Have you ever wondered how to travel for cheap and save as much money as possible? Then you’ve come to the right place.
How to save money on travel
Raise your hand if you dread checking your credit card statement after a big trip.
From airfare and transportation to meals and accommodation, traveling can break the bank…quickly and mercilessly. Traveling brings us valuable life experiences, yet its steep price tag can sometimes deter us from booking that next adventure.
As a travel blogger who spends countless hours scouring the web for travel deals, I’ve found that it’s pretty easy and straightforward to travel on the cheap. So let your inner vagabond shine and follow these 19 simple and effective tips to save money on travel.
Here, are all the tips and tricks you need to know for how to travel for cheap:
1. Be flexible with your flight dates and times
This tip will likely save you the most money during your travels. There are a few key strategies here that you should consider:
- Try to avoid traveling to a destination during its “high” season. Cancun during Spring Break week? Probably not the best idea.
- Give yourself some wiggle room around your preferred travel dates. It’s always a good idea to give yourself at least a week buffer before and after your preferred travel dates to find the best flight deals. Skyscanner and other flight aggregators provide flexible search options that help you locate the best deals during a given timeframe. Typically, I begin my research with Google Flights to find the cheapest dates. Then, I pivot to Skyscanner, Hopper, and ultimately the airline website to find the best deal.
- Fly midweek when possible. As a rule of thumb, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are much cheaper for flying than Fridays and Saturdays. Recently, when I was scanning flights to Colombia, I saw 50-75% cheaper flights midweek compared to weekends. Needless to say, I booked the midweek flight.
- Catch an early-morning or late-night flight. These flights are not always super desirable, but they are a great way to unlock discounted fares. Based on my experience, the cost savings typically outweigh the inconvenience. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, if you’re in Paris and need to catch an early morning flight from Paris Beauvais Airport, which is conveniently located just 54 miles outside of Paris (yikes), you’ll find that public transportation options are very limited. When you can’t rely on cheap public transportation to get you to the airport on time, you should factor taxi prices into your airfare decision.
2. Fly with a budget airline
This kind of goes without saying, but it’s still important to mention as a budget travel tip.
Whenever you look for a cheap flight, you’ll often find that there are a few budget airlines out there (i.e. Spirit, RyanAir, EasyJet) that come in at the lowest prices. It’s no accident – as these are considered “no frills” airlines, and you get what you pay for. Cheap travel with regard to flights isn’t very glamorous, but it will help you find the cheapest way to get to your destination.
If you value cheap travel over convenience, then this budget travel tip is for you. Budget airlines are one important step to figuring out how to travel for cheap.
3. Join a frequent flier and hotel rewards program
This tip is extremely important for saving money on travel. Every once in a while, I’ll get free flights and hotels just by cashing out on rewards.
If you haven’t already, I recommend signing up for frequent flier programs with your favorite airlines. You should also check to see which “airline alliance” they are a part of, as you’ll gain rewards for flying on partner airlines as well. The major players are One World, Sky Team, and Star Alliance.
In addition to airlines, some hotel booking websites have rewards programs that give you free nights and room upgrades. One of my favorites is hotels.com, which gives you a free night for every 10 that you book through them. For specific hotel chains, I’ve found that Marriott Rewards offers one of the best rewards programs, particularly for business travelers. It allows you to earn free nights and unlock low member rates.
In the long term, these points and rewards definitely add up. No matter how often you travel, you should join plenty of frequent flier and hotel rewards programs to maximize your savings.
Planning to travel anytime soon? Subscribe to my email list for exclusive travel tips, hacks, and other resources to save time and money!
4. Find a job overseas
This is a creative way to fund your travels. Back in 2016, I taught English in Spain for a couple of months, and it helped subsidize my time living there. I’ve met so many people on the road who have found jobs overseas, and they also swear by it. Here are some ideas you might be interested in:
Seasonal worker: Find a gig at a ski resort, beach resort, or just about anywhere else. Employers around the world are always looking for seasonal workers, so this is a good way to fund your travels in a new place.
Au Pair: Looking to learn a new language? This is one of the best overseas jobs for that. Through an Au Pair program, you will live with a host family and look after their children and perform housekeeping tasks in return for a free stay and a small stipend.
