Traveling introduces you to new environments, cultures, and perspectives. It’s a meaningful investment in yourself, and you shouldn’t have to wait to earn a promotion or win the lottery to pursue it.
The truth is, traveling doesn’t need to cost you a fortune. Travel on a budget is very much possible; the key is to think about what’s important to you and prioritize those needs accordingly.
We’re here to help you take ownership of your aspirations with the top eight tips for how to travel the world on a budget. Our tips focus on helping you navigate your adventures wisely and discover ways to save in the long run. We’ll first dive into what a good budget looks like and then move forward with wise planning tips to make your travel dreams a reality.
What Is a Reasonable Vacation Budget?
A reasonable vacation budget depends on where you go, since some parts of the globe are more expensive than others.
For example, backpackers typically spend about $70 to $110 a day in Western Europe and $40 to $80 a day in Eastern Europe. These daily rates dip lower in Southeast Asia, where backpackers can get by with $25 or less a day. These rates are contingent on where and how you spend your money. To set yourself up for success, you need to think about your non-negotiables and negotiables.
Sort Out Your Non-Negotiables and Negotiables
What do you need, and what can you live without? This is absolutely critical to figure out when traveling on a budget. Making a list of your non-negotiables and negotiables will help you prioritize accordingly and stay on track.
For example, you may want to think about:
- Accommodations vs. food: Are you willing to stay at a hostel so you can enjoy a nice dinner in the city? If you’re picky about housing, would you be okay staying at a hotel if that means buying groceries and packing lunch most days?
- Shopping vs. sightseeing: What’s more important to you—purchasing souvenirs or sightseeing? This may very well depend on where you go, so take the time to do some destination research before making your decision.
Depending on your circumstances, your non-negotiables might have to become negotiables, and that’s okay. The reality is, travel plans are never perfect. There will be areas where you’ll need to compromise.
This doesn’t mean you won’t have a good time. Stepping out of your comfort zone is good and pretty much the heart and soul of travel, so don’t shy away from it.
The Top 8 Ways to Travel the World on a Budget
With your budget and priorities in mind, let’s dive more into traveling planning and logistical aspects. Here are the most helpful tips on how to travel the world on a budget.
1. Find Cheap Flights During Low or Shoulder Seasons
Finding cheap flights involves looking at two things: travel seasons and flight dates.
In the travel industry, there are three seasons:
- Low season: The time of year when a destination receives the fewest visitors. This might be due to non-ideal weather conditions or simply a lack of holidays. Flights and accommodations are the cheapest during this time.
- High season: The time of year when a destination receives the most visitors. The weather is great and high season often corresponds to holidays, making it convenient for people to go somewhere. Flights and accommodations usually reach peak pricing during this time.
- Shoulder season: The time between the high and low travel seasons. Shoulder season is ideal, because you’ll enjoy fair weather, good deals, and fewer crowds.
Keep in mind, what’s considered low, high, and shoulder season varies—it depends on where you’re going.
- The high season for visiting Southeast Asia is from November to February, when it’s not too hot and not too rainy. The low season for Southeast Asia is from March to May, when it’s hot and humid. This makes their shoulder season June to October.
- The high season for visiting Europe is from mid-June to August, while the low season is from November to March. Europe has two shoulder seasons: April to mid-June and September to November.
Wherever you decide to visit, discover the country’s low, high, and shoulder seasons before you book your flights.
Found the optimal time to travel? Great! Now you need to decide what day you should fly out.
Usually, premium prices are attached to weekend flights, so opt for mid-week travel for the best deals. Also, it matters how far in advance you book your flight. For example, according to TripSavvy, the best time to buy a ticket to:
- Asia is 160 days in advance
- Europe is 120 days in advance
- Latin America is 70 days in advance
- Africa is 215 days in advance
2 Find Free or Affordable Places to Stay
Once you look at potential flights, you’ll likely start thinking about lodging. Here are your options for cheap housing:
- Friends and family: If you have friends or family members who live at your destination, hats off to you, because this is an ideal situation. Reach out to them; if it all works out, you can score free housing during your travels.
- Couchsurfing: Don’t know anyone? No problem. If you’re looking for free housing options, Couchsurfing might be your best bet. Couchsurfing is a hospitality networking platform that comprises a global community of travelers. You can use the site to connect with locals and find a couch to stay on.
