How to save and travel with less money
How to save and travel with less money

How to save and travel with less money

I don’t know about you, but I’m just a normal person that makes a “normal” amount of money for a 30-something year old. I would say I’ve developed decent savings and budgeting habits. But I am by no-means an expert or “really good” at that. If you’re anything like me, you have multiple priorities in your life you’re saving for (ie. mortgage, wedding, house renovations, children, student loans, and even a coffee fund). With that said, there are some things I have learned that can help. Read on to learn how to save and travel with less money.

Have a separate savings account for travel

It may seem like a worthless tip, but this is one of the best ways to dedicate funds for traveling alone. This has happened many times to me. I’ll start dreaming about a trip or a specific destination/region. I’ll be dreaming for a few months. Then I’ll look back and realize I could have already set aside several hundred dollars.

That intention is key.

Even if you’re not able to afford much, 50$ a pay check will add up quickly. You will be setting yourself up for success to save and travel with less money.

Have one credit card that you use for points before, during, and after travel

I am not a big fan of credit cards. Honestly they scare me!

But if you use them carefully, strategically, and intentionally, the points that come from them can be so beneficial!

I personally recommend the American Express, Skymiles Delta credit card. When signing up for the credit card, you receive a significant number of Skymiles to use towards air travel.

Another good one is Capital One Venture card. You can earn a pretty large number of bonus points for opening an account and spending a certain amount of money. I wouldn’t recommend that unless you’re super great with money OR you have something large coming up where you know you’ll be spending that money.

For us — it made sense to do this because we were in the midst of paying for a wedding…

I will use my credit card for monthly expenses and then pay my bill at the end of each month. You keep good credit, don’t rack up extra interest, AND you still get the points!

I have bought several free plane tickets because of these points. If you’re strategic and careful, it can be a great tool!

Utilize flight search engines for air travel

There are numerous flight search engines that you can use (Travelocity, Kayak, Skiplagged). If you are serious about keeping your eye on discount flights, you can save significant amounts of money here.

If budget is your priority for a trip, this can be a great way to go. You may have more layovers or less convenient routes of travel, but it can save you money. Read more about resources to plan for your next trip.

I also lump Scott’s Cheap Flights into here (or now known as Going). Basically they have collected a phenomenal group of flight enthusiasts around the world that monitor drops in ticket prices. Sometimes this is even to the extreme! You can subscribe at a very low cost to get updates from any airport you name.

Who knows — maybe in a few weeks you’ll get notified of a several-hundred drop in ticket prices for your dream route to Costa Rica!

Travel in the “off season”

This may sound obvious, but it’s extremely important to point out. I recently searched for flights from the U.S. (Midwest) to Luxembourg for spring/summer 2022. A flight at the beginning of April cost just over $500 (with Delta!) — Economy that is…. That same flight in June was over $1000 (also Economy…)!

Use your PTO!

This isn’t as much of a tip as it is a mindset. If you have PTO (personal time off) at your job or vacation days, use them to travel. You will be getting paid to travel! (rather than sitting at your desk). When you get back from your two week trip to Brazil, you will receive a pay check. Isn’t that a fun way to look at it!

Find budget accommodation

I have many recommendations for this (it’ll have to be a post on it’s own). You can check out my post on crucial resources for planning your next trip. Accommodation varies all over the world. It depends on what you’re looking for. I personally love AirBnB travel. It’s a great way to see a home/apartment in another country.

Sometimes this can be quite affordable. AND sometimes it isn’t.

Some other options to consider are hostels (in the northern hemisphere) and backpackers (in the southern hemisphere). Often times referred to as “youth hostels” these accommodations also cater to people of all ages. They can also be a great way to meet locals and other international travelers. Often times, they even have private rooms (at a little higher price) if you want more privacy. I have some of the best experiences staying at hostels in France, Belgium, Italy, South Africa, and Eswatini.

Be creative! Consider family, friends, or acquaintances that might live at your destination. Make a post on Facebook to find connection in that country.

A final suggestion I have is to look into WWOOF-ing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms | WWOOF). Often times free, this platform connects travelers to stay with a local family in exchange for some work (think grape picking at wineries in Italy). These might not all be your style, but if you are on a hard budget, accommodation is one of the biggest areas you can cut your expenses.

