Tips for Traveling on a Budget
I absolutely love traveling. It’s something that I’m willing to save money for even in the middle of my debt free journey. Even if it’s just a weekend trip to somewhere else in my state, I’m game. In 2018 my boyfriend and I decided to go on a cruise to celebrate our anniversary. Neither one of us had been on a cruise and we were so excited to try something new. Traveling can sometimes come at a hefty price tag, but we were determined to do our trip on a budget. Here’s a few tips for budget friendly traveling that we used specifically for the cruise and a few that I use anytime I travel.
Decide what to splurge on
Everyone has their one thing that is non negotiable when it comes to traveling. Some refuse to stay in anything other than a 4-5 star hotel, others must have access to alcohol, some want to be extremely close to all the attractions. Splurge on that thing or two. For our cruise, we were willing to splurge on an awesome excursion. We were willing to save on other things like flights and accomodations before the cruise so that we could do the excursion we wanted. We also spent a little extra on early bird tickets on our Southwest flight so that we could almost guarantee my boyfriend an aisle seat since he is claustrophobic.
When booking a vacation on a budget you want to be flexible on the dates, times of your flight, and basically anything that you decided was not a deal breaker for you. Flexibility in the non splurge items will allow you to save the most money. Traveling to a place out of season can save you a lot of money and also help you avoid crowds. Traveling at less desirable times during the day can also save you money.
For example, I’m not exactly keen on flying early in the morning but the cheapest flight to Tampa was $99 and it was at 5:30 AM so guess who got their butts up early to make a 5:30 AM flight?
Research, research, research
How much is the average uber ride from the airport to your hotel? Does your hotel or Air BnB have any hidden exit fees? Are there military or student discounts at the attractions you want to go to? Are there specific days where certain attractions are cheaper? These are all things you can find if you do just a little research.
One of the biggest decisions we went back and forth on for our cruise was whether or not to get the drink package. I did a Twitter poll, I read tons of blogs and gathered info on the average price of drinks and how much we had to drink to break even. We decided that the price tag (roughly $475 with the discount) wasn’t worth it to us. We opted to bring our own two bottles of wine (bought with a Total Wine gift card) and purchase our drinks individually and ended up saving hundreds.
Researching your area via Pinterest, Trip Advisor, etc. can tell you the average price of meals and attractions in the area. There are loads of travel bloggers who can tell you all the free things to do in a city or all of the family friendly attractions. Finding their blogs will take a bit of research beforehand but will save you a lot of time and money during your trip.
Pack your snacks and your reusable bottle
I will lead the movement against overpriced airport food. Which is why I always keep snacks and my Swell water bottle with me when traveling. This isn’t limited to flights, it extends to road trips, train rides, etc. Having your own snacks and a refillable water bottle will save you tons of money.
Flights + Lodging tips:
Book at the right time
This tip requires that you really take heed to the research tip. I typically use incognito mode to track flights in order to see the lowest ticket price for flights. We ended up using my favorite airline, Southwest Airlines. Southwest isn’t featured on google flights so I had to stalk their website religiously and we finally snagged our tickets to Tampa for $99 p/p and our flights back from Tampa for $69 p/p. I also signed up to receive emails from the cruise line so that I could see what kind of deals they were offering. We kept looking until we saw the best deal and we ended up booking our cruise during a special that gave us 50% off of one person and $75 onboard credit.
Air BnB or VRBO
I used to swear by hotels through and through. I couldn’t imagine staying anywhere else until the first time I stayed in an Air BnB. Let’s just say I haven’t looked back since. Air BnBs are typically cheaper than hotels and are perfect for a longer stay because access to a kitchen gives you a chance to cook some of your meals and save money on food. If you don’t plan to spend tons of time in the house, look into staying in houses where the hosts are staying on the property or still in the house. We ended up paying $66 for a centrally located Air BnB when we were in Tampa. It was significantly cheaper than the $150 homestays because the host stayed in the house while we were there.
Book hotels, flights, attractions and rental cars through Ebates
Ebates is a site that sends you cash back for shopping through their site. I used to think it was a scam until I used it for my Black Friday purchases and was sent a check a few weeks later. Ebates has an entire section on their site for discount travel. All you have to do is sign up and start shopping! They have tons of major hotels and attractions on their site including Marriott, Sandals resorts, Seaworld, and even VRBO!
These are just a few of my favorite tips that have worked for me when trying to travel on a budget. I love to travel but I also love saving money and paying down my debt. Implementing these tips have allowed me to travel both domestically and internationally and return with my wallet and budget in tact. Do you want to see more posts like this? What tips have worked for you when traveling on a budget? Let me know in the comments below!