As people who love to travel, and budget friendly long weekend escapes is the way to go. We all understand how important it is to make a sensible plan for our trips ahead of time and do our best to stick to it. Once we have our plan, we can make changes to help us achieve our travel goals. When we create a solid plan, we have a clear idea of how much money we'll need for our trips, and a roadmap for where our money will go.
We can also identify areas where we can be smarter about our spending to make the most of our hard-earned cash. Whether it's through personal research or analyzing data from previous trips, we can figure out if our travel plans are doable or not. This advice also applies to anyone thinking about starting a travel business or already running their own travel company.
Finding Affordable Accommodations
No matter what type of place you like to stay in, one thing we all agree on is that nobody wants to spend a lot of money on it. Since you need a place to sleep every night during your trip, cutting down on this cost can save you a good chunk of money on your whole journey. Besides finding an affordable flight, finding free or cheap places to stay can have the biggest impact on your wallet.
The good news is, there are many ways to discover inexpensive places to stay when you travel. Here are the best methods to do that:
Opt for Hospitality Exchanges
One excellent way to get free accommodation is by staying with someone who lives in your destination. Choose to stay with a local who will offer you a free place to sleep, local tips, and someone to hang out with! This is one of my favorite ways to save money, and it also provides a fantastic cultural experience. There are a few websites that can help you arrange this:
Hostels are another choice for travelers on a budget. In hostels, the rooms are like dormitories where you share all the facilities. Many people think of hostels as places for young folks and aren't keen on sleeping in a dormitory. However, what they may not realize is that many hostels provide small rooms, singles, and doubles specifically for solo travelers or couples.
The misconception that they are dirty, unpleasant places for young people is incorrect. Many hostels offer more amenities than hotels and are quite clean, as young people expect comfort. These aren't the kind of hostels you see in movies or hear horror stories about. They come with Wi-Fi, tour desks, bars, curtains, lockers for your belongings, spacious bathrooms, and much more.
If you're on a tight budget, hostel dorms offer the best value. The larger the dorm, the lower the cost. Yes, you'll be sharing a room with several people, but if you want to save money, this is your best option. If you're traveling with a group, you could book one of the dorms for your entire group and not have to share with strangers.
While many hostels cater to young travelers and set age restrictions, some of the larger international chains like YHA and Hostelling International focus more on older travelers or groups. I've seen families, tour groups, and older travelers in hostels all around the world. A hostel is really for anyone who wants to meet other travelers, no matter their age.
Hostels are safe, secure, and cost-effective. Don't disregard them, even if you're not part of the young backpacker crowd.
Stay in a Home Exchange
This idea works best for older travelers who already have a home. Home exchange programs have been around for a while, but they're becoming more popular thanks to good advertising and people talking about them on the Internet. Home exchanges are just what they sound like— for a set period, you trade homes with a family from another country. It's a fantastic way to live inexpensively while abroad.
Most folks don't do this because they worry about safety, but remember that the other family is also trusting you with their home. Websites that facilitate home exchanges typically have different levels of verification and security similar to Couchsurfing.
Families communicate over the phone and email, and there's no obligation if you find that it's not suitable for you. Most people who try this are like-minded, so the chances of something going wrong are low. Furthermore, the family sends a few people to check on you when you arrive. You can enjoy all the comforts of home (like hot water and laundry) while in another city without shelling out extra money.
If house swapping isn't your cup of tea, consider house-sitting instead. In exchange for taking care of someone's home while they're away, you'll have a place to stay in the area you're visiting.
One thing to keep in mind about house-sitting is that it's not really designed for casual tourists. While you can find short-term options for only a few days, most house-sitting gigs last for weeks or even months. Remember, you'll be responsible for looking after someone's house while they're on vacation, and vacations tend to be somewhat lengthy. You'll need to go through a verification process, but the growing popularity of house-sitting means there are plenty of opportunities.
Opt for Airbnb Accommodations
Similar to home exchanges, rentals offer people a chance to stay in furnished apartments while traveling. These apartments are more budget-friendly than hotels and come with many more amenities. They're an excellent choice if you plan to stay in one place for a week or longer. You'll enjoy all the comforts of home without breaking the bank.
These apartments are a nice middle ground between a hostel and a hotel, although they can get a bit pricey if you're traveling solo. They're roughly double the cost (if not more) than a hostel dorm room. However, if you're traveling with a group or as a couple and want a break from dorm life and the crowds of travelers but don't want a hotel room, this is the perfect accommodation choice. Another perk of this option? You'll have access to a kitchen, which can help you save on food expenses.
