How to Travel on a Budget

Travel is only for the rich, right? Between flights, hotel rooms, rental cars, food, and fun, the expenses of travel can really add up. How can you think about spending money on all of these travel expenses when there are bills to pay and kids to send to school?

Not so fast. You don’t have to be a millionaire to enjoy traveling. You likely don’t even have to spend years saving. Luckily, there are some tips and tricks that can help you save and budget your money for travel and help you keep your expenses low while on your trip.

Let’s take a look at some ideas for how to travel on a budget:

Practice Eco-Friendly Travel

Eco-friendly travel has become more and more popular in the wake of increased concerns about climate change and the growing scarcity of natural resources, especially in developing countries. The harmful impacts of tourism like aggressive development, over-tourism, waste management, and resource scarcity give the industry a bad rap, and rightly so, which is why it’s important to consider eco-friendly travel when you are able.

In addition to being better for the environment, eco-friendly travel is also often cheaper. Perhaps you’re walking and biking more than driving, or choosing to eat local foods instead of frequenting the chain restaurants you’re used to. Each of these things (and more) contributes to the well-being of a place, your wallet, and the environment as a whole.

Other eco-friendly travel tips include bringing a reusable water bottle and coffee mug with you, packing light, and enjoying the outdoors. Outdoor activities are often free of charge and can help you foster a greater appreciation for the natural environment, therefore making you want to do what you can to protect it.
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Avoid Tourist Traps

Avoiding tourist traps is a major element of budget-friendly travel. Tourist traps are ingeniously designed to make you shell out the big bucks for an impersonal experience — the same one that everyone else around you is having. Avoid the tourist traps and instead, travel off the beaten path a bit to find a unique experience that suits your interest without emptying your pockets.

Saying no to spending your hard-earned cash on material souvenirs and cherishing your memories and photos instead is another great way to avoid the tourist traps and have a more fulfilling travel experience.

Consider a Travel Credit Card

If you’re going to travel frequently, consider getting a travel credit card to earn points toward free things like flights, hotel rooms, and activities. If you pay off your balances right away, you’ll build credit while simultaneously investing in future travels.

If you’re considering a travel credit card, be sure to thoroughly research and compare options to make sure you’re getting the card that’s the best fit for you and your travel needs. Luckily, some places have done the work for you of comparing and contrasting popular travel cards so you can easily make the right choice for your individual needs.

Get Friendly with the Kitchen

Cooking your own meals can be a huge money-saver while traveling. That being said, it’s also a great way to improve your finances while you’re home, giving you more money to spend on future travels.

Of course, you’ll likely want to sample some of the local cuisine, but there’s generally no reason you need to eat every meal out, especially on an extended trip. When looking for accommodation, look for places that include some sort of kitchen setup. Hostels usually have full-fledged kitchens, and some hotel rooms include enough to make a simple meal. Choosing an Airbnb or VRBO for accommodation will also likely give you access to a kitchen.

If you think ahead, you can even pack some camping-style cooking gear so you can make a meal anywhere. Save your money for the really special food you can’t wait to try — not for everyday lunch on the way to your next destination.

Take the Long Way

It’s easy to want to rent a car or pay a taxi to take you directly where you need to go. It’s generally quick and hassle-free. But when you’re traveling on a budget, this may not always fit into your plan.

Depending on where you are, there are different transportation options, but generally, there is some sort of public transportation that will take you where you need to go. It may take longer, but hey — you’re traveling — it might give you the chance to see more of the place you’re visiting or meet some interested people you wouldn’t have otherwise met along the way.

Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean you have to forego fun. In fact, you might even have more fun and a more unique experience traveling while trying to keep your finances in check. Taking a small town bus, staying with a local family, and enjoying the natural environment are great ways to enjoy your trip while not breaking the bank.

If you practice eco-friendly travel, consider a travel credit card to earn reward points, cook your own food, avoid tourist traps, and opt for public or human-powered transportation, you’ll be well on your way to a budget-friendly travel experience.

Lettie Stratton is a writer and urban farmer in Boise, ID. A Vermont native, she is a lover of travel, tea, bicycles, plants, cooperative board games, and the outdoors. She’s still waiting for a letter from Hogwarts.

Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.