Outlines how to travel cheap or even for free, with 20 key ways to save money on your next trip or vacation — and have a better time doing it!
Traveling with little money is not a great art. As with all things, it always has to do with one’s willingness to compromise. Luxury hotels and other bells and whistles are of course not included in budget trips. You only need to pay attention to a few things, then it is no problem at all to learn easily how to travel cheap and often have more fun at the same time.
How to travel cheap: getting there for less
If you are flexible in terms of time, you can sometimes save half the price of the flight or train/bus pass. Those who are spontaneous and not tied to a specific travel date can save an incredible amount of money. Bargain portals such as Travelzoo offer vouchers and complete trips, sometimes at incredibly low prices. An app gives you the latest bargains as a push message – and you can strike immediately if necessary. Even those who book last-minute via the popular travel portals have a good chance of getting substantial discounts.
Get flights for free
To get so many miles that a free flight jumps out of it, you don’t necessarily have to be a business traveler. Many airlines offer extra miles for special promotions, for example for taking out insurance or a newspaper trial subscription, for opening a bank account or when changing telephone providers. You can also earn bonus miles through cooperation between the frequent flyer programs and various online shops.
Bring your own snacks for the trip
Eating at the airport is really expensive. And if you’ve booked a low-cost airline, you’ll pay extra for it.
Only travel with hand luggage
We know this tip is difficult to implement for many. But you will save money if you travel light, only with your favorite clothes and the most important technology such as a camera. This also saves the cost of checking in luggage. Find out beforehand what dimensions and weight are permitted for your hand luggage. In this way you avoid extra payments. A number of airlines now measure and weigh hand luggage before the flight.
Research airport transfers in advance
Find out beforehand how to get from the airport to your accommodation. A taxi is usually the most expensive option, fast trains come afterwards and buses are often the cheapest. Perhaps your hotel or hostel also offers a free pick-up?
Earning money or volunteering
If you haven’t saved for your vacation, you still don’t have to stay at home. How about, for example, if you could earn extra money abroad for a few weeks or months and thereby finance your stay? For example, as an English teacher, as an au pair, animator, tour guide, bartender or hostel employee.
The advantage of working abroad is not just that it is one of the best strategies for how to travel cheap. You also get to know the country and its people much better than on a normal vacation trip. And by the way, you improve your language skills.
Milking goats on the Neisse, harvesting mangoes in Thailand, caring for horses in South Africa: Anyone dreaming of a real rural holiday should try “WWOOFing” – work for board and lodging on farms all over the world. The abbreviation stands for “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms” and there is a simple principle behind it: Volunteers help on ecological farms and get accommodation and meals for free.
Forget expensive hotel rooms and stay with private individuals instead – for free! Through the Couchsurfing network, people all over the world offer a place to sleep in their apartment. It can be your own room, the sofa or just an air mattress – in any case, you always sleep for free. This not only saves you a lot of money, you also get to know a lot of new people. But you can’t be meticulous: not everyone has the same understanding of cleanliness or order … just make sure you are safe at the same time.
Living in a luxury villa and not paying a cent for it? Simply become a house sitter and take care of houses or apartments whose owners have just left. To do this, you register with websites that link house owners and house sitters, and you can apply there in response to requests or offer yourself as a house sitter.
Airbnb and other private home websites
Private apartments are an alternative to commercial accommodation: on the Airbnb website, for example, millions of users worldwide are offering their homes for sublet.
Cheap yoga retreats
Because yoga retreats don’t always have to be expensive. There is also a very good selection of inexpensive yoga retreats. You then have yoga, accommodation and food in one.
Stay in hostels
Are you young and do you want to meet new people? If you stay in hostels and in the shared rooms, you will make new friends and also get to learn tips about places or activities you may not hear about otherwise. Instead of booking expensive hotels, look out for a guesthouse or hostel. This can save a lot. Unfortunately, you often cannot find the accommodations on the Internet. At worst, you can walk through the town and ask in various guesthouses. You are often also able to use the guest house or hostel kitchens, which brings us to the next category in which you can save money…
How to travel cheap: Food
Cook for yourself
Dining out eats up a lot of the vacation budget. There are so many ways to cook yourself on the go. For example, book an apartment with a small kitchenette instead of a hotel room, which often makes no difference in terms of price. Cooking facilities are available in holiday apartments and houses.
Barbecue areas are also great for cooking on the go. In Australia, for example, there are gas grilling stations at lookout points and in parks that work with inserting money.
Do not have a hotel breakfast
Breakfast at the hotel is usually disproportionately expensive. That eats into the travel budget. You can also discover such beautiful cafes and cheap local eateries in your destination.
Avoid the minibar trap
Even if the hotels don’t like it: Taking food and drinks from the supermarket to your room is cheaper than ransacking the minibar or ordering room service.
Eat away from tourist centers
The more popular a place is with visitors, the more expensive it usually becomes. This applies, for example, to the Rambla in Barcelona or Ocean Drive in Miami. Better look for a restaurant or café further away! It gets cheaper and usually better. And be careful with restaurants that don’t have prices on the menu. You could get a very nasty surprise when the bill comes!
Food courts or street food
If you are not fussy and do not need western food and alcohol every day, you will be able to save a lot of money here. These often have delicious food that is unique to the region. Order something at one of the stands and eat at the table, or find a nice spot to take the food to in a nearby park or plaza … and watch the people go by!
How to travel cheap: Activities
Take part in city tours for free
You don’t have to book a more expensive city tour to find out the most important things. Many metropolises worldwide offer interested visitors free tours. You can also save a lot of money with special tourist cards, which often include the use of public transport, free entry to museums and various discount offers. In many cities these free tours are now offered, where only a tip is expected for the guide. Great for getting an overview of the city!
Free city tips from insiders
The small street food market in the backyard, the second-hand shop with a huge selection of designer bargains – not all really good tips are in the travel guide. In several cities around the world, the so-called “greeters” have come together to show tourists the most exciting, but not necessarily best-known, aspects of their city. The whole thing does not cost the participants a cent. The idea of the insider city tour originally came from New York: there, volunteer holidaymakers have been showing unknown corners of their hometowns away from mass tourism for years.
Genevieve Dumas is a design, fashion, food and style writer who has worked on major magazines and mastheads in the United States and Europe.