How to travel cheap: 23 TOP money saving tips for budget travellers

Travelling on a budget does not mean you need to miss out on enriching experiences. In fact, it actually means you can travel more as you save money on one adventure you can begin planning the next.

These top tips for travelling on a budget are aimed at those familiar with a never-ending bucket list when our bank accounts want us to travel no further than the backyard. They will help you not only plan a trip, but have fun regardless of your budget.

After all, one of the most rewarding experiences in the world is travel, so although you’re travelling on a budget see it as an investment. These experiences can help you find your dream job, meet incredible friends for life and provide precious memories that, to be honest, money can’t buy!
unique workaway experience community bonfire and guitar night

First things first….

1. Set a budget

The most important tip when travelling on a budget? Set a budget! This is so often forgotten but a vital way to ensure your money can last the duration of your trip is to plan how much you can afford in the first place.

Set a budget that’s either daily, weekly or monthly and stick to it. There are endless budget tracking apps that are free to download or a good old spreadsheet is also ideal. Create a list of your non-negotiables, whether it’s restaurants you’ve dreamed of dining at or must-do activities then plan your budget accordingly.

If you overspend, it may cause you to miss out later on your trip or deal with more financial burdens when you get home so plan a realistic budget you know you will stick to.

Related blog post: Top budgeting tips on how to afford and plan your big trip

2. Don’t forget travel insurance

As soon as your budget is planned and flights are booked, next on your to do list is buying travel insurance. Travel insurance is essential but even more so for those travelling on a budget. While it is an upfront expense it is very much an investment that could potentially save you thousands later on.

Travel insurance can cover so many expensive instances. Obvious examples include medical expenses, cover for cancelled flights, lost baggage replacements etc. However, it can also cover expenses like lost or broken equipment such as drones or mobile phones, it can cover accommodation if you have issues with bookings and more recently most travel insurance companies have added covid policies should your itinerary have to change due to illness.

two workawayers hanging between jungle trees in a monkey tent

3. Start your adventure fund

Once you have your budget mapped out and a rough idea of where you want to go it’s time to get saving. One of my favorite tips when planning a budget trip is to save an image of the destination as my home screen on my phone or laptop. That way I’m constantly reminded and motivated to save money. Seeing that image as you unlock your phone to order another takeaway or open your laptop to work on a Friday night instead of another night out is the best way to keep your mind focused on the goal.

How to Save Money on Accommodation

4. Choose your destination carefully

When you’re travelling on a budget, you’ll soon realize some destinations are naturally more affordable. You’ll also find destinations where your budget can stretch further thanks to favourable exchange rates. Choosing a destination that is both cheap to get to AND stay in is vital.

For example, if you are based in an EU country, flights to Iceland can seem cheap as it’s an International travel hub but accommodation is so expensive. On the other hand, don’t rule out destinations like Asia. Flights to get there can be expensive, but there are so many cheap destinations in Asia with accommodation as little as $3 per night you can afford to stay and travel much longer.

Related blog post: 10 Of The Cheapest Countries In Asia For Budget Travellers

Thailand budget travel solo workawayer on a motorbike and discovering gold  buddhist temple

5. Shared Hostels

Hostels are one of the best places to stay when you’re travelling on a budget. Not only are they a fraction of the cost of a hotel, but they allow you to meet like-minded travellers who you can team up with and split costs such as fuel, food and tours with.

Hostels usually also have kitchen and laundry facilities. Being able to cook your own food and do your own laundry although time-consuming will help your money go further.

6. Camping

Camping is one of the most cost-efficient accommodation styles. Many countries allow wild camping whether in a tent or in a campervan.  Wild camping means exactly that – you are permitted to camp anywhere in the “wild” for free. While you’ll still need to buy the equipment including a tent, sleeping bag and cooking gear it can save you some serious cash on accommodation.

It’s also ideal for those travelling on a budget as the best camping spots are usually a little off the beaten path so you can immerse yourself in nature and enjoy priceless experiences away from the usual tourist crowds. Remember to always be a responsible traveller and check local laws as well as leave no trace.  

travel couple in a tent and gazing at sunset by the sea

7. Travel in a Campervan

Similar to camping in a tent, travelling in a campervan can be beneficial to those on a budget. While again there is an upfront cost (buying the van) and running costs (fuel) long term it could prove more cost-effective than paying for accommodation in hostels or hotels.

Especially if you are travelling in a more expensive country, for example, Australia or New Zealand where the van life culture is not only encouraged, but celebrated. This makes travelling destinations you previously maybe put off as unaffordable, more accessible as your transport is also your home, your kitchen and it can even be your work place too if you’re a digital nomad.

