How to Make Travel More Affordable (From Start to Finish)

Hafekekarrinne, Innsbruck

You ask me all the time how I can afford to travel so often and to so many different locations. Now, with sponsors, advertising, and affiliates, it’s a lot less expensive and sometimes even free but I traveled several times a year even as a struggling, student-loan paying student. If you make it a priority, it becomes more of a reality.  I focused my earnings on what was important, often cutting expenses like dining, clothing, transportation, and extra-curricular by half. Those things didn’t hold value to me. What was of value was travel and experiencing new cultures and countries. I thought outside the box and did whatever it took to bring my travel dreams to light. After visiting more than 40 countries and over 30 years of personal experience, I’ve come up with a few tips to make travel more affordable.

1. Cut Back on Unnecessary Expenses – We can all cut back on expenses. I usually ask myself, “Would I rather have/do this, or put that money toward a flight?” You’d be surprised with how little you need when you constantly put it into perspective. I stopped eating out at expensive restaurants and starting eating home or packing a lunch daily. (This tip goes well while traveling too. Shop at grocery stores and bring snacks/packed lunches rather than dining at restaurants.) I cut my own hair, lived in a small, one-room apartment, bought most of my clothes at second-hand stores, stopped paying for cable at home, avoided buying expensive hair/skin products, and reduced my utility bills. They were all small sacrifices for better goals.

2. Pick Up a Rewarding, Extra-Income Job – Before becoming a travel writer, I was a high school teacher.  I enjoyed teaching students and reading was one of my favorite pastimes. Combining my love for teaching and learning, I offered tutoring lessons after work and on weekends. This had a two-fold effect: I was making extra cash and keeping busy during hours that I would most likely have been spending money. Maybe tutoring isn’t your thing and then it becomes less rewarding, but think about things you enjoy doing and offer it as a paid service.

3. Try Other Forms of Accommodations Rather than Always Paying for Expensive Hotels – Hostels are a cheap alternative to hotels and you can usually meet other like-minded travelers on your journey. I stayed in hostels during my 12-country Europe trip in 2002 and made life-long friends along the way. I also brought a tent and used that whenever possible. It was even cheaper than hostels, but much less accessible in many countries. It is possible though, especially if you plan ahead. What if hostels aren’t your thing but you still want to have authentic, private, good-value accommodations? HouseTrip is a unique holiday rental experience that offers more space, extra bedrooms, a kitchen, WiFi, and laundry facilities at no extra cost, and you can book a whole home for less than the price of a hotel. As a mother and wife now, I don’t see hostels as the best value for my money. There are other options available like HouseTrip, but they require you to have collateral (your own home to offer in exchange) or you lose the privacy (staying at someone’s home).  HouseTrip is a more family-friendly, private option that could be cheaper than hotels and hostels if you take into account the number of people traveling and the benefits you receive in return.

4. Get More Bang for Your Buck – If you’re making single-country trips during every vacation, it becomes extremely expensive to see more. Try adding additional countries to your trip and spending less time in one place. This pace is not for everyone, but it works for me. I want to see the world and I don’t have unlimited time to do it so I compromise. I spend a few days in each country or major city and then move on. My favorites go back on the list for a longer visit at a later date. If you combine close destinations you eliminate the biggest expense – flights. My recent trip to Germany, for example, was a long, expensive flight but Germany’s proximity to other countries is a vantage point. From Germany, you can take a day trip to Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, and France (just to name a few of the more popular destinations). Europe is at your doorstep; all you have to do is hop on a train or a bus, which leads to my next point.

5. Use Cheaper Means of Transportation – When saving for travel and traveling, I like to consider the cost of gas. Gas prices are excessively high and a waste of money when you can avoid it. Rather than driving to local places, I walk instead. It all adds up quickly and two unnecessary trips to the grocery store when I could have walked equate to fuel for the flight rather than in my car. When traveling, trains and buses are an alternative to planes and car rentals plus you get to see more when you’re not the driver or above the clouds. Public buses are more user-friendly than you’d expect. Pick up a bus schedule and make sure to use the knowledge of the bus driver. They usually know the connections and stops like the back of their hand.

