Travelling on a shoestring budget may sound challenging and difficult, but it really isn’t. You no longer need to be rich to afford to travel and you no longer need to sacrifice the quality of your trip, just to go away.
With careful planning and smart strategies that we share with you, you can now explore new places, immerse yourself in different cultures and create memories without breaking the bank.
We will share some simple tips and tricks on how to travel on a budget, from planning your next big adventure, to affordable accommodation and transport.
And it is still possible to hit the big expensive cities such as London, Paris, New York and Las Vegas all without emptying your wallet.
We’ve not only explored budget friendly cities but also ventured into pricier destinations, while maintaining our budget, with these strategies.
So, follow us and start travelling more for less.
Table of Contents
What is a budget?
Firstly, to understand how to travel on a budget, we need to understand what a budget is and how much money you need to travel.
A budget is how much you are prepared to spend while travelling. If you are anything like us, we want to spend as little as possible without compromising on the experience.
But we also need to be realistic with our budget. If we were to visit London for a long weekend for example, it isn’t realistic to place a budget of £10.00 per day per person, as this would not be achievable.
We also need to consider that every person’s budget is completely different. For example, staying in a hostel is one of the cheapest ways to keep accommodation costs down, but a hostel may not be suitable for everyone.
So, when setting a budget, you need to make sure it is realistic and suitable for your needs.
However, while your budget might be different to our budget, it is still possible on a shoestring without compromising on the experience, which is why we are sharing our budget travel tips, so you can travel more without breaking the bank.
Budget travel planning
Planning your trip is one of the most important things to do to stay on a budget and even find ways to save money while you travel.
It is possible to save money while you’re travelling.
Choose affordable destinations
When it comes to travelling on a budget, your choice of destinations is important.
Some destinations are cheaper than others and the exchange rate play a significant role in this.
Let’s take Sri Lanka as an example. We visit Sri Lanka annually to visit family, friends and to holiday. We often spend between 2-3 weeks and make time for a trip around the beautiful country.
On a mid-range budget, we could spend as little as $30.00 a day per person. This includes, staying in mid-range hotels rather than hostels, food, transport and sightseeing.
Now, if you’re a frugal traveller, you could get by on less than $15.00 a day per person! You’d stay in hostels, buy street food, travel by bus and sightseeing.
That’s the magic of choosing affordable destinations, where your money goes a long way, and the experience is still truly enriching.
If we compare this to a 2-week trip to the UK, the story is very different. We live in the UK and love the country, there is so much to see and do. London is our favourite city, but this charming country comes at a price.
On a tight budget, the same 2 weeks could cost around $80.00 per person per day.
By choosing a budget friendly travel destination, you can make your money stretch further, allowing you to choose where to stay, exploring more and enjoying the experience rather than worrying about burning a hole in your wallet.
Budget friendly destinations to consider are, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and South America.
Set realistic budgets for accommodation, transportation and food
To keep to budget and save money while travelling, research is your best friend.
Once you have decided on a budget friendly destination, research the average costs for accommodation, transportation and food.
The tools we use for researching our upcoming travel adventures are, other experienced travel bloggers like us. We have a wealth of information that we love sharing with our readers and why not use their experiences to gain knowledge before setting off.
Pinterest is another great tool to source the information you require. Just like Google, you enter your search term, and it generates posts centred around that topic. For example, budget friendly destinations to visit for under $50.00 a day.
Budgeting apps, help to set the budget and regularly check if you are on target or overspending. We use travel wallet, which helps while we are on the go.
Researching will help to create a daily spending estimate that aligns with your budget.
Sadly, unforeseen costs are part and parcel of any journey. Pickpockets are rife in big tourist cities, you may part ways with some of your funds due to an unbeknown scam, medical emergencies, or a spontaneous adventure pops up during your travels.
To stay on track of your budget, increase your budget to include any mishaps or unexpected expenses.
We will often include an additional 10-20% to our budget just as a safety net.
Be flexible with travel dates
Be flexible with your dates to find the cheapest deals.
If you can, avoid school holidays and peak season, as this is when prices skyrocket, and it becomes crowded.
In our experience, we book our trips to fall in the shoulder months or off season. While the weather maybe unpredictable, it’s cheaper and the crowds are reduced. But we still have the chance to explore some beautiful regions without breaking the bank.
We also have picked up some great deals via websites such as Lastminute.com or Easy Jet and rather than being selective of our dates and destination, we have chosen to travel anywhere and flexible dates. They give options of cheap destinations and dates, and you just choose from the list that’s within your budget.
As an example, we have searched on Lastminute.com, but rather than selecting a destination, we have selected anywhere, flying from London travelling anytime for 7-10 nights. We have sorted the list to cheapest first. The cheapest is £164.00pp travelling on 13-20 Jan to Malta.