Related blog post: Volunteering & Van life: How to Make the Most of This Travel Trend

van life couple taking down a surfboard by the beach

8. Take advantage of travel rewards & discounts

Every penny counts when you’re travelling on a budget, so look into reward programs. Some hostel or hotel chains offer reward programs and discounts on your next stay if you use them again. As well as most airlines letting you collect air miles, it’s also possible to join reward programs for car rental and train travel.

You can also sign up to reward programs via your bank or credit card as well as third-party websites.  You can collect points or coupons when you use their service, that way you save money as you spend money. Or sometimes companies offer a discount if you sign up for their Newsletter. Workaway also offers a referral scheme, as you invite others to join the platform you earn more months of membership.

Some schemes even let you transfer the points or rewards to other family members so check with parents or relatives if they have any points they’re not going to use or that will expire soon.

9. Use Workaway

What’s better than cheap accommodation? Free accommodation! Workaway is a godsend if you are travelling on a budget, because you can stay in a local’s home for free. While some require a contribution towards food or living expenses, the majority allow you to stay, eat and explore their beautiful corner of the world in exchange for your time and skills.

Workaway not only encourages slow travel which benefits the environment, but it connects tourists with locals which benefits communities all over the globe. Whether you volunteer at a school, a surf camp or an animal sanctuary there are opportunities to suit all travel styles and budgets. It also allows those travelling on a budget to stay in bucket-list destinations, making travel more accessible.

Interlacing Workaway experiences with paid accommodation also allows you to save money, travel slower and travel longer. What’s not to love? Sign up to get searching here!

Related blog post: How you'll never travel the same way again after Workaway

workawayers volunteering at a local Indian school and going on a mountain hiking excursion with class

How to Save Money on Transport

10. Travel off-season

Travelling off peak can mean different things to different countries. For some, it’s travelling in Winter or during Monsoon season, others it's travelling outside school holidays. A little research into when the peak tourist seasons are, can save you some major cash.

As well as flights and accommodation being cheaper off season, you’ll find it’s quieter too. Travelling without crazy queues at the airport or battling overcrowded trains makes your trip far more enjoyable. During off peak times, you’re also more likely to get better customer service, less delays and more chance of free upgrades which will not only make your trip more enjoyable, but can save you money too.

11. Book in advance… or leave it last minute

This is a constant traveller conundrum. Airlines want their flights full. Fact. This means that by booking in advance whether weeks or months before departure your flight may be cheaper as the airline wants to encourage people to book ASAP.

On the opposite end of the scale, if an airline fears seats will be left empty, they may do a discounted rate if you book last minute. If you’re travelling on a budget, be flexible on your dates and play around with arrival and departure airports (it's not always the cheapest to arrive and leave from the same one).

Whether you book in advance or last minute, it’s a gamble that no one can really predict. However you can set up alerts that will help you track deals and discounts from leading booking sites. Some of the best resources for those travelling on a budget are:

  • Google Flights
  • Kayak
  • Skyscanner
  • Scott’s cheap flights

As a bonus tip, when you search for these flights, make sure to do it after you’ve set your budget. While it’s great to find good deals and amazing discounts, it’s only a good deal if you can afford it.

group of travellers walking towards a plane with luggage

12. Travel mid-week

If you can, try and travel between Tuesday and Thursday. Airlines and rail companies usually make tickets more expensive at weekends as this is when more people are free to travel.

On the other hand, you may also find that there are more direct routes at weekends, so bear this in mind. While travelling off peak or during the week can help you cut costs, it can also mean long layovers, increased travel time and extra connections. Weigh these inconveniences up with how much you are saving!

13.Pack Light / hand luggage

It’s one of the most frustrating things when you’re travelling on a budget – you find a great flight deal then realise the price doesn’t include luggage. By travelling with only hand luggage (like this professional light packer) you won’t need to pay the check in luggage fees.

Just make sure to pack the essentials for your destination, otherwise these can be an added expense. For example, suncream, mosquito repellent or swimming costumes are often charged at a premium to tourists so it’s often cheaper to bring them from home. The four pairs of shoes and 3 coats? Not so essential. Keep the outfits to a minimum and your budget will thank you.

Related blog post: Packing tips & hacks: How to Workaway out of a backpack in Southeast Asia

hitchhiker with thumb up carrying backpack

14. Travel Overnight

One of the best top tips for travelling on a budget is to travel overnight, particularly if you have a long journey. Whether it’s a red eye flight or sleeper train, not only will it save you a night’s accommodation but as you’ll be asleep you also won’t waste precious sightseeing time. You’ll wake up in a new destination, refreshed and ready to explore. Your budget will too!

15. Delete your cookies

This is a great tip regardless of whether you’re searching for flights, train tickets or accommodation. If you’re travelling on a budget, use your browser in “incognito mode” and/or using a VPN. It’s also a great idea to delete your Cookies before you search. This can be done from your browser settings.

