What if I told you that it is possible to see incredible places and travel to interesting parts of the world without breaking the bank? Let me share 10 TRAVEL HACKS that will help you travel to incredible places even though you are on a budget!
In September 2018, my husband and I celebrated our 6th anniversary in one of the most expensive cities in the world... PARIS! The city of love!
If you google 'the average cost per person for a 1 week trip to Paris the result will come up to $2,150 per person for 6 nights and 7 days. (that's expensive!)
What if I told you that we traveled to Paris (from the United States), and not only explored Paris but also rented a car and drove out to the D-Day beaches and Mont. St. Michel, all for $550 per person?! And our total trip was 7 nights and 8 days! Is that incredible or what?!!
I've made a video covering 10 of these tips, (video at the bottom of the page) but let's jump right into the ways you can travel on a budget.
1. Get a good travel credit card
Credit cards aren't always the best choice for everyone, but if you are responsible and use a credit card like a debit card (keeping track of all your spending and paying your bill each month) cards can have some great benefits!
One of our favorite travel cards is the Capitol One Venture card. And while it does come with an annual fee, we love this card! When you sign up, the fee for the first year is waived, and if you spend $3000 in the first three months, you get 50,000 points which equals approximately $500 in travel credit! That is one amazing sign up bonus!
The Venture card gives you 2 points to every dollar you spend and those points can add up in a hurry! But even if they don't and it takes you two or three years to collect enough points for a trip, that's much better than no trip at all!
The thing we love about Capitol One Venture over other credit cards, is that you are not required to book flights and hotels through their website, but instead, they give you the option of a purchase eraser. THIS IS GOOD NEWS FOR DEAL HUNTERS LIKE MYSELF!
In other words, you can scour the internet for incredible deals (as long as it's travel related, such as airplane tickets, lodging, car rentals etc.) and when you book those deals with the Capitol One Venture card, you can then go into your statement and erase those purchases with points! It's a win win!
Use your deal finding savvy to find those amazing deals on the internet, because Capitol One Venture gives you the liberty to purchase outside of their website so you can get the best bang for your 'point' so to speak! YAY!
2. Be Flexible
Being flexible isn't always possible, but sometimes we think it's impossible when in reality, it quite possible.
If you can be flexible on two things; DATES and DESTINATIONS then you are already off to a jump start!
The meaning of vacation isn't so much about where you go as it is about what you experience. To vacation is simply to get away from the grind of life.. to slow down, meditate on life, and get a fresh perspective of the world. This means different things to different people and everyone has different budgets... but still. If we can be flexible, then suddenly things become possible that were not even an option previously.
Let me give you some examples
Travel in the off seasons. You will get much better rates, and you will enjoy the area so much more without all the crowds! Travelling right before or right after peak season will usually still yield fantastic weather but with the added benefits mentioned above.
If you are open to adventure and experiencing places you likely wouldn't have chosen in the first place, try SkyScanner. When searching for airline flights, SkyScanner allows you to put 'anywhere' in the destination box and it will search the least expensive destinations to fly to for your selected dates! This is a super fun way to get cheap tickets and go exploring new areas!
If you are flexible with dates, then use Google Flights. Put in your destinations and then browse the calendar to find the cheapest days to fly. Flying on a Wednesday versus a Friday can sometimes save you hundreds of dollars! I once found tickets form our tiny local airport in Harrisburg, PA to Orlando Florida for $29 round trip! MIND BLOWN!
Always check airline deals on Black Friday! YES! Airlines run Black Friday sales as well! That is how we found our tickets to Paris for cheap! $325 round trip! (since then we have seen years with them down to $249!). Paris hadn't been high on our bucket list, but we saw the deal and jumped on it, booking tickets a year in advance for our next anniversary! We ended up having one the best trip of our lives! So Be Flexible!
3. Be Intentional
Just because you find cheap tickets doesn't automatically mean you'll have a cheap vacation.
Plan ahead, and yes, MAKE A BUDGET for your vacation. I know vacation is meant to be carefree, but if you spend mindlessly, it won't be so carefree when you get home!
Plus, budgeting is such a fun challenge! To see how cheaply you can vacation makes it even more exciting and takes away that guilty nudge that comes with spending too much money. That doesn't mean you can't splurge here and there, but pre-plan your trip and decide ahead of time where you will tighten your belt and where you will loosen it!
4. Do Your Research!
RESEARCH! Look into exchange rates and transportation costs of the country you plan to visit.
Will you be taking the bus or renting a car? What are those costs?
What is the cost of gas?
Are there tolls on your route?
What's the average cost of lodging?
what attractions to you wish to see? What are those costs?
Find places that are free to go to and plan accordingly.
And oh! Don't forget the parking fees at the airport (if you don't have a kind friend to drop you off!)