6. Start a Dedicated Travel Fund – Create a new account and feed it regularly. Make it easy to transfer money over from another account and every time you go online to check your balance, make a transfer. Make it fun. Make a game out of it. Make it part of your pay schedule. Just make it happen and whatever you do, don’t use the money for anything else. It will add up quickly.

These are just my top six tips for making travel more affordable, but I know you have tons to offer and we can expand the list. Share your ideas on how to make travel more affordable and I’ll add my favorite ones to the list with credit to you. Let’s help others add more countries to their list. 

What are two of your most valuable tips to make travel more affordable? 

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58 thoughts on “How to Make Travel More Affordable (From Start to Finish)

    • Are you still using a travel fund now? We set aside a percent of our pay toward a travel fund and use it for trips every vacation. I love looking at that account and dreaming about the possibilities. It’s a much better pick me up than dining out and wasting money 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • We’ve also started a separate travel fund! We did some research for a bank with the highest interest rate for a savings account and put all of our tax refund in there. We let it sit and collect interest until we’re ready to book a trip. I realize not everyone can do this, but it’s a way for us to afford more expensive vacations.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Some more tips, carry your own water bottle as I do. You can re-fill your water bottle for free at many places instead of buying another bottle of water. I would also set aside a percentage of your pay to a savings fund, and you set this up automatically with your bank. Of course, if you are not employed and no one will hire you, you can’t really do much of anything.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Just like you, when I committed to the goal of dropping all and taking off to travel (in Asia, for 1+ year), I scrimped, saved, cut out luxuries (not that I was ever a real shopper, but those mid-morning muffins and cappucinos have a way of adding up!) and in no time, I had enough saved up to fly, travel and have the time of my life. Thanks for showing how possible it is for others to follow suit 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was never much of a shopper either and never cared for expensive products but I went from wasting over $100 a week on things I didn’t need to spending less than $20 a week on almost everything (obviously things like rent aren’t included in that $20.) It was easy and I was more active and healthy because of it. It was win, win. 🙂

      Congratulations on making it work for you. I’m sure your travels were more rewarding than the little extras as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The moment I earned my first money I set up a travel fund plan straight each time I got paid -and its always a surprise to see how much I saved.

    And I think its much more fun to save money before going on a trip then saving money during the trip, so instead of buying expensive coffee to go & breakfast at a local bakery or at work I go for the cheaper coffee at the office and bring my own oatmeal to go…saves me 5 € a day! Doesn’t sound like a lot but thats 1000 € a year!

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  4. I agree with Nathan Young that carrying your own water bottle is a great way to save money. I have a Brita filter bottle and it goes everywhere with me. It saves money and is much better for the environment too. 🙂

    In terms of spending and saving, I think it’s a good idea to write down everything that is spent throughout the month and then work out which areas can be cut, e.g. I have a habit of buying cappuccinos when I’m on campus and I worked out that it adds up to a lot per month! I could save a lot more if I took my own coffee in a flask.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ohhh…. that is a great idea about writing things down. I tried that a few times and was completely shocked at home much I waste. I think I’ll try that again; it really puts things into perspective.

      Great suggestion. Keep ’em coming 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  5. My tip is if you’re planning go to tropical, Caribbean style, opt for an all-inclusive. You can find really cheap deals that include airfare, hotel, and all you can eat/drink. Then you have extra money to spend on nice dinners out if you wish. Also, don’t spend a lot on hotel rooms. You’ll only be in there to sleep anyway!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My favorite (CHEAP) way to travel: WWOOF! In exchange for working a few hours every day on a small organic farm, you get free room and board. WWOOF is a huge network too, so you can travel pretty much anywhere in the world on the cheap 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  7. The packed lunch and snacks is definitely a must for me, so easy to spend when you’re hungry and exploring a city. Also the Help Exchange website is great, 20 USD for a 2 year membership and you can work in exchange for food + accom anywhere in the world, it’s also a great cultural exchange

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  8. I think talking with locals and anyone you come across can benefit you in ways you can’t even guess. Not only will it enrich your trip and fill it with some unique, wonderful interactions, but those people may have some useful input. Perhaps they can direct you to a useful site for cheap/free things in the city you’re in, maybe they offer you to stay in their guest room for your stay, or point you in the direction of the best happy hour. 🙂

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  9. Great tips I just started my vacation fund to stash money away for family getaways a few months ago. The alternate modes of travel is another great point when I was stationed in Brussels, Belgium me and my friends purchased a Eurail Pass and Traveled to Paris, France; Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Cologne Germany. You can basically travel all of Europe by train at a cheaper rate than flying.