But let's be real—everyone uses websites nowadays. Airbnb is a big deal and one of the main ways people travel these days. If you'd rather not stay in a hotel but also don't want a dorm, this is the ideal middle-of-the-road option. I personally use Airbnb all the time. I love it. You get to meet people, have your own space, and it's peaceful and clean. Honestly, it's just perfect.
Experience Farm Life
Do you dream of living on a farm without having to work as hard as you would with WWOOFing? Consider trying a farm stay! Farm stays offer you the chance to live on real working farms, discover how farms operate, maybe even take part in farm activities (like milking a cow!), and participate in fun outdoor events. Accommodations can range from basic camping to comfy rooms, depending on the farm. In essence, it's like staying at a cozy bed and breakfast. Prices can vary widely depending on your location, but in general, expect to pay rates similar to those of a budget hotel (around $40 USD per night, at least).
Dining on a Budget
Unless you have a lot of money to spend or you are going to a place where things are not expensive, you need to be careful with your spending. These ideas can help you with that. Because it's not good to come back home with a huge credit card bill after enjoying sea urchin in Japan or a bottle of Champagne in France. If that happens, you might have to delay your next trip.
Here are some simple and tested rules for eating and drinking without spending too much money, and you can still try all the delicious foods when you travel.
Bring your own food to the airport.
Airports like to charge a lot for simple food like a tuna sandwich, but you don't have to buy it. You can pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or bring an apple and some peanut butter (those small packs from Justin's are great). Just be careful about the amount because the rules for carrying liquids and gels in your bag also apply to food, so you can only bring 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters.
Eat out once a day
Food is a big part of traveling, and it's sad to miss out on it. But if you eat out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you'll spend a lot of money. Eating just one big meal out each day will help you save money without missing out on delicious food.
When you can, have lunch at a restaurant instead of dinner.
In many places, you can find cheaper and bigger meals at lunchtime than at dinner. So, having your main meal at lunch can save you some money and give you a nice break between your morning and afternoon sightseeing.
Instead of buying drinks at bars or restaurants, have a drink before you go out
In many places, you can buy a whole meal for the price of one cocktail. Take a tip from college students and make yourself a simple drink or have a beer before going out. You'll have just as much fun, and you won't have to spend $10 on a watered-down vodka soda or $15 on a glass of wine.
We're not saying you shouldn't have something sweet; just skip the $9 mousse, pay the bill, and go to the nearest store where you can buy a chocolate bar for $1.
Buy breakfast supplies at the grocery store
Breakfast is an easy meal to keep simple. Most people don't need a big cooked breakfast, especially when you're eager to explore while traveling. Buy some apples, yogurt, and granola, and you'll have a budget-friendly breakfast.
Choose street food over fancy restaurants
As soon as you sit down at a restaurant, the prices go up, and depending on the country, you might have to leave a tip. Why bother with expensive restaurants when you can find delicious and often more authentic food at a street vendor or a counter-service place? Grabbing food and eating on the go is almost always cheaper, and there's something charming about enjoying a falafel sandwich on the sidewalk while shooing away pigeons.
Free and Low-Cost Activities
Let's make a list of stuff you can do for free or not spending too much money when you're traveling. There are plenty of enjoyable things you can do while traveling that won't empty your wallet.
- Visit Museums: Many museums offer lower-cost admission on specific days or times, and in some countries, like the UK, entrance fees have been completely eliminated.
- Explore National Parks: While some national parks have increased their entrance fees, you can often visit for free if you walk or bike in. These fees, though minimal, help preserve our country's natural heritage.
- Avoid Crowded Tourist Spots: Before your trip, research tourist attractions to avoid overpriced and overhyped places. You can often enjoy exploring these areas for free at the right time or day.
- Venture Off the Beaten Path: Some of the most amazing sights are hidden near popular tourist spots. Take time to wander through less crowded backstreets and unmarked buildings, where you may uncover hidden treasures.
- Explore Art Galleries: If you'd like to see art but don't want to pay a high entrance fee, consider visiting retail art studios worldwide, where you might discover undiscovered talents.
- Visit Attractions with Added Value: Sometimes, attractions with entrance fees offer extras included in the price. For example, the Guinness Factory in Dublin provides a pint of Guinness at the end of the tour and features many exciting activities along the way.
- Enjoy Public Parks and Buildings: Many amazing places have been transformed into public parks or buildings with little or no entrance cost.
- Visit Local Schools and Universities: Educational institutions often offer low-cost events like concerts, plays, science fairs, art exhibitions, and athletic events, with schedules posted all over campus.
- Explore Public Libraries: Public libraries offer more than just free books. Many also provide access to free DVDs, movies, music, audiobooks, and are often housed in historically significant buildings.
