A lot of people put off traveling because they think it's this big, expensive excursion they can't afford. Nights in Paris will drain the bank account, coffees in Italy will leave you penniless, and tours through Istanbul will have you leasing your apartment. But you can travel on a budget to all of these places super easily, if only you're savvy about your spending. It's easy to spend a month's worth of wages on a week trip if you hastily book hotel rooms and take taxis from airports, but if you cut strategic corners you can spend a fraction of the price you originally thought you would.And cutting corners doesn't mean having an uncomfortable stay — it just means doing your research a head of time and being okay with being flexible with new experiences. You might have to go outside your comfort zone and share a dorm with five other people or try and figure out the subway lines of a new city in a different language, but if it means you come home without a dent in your wallet, the extra effort will be well worth it. Below are seven tips on how to save money while traveling — get that passport ready.
1. Don't Be Bougie: Stay At Hostels
When thinking of "budget" most of us think of downgrading from hotels to motels, but you can go further. Instead, try staying in a dorm room in a hostel, which will cut your vacation bill way, way down. Travel blogger Matthew Kepnes at Lifehack suggested, "Perhaps the most common solution for travelers looking to save money, hostels are one of the cheapest forms of paid accommodation in the world. Hostels are places that offer shared (and sometimes private) rooms for travelers looking for a cheap place to stay."
You can choose between rooms that house only two people to rooms that bunk up to 20, and the more beds the cheaper the room. If you think sharing a space with a group of strangers is weird, let the prices do the talking for you: If you stay in a budget hotel in Prague, your average night stay is $50 a night, but at a hostel it's $10. If you stay a whole week, that's a difference of $280!
2. If Possible, Try To Make Your Own Meals
Food is another wallet killer when traveling, so whenever possible, try to skip restaurants and make your own meals. Kepnes explained, "A week's worth of groceries is cheaper than a week's worth of restaurants. I generally find that I spend about $50 to $60 USD per week on groceries, as opposed to $20+ per day at restaurants. That's a reduction of 70 percent in food expenses."
A lot of hostels, Airbnb rooms, and hotels have kitchens (or at the very least, refrigerators.) If they have kitchens they usually offer utensils and pots and pans too, but if you don't have one of those handy you can always opt to make simple things like sandwiches, bowls of cereal, or fruit plates. Stocking up on your own meals will help those travel costs stay way down.
3. Never, Ever Eat In Tourist Areas
During those nights you do go out for a bite to eat, try to stay away from the touristy squares and head a little bit outside of the city center. Kepnes pointed out, "Prices in tourist areas generally tend to be 20-50 percent higher because tourists usually don't mind spending more money on vacation and tend to be unaware of what local prices actually are." Instead, figure out where the locals eat and drink. Ask your hostel reception for recommendations, look it up online, or scour Yelp for budget friendly recommendations. And bonus: Local haunts usually offer happy hour deals or menu specials, which always helps!
4. Avoid Taxis At All Costs
Just take the idea of a taxi or an Uber completely off the table. Instead, roll up your sleeves and figure out the bus or train systems of your city. Finance blogger David Ning from personal finance blog Moneyning explained, "Tourists usually take taxis since it’s the laziest way to get from point A to B. Consider the subway or buses because it’s sometimes easier and it is much cheaper." If you just arrived at the airport or train station, there are a ton of information desks at your disposal that will help you figure out how to get to the city center. And if there aren't, grab a subway map and hunker down with Google Maps to figure out how to get to your destination. You'll save hundreds of dollars this way.
5. Try To Travel During Off Seasons
While walking through Europe during January or sweating in Thailand during March might not sound like the most ideal of circumstances, if you want to travel but need to do it on a low budget, this is a great way to nab off-season deals. Travel blogger Kash from Budget Traveler explained why peak-season vacations are best avoided, "Prices are at their highest, everything is booked up, the cities are uncomfortably crowded and all of the locals are on holidays. Travel off-season instead for a more local experience. In winter, hotels can be discounted by up to 40 percent so you can get a great deal."
Accommodations will be heavily discounted, bars and restaurants won't have their holiday prices up, and tours and excursions will be brought down in price because of the rules of supply and demand, which is a total win for your bank account.
6. Do Free Walking Tours
A great way to get the lay and feel of a new city without spending a dime is finding a free walking tour. These tours are usually offered across Europe and Asia, and can easily be found with a quick Google search.
Travel blogger Mattew Kepnes from award-winning budget travel site Nomadic Matt wrote, "Want to learn about the city, get your bearings, and see the major sights? Take a free walking tour. You can find them in 90 percent of the major cities in Europe, and there are also a few in large Asian cities, New York, Australia, and New Zealand." You spend two to three hours with a tour guide that will take you to the most famous spots of a city, teach you about its rich history and culture, explain fun local traditions and quirks, and will offer you a chance to meet some cool travelers that you can grab dinner with later. It's an awesome activity that won't cost you a dime.
And if your city doesn't offer a free walking tour? Find self-guided tours online that you can download and do at your own pace.
7. Get Cards That Take Away Bank Fees
Alright guys, there's no reason to get charged by ATMs and conversion fees in order to get spending money into your wallet. Save major bank by signing up for bank cards that wave those pesky overseas fees and reimburse withdrawl fees.
Matthew Kepnes told Thrillist, "The Charles Schwab ATM card reimburses all ATM fees, and the Capital One Venture credit card doesn't charge foreign transaction fees. You can sign up for those online — but check with your local bank to see if it offers any no-fee cards, too." Sign up for these cards before your next big trip and you'll never worry about exchange rates and percentage fees again.
By following these simple tips, you can be on your way to a fancy vacation to Europe or a new U.S. city in no time. Travel doesn't have to be expensive if you're savvy about it!