How to travel on a budget

How to travel on a budget

If one thing in life keeps me going, it’s travel. The sights, sounds, and tastes of different cultures energizes me. From eating in churrascos in Buenos Aires to breaking Ramadan fast in Turkey to bungee jumping off the Auckland Harbor Bridge, I live for all the world has to offer. Even and especially when it scares me.


Working for an airline, as I did in 2018, is the best way to get cheap flights. For the rest of us plebians, we must find deals. My favorite methodology to find cheap flights to a destination is as follows:

  1. Check which airlines fly to which airports in the area during the time of year desired
  2. Look up flights on Google flights to get an idea of price during different seasons
  3. Cross check the airlines on Google and make sure they all show up
  4. For the airlines and airports that don’t, manually look them up on their respective sites

Flights will be by far the most expensive part of the trip, unless you’re going somewhere in Western Europe. For that purpose alone I don’t recommend western Europe, otherwise it really does make for a good trip when you can afford it! I also highly recommend booking your flights as far in advance as you can for high seasons (Summer, Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.) and around 3 months for lower seasons.

Other transportation

Ubers and taxis can add up people. Before you venture on your journey, and perhaps even during planning stages, I recommend looking up what mass and public transportations are like in the area, as well as the cost for an unlimited pass. Then download Google maps and download the offline maps for the city or cities you’ll be in.

People who are really into logistics like me should definitely plan ahead and plan your days around where the things you’d like to do are located. The best way I’ve found to do this is to look everything up on Google maps, add it to places I’d like to visit, and then visually try to group your days that way. This used to be ten times easier with Google Trips, but as it’s deprecated, I can no longer recommend nor use it 🙁


HostelWorld and Airbnb have transformed the world of accommodations from something that is very costly to extremely valuable. With the introduction of all of these options for accommodations, prices are competitive and therefore low, particularly during off season.

The best and easiest way to cut costs is to split them with other people, but this isn’t always possible given that some of us like to travel alone and/or can’t get schedules to align.

Cell phone and data packages

There are few instances I’ve heard (if any) where people found it was cheaper to buy a data plan ahead or worse, at the airport. The best way to find a cheap data plan is to make your way to a city center and buy one there. If you change out the sim, make sure you keep it somewhere safe so you don’t lose it!

Actually spending money

As ridiculous as it sounds, banks will charge you money to spend your own money. But there are ways around this! Charles Schwab not only doesn’t charge international fees, they also refund any and all ATM charges, even foreign ones! Not only can this save you money while traveling, it also makes life at home much easier.

For security reasons, I don’t recommend using your debit card whenever possible, and using cash, a credit card, or contactless payment as this utilizes a virtual number. This is mostly due to personal experiences I’ve had with cards being compromised, and I’m very thankful most credit cards have very lenient fraud policies for this reason. Changing cards is always a hassle, but at least with a credit card the money isn’t actually taken out of your bank account while you resolve the matter.

My last recommendation for spending money is to get a credit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees.

Vacation packages

I am a huge fan of planning the logistics for my own vacations, but that is not always possible. When I went to Turkey, there was so much I wanted to do and see, that I knew to plan my own vacation would be both stressful and a royal pain from the US. So I booked a cheap* vacation package and went on my merry way! I specifically went through Tours Turkey, and I absolutely loved the experience, especially as a solo traveler. 

Viator and TripAdvisor are two of my favorite sites for planning day activities in unfamiliar locations. Just make sure you read the fine print when booking tickets, as some of them require notice that may not actually be feasible given your time of buy.

In non-Western countries, I’d recommend doing some searching to make sure that booking ahead is the best idea. In Turkey, I knew I wanted to do a boat ride in the Bosphorus strait and was prepared to pay the $30. Upon Googling, I found that it’s much cheaper (about $5) to wait by the docks and approach someone advertising boat rides. $5 for scenic views and free tea on a boat? Don’t mind if I do!

* about ~$1200 for solo-lodging, food, internal flights, and events admission for 3 cities over 8 days and 7 nights

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post Healthy meal prepping on a budget
Next post Dopamine detox review (in quarantine!)