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  10. 1. Ask for presents for birthday and Christmas in the form of flight money. My parents are giving me and Cody our birthday present money in advance to help us buy tickets to fly to NYC for spring break exploring!
    2. Use your tax refund checks! Oh yeah! Cody and I are doing a 5 day Bahamas cruise with the help of that!
    3. Book in the off-season. Our October cruise was half-price compared to the August trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Don’t forget to bargain! You’d be surprise who and what goes down just for the asking. Sharing is always a great way to save as well. If you want to go on an excursion out of town and need to hire a private car, for example, round up some interest from the guests in your hotel or those you’ve met and share the expenses.

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  12. – We check air fares, hotel accommodations, tours, transfers and compare the total costs online vs the travel agencies. We’ve done some of our travel bookings by ourselves (especially if the rates we researched were lower).
    – We also book with travel agents with the best offer. We always ask for their promos.
    – Book EARLIER, the rates are cheaper! If not, consider the last minute deals.
    – We also consider travelling during the off-peak season.
    – Using air mileage accumulated points (airline loyalty program) from business trips to book for the next travels. This is applicable with credit cards too.
    – Choosing an all-inclusive hotel saves a lot of money
    – Eligible tax-refunds when shopping (Australia, Europe, Singapore)
    – Bringing crackers and water bottles, especially with young travellers, saves time and money.
    – We always have umbrellas inside our luggages. The rain should never ruin the trip 🙂
    – First aid and sewing kits are lifesavers.

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  13. You nailed a lot of the same cost-cutting tips my wife and I use to fund our own road trip experiences, especially just by living daily life frugally. For our own in-country visits to other cities and their bizarre attractions, we’re constantly looking around online for discounts and bargains. Some places will even have coupons you can print directly from their website. It takes tremendous effort, but all those little things we do add up!

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  14. Some very great tips and although we don’t travel a lot we have put some of those to use. Rather then get a hotel on our last vacation we were able to research and found a cottage to rent. It had a kitchen and a Weber on the deck outside. By cooking we saved a lot of money and had great food on the grill.

    We put about 10% of what we make selling our flags away and love watching the money grow towards a trip.

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  15. Awesome tips Lesley! I have always had the travel bug, and while larger trips are harder now with a family, we still make it a point to take smaller trips around the US. My daughter is 7 and has already been to some pretty cool places:)

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  16. Fascinating post especially as I’m on a strict budget lately, thanks for all the tips, only problem with housetrip is that I’m a very private person & my home is my comfort zone, it has our stamp everywhere & would feel violated to open it to total stranger but the idea is brilliant 🙂

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  17. I did the same thing. I cut expenses and was amazed at how much I was able to save. A big expense for us was going out to eat and have drinks. It was unbelievable how much we would spend on a weekly basis going out. Because we cut that major expense out I was not only able to quit my boring day job at the lab (& go into business for myself) but I was also able to take an extended trip out west this summer. The experience was well worth giving up the extra dinners/drinks out. If you make travel a priority it really quite simple 🙂 Nice post by the way!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Great tips!
    I used to put away $100 every month for a vacation. It amazes me how much fun I could have on that money at the end of the year. Could schedule trips when they were cheapest. Off season helps a lot. Now I can afford to spend more but I still don’t like the idea of $200 hotel rooms, especially when I’m only going to sleep there!
    I save up miles on everything! I’m using some next week for a trip to Las Vegas. Saved me over $700 on flights! Not worth it if you can’t pay your cards off every month tho, those interest charges add up quick.
    I’m debating canceling my cable, its going up and up every year, over $70/month now (was only $35 when I got it) and I almost never turn the TV on. I can get everything I need from the internet, I just get tired of playing on the computer sometimes and it’s just more comfortable to watch the TV sometimes. Think, it’s over $850/yr!! That money could go a long way towards a nice all-inclusive vacation in Cancun!
    Now I am looking into the house sharing, couch surfing and help exchange, thanks for those ideas everyone!! 🙂

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  19. Hi,
    I use your tips #1 (but that’s really a way of life) and #6 (there is the travel fund and the house renovation fund), and that reflects my too priorities, roof-over-my-head and get-away-from-the-roof.