This offer includes flights and accommodation. There are additional options for B&B, half board and full board, for an additional price.
If you do want to be more specific with your location, you can always add the country or city you wish to visit but be flexible with your dates and you can still pick up incredible deals.
For example, if we are planning our next trip to Spain. The cheapest deal we could pick up is Caleta De Fuste for £158.00 for 7 nights, flying from London on 11-18th December.
This includes flights and accommodation, with additional options of B&B, half board or full board at a further cost.
Flexibility will reward you with your dream holiday, which isn’t at a cost.
Use comparison websites
Take advantage of comparison websites such as Skyscanner, Kayak, Lastminute.com etc to find the best holiday deals. Don’t just search on one platform and then book the tickets, be patient as it will reward you.
Pro tip: Don’t just focus on the well-known brands, check out small brands, as they could provide competitive prices.
Take your time to do your research as it will pay off in the end.
Consider alternative airports
Flying to a nearby airport instead of the primary one can often mean lower airfares, even if it means paying a little extra on travel.
We have a choice of 4-5 airports to fly from. London Heathrow, London Gatwick, London City Airport, London Luton and London Stansted.
London Heathrow is the closest airport to London, with just a short tube ride away. But prices are more expensive flying from Heathrow compared to flying from London Gatwick.
London Gatwick is just under 41 miles from the city centre, with Gatwick express providing connections to London.
Budget airlines such as Ryanair, Easy Jet etc fly from London Stansted or Luton, providing connections with Europe.
Depending on our travel destination, we will always look to fly out of Gatwick or Stansted.
We have even taken a cheaper flight from London Gatwick to Newark Liberty International Airport, in Newark, New York. We also stayed in Newark, simply because it was cheaper too and then we took the subway or Path into New York.
Always select a nearby airport to feel the benefits of cheaper prices.
Budget for daily expenses
This is one of the most effective strategies, to not only understand how much money you will need for your holiday but to set a daily spend limit which you can keep a track of.
It is crucial to separate all your major expenses from, flights, accommodation, transportation, activities and food and drink and an emergency fund for unexpected costs.
Then total each expense, which will be your overall cost for the trip. To work out how much your budget is per day, divide this by the number of days.
Be realistic with your budget and make sure you have factored in for all your expenses.
Then keep track of your expenses while you travel. We use Trail Wallet app. We input our daily budget and as we travel and spend, we enter the data, and it clearly displays whether we are within our budget or overspending.
At the end of the trip, we upload the information to a spreadsheet and assess where we could have saved money, if we were on target or saved, if we have saved money, we put that into our next holiday.
Register with airlines for airmiles
It is completely free to register with airlines for airmiles and for every trip you make, you can earn miles, which you can convert later into discounts, free flights or upgrades.
You don’t just earn miles from flights, if you can register your credit/debit card with your airmiles, for every purchase you make with certain retailers, you could earn more airmiles.
We have registered our points card with our local supermarket in the UK and convert these into airmiles.
If you can earn more miles from your local grocery shop, buying from local retailers and flights, your airmiles will soon buy you a free holiday.
Saving money on transportation
As budget savvy travellers, every penny counts, especially when it comes to finding cheap transportation.
Airfares can get costly, especially if you need to fly to get to the destination. There are strategies to reduce the cost on airfares, but what about when you’re in the destination?
Here are some practical tips on reducing your travel expenses on transportation.
Travel via public transport
Some budget airlines can offer flights as cheap as $30.00 on way during certain periods of the year, but when you add on all the additional extras, it can get expensive.
Compare this against public transport. It might be the slower option, but you could save some money.
Utilise local buses, trains and metros instead of booking taxis or private transfers, providing a more local experience.
Many large cities offer multi-day passes or tourist cards, offering discounts on transport and attractions. An example is the London Pass, it offers a variety of different packages, from 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, etc. You pay a one-off fee per person, which allows you entry to over 80 tourist attractions in the city.
We tend to skip past using public transport around local cities, unless we really must.
Not only is it the most cost-effective way to explore a destination, but it also allows us to discover hidden gems and it is free.
Instead of hopping on a bus, train or metro, make use of the two legs you have and walk.
Download offline maps
Navigate your way around the destination without getting lost with offline maps.
Offline maps such as Google Maps, allow you to download maps, so you save data and roaming charges.
If the only way to get around is via taxi, then consider apps such as Uber, PickMe, or local taxi apps. These can provide cheaper alternatives to hailing a taxi.
We have used Uber multiple times, not only in the UK but in Poland and around the world. It is so easy and convenient, but you can see the upfront costs, without getting a surprise bill.
