One of the most universal things about the human experience is the desire to travel and see the world. Whether that's leaving your small town to visit big cities or flying halfway across the globe, many of us fantasize about this. Everyone's travel dreams are different, but the one thing they have in common is that the price tag can add up quickly. This is why it's important to know how to travel cheap so that you can make the most of your trip.
How to travel cheap
There are numerous ways to accomplish this goal. Because there are so many moving parts involved when planning a trip, you'll want to maximize savings in each area. Let's break down the different factors to think about and discover the best way to travel cheaply. Just because you want to see the world doesn’t mean you have to empty your pockets or break the bank. Besides just focusing on free things to do, let's look at other ways to save money.
Tips for getting discounts on airfare
Before you can start on any trip of a lifetime, you have to get there first. While this may include an epic road trip (which is a great way to save money), you may also fly there. One of the best travel hacks to come in under your budget is to scout for error fares or a glitch fares. You can get a great deal on a plane ticket thanks to these short-term errors in pricing.
These super low airfares usually only last for a few hours. Typically word gets out quickly and the airlines realize they’ve made a mistake and correct it. If you sign up for alerts and can snatch up one of these special fares, it could save you thousands of dollars. There are entire websites dedicated to finding these mistake fares. Airfare Watchdog, Secret Flying, The Flight Deal, and Scott’s Cheap Flights for Mistake Fares are just a few.
Look for them on sites like Skyscanner, which also allow you to set up alerts for drops in prices. This and other search portals like Expedia, Momondo, Kayak, and Mobissimo also feature last-minute deals and packages.
Using your credit card reward points or the rewards programs offered through airlines are another great way to get cheap or free flights. And of course, there are the no-frills budget airlines where flights cost significantly less.
Sometimes the flights are in the very near future, so have your packing list and suitcase ready.
Travel cheaply: Accommodation
Finding cheap accommodation is probably one of my favorites topics because there are so many ways to go about it. Who doesn't love things that are free or almost-free?
The first and most obvious choice is to stay with friends. if you know someone living in a place you've always wanted to visit, why not go spend some time with them? See if they have a spare room, an extra bed, or even a couch that you can crash on. Bonus points if they live in a place with nice weather or they speak your native language. There are also couchsurfing websites where people offer up their homes and sofas. This is a great way to make new friends.
A similar option is to do a home exchange, also known as a house swap. Many people who know how to travel the world cheap use platforms like LoveHomeSwap, HomeLink, HomeExchange, and Intervac to find their temporary digs. Most exchanges last from one to four weeks, so they are preferable for travelers who plan on staying a while.
Another way to do cheap travel is house sitting. This is another gig that tends to be longer-term. You'll really get to know a place if you end up staying there for two to six weeks. Platforms like Nomador, TrustedHousesitters, HouseCarers, HouseSitMatch, and MindMyHouse charge users an annual fee for access to listings. You can contact the owners to see if it's a good match. It's usually possible to filter if you need to care for any animals, water plants, fulfill special requests, etc.
Some people choose to work abroad as a way to get free or discounted housing. Think ashrams in India where you have to do your individual task each day. Or organic farms that hire seasonal workers to harvest their crops. There are even places you can stay which are small towns that people pay to come to in order to practice their English with people like you. In exchange, they provide you with accommodation. And in your free time, you can travel and explore.
Staying in hostels
If you can't get completely free accommodation, you can always book a bed at a hostel. Many hostels offer the option to stay in a private room if you'd like a few days of privacy. Not everyone is keen on the idea of sharing their space with strangers or maybe they just need a break from other backpackers. Private rooms in hostels are still considerably cheaper been staying at a hotel, especially when split between two people.
And here's another tip for travel hacking: If at all possible, list your room or home on Airbnb while you're away. You won't be using it, so you might as well generate some cash flow to help fund your travels. When you're trying to figure out how to travel for cheap, having a little extra dough in the bank never hurts.
How to travel the world cheap: Figure out the bare minimum of what you need
If you want to know how to travel the world cheap, start thinking about the things you can do without. One of the best things you can do is figure out what you absolutely need, and this list is different for everyone. Some people are fine using cold water while for others, this is their worst nightmare. Many people need electricity and a Wi-Fi connection at all times, while others want to completely disconnect from everything.
Once you know what your must-haves are, you can work from there to find the cheapest options possible along your journey. Be flexible, especially if you are a solo traveler. Perhaps you prefer a train ride, but a bus or another more unconventional form of transport is the less expensive option.
Save money on food
I love all of the housing options mentioned earlier because they each provide a kitchen, so you can cook for yourself. This is another great way to stretch your funds when you're trying to travel cheaply. Just head to your local grocery store to stock up and cook for yourself the same way you would when you're at home. Skipping restaurants and not dining out are great when you're thinking about how to travel cheap. You will want to try local food at some point, but in general, stick to the kitchen.
The same goes with alcohol. Buy wine, liquor and beer at duty-free or at the liquor store to save money on your bar tab.
How to travel for cheap: Consider going during shoulder season or off-season
It seems like the whole world is on vacation in summer. Popular destinations swell with tourists and everyone is on the move. One of the best ways to beat the crowds is to avoid this time of year altogether. If there's any way for you to travel in the fall, winter or spring, I say go for it.
I realize that this is more obvious advice for how to travel for cheap, but I had to mention it. You'd be surprised at how much you will save when not traveling during peak season. Sometimes you can get discounts of up to 50% on car rental, accommodations, activities and excursions, restaurants, and more. Countries that rely heavily on tourism for their economy are desperate for patrons to use their businesses and services during the off-season.
How to travel cheaply: Go somewhere with a low cost of living
We frequently become accustomed to our day-to-day lives and to assume that the prices we pay are normal. Then you'll go somewhere like Switzerland and realize that the cost of dinner for two is the same as someone's monthly salary in Bangladesh. It's all relative and you can use low cost of living to your advantage when planning a trip.
Search out destinations that have a really good exchange rate so that your money will go further. Of course, not everyone wants to go to Southeast Asia or other similar regions but still want to know how to travel cheaply. If you do want to go somewhere more expensive, you can still use the above tips and tricks to get a good deal.
Get travel insurance
I know this may seem counterintuitive at first for how to travel cheaply. After all, with budget travels you're trying to save money, not spend it. But spending a little bit extra to spring for travel insurance can save you a huge headache down the road. If heaven forbid you do have an emergency while you're traveling, you'll pay a significantly lower amount if you have to cover the cost out of pocket. Look into the different options available and see if there's one that fits your needs.
When traveling the world to far-flung destinations like Iceland, Brazil, or South Africa, you can always get a good deal. With determination, skill, planning, and luck, you're sure to save some big bucks on your next journey abroad.