- Hostels: Hostels are shared, dorm-like accommodations with bunk beds and usually a shared bathroom down the hall. Many hostels offer free breakfast during your stay. Consider taking an extra breakfast roll to enjoy as a snack or lunch while sightseeing. If your hostel does not provide a free meal, they will likely have basic kitchenware like a toaster, coffeemaker, and pots/pans available, so you can buy groceries and fix your own meals.
- Hotels: If sharing rooms with others is non-negotiable for you, consider booking a private room with its own bathroom at your hostel or staying at a hotel. But keep in mind, you will need to skimp on other travel areas such as pricey attractions, food, and transportation.
3. Stick with Local Transportation
Flying or driving a car around a region will likely be out of your price range. But there’s no problem taking the local bus or train. In fact, this will offer a true local experience, and you’ll get to squeeze in some nice sightseeing along the way.
Depending on where you stay, your host can offer information about bus and train stops and the best and cheapest routes to take.
4. Look into Volunteer Programs
There are volunteer programs where travelers can work in exchange for accommodation and food. One popular organization is WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities in Organic Farms).
For a small registration fee, WWOOF connects travelers with local organic farmers around the world. WWOOF’s mission is to nurture cultural and educational opportunities and build a global community centered on sustainability. Once you register, you can browse through various hosts and choose one that fits your goals, interests, and expectations.
5. Minimize Dining Expenses
Traveling on a budget requires understanding where and how to eat. Here are some tips:
- Get lunch at a local market or restaurant: Eat where the locals eat. Too often, travelers get stuck in the touristy part of town and end up spending more than they should. So ask around and venture out. Sites like Eater can also offer some guidance on local places.
- Buy groceries and make meals for yourself: Find accommodations with kitchen access so you can cook your own meals.
- Have lunch instead of dinner at your “splurge” restaurant: It’s fine to treat yourself at times, but find ways to compromise. For example, if there’s a restaurant you’re just dying to try, instead of going there for dinner, go for lunch. Lunch prices tend to be less expensive than dinner prices.
6. List Your Place While You’re Away
If you’re going to be away for some time, it’s wise to rent out your space back home. But if you have a landlord, just make sure you get their approval first.
Renting out your room, apartment, or home can help bring in the money you can use to fund your travels.
Here are a few platforms you can list your space on:
- Facebook: Facebook has various housing pages, usually split by geography. Find them and post your listing. Encourage your Facebook friends to share your listing too. You’ll likely feel more comfortable finding someone you know through a mutual friend.
- Rentler: Rentler is a dependable housing platform that allows you to post sublease listings. You can also perform background checks and collect rent through the site.
- Airbnb: Airbnb is a good option if you’re interested in opening up your home to travelers. Just make sure you have a friend or family member who’s in the area and available to swing by your house in the event there’s an issue.
7. Pack Lightly
Pack lightly to avoid checking a bag. A checked bag costs $30 on average—that’s money that can go toward food, transportation, and housing. Just stick to packing the essentials; you can wash your clothes at your accommodation (if they don’t have a washer/dryer, hand wash).
- A backpack you plan to carry around while sightseeing. You can store items such as your phone, snacks, wallet, and camera.
- A carry-on luggage bag that contains your clothes and other items. Stick to items that are functional. For example, dry fit shirts and pants are not only light, but they dry quickly, which makes doing laundry on the go a lot easier.
- A waist wallet (optional). It’s always smart to split up your money in two places; you can put some cash in your waist wallet and some in your backpack. That way, in the event your backpack gets stolen or lost, you at least have backup money from your waist wallet to pull you through the day.
When you’re ready to return home and have too many things to squeeze into your bags, leave some items at your hostel as donations.
8. Learn How to Haggle
Though haggling might be culturally inappropriate in Western countries, it is acceptable, and in fact, expected, in the majority of Asia, South America, Africa, and the Middle East.
From taking tuk-tuk rides to shopping at local marketplaces, try to haggle when you’re purchasing something. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Talk to a local to see how much a certain item is for them. Shopkeepers and drivers tend to raise their prices for foreigners, particularly Westerners. So find out what the true price of something is, and then haggle for that rate.
- Walk away and feign disinterest. Don’t give in so easily. Haggling is like a game that requires effort to come to an agreement. Therefore, if the vendor refuses to negotiate, walk away and feign disinterest. Playing hard-to-get might compel them to call you back and be more open to striking a deal.
- Don’t get angry. As a foreigner, you must keep the peace. If it doesn’t work out, you can always find another vendor or driver.
Learn More with Power Finance Texas
There are several ways to save money, not just during your travels but in other parts of your life. For more insightful information on how to allocate your money wisely, check out Power Finance Texas’ blog.