- Plan Ahead–have a list of places you would love to go, if possible, get a loved one or friend on board. That way, you can share expenses, memories and keep an eye out for each other. Look for cheap airline promotions and commit to your trip when you see an especially good deal. If you are buying a ticket last minute, try flying on a weekday when tickets are generally cheaper. In my experience, ticketing websites usually post better deals earlier in the day.
- Consider hostels or couch surfing–especially if you are a young traveler! Be smart and make sure you are living in a relatively safe area. Check what other reviewers have said about the hostel. If you are couch surfing, make sure the person you are staying with has a lot of friends and acquaintances who can vouch for their sanity; if they seem crazy, don’t take the risk. Couchsurfing is wonderful and you shouldn’t hesitate trying it–I’ve met wonderful people and made good friends. It is more common in European countries than in the Americas, but there are good people all over the globe. If you are a female traveler however, it is always better to couchsurf with a friend or someone you know. Otherwise, splurge on accommodations you will feel safe in and cut corners on other parts of your budget instead.
When traveling, even if you are on a tight budget, always trust your instinct and never put yourself in a dangerous situation just to save money. If something seems wrong about a neighborhood, find another one!
- Be a traveler, not a tourist. Tour guides and tour buses tend to cost a lot of money. If you want to see the sights, do research on the internet before you go (as internet access abroad may be very expensive) or check out good guide books from the library. Get the most current edition of the guide as possible; Frommer’s generally makes good guides. Be sure to read the sections of personal safety, as they’ll offer useful tips specific to the place you are visiting.
Make a list of what you want to see and things that you want to do. Look up tour bus routes and follow them with public transportation, on foot or on a rented bike. These options are more fun, less embarrassing than being in a huge group of tourists, and will save you a lot of money and force you to get to know the place you are visiting.
Instead of eating in touristy areas, eat in small neighborhood restaurants. Ask around for recommendations or do research online before you go. If you are familiar with the local language, pick up a free weekly newspaper many cities have that introduce good local restaurants. These publications are also good for finding local entertainment and keeping informed about entertainment possibilities in the area. By eating at smaller, neighborhood restaurants you’ll not only eat better, more authentic food, but you will save a significant amount of money which you can then spend on other things.
Or, instead of eating in a restaurant, pick up local bread, cheeses and fruits and have a picnic in a beautiful park or other landmark. If the country permits outdoor alcohol consumption, you can pick up a nice local bottle of wine or beer, too and indulge on a budget.
- Many museums have days or hours when admission is discounted–check for this online before you travel so you’re informed. Check to see if there are any landmarks or historical sites that don’t charge admission at all, or visit a public botanical garden or sprawling park.
- Avoid gift shops. Take photographs instead–they are more personal, more meaningful, and with digital technology a lot cheaper. They are also something you can share with friends when you return. If you journal or scrapbook, do that instead of buying expensive books or commemorative spoons.
- Bring the right clothes, and wash them yourself. Instead of paying for a laundry service, bring only clothes that are easily hand washable. Invest in a small container of detergent and hand wash clothes in sinks. Another trick is to put small washables in a large ziplock bag of soapy water. Rinse clean, and hang to dry. Laundry services in hotels can be expensive. If you are living in a hostel, laundry machines may be a cheaper alternative.
Always be prepared for inclement weather, check the forecast before you leave and bring an umbrella, extra jacket or hats and gloves if you think you’ll need them. They won’t weigh you down too much and will save you the trouble and money of having to by an umbrella when it suddenly starts raining. Also be sure to wear comfortable, versatile shoes. Like everything else, it pays to plan ahead.
Most importantly, don’t let a tight budget prevent you from traveling!