15 Tips + Tricks for Traveling on a Budget

Every time Taylor and I travel, I get questions about “how to travel on budget” or “how to save money on travel”. I am not claiming to be an expert on this topic in any way, these are just a couple of things we’ve learned along the way the past couple of years!

First and foremost: In addition to budgeting for travel throughout the year, I have also talked about the fact that Taylor and I decided about two years ago, that we would no longer buy gifts for each other for birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, etc. Instead of gifts, we set aside money for travel. This is the number one way we’ve been able to travel more frequently. We were spending so much money on material things that meant nothing to us in comparison to the memories we make, and fun we have traveling together. So if traveling is a priority to you, start doing this!

I realized that may not be applicable to all 18,000 of you, so in addition to that tip, here are a couple others:

  1. Realize that not every trip has to be full blown vacation; set realistic expectations
    • Smaller trips can be just as fun as bigger trips, and obviously these are the most cost effective. If you’re just starting out, or really trying to travel on a budget, start small! Not every trip can realistically be a week in Paris. Plan long weekend trips, trips within driving distance, etc. Keep your expectations low if you’re really not wanting to spend a lot of money.
  2. Go somewhere where you can stay with family or friends!
    • This is a pretty obvious tip, but it helps save a ton of money on the cost of a hotel or Airbnb. We just stayed with family in San Francisco and it saved us well over $1,000 on an hotel. Some of these locations may not be bucket list spots, but time away is time away, and it may end up being somewhere you love! Taylor lived in the tiny, tiny town of Auburn, NY a couple of years ago and I went to visit him as our “trip”. It is now my favorite trip to date, and trust me when I say, it would’ve never been on my list otherwise! Trips are what you make them.
  3. Airbnb
    • Airbnbs are so much cheaper than hotels almost anywhere you’re trying to go. If you’ve never looked into it, I highly recommend it. If you’re really adventurous, you can rent “a room” instead of renting a whole house/apartment. This is the most budget savvy way to stay anywhere!
  4. Travel with friends
    • Traveling with friends is not only a fun option, but it helps cut costs on hotels/Airbnbs, Ubers, etc.
  5. Use Hopper & Google Flights
    • When I first start brainstorming a trip, I set a time frame, and I put the dates into my Hopper app. If you’ve never used Hopper before, you select your travel dates and Hopper will alert you when your flight is the cheapest it’s going to be/when you should buy your ticket. I also put the dates into Google Flights so that I get emails when the prices go up/down. This helps save a ton of money on airfare! I can attest to the fact that they both actually work, I will never book flights without checking either of these first!
  6. Flexible travel dates
    • If you can be flexible with your dates, you will find that certain “off” days of the week are much cheaper as far as flights are concerned! We just traveled Thursday to Monday and it was $150 cheaper than Thursday to Sunday, so be flexible and you’ll save money! Traveling during the “off season” of wherever you’re going is also a great way to save.
  7. Look into purchasing separate flight tickets
    • I’ve only done this a handful of times and it takes a little research, but if you can save money, it’s worth the extra time! When you’re searching for flights, search one way flights instead of roundtrip flights. You may end up having to purchase two separate tickets, and flying two separate airlines but sometimes it’s cheaper than booking round trip with one airline!
  8. Use Groupon
    • Groupon is one of my best kept secrets! Groupon has tons of amazing deals on hotels, attractions, tours etc. You can search by your destination city and you’ll find tons of things to do/places to stay wherever you’re going! That’s where I found our winery tour for Napa and it was 50% of the cost anywhere else I found it online.
  9. Uber
    • This also seems pretty obvious but a lot of people still rent cars when they travel. Unless you can book a car with points, or some other way that makes it super cost efficient, Uber is the way to go. Also, if Uber pool is in your area, that’s an even cheaper way to get around!
  10. Ditch the checked bags
    • Another obvious tip, but when you’re traveling for a long weekend, (unless you’re flying Southwest) it’s worth it to squeeze your stuff into a carry on! At $50+ round trip, that’s a meal for two you could be paying for instead of a bag!
  11. Pick one meal to splurge on
    • This is a tip we use ALL the time. On vacation, it’s easy, and sometimes the most convenient to go out for breakfast/brunch, lunch, and dinner, but you can easily spend $100+ per person doing this every day. Money on food adds up more quickly than anything else. When we travel, we pick one meal a day to “splurge on”, typically it’s dinner. Whatever we decide to splurge on, we do something quick/cheap for the other two meals!
  12. Yelp is your BFF
    • Yelp is key when planning cost effective meals; I use it 24/7! Not only do you find the best/highest rated restaurants, it helps you budget too! Each restaurant is categorized as $, $$, or $$$, that way you can decide which restaurants are going to be your “splurge” of the day, and which ones are going to provide more budget friendly options.
  13. Capitalize during Happy Hour
    • Part of the fun of vacation, for us at least, is finding fun places to get a good drink. We love a good cocktail or beer on draft, but when you pay full price, drinks can easily add up quickly, especially in big cities (the average cocktail in SF was $14)! Happy hour specials are a great way to save money on food drinks! You can find plenty of travel bloggers on Pinterest who blog about the best happy hours in whatever city you’re traveling to, as well as you can again use Yelp, by searching “happy hours”!
  14. Use Trip Advisor to find cheap/free attractions/entertainment
    • Trip advisor is a great resource for finding low cost entertainment options. All of trip advisors activities are ranked by popularity, but they also show how much each costs. This makes it easy to find highly rated/fun things to do!
  15. Grocery Shop
    • If you’re staying in an Airbnb, or somewhere where you’ll have access to a kitchen of some kind, grocery shopping is SUCH a great option to keep things cost effective. Typically if we’re somewhere where we can buy groceries, we buy things for breakfasts, snacks, and sometimes even quick options for lunch! Eggs, yogurts, toast, sandwich items, protein bars, etc., are all quick and easy options that cost a fraction of what brunch/lunch typically costs in a tourist-y area!

Those are all my tips and tricks for now, but I’ll be sure to add if/when I think of more! I hope you enjoyed! Let me know, were any of these new to you, or are you already a budget friendly traveler? What are your best tips and tricks?!





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