Hostel worker: This is one of the most transient jobs out there, making it the perfect option if you’re looking to live and travel abroad on a temporary basis. It’s also a great way to meet people. Hostels typically let you volunteer in return for a free room, which is helpful if you want to avoid the visa application process. One website that I recommend for this is Workaway.
Farm worker: This is a popular thing to do if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty. If you want to learn how to travel for cheap, try Wwoofing!
Tour guide: If you’re into history and culture, and don’t mind speaking in front of groups, this is for you. Start by doing a free walking tour (where you get paid in tips). Then, when your tour guide skills are up to snuff, apply to be a guide with an established tour company. This is a great way to earn money and travel at the same time.
Even if you don’t have much money, finding a job overseas will help make your travel dreams a reality.
5. Pack as light as possible
Want to know the secret sauce for how to travel for cheap? Pack light.
Each year, it seems that airlines are charging more and more for checked luggage and cabin bags. “Basic economy” airfare allows you to save money on the base fare, but you’re often required to pay extra for a checked bag and in some cases, even carry-on luggage. Some airlines even make it difficult to find out their baggage requirements for certain routes. In my opinion, the situation is getting out of hand. The only solution, it seems, is to pack as light as possible.
Therefore, packing light is a great way to minimize the number of checked bags and carry-ons you’ll bring on flights. Baggage fees add up quickly, especially on budget airlines that charge extra for pretty much everything other than the base fare.
6. Get a travel rewards credit card
This is one of the best budget travel tips out there.
If you travel more than a couple of times each year, it’s worth getting a travel rewards credit card. The basic ones have no annual fees, where you’ll get extra points on travel and dining-related expenses. Cards with high fees tend to give you much more in return, including airline lounge access and credits on incidentals (i.e. free checked bags). As such, having a travel rewards credit card is a great way to save money and travel for cheap.
I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which offers no foreign transaction fees, 2x points on travel and dining, and 25% additional value when redeeming travel expenses (airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises). American Express also offers some great travel rewards credit cards, but they carry higher annual fees.
There are many great travel credit cards out there with no foreign transaction fee, so be sure to do some research and find one that best fits your needs!
7. Compare prices on multiple booking sites
Competition in the travel industry has never been fiercer, thanks to our handy-dandy smartphone apps. There are too many booking websites to name, which bodes well for budget travelers. This showdown was further amplified when Airbnb entered the fray. Accommodation prices have never been cheaper than they are today, and it’s a beautiful thing.
If you have the time and patience to do so, I recommend browsing these websites/apps to uncover the best deals:
- Airbnb: This is my go-to for the best accommodation deals. The concept of staying in someone else’s home or apartment was a bit strange to me at first, but I quickly warmed up to the idea and met some interesting locals along the way. In addition to the authentic experience it brings, Airbnb also offers the best deals on accommodations. [If you haven’t used Airbnb before, you can use my code and get up to $55 off your first booking. I get a small stipend as well, so we both win].
- Booking.com: This is my top choice for booking hotels. This website currently offers 5.8 million accommodation listings around the world. Not only does Booking.com have some of the best hotel deals, it also has a free cancellation policy on most properties.
- Hotels.com: In my opinion, this comes second to Booking.com for hotel bookings. However, it’s always worth checking just in case. Every once in a while, I’ll find a deal on here that beats Booking.com and our friend, Google. [If you haven’t booked with Hotels.com before, I have another referral code that you’re welcome to use. You’ll save up to $50 on your first booking, and I’ll receive $50 as well. Cheers!]
8. Don’t get the best hotel room
This kind of goes without saying, but if you want to save some serious cash when traveling, don’t get a premium hotel room.
Realistically, how much time do you plan to stay in your hotel room outside of sleeping, anyway? If you’re booking an all-inclusive in the Caribbean, then sure, it makes sense to splurge a little on the room. However, if you’re doing a city getaway to Rome, Paris, or Barcelona, you’re better off finding an accommodation that doesn’t have a zillion amenities, unless that’s your priority.
Don’t get the best hotel room, and you’ll be on your way to learning how to travel for cheap.
9. Stay in a guesthouse, hostel, or “couch surf”
If you want to be a budget traveler, you ought to get used to staying in hostels and other cheap (or even free) accommodations like couch surfing.