- Join Sporting Activities: If you enjoy sports, look for activities happening at parks and courts worldwide. Most people are welcoming to newcomers; just remember to ask politely.
- Discover Historic Towns: The United States is full of fantastic historical places, especially along migration trails.
- Consider Hostels: Online, you can find many excellent hostels offering affordable activities and a chance to meet fellow travelers.
- Utilize the Interstate Highway System: The US has a superb road network, and interstate highways are generally toll-free. Even-numbered highways run east and west, while odd-numbered ones run north and south.
- Explore Smaller Cities: Smaller cities are often friendlier and easier to navigate, even though they may have limited public transportation.
- Opt for Cities with Good Public Transport: Cities like San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Boston, Denver, and New York have extensive and affordable public transportation systems, which can significantly reduce your travel expenses.
- Consult Guidebooks and Local Activity Lists: You'd be surprised at the many low-cost or free activities you can find in cities and the countryside by simply reading about them.
- Visit Public Parks and Recreation Facilities: Most states have numerous public parks and recreational facilities that are almost always free to access, so be sure to check them out.
- Meet Locals: Don't forget to connect with the people who know the area best – the locals. You can approach them during their leisure time at coffee shops, pubs, and parks. They often have great insights into hidden gems and budget-friendly experiences.
Getting the Most Out of a Budget Trip
Investigate Your Destination
Knowing about the local customs, language, and travel advisories can help you avoid awkward situations. Tips: Read travel blogs, check guidebooks, or ask people who've been there. Research local laws, things to avoid, and cultural norms. You can also follow me on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Plan Your Schedule
Having a schedule can be the backbone of your trip. Tips: Use tools like Google Sheets or special travel apps to list the places you want to visit, travel times, and expenses. But don't forget to leave some room for spontaneity!
Travel insurance is like a safety net in case things go wrong. Tips: Compare different plans online and make sure it covers your needs, such as medical emergencies and cancellations.
Other Tips and Tricks
Travel During Off-Peak Times
Traveling during less crowded times can save you a lot of money. Tips: Find out when your destination has fewer tourists, but also check if attractions are open during that time.
Use Local Transportation
Local transportation is usually cheaper than taxis or tourist shuttles. Tips: Get local transportation cards or passes to save more. Apps like Citymapper can be really helpful in many cities.
Cook Your Own Meals
Eating out for every meal can be expensive. Tips: Choose accommodation with kitchen facilities and buy fresh ingredients from local markets.
Staying Safe while Traveling on a Budget
Keep Your Important Documents Secure
Losing your passport or flight tickets can be a disaster. Tips: Make copies of all your important documents. Keep one set with you and another in a safe place, like a hotel safe.
Local Emergency Numbers
Knowing how to contact emergency services is crucial. Tips: Note down or save local emergency numbers in your phone. Apps like TripWhistle can be helpful with this.
Travel with Others or Stay in Public Areas
There's safety in numbers and public places. Tips: If you have to go out alone, especially at night, stick to well-lit areas and let your family or friends know where you are.
Capturing Memories on a Budget
Let's explore some cool ways to keep your road trip memories alive and share them with your family and friends. We'll make it super easy to understand!
Snap Lots of Photos and Videos
Taking pictures and shooting videos is one of the best ways to capture memories from your trip. Photos help you remember the details, while videos let you record chats, experiences, and fun times.
Create a Scrapbook
Scrapbooking is a fun craft that lets you get creative while saving all your road trip memories in one place. You can gather stuff like ticket stubs, maps, souvenirs, and postcards to make a special scrapbook that reminds you of your adventure.
You can also add your handwritten notes, diary entries, and cool quotes to make it even more personal. You can decorate each page with stickers, stamps, colorful tape, and other artsy things. If you're feeling creative, you can try making custom scrapbook pages.
For an extra creative twist, make a mini-album that fits in your purse or pocket. Smaller albums are great for quickly showing your road trip memories to your family and friends.
Start a Travel Journal
If you're used to keeping a journal, you can do the same to document your road trip. Journaling helps you capture both big and small moments of your journey, like beautiful landscapes and funny chats. It's easier than scrapbooking because all you need is a pen and a notebook.
Write about the cool restaurants you visited and the funny things you did. You can also use your journal to remember the feelings you had while being on the road and any cool thoughts or lessons you learned.
Writing down whatever pops into your head will make it easier to recall memories when you look back at your notes. You can even make travel journaling more fun by adding drawings, doodles, and photos. You can also jot down travel tips or what you learned from the trip – this will come in handy if you plan on going back to the same place.
