Putting off travel until you can afford the high-end trips? That just seems sad! Don't wait until you have a baller budget to start exploring the world. Instead of overspending or not traveling at all, try to book trips that are actually affordable. It totally can be done! Choose cheap destinations, travel during the off season, and look for free activities instead of things that cost money. Substitute shopping for public parks, taxis for bike rides, and high-end hotels for budget options. No matter where you go, there's always a way to make your journey more affordable.
Saving money on travel is awesome, but not everyone likes to take budget trips. Settling for hotels that are less than fabulous, or airplane seats with no leg room can be a major bummer. However, business class tickets and luxury suites aren't always in the budget. If you want to take an affordable trip that doesn't feel cheap, there are ways to accomplish that. It may take an attitude adjustment and a little creativity, but you'll be feeling like a luxury traveler in no time. A bit of travel hacking can score you deals on expensive tours, flights, hotels, and activities. And, a small dose of research can go a long way when making affordable travel plans. Learn where to skimp and where to splurge if you want a budget trip that feels just like top dollar travel. Sometimes, luxury is more of a mindset than a reality. So, here are 20 ways to make that affordable trip not feel so cheap.
20 Stay in a Hostel But Get a Private Room
Hostels are usually more affordable than hotels. By a lot. So, if you want to stretch your budget, a hostel is the way to go. While most people associate hostels with dorm rooms, backpackers, and those scary movies, (they were truly terrifying) not all hostels are like this. In fact, many of these accommodations are just as nice as a hotel, and even offer private rooms. Private hostel rooms will be more money than a shared dorm, but usually, the cost is much lower than in a traditional hotel. You’ll have privacy, a comfortable space, and in many cases, your own bathroom.
19 Skip The Car Rental By Taking Ride Shares Everywhere
Car rentals can cost a fortune. Especially with all of the hidden fees. If you want an affordable trip, forget about the car rental and take ride shares instead. Companies like Uber and Lyft make it super easy for you to get around on a budget. And, since you won’t have to worry about parking, gas, or traffic, it kind of feels like your own personal chauffeur. With the options for pooling with other passengers or partially walking some of the journey, you’ll be able to get rides for even cheaper. Not having to drive can feel like the ultimate luxury when trying to explore a new place.
18 Hunt Down All The Happy Hours
Is your destination full of trendy rooftop bars and underground speakeasies? That’s great! Those places usually make great cocktails. However, an affordable vacation doesn’t always have these activities in the budget. Swanky, craft cocktails and artistic cuisine can run up a tab fast. However, most places have happy hours that make this kind of dining affordable. Stick to your budget by finding out when and where the best happy hours are. You’ll save a ton of money while getting to experience the posh life in the destination you’re visiting. And, if you really want to fill up on fantastic food for less, hop around to different happy hours in the area.
17 Find Activities on Groupon
A trip can feel cheap if you don’t allow yourself to do anything for the sake of saving money. But, what’s the point of traveling somewhere if you can’t do anything? Many activities can be done at a discount by visiting sites like Groupon. They have everything from shows, restaurants, and sports games to art classes and museums. The site is broken down into categories so you can find exactly what you want to do. Seeing a show on Broadway or taking an airboat tour in the Everglades are things you’ll be able to afford once you can snag a little discount.
16 Buy Snacks And Drinks And Stash Them In Your Room
Want to feel fancy? Make some delicious cocktails in your room. Wine and liquor are always cheaper from the store than buying them at a bar, and the effect is the same. Start the night off with a little pre-gaming in the hotel or hostel so you’ll get the buzz without breaking the budget. If you happen to have a great view from your room, even better. You can drink wine while looking out at the skyline or people watching. You won’t feel deprived when you’re drinking as much as you want and enjoying your trip.