Apparently, as companies store our search data, this can influence the prices we see. Companies are aware of our location and the dates we want to travel so the algorithm dictates the results we see. By clearing your cache, searching in incognito or via a VPN this makes tracking the data more difficult and should give you unbiased results.

16. Make the most of your layover

Fancy squeezing in an extra city for free? Use your layover to explore! When booking your flights it’s often cheaper to book ones with long layovers as they are less desirable. A long layover can often mean you’re permitted to leave the airport and have some free time on your hands to enjoy a new city.

Some airlines even encourage this as they want to heighten the tourism of certain areas. It’s a great idea if you’re travelling on a budget as you won’t need to pay for a night’s accommodation but you still get to enjoy a new destination.

Related blog post: 7 Great tips for surviving the dreaded airport long haul layover

solo traveller wading in a shallow river while smiling

17. Travel closer to home

There are so many reasons to travel in your own country and saving money is one of them! When you’re travelling on a budget, why torture yourself with dreams of far off lands you can’t afford, when it’s likely there are stunning hikes, beautiful beaches, famous museums and friendly locals waiting to be explored on your doorstep! Travelling closer won’t diminish your sense of adventure, but it will help your funds last longer.

Related blog post: 10 Reasons To Travel In Your Own Country & Why You’ll Love Every Minute

How to Save Money on Food, Drink & Activities

18. Local Food

If the cost of food is putting you off travelling, you’ll be surprised how cheap local food can actually be. Street food in particular is not only delicious but it offers a chance to try authentic cuisine at a fraction of the cost of dining in restaurants. Travelling on a budget does not mean you need to eat instant noodles or pasta every night – with a little research you can save a lot of money! Or better yet, stay with a local and eat like a king for free!
workawayer and host family sharing breakfast around the table

19. Do your research

Talking of research, this is one of the most important tips when travelling on a budget! While it can be fun and exciting to be spontaneous, your bank balance probably wouldn’t agree. Use search terms such as “City Name..on a budget” or “Free things to do in X” and then you’ll know the guides you read will be written with you in mind. It can be soul destroying looking at restaurants, accommodation or tours that are way out of your budget, at times it can even put you off planning a trip all together.

20. Free activities

When you do your research, you’ll be surprised at how much there is to do for free. Most cities offer free walking tours of some sort (though it’s custom to tip.) If you’re travelling on a budget, it’s often a good idea to do a free walking tour on the first day of your trip as they are great ways to get your bearings and meet others also new to the area.

Other free activities such as hiking, visiting temples, swimming in the sea or visiting art galleries are all great examples of ways you can enjoy your new destination without spending too much.
adventurous solo traveller jumping into lake with mountain view

21. Check the weather

The weather can make or break your trip AND your budget. By checking the weather, it will help you avoid unforeseen circumstances which also mean unnecessary expense. Knowing what the weather will be will also help you plan appropriate clothing, transport and accommodation.

No one wants to book a campsite if there’s going to be a snow storm, or pay for a surf lesson if a hurricane is forecast. Your flights might be cheap but are you flying during Monsoon season? Planned an overnight hike at the peak of Summer? Check the weather before you book, your budget will thank you!

22. Create an itinerary

Once you have a budget set and have researched the places you want to visit, an itinerary is essential for money saving success. Planning a route even if it’s a rough route means you can start planning what tours, transport or experiences you’ll need to book in advance so you can adjust your budget accordingly.

When you are put under pressure on the spot you’re more likely to spend and pay over the odds. Having an itinerary doesn’t mean you have no freedom, you can still schedule in free days for exploring but it can also help when searching for hosts. Having a rough route means you can check your dates match up with the hosts’ calendar and you can let hosts know your availability.

solo workaway traveller sitting on a balcony writing on her notebook with landscape view

23. Buddy Up

Travelling solo is one of the most rewarding and freeing experiences. However, it can sometimes prove more expensive. It is surprisingly easy to meet people when travelling solo, who you can then buddy up with and split costs. Whether you arrange to meet other Workawayers on your trip, or find a travel buddy before you leave, by planning excursions or accommodation together you won’t be left to fit the bill solo.

Related blog post: 10 Tips and Resources to Meet People While Travelling Solo

four travel buddies standing on a van with hands raised towards sunset
While budgets, itineraries and research can all sound horrendously boring you’ll thank us later for these top tips if you’re travelling on a budget. We all love to be spontaneous, meet new people and the thrill of adventure but there’s no reason why those things can’t happen when you’re watching the pennies. A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went, so stick with these tips if you want to go further than the backyard.

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About Lauren

Growing up in a small coastal village in Scotland inspired Lauren to seek adventure and challenge the norm. Armed with just her backpack and trusty travel companion Darren, she quit her day job to liv... show more...

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