You don’t have to be wealthy to travel.
The number one question we get asked is how we are able to travel so much. Travel doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, with the right resources and a bit of knowhow theres a ton of ways you can travel for cheap or free! Low cost travel is more possible than ever before thanks to the sharing economy. Heres a few ways that we travel for less (and longer) !
Low Cost Travel Tip #1 BE FLEXIBLE
Perhaps the best way you can save money while traveling is to be flexible with your travel dates. I can’t stress this enough. Flight and hotel prices vary based on a ton of different factors. Its usually cheaper to catch mid-week flights that depart early in the morning or late at night. You can find tremendous deals this way.
Also, be open to being flexible with your desired destination. I love using apps like Jet Radar that let you view an interactive price map on mobile based on your home location. This lets you find deals on cool places all around the globe.
Get Jet Radar On iPhone and Android
Low Cost Travel Tip #2 Use Airbnb Or VRBO!
Oh Airbnb, how we love you! We use Airbnb or VRBO to book at least 50% of our lodging around the world. Often times, it’s significantly cheaper than a hotel. For instance, we booked an ultra cute loft in downtown Los Angeles recently for under $100/night! Thats quite a savings compared to the “budget hotels” in downtown that run $150/night and higher (yeah, LA is really expensive). Plus, one of the best things about Airbnb and VRBO is that it allows you to live like a local and have more in depth cultural experiences. For longer trips, you can offset the cost by renting your own place out on Airbnb!
Our Awesome Airbnb in Costa Rica
Low Cost Travel Tip #3 -Find Free Accommodations
Theres a few great ways you can stay in someone’s home for free!
Websites such as couchsurfing.com are great if you don’t mind sharing a room or sleeping on someone’s couch. Theres thousands of people all around the world that open up their home for free! It’s also fun making new friends this way too!
If you don’t mind taking care of someone’s pet while they’re away, we highly recommend Trusted House Sitters. We are currently using this to plan our next big trip to Australia. This site lets you stay at different locations around the world for free as long as you take care of the owners’ pets while they are away. I really enjoy using this site because it opens up the door for longer stays/vacations around the world. They key to be successful here is to build a really good profile that stands out above the rest. There can be competition for awesome gigs. There is a fee to use this service but I find that if you use it at least once, it’ll pay for itself many times over.
If you’re planning a trip far in advance, get on social media and see if you can make friends with anyone who lives there. With social media you can DM people who already live there and build a relationship. You’d be surprised how many people around the world are willing to open up their home to others! So get on Instagram and make some new friends!
Low Cost Travel Tip #4 -Travel With Friends
One of the best ways to see the world for less is to split the costs with friends! This is something we do quite often and can be a rewarding experience that often leads to deeper connections with people. In fact we’ve used this strategy to stay at some rather luxurious places around the world. A $500/night villa may seem entirely impossible for one person but if you split the cost with 5 friends, thats only $83/night. Check out this list of cheap beachfront Mexican Villas perfect for sharing with friends.
In fact, we stayed at a multi-million dollar beachfront mansion with 8 friends for only $100/night each. (And it was fully staffed with private chef and bartender!?)You can learn about how we planned the trip out in this article.
Our Friends Trip Villa in Puerto Vallarta
Low Cost Travel Tip #5 -Choose your destination wisely.
There are some destinations that are WAY cheaper than others. The USA, Western Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and island nations such as the Maldives are relatively more expensive to travel than many other countries. Places like Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Mexico are significantly cheaper.
Many meals in the Philippines will cost you $2 or less. You can stay at an all inclusive resort in Thailand for $35/night.
Check out the top ten budget hotels in Phuket, Thailand
Low Cost Travel Tip #6 -Major Cities Beware!
Not only does the country matter, the proximity to major cities or tourist attractions can impact your wallet greatly. When we book a trip to a larger city such as Amsterdam or Rome, I do my best to book a place just outside the city. The city center will always have more expensive food, gas, and lodging.
