How to travel cheap? Let’s face it: Traveling ain’t cheap. What with flights, accommodations, food, transportation – not to mention all the tours and activities you’ll want to do too – you can easily rake up a big fat tab for just a few nights away from home.
Yeah, it looks mighty bleak for young people who don’t exactly have the moolah to dish out. But don’t give up hope dear readers, there are pretty easy ways to circumvent the system (legally, of course!).
Research is the name of the game
If there’s one magic word to take away from this, it is research. About. Everything. Get on your phone or laptop and hunt for discounts, deals, promos, and sales. Check out websites like Secret Flying, Scott’s Cheap Flights, Momondo, Adioso, The Flight Deal, Fareness, and Skycanner. “Watch” the flights you want to get updates on your Inbox when prices go up or down, and click “buy” when the price is right!
You can also download apps like Hopper for cheap last minute flights, HotelTonight if you’re looking for a hotel, and GasBuddy for cheap gas – which is perfect for a road trip!
But why stop there? Read blogs and join travel forums with discussions about the cheapest and most worthwhile food places and tours. You can even ask friends who have been around for tips and tricks too!
You don’t have to be an accountant to keep your finances in tip top shape!
Setting your priorities is a must as it will help you allocate money to certain categories. What do you want to do? Taste the food? Do the adventurous, outdoorsy activities?
Choosing your top priority means allocating more funds to that category (let’s say food for example), and scrimping on the less important categories (like accommodations perhaps?).
And once you’ve straightened out your priorities, you can get down to the money part. If you’re traveling in a group, check out the Splitwise app which helps keep track of who owes someone – this keeps things transparent and drama-free. Trail Wallet and Goodbudget are also other awesome apps that stick to the whole categories idea that we just talked about.
Two words: Off peak.
You’re bound to find at least a few deals, discounts, and promos for flights, accommodations, and even tours during off-peak months. The best times to go are usually at the shoulder (start and/or end of peak) season. Just make sure to double check the weather and have a back up plan just in case!
P.S. If you’re looking for places to go this August, we’ve got you covered!
Anything but cabbing it
If you have to take the longer bus route instead of an overpriced cab, then so be it. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get creative either. Try walking (and burning calories while you’re at it!). Lots of cities also have cheap bike rental systems – check if there’s an app for it like CitiBike in New York or JUMP in DC for electric bikes and scooters.
You can also check out carpool apps like BlaBlaCar in Europe, where you can join people driving from one city to another. Wanderu in the US gets you last minute train and bus deals, while ride-share apps like Uber or Lyft often hold promos (find codes in the airport or in-app!). Cheaper alternatives to the two like Via can also save you as much as 50% of the ride price. In Southeast Asia, try Grab or GoJek, especially the motorcycle option if you’re traveling solo! 🏍️
Get down and dirty
When looking for a bite to grab, venture outside your comfort zone by going to the wet market where locals eat. Hobnob with workers at train stations or cafeterias, and discover authentic dishes while you’re at it!
You can even check out local counterparts of food apps like FoodForAll that sell surplus meals at the end of lunch or dinner service at a fraction of the price to get rid of inventory.
If you MUST eat at restaurants, there are also apps like Eatigo that give diners discounts when they make table reservations and eat during “dead” hours.
Blend in with the locals
So maybe you don’t have friends in the area – that’s okay! There’s never a better time to start making new ones. Befriend the locals, and don’t be afraid to ask them for their favorite things to do, places to eat and more. They’re probably immune to the tourist traps in the area, and will be able to keep you on the straight and narrow.
Think: digs you wouldn’t find online in English. Now THAT’S a find!
Cash in on those rewards
Research on credit card companies and airlines that offer rewards programs. There are many that offer customers rewards points which you can exchange for free flights, credits, or more.
If you’re thinking of making traveling a habit of yours, getting in on a rewards program will surely benefit you in the end! (And maybe get you some lounge access while you’re at it?!)
Hit up your network
Got friends or family living in the city or area that you’re traveling to? Hit them up and ask if you can crash in their couch (DO bring a present from home or treat them to dinner to say thank you). If that’s not an option, let them know that you’re planning on traveling there, and they might just tour you around or connect you with someone who will!
A lot of travelers have also tried Couchsurfing – a hospitality and social networking service that members can use to arrange homestays, and offer lodging or hospitality. The platform is a gift economy; hosts are not allowed to charge. Staying with members of the same sex is usually a safer option, however, especially for women.
Another option you could consider is housesitting. Check out websites like MindMyHouse and House Carers that will have you taking care of people’s pets, watering plants, and other household chores in exchange for free lodging.
If family isn’t anywhere nearby, consider going on a volunteer program that includes free housing or a host family such as Workaway, HelpX, WWOOF, or your nearest university AIESEC chapter. Good company and some savings? Yes, please!
Traveling cheap isn’t easy (nothing good ever is), but the reward of practicing these commandments will surely pay off! Ready to budget the hell out of your next trip? Let us know what other cheap travel tips and tricks you’ve got up your sleeve by commenting below!