Pre-planning all the minute details may seem daunting, but it's what makes travelling possible when you are on a budget. Plan. Plan. Plan. Decide what is important and what isn't so that when you get there, your decision has already been made.
In Paris, Notre Dame was free to tour, so we greatly enjoyed walking through this spectacular building!
The Eiffel tower has beautiful views from the ground, so why spend $20 per person to stand a few hours in line just to go up an elevator? (:
Yes, it would've been great to say we saw the Mona Lisa, but hey... Nolan and I aren't into art, so that's another not so important tourist attraction we passed on.
It's these types of decisions that save a lot of money in the long haul. The two things we splurged on was a Hop on Hop off boat ride on the Seine River which was an incredible way to explore the city. We also really wanted to go the the Palace of Versailles so we bought skip the line tickets ahead of time (and were we ever grateful we did! The line stretched beyond anything you could imagine!)
So pick what's important to you and skip the rest! There are a lot of free things to do and enjoy on vacation!
5. Skip the Hotels and book through Air B&B
Yes, there may be some horror stories about getting a Bed & Breakfast, but we've had great experiences! When you book an Air BnB you often end up saving a lot of money! For example, the average hotel in Paris usually starts at $200 on the low end and quickly escalates to insane prices! We found a wonderful little studio in the heart of Paris for $70 a night! (we were there for 3 nights) We even had our own washer to do our clothes!
However, when you go to other destinations that aren't such popular destinations, you can often find rooms for $50 a night or better. No, it's not a 5 star hotel, but I'm assuming if you are on a budget, you aren't normally staying in 5 star hotels. We surely aren't.
Now keep in mind, if you have saved up a lot of points on your credit card, your BnB will be covered by Capitol One Venture card! So since you hunted diligently for that perfect deal, you were able to use those points wisely!
6. Work for your stay
This is an option that we hope to try someday. There's a website called Work Away that is somewhat similar to Air BnB in that there are hosts on the website. But instead of purchasing your lodging, you agree to work a certain amount of hours every day in exchange for lodging and sometimes food as well.
This gives you the opportunity to be immersed into a culture, meet new people, bless others, and have an inexpensive adventure to another country!
The job opportunities our endless! From photography to web design, gardening to baby sitting, construction to farming... the list goes on and on! Check it out!
7. Say NO to taxis!
Most countries have great transportation systems, so make sure to understand them before you go. Buses and trains are usually your best option! But car rentals are also a favorite of ours and can end up not costing a whole lot more, especially if you plan to travel a lot.. plus your own set of wheels gives you the freedom to go where ever and whenever you please!
Did I mention that Capitol One Venture card comes with a Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver so you don't have to worry about insurance and all those fees that car rental companies like to throw at you. Capitol One has you covered! They also offer Travel Accident Insurance. when there’s a personal injury loss on a common carrier, and you’ve paid with your Venture Card, you may receive up to $100,000 for a covered loss.
sharing a crepe and coffee on a street side cafe...
8. Cook Some of Your Own Food
I understand that one of the best parts of traveling to other lands is trying out the local cuisine. However, when one is on a budget, this isn't always an option. Nolan and I try to only dine out once a day, and sometimes we opt for street food as that is also a fun cultural experience and a much cheaper way to eat.
We love going to local groceries, bakeries or markets, and getting breakfast foods that we can cook up back at our B&B. We also often buy things like baguettes, cheeses, fruits, and energy bars to take with us on our day trips. These foods make great snacks and help save a lot of money. Shopping where the locals shop is a great experience and we wouldn't miss it!
Yes, we did stop by the coffee shops, bakeries, and ice cream parlors throughout the day, (come on, we were in Paris!), but we tried to be careful and would have our main meal in the evening which is when we chose to eat out.
9. Don't try to see and do everything.
This is an important tip not only to save money, but also to enjoy that vacation . Choose wisely the things you will wish to see and do, and then dismiss the rest of the options.
So often when we vacation we get this frantic feeling that we are missing out on something. FOMO (fear of missing out). Since we only have a certain amount of days, we dash about madly from place to place never staying long enough to fully enjoy each one because we don't have enough time. This will end up leaving you exhausted, broke, and anything from feeling refreshed. You'll be left wondering what you actually did, because all you remember is the frantic scramble between places.
Do yourself and your wallet a favor. Pick a few top things you wish to do or see and choose to enjoy them to their fullest. Forget about the rest! You will enjoy your vacation much more and come to the end feeling rejuvenated rather than worn out.
10. Avoid Tourist Traps
While tourist areas have their place, you are much better off to avoid them as a whole. Prices in restaurants will be much higher than in the areas where the locals eat. Souvenir shops are fun to browse, but resist the temptation to buy a a lot of trinkets. Most times they are overpriced China creations and not original to the country you're in anyway.
Photos are the best souvenirs and cost no money! Take lots of pictures which capture your memories, and leave the souvenirs behind! They only clutter your home, anyway!