Spend less to take a vacation

Fishermen's Bastion in Budapest
Budapest, Hungary. Budapest is one of the most reasonable places to visit in Europe. 

Most people I know wish they could travel as much as possible. The two biggest reasons I’ve heard for why they don’t travel more is money or vacation time from work. I can’t solve the vacation time problem, but I can help with some budget travel advice. Trips don’t have to break the bank. If you follow some or all of these tips, hopefully crossing “I need to travel more” off of your list of things to do is next.

 Plan ahead

I mentioned this other posts; flights get more expensive the longer you wait to book. It’s also true for the other things you need to book, such as hotels, tours, etc. You miss out on early bird specials if you’re booking a cruise or travel package. Planning your vacations ahead of time allows you to research your destination city to see what things you can do for free or for a marginal price. You’ll also have a better handle on how much money you’ll be spending while you are away.

Travel times

Flight from JFK
View on a flight from JFK airport in New York

Whether you’re traveling by plane, boat, train or bus, going during the off-season can save you a lot of money. If you can, try taking your vacation then. These times may vary depending on where you want to go; but you generally want to avoid major holidays and any time school is out, like summer and winter breaks.

Use a budget airline. Europe, in particular, has very competitive airline prices. Also, buy travel insurance. It’s an additional upfront cost, but it’s worth it if there’s an emergency. You don’t want to spend a lot of extra money later because you didn’t get it.

Try or another flight tracker to get your best prices. Save money on flights has a lot of my tips for getting flight deals.

Hotels aren’t always your best bet

Cathedral and colorful houses in Girona
Girona, Spain

Hotels can run up your costs significantly. There are other options available, ranging from hostels, inns, and bed and breakfasts. You can also check out, which allows you to rent rooms or full apartments from locals, or, where you can find a couch or bed to sleep on in each city you visit. These are both great options if you’re traveling to multiple locations, but be sure to read reviews and warnings if you plan on using them.

If you prefer to stay in a hotel, you can find cheaper hotels on Skyscanner, Momondo or a site like

Forget about checking a bag

Some airlines charge you for checking a bag. Either stick to the ones that allow you to check a bag for free, or leave the big suitcase at home. I only take what’s allowed on a plane with me. If you’re planning on visiting a few different locations, it’s also easier to go with less because luggage can become a burden.

My post The freedom of traveling light gives tips on how to pack less and still have your essentials covered.

Go where your dollar is strong

Try heading to places where your dollar is stronger than the destination’s currency. You can stretch out your money farther. If you’re traveling between countries, try buying necessary items in the cheaper countries.

I’d suggest skipping buying souvenirs. Taking lots of pictures can give you a lifetime of memories. If you want to bring things back for people, try finding free or low-cost items, like postcards or shells from the beach. These options are also small so they’re easy to pack.

Skip eating at restaurants as often as you can

Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Imagine a picnic somewhere like this!

Restaurants can add up. Do your research ahead of time to see which ones are reasonable and have great tasting food. When you do eat at a restaurant, stay away from the touristy ones and go where the locals eat. In addition to costing less, the food usually tastes better.

You can buy groceries and make a meal if you have a kitchen. Think of how nice it would be to have a picnic or beachside meal in your destination city. Also look for places to stay that have free breakfast where available.

I also recommend buying or bringing alcohol with you to save money on your restaurant bills. Alcohol costs can add up! The same goes for water. Bring a water bottle and fill up with free water when you get the chance.

Sometimes when I badly want to go away but save money, I’ll go to a resort off-season so my food and drink costs are covered upfront.

Check to see if you can find discounts on restaurants in the location you want to visit.

See what’s free and discounted

Nan Lian Garden, Hong Kong
Nan Lian Garden, Hong Kong

As I mentioned in the first point, plan ahead to see what you can do for free. You’ll likely want to do some of the must-see things that will cost you money, but you can add in free options to save money. A lot of places have free shows in parks or on their waterfront, and you can find discounted days to visit museums or art galleries.

Check and for discounts on shows, tours, spas and restaurants.

Getting around your area

Hong kong view point from top of victoria peak
Hong Kong view from Victoria Peak

Walk where you can. Not just because it’s free, but it’s also a way to keep in shape and see the sights around you. Biking is another option. It’s reasonably priced and can keep you fit. Rental options are available in a lot of places. Buses are one of the best ways to get around a city and are your cheapest option outside of walking or biking. Trains are good for longer distances. Look into what your options are for rail passes, especially if you’re in Europe. Passes can save you money.

If you want to drive, research the best car rental deals or auto share options in your destination city. Factor in parking costs as well.

These are some of my tips for traveling for less. What are yours?



  1. Ive personally found that THE best way to save while traveling is to avoid hotels.

    Ive used couchsurfing 4 times and 3 out of 4 were exceptional experiences.
    The 4th time was a bit awkward because I had booked with little notice and had no spoken with the person much before showing up at their place. It was not a horrible experience but we just didnt get along and it made the entire experience feel a bit off.

    I highly recommend speaking with your host first and making sure that you get to know them a little bit before meeting.

    If youre looking for more information on couchsurfing check out this couchsurfing guide for hosts and surfers

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