How to Budget Travel

Travel is expensive, and flights often represent the bulk of your travel costs. But don’t let your small budget discourage you, because there are ways to stretch it.

Here are my top 8 hacks for cheap travel:

1. Don’t fly

Flying is convenient and often faster, but has a larger impact on our climate. This is primarily because airplanes emit fumes into the upper atmosphere. In my travels I have met environmentalist backpackers who reject air travel entirely, and rely on overland travel. While there are certainly environmental gains from minimizing air travel, there are also financial gains. In many cases a bus will be cheaper than a flight. In a quest to minimize your costs, always aim to avoid flights.

2. Let the destination pick you

I have said this before and I will say it again! Fixation on a specific destination will often cost you. My travel tactic is always opportunistic. In 2016, I knew I wanted to go to Asia. Instead of settling on a specific country to go to, I monitored flights until an opportunity came up: $400 to fly to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Vietnam, it was!

3. Visit your friends and family

I am always so excited when a friend or family member moves somewhere new. It means I could visit them! Staying with friends and family can often make a destination financially feasible. For example, Australia wasn’t on my radar until some friends moved there -  by staying with them, I could manage the expensive flight that I had to take to get there! I have also managed incredibly trips to New York City, British Columbia, The Netherlands, Estonia, Taiwan, and United Arab Emirates, because of friends and family who helped make it possible.

4. Flexible time frames

An opportunistic destination combined with a flexible time frame will maximum your budget. If you have the privilege of giving little notice before a trip, use this to your advantage. Last minute flights can often snag you great discounts!   

5. Use cash to budget

We all agree: budgeting is hard. Especially when you are walking around with credit cards. Despite the convenience of credit and debit cards while traveling, I continue to rely on cash, no matter what the destination. This allows me to take with me for a day of sightseeing only the amount of money I intend, or can afford, to spend. This little trick (taught to me by my wise mum) helps to track how much money you are spending, and will often keep you from spending frivolously. Especially when it comes to food and souvenirs!

6. Minimize tourist traps

Tourist traps are in every country. I find that they often disappoint and will dominate your budget. Although I will indulge in a couple tourist traps per destination, I am critical in choosing which to do. For example, in Paris I chose to picnic below  rather than go up the Eiffel Tower. This choice has not impacted my beautiful memories of the Eiffel Tower - and I saved myself about 30 euro!

7. Minimize meals out

Meals out will add up very quickly. Depending on where you are in the world, carefully planning where, what and how you eat can help you save tons on your travel budget. In North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea - meals out are expensive. Luckily, these regions typically offer kitchens in hostels, and so you can easily cook yourself your meals (at least cook breakfast and dinner, eat lunch out). In other regions (Asia, South America, Central America, Africa) street food is the way to go, and this is necessary since most accommodations will not offer a kitchen. One trick I have always relied on is to carry snacks. I will always bring a supply of Clif Bars (very filling!) and wherever I am in the world, I buy fruit and yogurt from a local market to eat throughout the day.

8. Take public transport

A tried and true trick. Especially with apps and free wifi these days, taking public transport is breeze. So when you can, opt for public transport rather than a cab, Uber or Lyft. The couple dollars you save on each trip will add up quick.