights. It can also involve sightseeing.
Tours and activities are definitely an important part of any trip. You can’t just travel to the Arctic in winter and not see the northern lights, or go to Egypt and not visit the pyramids. However, there are ways to sightsee cheaply and save money on this part of your trip.
18. Don’t visit every tourist attraction just because it’s popular
Traveling is not a competition. You don’t have to see absolutely every single thing in the city or place that you’re traveling to. In fact, you’ll probably have a calmer and more relaxing trip if you don’t try to cram too much sightseeing into every day of your trip.
Instead, focus on making the most of the places you do visit. Really experience and enjoy them. Most importantly, only choose to visit places that really excite and interest you. You’ll enjoy your trip so much more when you’re not dragging yourself to a museum you don’t care about or forcing yourself to see a monument that doesn’t interest you. Plus, you’ll save money on your trip. With monuments or buildings, you can even save money by just seeing them from the outside instead of going inside them.
If you’re really invested in taking a specific tour, such as a whale watching tour in Iceland or a canal cruise in Amsterdam, you can book a tour cheaply on Getyourguide.com.
Besides, there are always great free things to do in every city. Just do your research, learn how the locals like to have fun, and then write down the free tourist spots you want to visit. See? Low-cost traveling can be fun!
19. Take advantage of free tourist days
There are plenty of museums and monuments that offer free entry once a week or month.
One of our best and easiest travel for cheap tips is to figure out when/if the places you want to visit have free entry, so you can plan your visit for a free entry day. Yes, the place you’re visiting might be more crowded that day, but you’ll save yourself a good chunk of money (museums and monuments can be expensive!).
20. Free tours are a great resource for travelers on a budget
Want to tour cities with a knowledgeable tour guide for free? In many cities, you can find free tours through Civitatis.
I’ve done several tours through them on many of my trips, and I’ve always been delighted with the experience since it’s a very interesting way of getting to know a city for free (or for a small tip). Even with a tip, it’s still much cheaper than booking a paid tour, and your guide will do the utmost to earn their tip.
Besides the main attractions of the city, s/he will show you the best places to eat and go out, and you’ll also learn about the history of the city. This is definitely a worthwhile way to learn more about a city you’re visiting.
21. Tourist passes are very handy when planning a cheap trip
If you’re really invested in seeing a city’s main sights, get a tourist pass so you can see all of them cheaply.
Tourist cards or passes can get you pretty significant discounts on the main attractions of a city, so they’re a huge help when you’re planning a low budget trip. Many cities have these cards, so it is worth looking into getting one if you’re going to be visiting lots of monuments and museums.
There are generally two types of cards: day passes, which offer unlimited attractions over a certain number of days (1, 2, 3, 5, and 7 days, for example), and flexi cards, which allow you to visit a certain number of attractions over a longer period of time (2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 12 attractions in 30/60 days, for instance).
The most popular tourist passes are Sightseeing Pass and CityPass. What’s great about these passes is that they don’t just get you discounts on monuments. They also often include tour bus rides, so you can get both sightseeing and transportation for the price of one.
Eat for cheap and save on your trip
Trying new food and sampling the local cuisine is one of the most exciting parts of any trip. However, eating out at loads of restaurants, cafes, and diners adds up quickly.
Eating out can be a big expense, but if you want to travel cheap, there are definitely ways to save on food.
22. Avoid touristy restaurants and eat where locals eat
A way to travel cheaply around the world is to eat like the locals do. They won’t be shelling out for a fancy restaurant, so you don’t have to either.
In fact, fancy restaurants are not always the best places to find the best and most authentic food. Local places often have food that’s just as good, if not better. Avoid eating in touristy restaurants and tourist areas to help you save money, and try to eat in places that aren’t as close to the city center. You’ll not only get to taste authentic local cuisine, but you’ll also pay a lot less.
If you travel to a country where street food is popular, that is definitely the cheapest way to eat.
23. Shop in local grocery stores, the best alternative for saving on meals
One of the easiest ways to eat when you’re traveling on a budget is to buy food from markets and local grocery stores, and then have a picnic.
Much of the food you can buy in grocery stores is ready to eat anyway, so it’s easy to buy some and find a nice park to sit in and eat. Sometimes, we even buy things from the supermarket so we can have dinner in our hotel room.
If you’re going on a tour, whether by bus or on foot, buy a sandwich and some snacks ahead of time so you’re prepared. You will save a lot compared to buying your lunch on the tour.