A travel journal is an awesome way to think about and reflect on your experiences. There are tons of different notebooks, journals, and planners available nowadays, so you can easily find one that matches your style.
Send Yourself Postcards
Another fun way to remember your travels is with postcards. They're not only a simple, affordable way to keep track of your trip but also a nice surprise when you get them in the mail!
You can buy postcards wherever you go and write about your experiences on the back – from funny stories to helpful travel tips. Or if you want to get artistic, why not make your own postcards with photos or drawings? If you don't have the time (or supplies) to make them yourself, you can find lots of online services that let you personalize and print travel postcards.
Pick Special Souvenirs or Keepsakes
Souvenirs are a fantastic way to remember your adventures, and you can find them almost anywhere. When you're on the road, look for souvenirs that are meaningful and remind you of the places you've visited. They could be small, unique items, or even things you crafted yourself during a class or workshop.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
How do I discover the least expensive plane tickets?
Finding the cheapest flights can be a real game-changer for middle school students on a budget who want to travel. Here are some simple ways to find affordable airfare:
Use Websites that Compare Prices: Websites like Skyscanner, Kayak, and Google Flights let you compare prices from different airlines and booking sites, so you can find the best deals.
Be Flexible with Dates: Changing your travel dates by a few days can often save you a lot of money. Mid-week flights and late-night options are usually less expensive.
Get Fare Alerts: Sign up for fare alerts from airlines or other websites. They'll send you a message when prices drop for the flights you want.
Think About Nearby Airports: Sometimes, flying to or from a nearby airport can be cheaper than using your first choice.
Use Reward Points and Miles: If you have frequent flyer miles or credit card rewards, use them to make your flights less expensive.
Is travel insurance important when you're on a budget?
Even though travel insurance costs extra money, it can give you peace of mind when you're on a budget trip. Here's why it's a good idea:
Protection from Unexpected Problems: Travel insurance covers unexpected events like trip cancellations, medical emergencies, and lost luggage. For budget travelers, avoiding unexpected expenses is really important.
Medical Coverage for Emergencies: If you're going to a place with limited medical help, having travel insurance with medical coverage can be a lifesaver.
Trip Interruption Help: If something unexpected happens during your budget trip, travel insurance can pay you back for the part of your trip you didn't get to finish.
Affordable Choices: Many companies offer budget-friendly travel insurance plans that are made for travelers who want to save money.
What are the best apps for budget travelers?
In the age of smartphones, there's an app for everything, even for budget travel. Here are some great apps to make your budget travel better:
Skyscanner: This app helps you find cheap flights and also gives you deals on hotels and car rentals, making it a one-stop shop for budget travelers.
Airbnb: For places to stay that are affordable, Airbnb connects travelers with local hosts who have unique and budget-friendly places to stay.
Google Maps: Get around in places you don't know with Google Maps, which gives you directions, reviews, and information about things to see.
Currency Exchange Apps: Apps like XE Currency and Currency Converter Plus help you know the exchange rates, so you get the best deals.
Duolingo: Learning a few basic phrases in the local language can save you money and make your trip better. Duolingo offers free language lessons for many languages.
How can I stay safe in places I've never been before?
Safety is really important, no matter how much money you have. Here are some important tips to stay safe when you're exploring places you don't know:
Do Your Research: Before you go, learn about how safe your destination is, what the local customs are, and what things might be risky. Being informed is the best way to protect yourself.
Share Your Plans: Tell a trusted friend or family member where you're going and what you'll be doing, so someone knows where you are.
Choose Safe Places to Stay: Even if you're trying to save money, pick places to stay that have good reviews and are in safe neighborhoods.
Keep Your Valuables Safe: Use a money belt or a hidden pouch to keep your passport, money, and other important things safe.
Stay Aware: Pay attention to what's happening around you. Avoid places and situations that seem risky, and trust your gut feelings.
Can I go on a budget trip with my family?
Yes, you can go on a budget trip with your family, and it can be a lot of fun! Here are some tips to make it work:
Plan Ahead: Planning carefully is really important. Research places that are good for families, find places to stay that are affordable, and look for fun things to do that don't cost a lot.
Cook Your Own Food: Choose places to stay that have kitchens so you can cook your meals. This can save you a lot of money compared to eating out.
Look for Family Discounts: Many places offer discounts for families. Take advantage of these to save money on things like tickets to attractions or transportation.
Choose Fun Activities: Pick activities that your whole family will enjoy and that don't cost too much. Sometimes, simple things like going for a hike or having a picnic can be just as much fun as expensive activities.
Pack Light: Try to pack as little as possible to avoid extra fees for luggage and to make it easier to get around.