Uber was so cheap in Warsaw, that towards the end of the trip, we kept booking taxi’s without eating into our budget.
Avoid peak hours
It’s surprising how transport prices increase during peak hours.
It costs us around £45.00pp for a return ticket during peak hours to London, but for an off-peak return ticket to London is £17.60pp.
Save money by travelling off peak and beat the crowds.
Accommodation options on a budget
Finding affordable places to stay, is the cornerstone for travelling on a budget.
Hostels are a fantastic way to keep accommodation costs down.
I stayed in hostels in Melbourne and Sydney, and I loved the experience. I met likeminded people, it kept my accommodation costs down, with a dorm room costing as little as $20.00AU a night.
Although hostels are not for everyone, and some hostels have a reputation for the young with a party lifestyle.
If you are looking to travel on a shoestring, sometimes you need to compromise.
We haven’t tried couchsurfing, but have read about other budget travellers who have.
Couchsurfing connects travellers with locals who offer their couch to sleep on for free. You get the use of the facilities and in some cases, you could be upgraded to the spare room.
This is a fantastic way to immerse yourself into the local culture, meet new people and stay somewhere for free.
Travel on overnight buses and trains
Overnight buses or trains are an excellent way to travel on a budget. It allows you to make the most of your time and money.
Not only will you save on accommodation prices, but overnight transport is normally cheaper than daytime travel.
The only caveat is overnight public transport may not be the most comfortable. But do you sacrifice your budget over one uncomfortable night sleep.
Food and dining tips
Dining out doesn’t have to be expensive if you are smart on where you eat.
Here is how you could eat out for less, while travelling:
Explore local cuisine
Trying local cuisine is the best part about travelling to a new destination. But eating at the wrong place, could set your budget back.
The best place to find budget friendly dining, that offers great local cuisine, is away from tourist hot spots and attractions.
Get off the beaten path and discover where the local go for food.
In Sri Lanka, we have discovered some incredible restaurants that offer authentic Sri Lankan food, and we pay the local prices. Our favour stop that draws us back year on year is Nelum Kole in Colombo. You can’t go wrong with a good rice and curry dish.
This is our number one saving hack.
Shopping at local groceries stores or markets have so many benefits. Buying fresh, affordable ingredients, allows us to create a culinary journey at an affordable price. AND a chance for us to support the local community.
This also allows us to be financially choosy about when and where we can eat while we travel.
Staying hydrated is so important while travelling, so pack a reusable water bottle, that you can fill on the go.
Depending on the destination, we usually fill our water bottles with tap water. Drinking tap water in most European countries is safe. Fill the bottle from the tap water from your accommodation.
In some countries, tap water may not be safe to drink. You could use steriliser tablets or boil the water prior to drinking it.
The water supply in Sri Lanka isn’t safe to drink, but that doesn’t stop us from boiling the water, before refilling our water bottle ready for a day of sightseeing.
Exploring attractions without breaking the bank
Travelling isn’t expensive, with these strategies to make the most of the destination, without missing out.
Take advantage of free activities
When we plan our holidays, the first things I look out for, is what are the free things to do, that we are interested in.
This could be museums, parks, art galleries etc.
We would then research the possibility for free entrance to popular tourist attractions on certain days.
For example. Entrance to St Paul’s Cathedral is £21.00 per adult and £9.00 per child for sightseeing. But entrance is free to worship at the Cathedral. The Louvre in Paris is free on the first Friday of the month after 6pm.
Snag free admission to top tourist attractions, with a little research will save money while you travel.
Free walking tours
Take advantage of free walking tours and learn from local experts about the history and culture.
You can find free walking tours, with the local tourism board, or Show Around.
Would you like a free walking tour of the historic seaside town of Hastings, England, then contact us on Show Around and we will be happy to teach you all about the great battle of Hastings in 1066.
Conclusion on how to travel on a budget
Travel isn’t expensive but rewarding, with these simple tips and hacks on how to travel on a budget.
Planning and research will be your most valuable tool, use bloggers such as us, to source knowledgeable information, tips and hacks, advice and itineraries on your chosen destination.
Flexibility with travel dates and travelling off peak, will reduce costs and allow you to maximise your travel.
Walking is cheap, eco-friendly and a great way to get off the beaten path. While public transport especially overnight transport is the ideal way to save on accommodation costs.
Free doesn’t mean missing out on popular tourist attractions, find days that are free to enter, or visit free things to do in the destination.
Having a flexible mindset and open to alternative travel methods, will lead to epic adventures, broaden your horizons and teach you about different cultures.
Start planning your next big adventure, without breaking your bank balance.
Do you have any tips and hacks on how to travel on a budget, that we haven’t mentioned? Let us know, we would love to hear about them.
Continue your budget travel, with these useful posts:
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