24. Pick a hotel with meals included and travel around the world on a budget
Consider the option of accommodation that includes breakfast/dinner, since it could be cheaper than buying your own breakfast.
A great tip for cheap travel is to take extra food from the breakfast buffet, if your hotel has one, and save it to eat for lunch. This trick can save you a lot of money. Keep this in mind when you’re booking a hotel because you may be able to get a room with breakfast included for the same price as a regular room.
All-inclusive hotels may be expensive, but they might actually help you save money on your overall trip. Of course, whether you book one depends on what type of traveler you are. You’d probably like an all-inclusive hotel if you want a relaxing, leisurely vacation, but you’d be better off booking another type of accommodation if you want to do long days of sightseeing around the city every day.
Booking.com allows you to filter hotels by meal plans (free breakfast/dinner/all-inclusive), so it’s a great tool for finding accommodation that includes meals.
25. Cook for yourself. One of the most useful travel for cheap tips
One of the best cheap ways to travel is to be your own chef. Book a hotel or accommodation with a kitchen, and whip up your own delicious meals.
For instance, many hostels have shared kitchens, and sometimes you can even get free ingredients, since departing guests often leave leftover ingredients for anyone to use. This is a great option if you’re traveling on a budget.
You can also prepare meals before you go sightseeing, and they don’t necessarily have to be quick, lazy meals. You’re the chef, so get as elaborate or as simple with your food as you want.
Use these other ways to plan a cheap trip
In addition to all the tips above, there are still plenty of other ways to save money on your trip. Below, I’ve shared my last few tips for ways to travel cheap.
26. At least buy cheap travel insurance, even if you’re traveling on a budget
Planning a cheap trip should not mean traveling unprotected. It might seem expensive or unnecessary to spend money on travel insurance, but in fact, travel insurance can actually save you money in the long run.
If you have an accident, travel insurance can help you save money on or even cover your medical bills. Plus, if anything else goes wrong, like a missed flight or lost luggage, you’ll be compensated for it.
I advise you to have a look at our article on the cheapest travel insurance. It will help you choose the travel insurance that’s best for you. Actually, I’m using the annual travel insurance provided by Heymondo.
5% OFF your travel insurance
27. Buy a travel SIM card to avoid roaming charges and travel for cheap
If you want to have Internet on your trip, I recommend buying a SIM card for travelers. That way, you’ll always have Internet, and you won’t rack up an insanely high phone bill from roaming charges.
We recommend using simoptions.com. You can buy SIMs for any country from them. Just choose whether you want free calls and how many gigabytes of data you want.
28. Use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees
Travel credit cards can save you a lot of money. Foreign transaction fees may not seem like much, but they really add up over time, so a credit card with no foreign transaction fees is pretty much a must for a frequent traveler.
Even better, with travel credit cards, you accumulate points for every purchase you make. You can then use the points you’ve accumulated to buy flights, pay for hotels, and rent vehicles. The more you spend, the more travel expenses you can get for cheap or for free.
I recommend two travel credit cards: the Capital One Venture Rewards card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
29. Find “travel for cheap” blogs and avoid travel agencies
If you want to take a cheap trip around the world, don’t go to a travel agency. Travel agencies charge commission, since they take a percentage of the reservation, so I always recommend organizing a trip on your own.
There are many travel blogs that can help you save on your trip. They can also recommend which tourist attractions are worth visiting and which aren’t, as well as tell you about their experience, so you know exactly what to expect.
Travel agencies are going to try to sell you every possible tour, even if they’re expensive and not worth it. That’s why I always recommend planning your trip with travel for cheap blogs instead.
30. Take photos. They are the cheapest souvenirs
It’s tempting to fill up your suitcase with souvenirs for all of your friends and family, but every postcard and keychain adds up.
If you really want to travel for cheap, avoid buying souvenirs. Take photos instead. They’re cheaper and will be a great way to remember your trip. Plus, you can do a slideshow for your friends and family when you get back from your trip!
With that, those are all of our top tips for cheap ways to travel. I hope I’ve shown that it’s still possible to have a lovely trip, even when you’re traveling on a budget.
We hope you use our tips when you’re planning your next trip and that you’re able to get some great deals. If you have any questions about cheap travel planning, feel free to leave us a question in the comments and we’ll be sure to answer it!