This tip is certainly not for everyone, but it’s a proven money-saver when it comes to traveling. In world-class cities like Prague and Rome, I’ve spent as low as $10/night on these types of budget accommodations. Here are a few websites that are worth looking into:
- Hostelworld: This website allows you to search hostels worldwide to find some of the best deals. Hostelworld usually has the most listings, but it charges a $2 service fee to book your accommodation.
- Hostelbookers: This website is typically the cheapest option for booking hostels and guesthouses around the world. Though it’s cheaper than Hostelworld, there are fewer listings to choose from. Hence, it’s important to compare these websites prior to booking a budget accommodation.
- Couchsurfing: As its name suggests, Coachsurfing is a service that allows travelers to “crash on someone’s couch” or otherwise stay in a local’s home. It’s a great way to meet people and have an authentic experience. One of the best parts of all? It’s free!
Staying in hostels is one of my preferred ways of traveling. Not only is it cheap, but it also offers some amazing opportunities to meet people. Be sure to choose a large dorm to save the most cash, and bring earplugs just in case you have a snorer in the room!
In addition to the types of accommodations above, I recommend staying in a cheap vacation rental like an Airbnb. This is especially a cost-saver when you’re traveling in groups.
10. Eat out at restaurants for lunch instead of dinner
I’ll let you in on a secret on how to travel cheap: eat out as little as possible. Buying food from a grocery store and cooking at your hostel or Airbnb is the most full-proof way to save money on traveling. Of course, if you’re a traveler who prioritizes food and gastronomical experiences, buying out probably can’t be avoided. In that case, try to eat out at restaurants for lunch instead of dinner wherever possible to save cash.
In touristy places, you can expect to pay a premium on dinner plates. These dishes could be identical to what’s served during lunchtime, yet you’ll still have to pay more because it’s dinner. As such, it’s a good idea to eat out at restaurants during the day instead of the evening, whenever possible.
11. Visit museums and tourist attractions on “free days”
Prior to arriving at your destination, I recommend compiling a list of sights you want to see. Museums and other major tourist attractions sometimes offer free or discounted admission on certain days throughout the month. For example, at the Louvre in Paris, you can gain free admission on the first Saturday of each month from 6pm to 9:45pm. If you’re under 26, you can get free admission every Friday evening. It’s always worth doing some research online to see which attractions offer free or discounted hours.
How students can find great vacation bargains
If you’re a student, you should always bring your student ID on vacation. In many destinations, particularly in Europe, you can get free or discounted admission at major tourist attractions, including museums. In many cases, these discounts apply to senior citizens as well. This is definitely one of the best money saving tips for college students.
12. Walk as much as possible
Wondering how to travel for cheap? Cutting public transport costs is an easy and convenient way to save money on travel.
Some things in life are free, and walking is one of them. In places like London, where the Tube can be quite pricey, it’s a great idea to maximize your walking and save money on public transportation. Try to avoid taxis whenever you can, as this is the most expensive way to get around a place.
In cities where walking is not always possible, be sure to do your homework on public transportation deals. For example, the London Tube is capped at £7 a day, which would save you £3 over buying a day pass. In Barcelona, the T-10 pass is much more economical than buying single rides. It definitely pays to research the public transportation options beforehand, and to gauge how much walking you’ll be doing.
13. Plan trips to hidden gems instead of hot destinations
It’s no secret that the most touristy places are also the most expensive.
If your goal is to travel as much as possible on the cheap, consider spending more time exploring the world’s best hidden gems over the popular places. A cheap place can often have the most character (and authenticity) to it.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you should forgo places like Paris and Venice just for the sake of saving money. Of course, even the most touristy cities have some off-the-beaten-path spots where you can eat, drink, and go sightseeing on the cheap. Popular places are touristy for a reason – as they have so much to offer travelers. But I think that discovering underrated budget places is conducive to saving more money. Such a cheap vacation can also give you a more local and authentic experience.
Here are some of my favorite cheap travel destinations in Europe: Cheapest Cities in Europe in 2020
14. Gain insights from the locals
Along with visiting a hidden gem, this is one of the most underrated tips on how to travel cheap.