    Where I disagree is #4. I prefer to see less but more in-depth, to stay in one location for a while and to use the hub-and-spoke strategy: stay in one place and visit tons of stuff in the vicinity, not more than one hour of commute (car, train, tram, metro, bus, etc.) from the hub. It’s amazing how much great stuff is available to you that way in European countries.

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  20. Check flights on all sites and clear you Cache folder regularly, the websites store data and alter pricing to incentivize a sale (purchasing psychology). Check your travel list (where you want to go) vs. the costs to get there and other options, sometimes the time of year or off season may save you some bucks. BTW, if you can’t travel for a sponsor for some reason, we’ll give it a try… =o)

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Great post!

    I was amazed to see how much money I saved solely by bringing my own coffee to work! I started a fund mostly on this basis and in one month had saved $40! Not a whole lot, but in combination with some other cutbacks, it adds up!

    I started to sell some artwork on the side, which was great because I love to draw and people were interested! Win, win!

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  22. We camp for some of our travels, since we have a pop-up. It saves not only on lodging, but also food since you can cook your own.

    When I was single I did an international homestay in Russia, which was not only less expensive, but also more informative. I’d rather see a place through the eyes of the local and when you’re stay in native resident’s home, you definitely do.

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  23. Thanks for these great tips on making travel a reality, especially the point about eliminating extra expenses (at home and abroad) and making the trip a priority! Home swaps might be an option for some travelers; also, if you’re a student or teacher there are often more (and more affordable) options for things such as research travel, student exchange, etc.

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  24. My most important things are planning and preparing. I usually go on vacation in a group of 4 people, so 4 bed dorms are a nice way to stay at a hostel. You have a certain amount of privacy and sleep in a room with people you trust. That’s a very important thing to me, because I’m always travelling with my camera and it’s my passion to take photos and it would be a nightmare not to be able to do that till the end of the trip.
    As a student at the university I’ve a strict plan how much money I spent for food etc. each day/month. Whenever it’s possible I try to stay at the house of friends of friends. That makes thing cheaper and it’s just perfect to know a local.
    Don’t visit tourist hot-spots oder take your own water and food to those places!

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  25. Awesome TIPS!!!
    I travel abroad (on avg.) about three times a year.
    A fun way for me to save $ for the trips:
    1.) I started couponing for everything humanly possible. I made a game out of it to see how much I could save using coupons. Then, I took whatever I saved using coupons and added it to my travel fund.
    2.) In my checkbook register, I always round off the amts by at least a dollar but sometimes up to 5.00. Ex: if I paid 27.25 at the grocery store, I mark it in my register as 30.00. Every three months, I do a “real” balance of what I have vs. what my register says. I pull out the excess and throw it in my “Escape Fund.” It’s always shocking how much I end up depositing…It certainly adds up!!!
    When I travel it is normally within Europe. So my travel tips for this are:
    #1. I fly just after or just before “high season.”
    #2. I rarely fly into the large, main airports. Ex: For London, Gatwick is a lot less expensive and then you can catch the train in.
    #3. If traveling to different countries, do not buy ALL of your tickets prior to going unless you’re on a tight schedule. Once you get IN to Europe, it is a TON less expensive to fly one of the European air companies. Ex: I went from London to Glasgow for 15 Euro and from Glasgow to Paris for 9 Euro.
    and last,
    #4: When buying from vendors, shops, etc, DO NOT just pay the “asking price.” (I learned this in Italy but it is true for other countries, as well). Americans have a reputation for just paying whatever price is advertised. European vendors know this and jack the price up. If you are willing to haggle, you will save a LOT (!!!!!!) of money! Ex: A taxi driver asked 50 Euro to take me from the train station to the Vatican area. I told him I’d pay 20. He acted like I was on crack until I walked away toward the next driver. He then yelled, “okay, okay, twenty!” I also got a handmade leather purse in Sienna for 80 Euro when the asking price was 220 (though the guy looked at me like I was the devil…).
    Happy Trails People!!!
    Wycked

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  26. Pingback: International Women’s Day: Lesley from Bucket List Publications – The Doorstep Traveller

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