I’ve had a lot of friends ask me “how do you afford to travel?” I know that the ability to travel is a privilege, but traveling is not as difficult as some people think. I was raised by a single mom with 5 siblings. Money was always tight, but my mom made travel a priority in our lives. So, here are my tips for low budget traveling.
Low Budget Traveling
Travel is a Mindset
I love to travel, because I love to explore new places. Exploration can happen anywhere if you have the right mindset. A lack of money can limit your options, but there’s plenty to explore even on a low budget. Stop saying “I can’t afford to travel.” You may not be able to afford to travel to Italy, but you can probably afford to travel the nearest beach-or some other natural landmark- for a day trip.
Save whatever you can
Sometimes, I only have $5 to put in my savings account after I pay my bills, but I put that five bucks in my savings account. There have been months where I couldn’t put anything into savings, and that’s okay too. Look for ways to save on your utility bills, clip coupons for groceries, etc. Planning a daily budget can help you analyze where you could reduce expenses to save for your next trip.
Buy Experiences, Not Things
For Christmas and birthdays, try to buy experiences for your kids or other family members instead of toys. My mom has done this for years. Last year, my mom bought us tickets to see the Head and the Heart in Virginia Beach. The year before that we went to Massanutten Ski Resort. On Christmas, we may have a few small gifts to open, but, honestly, I treasure those adventures more. Memories have value too.
Work towards a goal
It’s hard to save for a trip that has no real planning started. Start planning a trip to figure out a budget for transportation, lodging, food, and attractions. For transportation, either calculate the mileage or look up airfare. Every time you look at your savings account, you’ll think about your trip and how much you’re going to enjoy your vacation. When you have the money for transportation and lodging, look for sales to book a plane ticket or hotel room. If you end up getting an under budget plane ticket or room, you’ll have some extra money towards your food budget.
Realize the limitations of your budget
When I backpacked through Europe, we relied on hostels, public transportation, and grocery stores to curb expenses. We had a $10 daily budget for food, and we ate out once a week. Some people want to eat out every meal when they’re on vacation and stay at nice hotels. However, you may be able to stretch your budget if you plan a 2-star vacation over a 4-star vacation. It’s depends on your priorities. My goal is to have a clean, safe place to sleep for around $25-50 dollars a night. Other people want a fluffy pillow and a private room, but they will pay more for such luxuries.
Do Your Research
Travel with friends
Traveling with friends can really help with low budget traveling. I planned a trip to Cherry Blossom Festival in DC back in 2014. The hotel was $200 dollars a night, which I could not afford. However, I split the cost with 4 others friends, which dropped my costs to $40 dollars a night. We were also able to share gas costs and taxi fares. When traveling with friends, it’s important that you have the same priorities. Expectations for lodging, food, and attractions should all be discussed. Are you eating out every meal or planning picnics? Do your friends realize that ya’ll are staying in a Comfort Inn instead of a Marriott? What do you want to do on your trip? Is everyone aware of the budget?
Staycations are fabulous too. Have you visited your nearest state park, zoo, aquarium, living history museum, spa, etc? Every week, I look up local events in my little town and the surrounding area to see what’s going on. I don’t have several hundred dollars for a kayak, but I can rent one for half a day for $25 at my local state park. This past weekend I went with a friend to a local beach. It cost me a gallon of gas. Remember, traveling is focused on exploration, not distance.
It’s tempting to start immediately planning a two week vacation to Hawaii, but I encourage you to start planning a small trip first. It’s easy to become overwhelmed or discouraged over finances/travel goals when your trip is far away. Plan a few short trips to really start changing your mindset on traveling.
Any other tips for low budget traveling? Leave them in the comments!