6 tips for traveling on a budget

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Saving money without sacrificing experience

Many would-be travelers wind up skipping vacations because they feel they don’t have the funds to make a trip worthwhile. Here at Expedia Viewfinder, when we hear people say that they can’t afford to travel, it kind of breaks our hearts. There are so many benefits to traveling—even if you take short, budget-friendly trips. Vacations have been shown to decrease your risk of developing heart disease, improve your sleep, reduce your stress levels, and even increase your annual productivity levels at work!

Luckily, we’ve found some travel tips to save you money when you plan your excursions. Rather than looking at a trip as your chance to go crazy and splurge on wildly extravagant vacations, consider traveling on a modest budget. Not only will you get to travel that much more frequently, you also may have some money left to plan for your financial future.

Here are 6 tips for how to travel on a budget.

Tip #1: Choose a destination that flies under the radar.

When planning your getaway, consider smaller cities that fly under the  radar. There is much to love about less flashy destinations. Many have delicious, affordable eateries, as well as unique attractions that won’t break the bank. When you travel to a smaller, lesser-known destination, everything will be cheaper, from rental cars and gas to dining out and lodging. You’ll generally enjoy lower admission prices for museums and theme parks, too.

Tip #2: Live like a local.

As tempting as it is to splurge on fancy restaurants every night of your trip, the cost of these meals can add up—especially when you’re adding drinks, tax, and tip to the tab. Commit to spending much of your trip eating like a local. This can mean grabbing takeout from a casual mom and pop restaurant, or it can involve cooking your own meals—ones created with locally sourced items from the corner grocery store—in your hotel room’s kitchenette.

Not only will you save money, you’ll get to experience the city as though you actually live there. You can still splurge on a few nice meals—they’ll be that much more memorable and special. If your whole reason for traveling is eating fine foods, consider finding early-bird specials or opting for lunch instead of dinner—lunch menu prices tend to be a bit lower. 

Tip #3: Explore the city by foot or by bicycle. 

If you’re in good shape (or want to be), a great way to see a city is on foot or by bicycle. You’ll save on gas and car rental fees, and you’ll get that locals-only experience. Certain cities, like Chicago and NYC, are known for being great for exploring on foot, but there are also plenty of smaller cities and towns that are also easily traveled without cars.

The simplest way to make this approach work for you is to choose a hotel near a walkable part of town. Or, if you pick an affordable hotel just outside of town, as noted above, be sure there’s a public transportation stop nearby, so you can easily get to where the action is without needing a car.

Tip #4: Travel in packs.

Traveling alone can be liberating, but it’s not always ideal for saving money (unless you stay in hostels). Traveling with companions is a great way to indulge in upscale digs without breaking the bank. Split the cost of that swanky hotel room four ways, and it suddenly becomes affordable. If you want some privacy, but don’t mind sharing a bathroom with your travel mates, you can always book a suite.

This tip applies to car rentals, too. Four people flying to a destination for hundreds of dollars each adds up! If you’re able to take the time and drive, a small group splitting a rental car saves a bundle. That said, whether you drive or fly depends on your time constraints.

Tip #5: Choose your hotel carefully.

We recently polled readers about their travel habits, and learned that 76 percent consider hotel price an overwhelming consideration when traveling. And, while choosing a budget hotel is a simple way to slash travel costs, most readers reported their hotel budget is in the $$ – $$$ range. The good news is that there are plenty of apartment-style hotels, or rooms with kitchenettes, within that moderate price range, not to mention lesser-known boutique hotels right in the heart of the action.

Another option is to book a hotel just outside of town. You’ll save money each night, which you can reallocate to meals out, transportation, or admission to area attractions.

Tip #6: Book your trip at the ideal time.

If you’re able to be somewhat flexible with your travel times, take advantage of the savings you’ll enjoy! Be sure to sign up for an account with Expedia and opt into email notifications—you’ll receive updates for deals on flights and hotels in your preferred destinations. You can also set alerts so you’ll be notified about last-minute deals on all things travel.

What are your budget travel tips?

Expedia compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site, such compensation may include travel and other costs.

Meredith Castin

Meredith loves everything about traveling, except that it involves leaving her three cats behind. She’s a physical therapist-turned writer, who enjoys all sorts of outdoorsy travel activities, including snowboarding, rock climbing, and hiking—all of which serve to whet her appetite for her favorite travel activity: eating!

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