15 Find All The Free Activities
Look for free activities wherever you’re traveling to. This won’t make your trip feel cheap because most places have incredible things to do that don’t cost any money. Even travelers with insane budgets would still want to visit that museum, wander the botanical garden, or see that show. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s not good, so make sure to find all the freebies you can. Sometimes, taking a hike, window shopping in an interesting market, or seeing an outdoor film screening can be great additions to your trip without any extra cost. You just have to know where to find them.
14 Figure Out When Places Have Free Admission
While some museums and events cost money, they often have days when they are open for free. For example, in Philadelphia, the art museum usually costs $20 but is free every Wednesday night. This happens all over the world for various places and activities and is worth looking into. While traveling, you can gain access to some of the best tourist attractions without having to pay a penny. You may want to plan your itinerary around these free admissions so that you make sure not to miss the freebies. What better way to see some of the city’s best without having to open your wallet?
13 Share Meals in High-end Restaurants
Love eating incredible food? Who doesn’t? Just because you’re traveling on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t try out those fancy restaurants. An affordable trip doesn’t mean you have to eat fast food everyday. Nor does it mean you need to eat granola bars or ham sandwiches for every meal. Some destinations are known for their famous restaurants like Noma in Copenhagen or Narisawa in Tokyo. You can still experience these foodie destinations on an affordable trip if you split the costs. Round up your travel partners or your family and split one dish. Sure, you probably won’t get full, but at least you can say you went and experienced it.
12 Find The Live Music
Concerts and live music performances are fun to see while traveling. No trip to New Orleans would be complete without watching some live jazz in a Bourbon Street bar. And, a trip to Austin, Texas is always better when you can find some live country tunes. While many travelers associate live music with hefty fees, this isn’t always the case. In fact, it’s quite easy to find live performances in places all over the world. Musicians are usually trying to get the word out, and play in bars, restaurants, cafes, and public spaces all over the world for free. You just have to find them.
11 Choose Destinations With a Low Cost Of Living
Want to take an affordable trip but travel like a king? Choose a destination with a low cost of living. If you’re from a western country, your money will take you far in places like Central America or Southeast Asia. A nice hotel room in Vietnam could run you $30 a night, and a beer in Bali may only cost $1. Travelers could eat delicious restaurant food, three meals a day for a total of $5 in Thailand. There are some countries where you’re money will just be worth more, and allow you to travel like royalty. If you don’t want to skimp on the travel luxuries, choose a cheap destination and you won’t have to.
10 Splurge On What Really Matters to You
An affordable treat doesn’t mean you can’t splurge now and then. What’s really important to you while traveling? Do you need a nice hotel? Nights in fancy clubs? Perhaps you are the kind of traveler who loves to shop, spend time at the spa, or dine out? Whatever it is that you love, make a budget for it. If you need a beautiful hotel room to feel comfortable, spend your money on that instead of high-end dinners. Likewise, if you want to tour all of the museums but don’t care about eating fast food every day, that’s OK too. Spend your money on what matters most to you so you don’t feel like you’re missing out.
9 Dress Your Best
If you don’t want your trip to feel cheap, start dressing the part. Just because you’re staying in a hostel doesn’t mean you have to look like a hippie, backpacker. Ditch the zip off shorts and the safari hat and wear clothes that make you feel and look good. There’s an intersection between fashion and function that isn’t too hard to find. Bring a comfortable dress that will make you feel confident when visiting the Louvre in Paris. And, don’t forget your nice shoes for a day of museum hopping around London. While your trip may be cheap, you don’t have to look the part.
8 Learn to Love Window Shopping
Checking out markets and boutiques while traveling is part of the fun. The vintage stores in San Francisco, and the colorful markets of Jerusalem are part of the culture. You’ll want to spend some time shopping, even if you can’t afford to buy anything. With a bit of an attitude adjustment, window shopping can be just as fun as the real thing. You can watch people buy absurdly expensive handbags on Rodeo Drive without feeling left out. And, you can compare Hello Kitty pencils in Tokyo boutiques. Shopping allows you to experience the culture where you’re traveling but doesn’t require you to actually spend money on anything.