Try to find something just a couple miles outside of town thats near public transport. I guarantee you’ll get more for your money. Also beware of restaurants and shops near major attractions because they’ll charge a premium for location. Go visit that castle you’ve been wanting to see but when your done, grab lunch at the next town over!
Low Cost Travel Tip #7 -Always Travel During Off Season
About 75% of the trips we take are during the off season of our desired destination. We’ve found traveling in off season to not only be affordable, but much more enjoyable too. Prices vary drastically between seasons at most destinations. For example, it will always be more expensive to travel to the Caribbean during Christmas and winter because everyone from USA mainland is escaping the cold.
Prices for flights, hotels, restaurants, and activities sky rocket during the high season. There will be more tourist traps and price haggling at markets. Sometimes you can save up to 50% on a trip just by visiting during their low season. We visited Costa Rica during their rainy season and it was one of the most rewarding and most affordable trips we’ve ever taken. Just be sure to do some research on your destination to see when its the least busy.
US Virgin Islands
Low Cost Travel Tip #8 -Use Miles
If you aren’t earning miles already, you should start. In one year, we’ve amassed over 250k airline miles, which is enough for several round trip flights around the world. Most cards offer a nice sign up bonus of 30-60k miles or points right off the bat. Every single purchase we make goes on one of the cards, then we pay off the card and start over.
You’d be surprised how quickly you can rack up points this way. Airline cards team up with other organizations to give you special offers you can use to earn more miles. American Airlines just offered me 20k miles just to switch my electric provider. That is enough for a domestic flight to a handful of destinations right here in the USA.
Charge it all on the card – then pay it off (thats the key ?). Here’s a couple recommended cards to look at:
American Airlines is offering a 75k miles bonus to sign up at the time of writing this article.
Chase Sapphire usually offers around 50k points to sign up that can directly be transferred to travel purchases.
American Express also has great sign up incentives to boost your point portfolio!
Low Cost Travel Tip #9 -Use Public Transport
So many people are afraid to utilize public transportation in other countries but it is by far the cheapest way to get around. In Mexico, we took a bus from our hotel to an attraction about 10 miles away for less than $2. In Italy, we took the bus into Venice that cost us less than $5. Depending on what country your going to, do some research on their public transport and save money by not getting a rental car. I wish the USA had a public transportation system like Europe!
Low Cost Travel Tip #10 -Talk to Locals
Talk to the locals! They know where the best and cheapest places are to spend your time and money (I mean they do live there after all!). In Sorrento, Italy we were recommend to this shot bar (wasn’t even on TripAdvisor at the time). We got completely wasted on about $15 worth of dollar shots. Compared to the price of the drinks at our hotel, that was quite a savings! #winning
Low Cost Travel Tip #11 -Cook Your Own Food!
One of the huge perks of staying in an Airbnb or someone’s home, is that you will likely have a kitchen. Although I’ll confess this is one we have trouble with. Probably 25%-40% of our trip budget ends up getting spent on food and alcohol (Jameson anyone?). When we land at a new destination, our first order of business is to hit a market or grocery store to pick up at least a few items. We tend to get enough groceries for a daily home cooked breakfast and snacks – gotta have snacks! You can save a great deal of money by cooking 2-3 meals a day at your rental.
Low Cost Travel Tip #12 -Do Stuff Outdoors!
Leave the city behind and find some amazing natural attractions. To be honest, we don’t really care too much about fancy shops, shows, museums, or water parks. We’d much rather be in nature taking a hike or enjoying a beautiful view. The great thing about being in nature is that it’s usually free (or pretty cheap).
Taking a hike along some nature trails costs nothing and can be an ultra-rewarding experience. Plus thats where we get our best Instagram photos! ? Rent a bike, take a swim, run on the beach, climb a mountain – these will be some of your most memorable experiences traveling, I promise. We use TripAdvisor to find the best free outdoor activities (and awesome beaches) pretty much everywhere.