Hi everyone, I’m Keiko’s friend Holly! She’s been asking me for awhile to write a post on how I travel on a budget. There is a lot of information out there about this subject, but some of it can get quite advanced/confusing. I put together my 5 tips on how to travel on a budget, and hopefully you’ll be able to save some money!
Holly’s 5 Tips For How To Travel On A Budget
1. Be Flexible
My number one tip for traveling on a budget is: be flexible. Whether it’s being flexible in terms of destination or time of year. You can usually find great flight deals just a few weeks beforehand, but I know not everyone can travel last minute. If you are more of a plan in advance type, try traveling during the off season. Some destinations are more likely to have cheaper fares. I often see deals for super cheap flights to Milan – and if you want to travel in Europe, taking advantage of a fare to Milan could mean exploring a city you weren’t planning on traveling to, while also visiting the city of your choice with a cheap EasyJet flight to Paris or Berlin (flights within Europe can be really cheap on low cost carriers.) Another option is traveling somewhere like Southeast Asia where the exchange rate works in your favor.
2. Learn How to Expertly Search for Flights
For international (and even domestic) travel, flights can often be the most expensive part of traveling. I like using The Flight Deal for international travel deals (and they also have domestic fares) and Airfare Watchdog for domestic flights. I also like to follow them on Twitter and Facebook to make sure I don’t miss any updates. Sometimes the deals they post aren’t actually sales but mistake fares, and those can go quick!
My favorite way to search for flights is ITA Matrix. It might seem confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it- you won’t be using anything else. I found this guide by The Flight Deal to be really helpful on learning how to search. Their search is really powerful, and the main reason I use this search over others is because they list the fare rules. Which leads me to tip #3…
3. Take Advantage of Stopovers
Stopovers allow you to stay in a connection city for more than 24 hours, but less than the length of your trip. This is a great way to add another city or country into your trip without paying much for the extra flights! You can find stopovers for $100 or less. Here is one example: recently I booked a roundtrip from New York to Tokyo, but it only cost an extra $100 to add a flight to Taipei, and free to add a flight to Shanghai. So I was able to fly New York to Taipei, Taipei to Shanghai, Shanghai to Tokyo, and back to NYC all for under $650! I took advantage of a cheap fare along with the stopovers allowed to save a ton of money on airfare!
*If you’re planning on traveling to Europe, Icelandair offers a great stopover program!
*For a more comprehensive explanation on stopovers and how to search for fares that include them, check out this post.
4. Don’t Get Fancy with Accommodations
Just like flights, booking a hotel can be another expensive part of planning a trip. I like to stay in cheaper places, but I still want to stay somewhere nice. If you’re traveling to Southeast Asia or another place where it’s a lot cheaper – you can usually find pretty reasonable prices for fancier hotels (especially during the off season.) If I’m staying in a hotel or hostel, I usually spend a good amount of time combing thru TripAdvisor and Orbitz comparing reviews and prices. But in general, I almost always look on Airbnb. You can usually find reasonable prices and a lot more space than a hotel. Plus, if you are on a budget, having a kitchen where you can store some food or prepare a few meals can cut down on costs.
*For Europe, if you’re traveling solo/looking to stay in a hostel I would recommend the Generator Hostels.
5. Stay Organized & Do Your Research
I like to create a spreadsheet and budget out all my expenses, this might seem like overkill for some people, but it’s really helpful to make sure you are keeping your costs down and that your trip is in budget! Seeing everything in one place will help you keep an overall picture of how much the total trip costs will be, as well as how much spending money you have.
Activities, places to eat, and shopping can vary greatly in price. If you’re on a budget you’ll need to do a bit more research than just winging it. A good starting point is Wikitravel, they break down each city by budget, along with a multitude of other information. If you are on a strict budget, it could help you save money by researching the cheapest options for mundane things like traveling from the airport to your hotel or finding grocery stores near where you are staying. For fun things, I’ve actually relied quite a bit on finding blogs or Instagram accounts that focus on the specific places I am going. Asking your Airbnb host for local recommendations is also a great way for finding places that might be cheap and more authentic than what you find on TripAdvisor. If you take the time to plan out some activities and places to eat in your price range before your trip, you won’t be stressed about finding options last minute or winging it at ending up at a pricey restaurant.
I hope these tips help with planning your next trip, or inspire you to travel if you thought it wasn’t possible without a ton of money. If you have any of your own tips on how to travel on a budget, please leave a comment to let me know!