7 Make Relaxation a Priority
Spend some time relaxing while you travel, it’s a vacation after all. Researching happy hours, drooling over things you can’t buy, and sharing Ubers with drunk strangers can get exhausting after a while. The sacrifices that you made to keep your trip affordable may be starting to get to you. This is when relaxing becomes extremely important. If you don’t want your trip to feel cheap, head to the nearest spa or massage parlor for some R&R. Again, Groupon often offers great deals on these services. And, if you’re traveling to a cheap country like Thailand, you can get an hour massage for about $5. Just a few moments of pampering can make you feel like a queen and forget about the expensive restaurants you wish you could visit.
6 Meet The Locals For Exclusive Tips
Want to feel like you’re in-the-know when traveling? Meet up with some locals. They usually know all of the best spots for deals, cheap luxuries, and fun. Plus, by getting some local intell, you can have a trip unlike the other tourists. Ask the young cashier where the best place to dance is. You may end up at a secret nightclub attached to the local pizza place. Check for events on the city’s Facebook page to find out about secret dance parties in the public parks or art gallery openings (they often have free food and wine.) Find a local wherever you can and ask them for their best tips for experiencing the city on a budget.
5 Travel During The Off Season
This is a tried and true way to get an affordable trip that doesn’t feel cheap. Every destination has an off-season when tourists usually are few and far between. As businesses are desperate to generate income, they usually offer deep discounts. Travelers can get hotels, flights, and tours for half the price as tourists during high season. This means that you can live it up in the hotel of your choice without paying the full price. Visiting in off season often means that the weather isn’t ideal or that some attractions are closed. However, it can be worth it if you want to travel in a more affordable way.
4 Get to Clubs and Shows Early to Avoid a Cover Charge
Need to visit the nightclubs and dance parties when traveling? You still can, and in many cases, without paying a cover fee. A trip to Ibiza or Barcelona wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t experience the nightclubs. Dance parties in Shanghai and Beijing need to be experienced. And, the lazer light shows in Tel Aviv nightclubs are something you don’t want to miss. If you get there early enough, many clubs will let you in without paying the cover fee. Instead of retreating to your hotel room, experience the nightlife scene by getting to the bar just a little earlier than everyone else.
3 Take Advantage of Hotel Upgrades and Amenities
Is your hotel offering to upgrade you to a larger room for a small fee? Take it. Especially if you appreciate the comfort of a nice hotel room. The amenities and upgrades in hotels can make your trip feel less cheap and usually won’t cost too much. Try for a place that has free breakfast so you can lounge over coffee and eggs, even in a budget hotel. Order room service if they have it, or take a bath in the hotel tub. Use as many as their amenities as possible to feel like you’re getting the most out of your stay.
2 Eat a Lot of Cheap Food
Cheap food doesn’t mean bad food. In many cases, some of the most affordable eats are the tastiest. Hole-in-the-wall restaurants, food trucks, and mom & pop shops often have the most authentic and delicious food in destinations around the world. Eat as much as you want when you visit these places. You’ll get delicious food and will never feel like you’re depriving yourself. Testing out five different food trucks in a day could cost you less than one meal at a fancy restaurant. Eat as much as you want and don’t worry about busting the budget. Your trip certainly won’t feel cheap with a full belly.
1 Don't Deprive Yourself
Don’t deprive yourself. It may be easier said than done, but it’s quite possible. Pick and choose when and where to spend your money, but make sure you’re tending to your needs. An affordable trip doesn’t mean you have to constantly pinch pennies, stay at the hotel pool all day, or eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to stay on budget. Do some research, find free attractions, and look up deals on the things you want to do. You may have to cut corners in one place while leaving plenty of money to splurge in others. Decide what matters most to you and never deprive yourself in that area. This is a trip after all and it’s meant to be enjoyable.