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9 Ways to Travel on a Budget

If you're itching to travel, you can do so without breaking the bank.

Chris Scott

Contributing Writer at Tally

May 12, 2021

Want to travel, but worried about money? You’re not alone.

The 2019 Vacation Confidence Index by Allianz Global Assistance found that two-thirds of the Americans who were not planning on taking a vacation cited financial concerns as the reason why. 44% of those polled said they don't have the money to spend on a vacation, and 19% indicated that they didn’t want to spend money on travel. 

Fortunately, taking a vacation does not need to break the bank. You can plan a low-cost vacation and still have a pleasant travel experience. Today, we're here with nine tips on how to travel on a budget

1. Looking into cheaper cities  

One of the best travel tips for vacationing on a budget is to choose your destination wisely and look into cheaper cities. When you think of vacations, you may think of locations like the Caribbean, Australia or New York City. However, all of these places are extremely expensive. There are more affordable cities where you can vacation. Some of the 20 best cheap vacations in the U.S. include Gettysburg, Myrtle Beach and Salt Lake City. 

2. Skipping baggage check 

Depending on how many bags you pack, you could spend nearly $150 roundtrip to check them. Consider traveling with a carry-on instead. Some airlines may still charge you for bringing a carry-on, but many airlines allow carry-ons for free.

3. Hunting for the best flights 

You could take advantage of the constant flight deals airlines offer. For instance, Southwest often offers fares as low as $50 one way. If you don't have a specific time when you need to travel, you could wait until airlines are having a sale and then book one of the cheaper destinations. 

You can also consider using something like Skyscanner for budget travel. Skyscanner shows you the cheapest flights to any destination over a range of days. Kayak is another app you can use to find cheap flights. 

Flying midweek could also save you money on travel. Typically, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the cheapest days to fly. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are more expensive. 

4. Traveling in the off-season 

The only real downside to traveling in the off-season could be the weather. A tropical destination, for instance, won't be nearly as nice if it's cooler outside. However, your destination will be a lot less crowded. You will also find cheap flights, as airfare is often marked down during the off-peak season. If you are a budget traveler merely looking to get out of town affordably, then consider visiting somewhere in the off-season.

5. Signing up for travel insurance 

Travel insurance may cost you a bit up front, but it could be worth it in the long run if something were to happen on your trip. For instance, if you have to cancel at the last minute or inclement weather causes you to stay an extra night, insurance has you covered. 

Similarly, if you are sick or injured on your trip and can't travel, insurance will often cover at least a portion of your expenses. Insurance is a simple way to manage the financial risks of vacation travel.  

6. Strategizing your meals 

One of the perks of your destination may be great restaurants. But, eating out every day while on vacation isn't very budget-friendly. Instead of eating out for every meal, consider eating in instead. Perhaps you splurge and eat out once per day instead of three times. Preparing your own meals just a few times throughout a trip could save you money. 

Start your vacation by going to the grocery store to pick up essentials. You can purchase snacks and beverages at the grocery store as well. You'll still be eating local food but at a fraction of the cost. 

Another perk of skipping extravagant meals is avoiding long lines. The best restaurants and eateries are often hotspots for tourists and come with long waits. Skipping these restaurants gives you more flexibility and free time during your day. Plus, you can try out local hidden gems or street food vendors instead. 

7. Skipping the hotel 

Hotels can be expensive, but they’re not the only option for accommodations. Sites like Airbnb allow you to rent out someone's home for your stay, which gives you more flexibility. Airbnbs can be more or less expensive than hotels and often include full kitchens and other money-saving amenities, so it's up to you to find a good deal. 

An even cheaper way to save money is by couch surfing. Couch surfing often comes with free accommodations and the ability to meet new friends. There are couch surfing apps that you can use to find hosts. Just make sure that you take precautions to stay safe. 

If couch surfing sounds intimidating, try it with friends and family. Couch surf at the homes of acquaintances, friends and family who live in other parts of the country or world. 

House sitting offers similar benefits. You can watch people's homes while they’re gone and receive a free place to stay. Depending on who you house sit for, you may also be able to negotiate other perks, like a meal stipend. 

8. Ditching the rental car 

You don't need to have a rental car on your trip to have a good time. Depending on where you visit, most of where you need to travel may be done on foot or public transportation. Rental cars are becoming increasingly expensive and can quickly drain your budget. 

One of the best ways to get around is via public transport. Many cities have buses or subways that you can use to get across town. These typically only cost a couple of dollars. If there is no public transportation in your area, consider Uber or Lyft instead. 

Another great way to see cities is by joining free walking tours. These don't cost anything and can provide great insight into the history and culture of the area you're visiting. 

9. Enjoying what nature has to offer 

A vacation doesn't have to be somewhere like Bali or Costa Rica. Instead, you can enjoy the natural beauty of the United States. Consider taking a road trip — all you need to pay for is gas and food. You can travel at your leisure, coming and going as you please. You don't have to worry about airline tickets or cancellations. 

Plus, the U.S. has many great national parks that you can visit — 423 to be exact. Many of these don't charge entry fees

While on your road trip, you can also go camping. For the mere cost of a sleeping bag and a tent, you can escape the hustle and bustle. Plus, you won't need to pay for Wi-Fi like you would in a traditional hotel. 

Lastly, if you decide to travel abroad but would still enjoy the outdoors, consider backpacking through Europe. You may be able to see parts of Europe for less than $100 per day. If Italy and Paris have long been on your list, a backpacking trip could be an awesome, affordable endeavor. 

Learn how to travel on a budget to save on your next trip

If you love to travel, budgetary restrictions shouldn’t get in the way. While you should be trying to save for your next travel adventure, it’s also possible to travel on a budget. Being strategic about your destination and means of transportation can go a long way toward cutting costs when vacationing. 

If you would like to give yourself even more peace of mind when traveling, try to pay off your credit card debt first. Not having the burden of credit card debt will make for a more enjoyable trip and give you more flexibility in how to use your funds. 

Tally allows you to pay down your credit card debt quickly and efficiently. By strategically paying off your credit cards through the use of automated payments, you'll free up money that you can then use at your discretion.