I also do love Booking. We booked most of our accommodation in Italy through Booking and had really good experiences! The nice thing about Booking is that you can sort by price.

Read about our Italy trip here.

Eat at local spots during the day, and grab some local groceries for dinner

I have found this everywhere I’ve traveled: your most expensive meals are going to be dinner.

One of the best ways to cut costs on a trip, is to purchase some local groceries for your dinners.

If you want to eat out at local restaurants, consider it for lunch or even breakfast. This is what we did through our trip in Croatia (see the full blog post here)!

If you receive 26 pay checks a year, put aside those 2 “extra” paychecks for travel

I love this one. I tend to budget by considering I get 2 paychecks a month. But there are 2 months out of the year where you receive a 3rd paycheck (it’s so exciting!).

This is a great opportunity to put this full paycheck aside into a savings fun. After all, if you’re budgeting with 2 paychecks a month, you won’t even miss this money. AND you could already have $2000-3000 just like that!

Walk

As much as you can at your destination, walk places. It can be one of the best ways to see a city, a new community, and to experience the unexpected.

If you want to go somewhere that’s 3 miles from your hotel and B&B consider walking rather than paying for public transit or an Uber. This will save you lots of money.

Pack light

If possible, try to pack just a carry on. This will help you resist buying a bunch of new items for your trip, and it will also save you energy, time, and money at your destination. You will be able to get around easy with your bag, so you won’t have a need to purchase bag storage.

Check out some tips on how to travel with a carry-on AND a post on how to travel with just a personal item.

Take advantage of free access

In many cities and countries, there are plenty of free things to take advantage of. For example, if you like museums, you can find museums that are free or free on certain days of the week. Simply Google what you can do for free and you will be surprised!

Consider finding part-time temporary income solely for your travels

This may be difficult, it may not work for everyone. But if you are able, consider finding a part-time job or passive income. Set aside these funds for travel! Sometimes it’s motivating when you know exactly how you’ll spend the earnings of your hard work.

I was a dog-walker for a long time through Rover. It was great! I just committed to it when I had extra time. It was motivating to see the funds building for our next trip! This was how I paid for one of our most recent trips to Croatia.

You could also consider driving for Uber or Lyft, Door Dash, or delivering foods. If you have a side hobby or craft that you are great at, consider finding ways to sell some of your work (Etsy or farmers market??). This can all add up and will help you save and travel with less money.

Use your tax refund

If you do file taxes and typically get money back, consider putting this money (or some of this money) aside for your trip

Make friends

Even as an introvert, I am a big believer in finding locals throughout your trip to befriend or get to know.

It could be a guide for an excursion, the hotel receptionist, the AirBnB owner, or your waitress. But if you can find people to get to know a little, you can ask for their advice on the best local spots, affordable places to eat, etc.

Often times, this will get you information you couldn’t find in a guide book and may be much more affordable.

Come up with a system of spending

I am a big planner, but even if you’re not, a plan can help you save money. If you are traveling with a partner/spouse or with your family, a system can be extremely beneficial in keeping yourselves on budget and aware of your spending.

One system that has worked well for us is that I paid for the bookings ahead of time (cheap flights and AirBnB’s). Then my husband pays for the expenses in-country (ie car rental, food, restaurants, etc). Whether your funds are coming from the same place or not, it allows one person to “lead” and the other person to take a break from thinking about money.

This works really well for us (one of us a planner and the other is not 😉 ) Everyone has their own preference.

Travel with someone

While I am a big believer in traveling solo, if you are on a budget, traveling with someone can save you money. Maybe it’s your spouse or your family. Or perhaps it’s a friend that has also wanted to travel to the same destination.

You don’t even have to do everything together, but if you have accommodation that you can each come back to at the end of the day and split expenses, this can be a money saver.

These are just some tips to get you started. I’d love to know if you have any tips to share. Budgeting for a trip can be overwhelming and frustrating when you aren’t “rolling in dough” but it can also be a really fun way to prepare for your trip, learn about your destination, and bask in the excitement to come!

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