The best way to avoid the tourist traps and expensive eateries is by talking to the locals. Not only will you cultivate interesting friendships, but you’ll also gain insider tips on what to see and do.
However, my favorite way to get advice from locals is by asking them in person. Whether you’re at your accommodation or somewhere on the streets, don’t be shy to strike up conversation with those who know the place best.
15. Follow your favorite travel sites on social media
Here’s a cool tip on how to travel for cheap (and even free!). I’m not just saying this because I’m big into social media. It’s actually beneficial to follow your favorite travel brands (or any brands for that matter) on social media.
Many hotels and travel companies offer special deals directly on social media. For example, hotels like the Terranea Resort in Southern California offer exclusive deals and resort credits for their social media followers.
Some companies offer giveaways as well. I’ve won free trips to the Azores (islands in Portugal) and the Foxwoods Resort Casino through these types of giveaways. In some cases, airlines will partner with destinations on social media to provide free flights and accommodations to the winners.
If you’re someone who’s looking how to travel cheap, then you should spend a few minutes a day scouring social media for giveaways and other promotions. Good luck!
16. If you really want to learn how to travel for cheap, start a travel blog!
For me, this has been the most effective way to save money on travel. Here are a few ways you can save big and learn how to travel for cheap as a travel blogger:
Sponsored trips: Tourism boards will sometimes pay you to visit destinations in return for coverage on your travel blog and social channels. Even if you’re not well established yet, you could still get a comped stay, which is another way to save money on travel.
Affiliate marketing: On your blog, you can include affiliate links to big travel brands like Booking.com, Airbnb, and Skyscanner. You’ll get a chunk of each referral. This is a great way to save money on travel if you already use the brands you’re promoting – it’s very natural!
Industry insights: As a travel blogger, you’ll learn things through deep digging, research, and networking that most other travelers aren’t aware of.
This budget travel tip isn’t for everyone, but if you want to do this as a part time hobby, it definitely has its perks.
Here’s my ultimate guide for how to start a travel blog:
17. Do a road trip instead of flying
It’s no secret that flights can be expensive (fly to Oceania and you’ll see what I mean). To cut that expenditure out, consider doing a road trip!
This is not always a cheaper way of traveling, but it is most of the time, especially in places where gas is cheap.
18. Don’t assume unwanted risk. Get travel insurance
This is one of the most overlooked tips on how to travel for cheap. Sure, paying for travel insurance might seem like an added (and unnecessary) cost, but it isn’t if something goes wrong.
Whether you’re traveling to Southeast Asia, Europe, South America, or anywhere in between, it’s a prudent idea to buy travel insurance. I have an article below on why this is so incredibly important (especially in this COVID-19 era):
19. Be financially responsible at home
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the key to saving money on travel is by making sound financial decisions before and after your vacations. I rarely eat out at home, and instead spend that money on tapas in Spain or a schnitzel in Austria.
The fact of the matter is that most people only travel 2-4 weeks per year, so the other 48-50 weeks are where the significant savings should occur. Even small lifestyle changes, such as bringing lunch to work rather than buying out, can make a huge difference over the long term and allow you to travel more often. If you wish to make traveling a priority, you sometimes have to make sacrifices in other parts of your life.
In my own life, this has been the top tip (by far!) on how to travel for cheap.
How to travel cheap and save money
Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive. On the contrary, it can be affordable and even cheap when you do it the right way.
I hope you’ve found this list to be helpful and effective in your quest to save money on travel! Happy Travels! -Jon
Planning an international adventure? Check out my international travel tips to make you a smarter traveler.
For further reading, check out my latest travel articles below.
- 15 Best Day Trips from Boston, Massachusetts
- The 14 Cheapest Cities in Europe
- Best Weekend Getaways in New England
- 13 Travel Hacks for Flying (Tips to Save Time, Money + Hassle)
- Best Travel Apps for iPhone and Android in 2020
- 33 Things To Do Before A Flight
Itineraries & Travel Guides:
- Yangtze River Cruise Travel Guide
- Best Day Trips from Bologna, Italy
- Top Things to See and Do in Hamburg, Germany
For more articles and videos, be sure to check out my homepage!
Check out the links below to see what’s new in the Global Viewpoint world!