Top 3 budget travel hacks

Learning how to save money on flights, hotels, and food

If I could design a billboard, it would read, “Don’t let money stop you from traveling. It is possible to see the world on a budget.” My husband and I currently are backpacking around the world for a year and we have become the king and queen of budget travel. On average, we spend less than $70 a day for two people. And that includes accommodation! Want to know how we do it? Here are our top hacks for traveling on a budget.

Flying to Bali

Flying to Bali

1. How to save money on flights

This might sound crazy, but you can save up to hundreds of dollars on your entire trip if you book your flight and hotel at the same time. It’s true! When my husband and I went to Mexico last year, we saved a ton of money by booking a bundle deal. And they are way more customizable than you might think.

Viewfinder Tip: Book your flight + hotel at the same time to save up to hundreds of dollars on your trip.

When you search for bundle deals on Expedia, you pick out a hotel first (with lots choose from) and then add on flights (also with plenty of options). Once you do this, the site will show you how much money you are saving by booking it all together. Sometimes, the savings are so large that your flight is basically free. Score! Even better, bundle deals are now available on the Expedia app, so you can book your trip from anywhere. Even the John.

Toasting in our hotel room with a swim up pool. Redeemed with Expedia+ rewards!

Toasting in our hotel room with a swim up pool. Redeemed with Expedia+ rewards!

2. How to save money on hotels

If a bundle deal doesn’t make sense for you (perhaps you need a one-way flight or you are going to multiple cities), then there are still plenty of ways to save money on hotels.

When searching for hotels on Expedia, I always use the ‘Price Per Night’ filter in the left-hand sidebar. I select less than $75 a night, then I sort the results by ‘Guest Rating’ to surface the best options at the top. This allows me to see the highest quality, yet most affordable options. If the options at the top are still too pricey, then I use the ‘Accommodation Type’ filter and select ‘Hostel/Backpacker Accommodation.’ This usually pulls up even cheaper options.

Also, we signed up for the Expedia+ rewards program so that we earn points on every hotel, flight, car rental, and activity that we book. After racking up enough points, we redeemed them for two nights at IZE Seminyak in Bali. We stayed in a room with a swim up pool just outside our door. Talk about ballin’ on a budget!

Eating red borsch soup in Warsaw. It was only $2!

Eating red borsch soup in Warsaw. It was only $2!

3. How to save money on food

After booking flights and hotels, the next biggest cost is almost always food. Especially if you eat three meals a day (plus snacks!), like me and my husband.

For breakfast, we save money by going to the nearest grocery store and picking up yogurt, cured meats, pastries, and cheap coffee. No need to sit down for breakfast, because we are always antsy to get outside and sightsee anyway!

For lunch, we save money by looking for restaurants with special lunch prices. Many places have a lunch menu that is cheaper than the dinner menu. Sometimes the food is even the same! So you can enjoy the same meal for a fraction of the price.

For dinner, it can be more challenging to find cheap restaurants. But we have a trick for finding them fast. We hop on the nearest Wi-Fi (or use a SIM card) and open Google Maps. Then, we type ‘restaurant’ into the search bar. The app pulls up nearby spots, which you can click on to view photos, open times, and reviews. Sometimes there is a link to their website, so you can click it to see their menu and prices too. Of course, you can also use Yelp and search by price. But we’ve found that Google Maps is better at finding places right around our current location.

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Keeping track of our spending on my phone

Other tips

To keep track of our spending while we’re traveling, I track every purchase on the notes app of my phone. I write down the cost of every meal, bus ticket, museum entrance, ice cream cone, and any other purchase. This helps me understand how much we’re spending along the way, so I’m not surprised at the end of our trip.

Also, before we leave for our trip, we sit down and create a budget. We consider the maximum amount of money we want to spend  (it always varies by destination) and we divide that by the number of days we are there. This gives us an average daily budget to aim for and we try to stick to it. Some days we go over budget and other days we are under budget. As long as our daily average is on target, we’re happy travelers!

No matter what type of trip you are taking, there are ways to save money. If you are going to one place for a fixed amount of time, then bundle deals are the way to go. If you are traveling to multiple cities, then searching for individual hotel deals is your best bet. And once you are on your trip, eat cheap and track your purchases! You will be impressed by how much you save.

How do you save money while traveling?

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Lauren LeBrun

Lauren LeBrun is a 20-something world traveler, co-founder of LeBruns On The Run, and formerly a social media geek in the travel industry. She helped build award-winning digital marketing campaigns for Expedia and wore every hat in the industry including: community management, content development, integrated marketing, and direct response advertising. Originally from Seattle, Lauren graduated from Gonzaga University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and a focus on Entrepreneurship. With a hunger for global experiences and international knowledge, she also studied at Gonzaga University in Florence and The School for Field Studies in the Turks & Caicos Islands. She is currently a co-pilot of LeBruns On The Run, which is a travel blog that she founded with her husband to document their 12-month backpacking trip around the globe. Their goal is to explore the world, live life on their own clock and inspire others to do so as well. Follow their adventures on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!
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  • Henry Harrison

    These are great tips. We do alot of homemade meals but we are traveling for a year and renting apartments a month at a time. Eating at restaurants in Europe is not generally cheap but the grocery stores are typically well stocked and we can buy local. We use Mint.com to track expenses and photo our reciepts in Evernote. Thanks for the tips!