How to travel for cheap

Travel Essentials

Traveling cheaply doesn’t necessarily equal staying in dingy hostels or living off ramen, but you may need to make a few compromises to travel on a budget.

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What are the best ways to travel for cheap in 2021?

The world is an incredible place with so much to see and do, but traveling can seem like it’s only for people with ample expendable income. Luckily, it’s possible to see the world on a budget if you’re willing to learn how to travel for cheap and are prepared to be flexible. 

While traveling to far-flung reaches of the globe might seem exciting, there’s more closer to home than you may realize. That’s not to say international travel on a budget is impossible, you may just need to get creative with how you save money. Traveling for cheap is easier than you might think if you spend some time planning. 

Consider staying local

We’re not suggesting staying in a motel 10 minutes down the road from your house, but instead staying in your home country rather than traveling internationally. Depending on where you live and where you want to go, this might mean a few hours’ drive to your nearest beach town or a domestic flight. Either way, it’s cheaper than traveling internationally, not to mention that international travel may still be off the menu for many people in 2021. 

Search for cheap flights

Booking directly from an airline’s website isn’t always the cheapest way to travel. Instead, it’s best to use travel comparison sites that scan the web for the cheapest flights, a bit like a search engine, and display the results so you can easily see the cheapest flights for your route of choice. Popular comparison sites include Google Flights, Skyscanner and Kayak.

Bring a carry-on only

Skyway Luggage Nimbus 3.0 20-Inch Hardside Spinner Case

Some cheap airlines keep their costs down by charging extra for checked baggage, so you’ll save money if you can get away with only bringing a carry-on. You should be able to pack enough for a week or two if you buy a roomy carry-on suitcase and take advantage of the personal item allowance to bring an extra bag that will fit under the seat in front of you. The Skyway Luggage Nimbus 3.0 20-Inch Hardside Spinner Case is an excellent yet affordable choice of carry-on luggage. 

Fly at less popular times

Overnight flights or flights that arrive at your destination late at night are usually cheaper than flights that take off during the day. You’ll also find that midweek flights are cheaper than those that depart on a Monday or the weekend. If you’re willing to be flexible with the days and times at which you travel, you might just find yourself a bargain. 

Travel off-season

Traveling at less popular times of the year not only beats the bulk of the tourists but also makes both travel and accommodation cheaper. It’s often more pleasant visiting cities in the late fall or early winter when you won’t spend your whole time roasting in the sun. Doing your research on your destination will help you find the best off-season travel time. For example, it’s best to avoid visiting the Caribbean between June 1 and November 30 due to hurricane season, but some islands, such as Grenada, are out of the hurricane belt and rarely hit, making them relatively safe to visit during this period and much quieter and cheaper than at peak times. 

Keep accommodation costs down

Samsonite® Winfield 2 Hardside Spinner Checked Luggage

Resourceful travelers can find plenty of ways to keep accommodation costs down or even to get completely free accommodation. Before you pack your luggage and head to the airport without a second thought, here are some ideas for cheap travel deals. 

Use comparison sites

Much like their flight comparison counterparts, accommodation comparison sites — such as Trivago and Tripadvisor — search through different accommodation providers and booking sites to bring you the best deals. You can often find cheap travel deals this way and might find some hotels or other types of accommodation that you would never have discovered otherwise. 

Stay in hostels

Coleman Sun Ridge 40°F Warm Weather Sleeping Bag

They aren’t for everyone, but hostels are great for saving money. If you don’t mind sharing a room with strangers, you’ll get the cheapest deals, but some hostels also have private rooms. Hostels can vary in quality, so you may want to travel with a sleeping bag or sleeping bag liner in case the bedding isn’t up to scratch. 

Work for accommodation

You can often bag free accommodation if you’re willing to work for it. Some hostels offer free beds in return for a couple of hours a day on reception or behind the bar. Fans of the outdoors can check out Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), which is a platform that connects people willing to work on organic farms with farm owners who will provide free accommodation. If you have experience or qualifications, there are other options for you, some of which might pay in addition to providing accommodation, including teaching surfing or yoga. However, you’ll need a work permit to take on paid work outside of the U.S.

House sit or pet sit

You can find people willing to let you stay in their home for free in return for watching the house or taking care of their pets. You’ll need to be flexible with dates, but it’s an excellent way to get a place to stay for free. TrustedHousesitters is the biggest website that connects house sitters or pet sitters with people who need their services. 

Stay in a self-catering accommodation

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If you eat out for every meal while you’re traveling, it soon adds up. Staying in self-catering accommodation lets you cook your own meals and save a bunch of cash. Of course, you don’t want to cook the whole time you’re on vacation, so consider supplementing with cheaper street food and casual dining options. When self-catering isn’t an option, packing CLIF Bars or granola bars can at least take care of breakfast.

Visit cheaper cities

You’ll find plenty of cheap places to travel in the U.S. and they can be cheaper for a range of reasons. For example, Washington, D.C., isn’t the cheapest place to stay, but it contains loads of free museums and other attractions so you won’t spend much on entertainment.

Atlanta is a huge hub for flights from all over the country, so it’s often possible to travel there for cheap. Knoxville is smaller than other more popular Tennessee cities, such as Memphis and Nashville, but accommodation and food is significantly cheaper. 

Think about flights, accommodation and expenses when looking for cheap places to travel outside of the States. If you want to go to Europe, for instance, tickets to Paris and Prague might be similar in price, but food, drink and accommodation is significantly cheaper in Prague.

Bring reusable cups and bottles

Chilly's Reusable Water Bottle

Instead of buying bottles of water while out and about, bring your own reusable water bottle — such as a Chilly’s Reusable Water Bottle — and fill it up wherever you find water for free. You can also bring a reusable coffee cup as many coffee shops offer a discount when you bring your own. It might not seem like a huge money saver, but every little adds up, especially when traveling for an extended period of time. 

Walk when possible

Skechers Women's Go Walk Joy 15601 Shoe

You can save money and see more of the place that you’re staying by walking whenever possible, rather than paying for public transport or cab fares. Just make sure you pack a good pair of comfortable shoes so your feet don’t hurt from all that walking.

 

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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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