17 Way to Travel on a Budget

I love to travel. Luckily, so does Gabriel. Besides the fact that we love marketing and it’s in our wheelhouse, we chose our self-employed lifestyle due to our love for exploring. We wanted to be able to pick up and go. However, when I tell people about our plans, there are a couple reactions I get. The number one reaction is, “wow…do it while you’re young.” The second reaction is almost always about money. How did you save? How can you afford that?

That reaction suggests that everyone who travels has a lot of money, which is certainly not the case. In fact, the friends I’ve met abroad pretty much all live on a tight budget. Most of the reason for that is because they want to travel more.

Everyone should travel. It has been one of the greatest joys of my life. I’ve learned so much through experiencing and immersing myself in different cultures. So, I’ve put together 17 travel tips that will help you save money before and during your next adventure.

Before the trip

1. Get a good credit card. We chose Capital One Venture card and we have been so happy with it. In fact, we were able to completely pay for both of our flights to Ecuador, and we still have some miles left over. We use it as often as possible, and we pay it off each month in full. This is VERY important. Nobody should go into debt traveling, so if you’re not good with credit cards, I do not recommend this.
2. Track your spending with an app. We use Mint. This app allows us to evaluate what we are spending the most on each month and work on that the next month. For us, it’s usually food.
3. Work your butt off. While we were in the States between adventures, we launched our new business 2oddballs Digital Marketing. During this time, I was working full time as a server at Applebee’s. It was absolutely not ideal, but it was a quick way to make some cash. I knew the end goal, and that helped push me to work harder. When I got off work, I would come home and help Gabriel with whatever website we were working on at the time. We also found a month long job at our local university teaching foreign exchange students from Mexico. It was one of my favorite jobs to date.
4. Choose your flight carefully. Choosing a flight can be a daunting task. In fact, when we’re doing it, we plan for it to take a whole night. Sit down with some popcorn and do your research.  Look at different sites, don’t just stop at Expedia. Also, just accept the layovers. Annoying layovers equal cheaper flights. It can be miserable, but it’s worth the discount to be miserable for a day or two. There are other places you want that money to go. Finally, look at multiple airports. It might be cheaper to take off or land in an airport farther away and take a bus the rest of the way.

During the trip - when & where to go

5. Go to inexpensive countries. There are plenty of beautiful countries in the world that are extremely cheap. Currently we are staying in Cuenca, Ecuador, and we can live on $20/day including our housing and food. It would be a little more if we were to pay for entertainment. So far we have explored the city and seen fireworks, visited with other Gringos, and looked around at the markets. That was all for free.
6. Choose the right season. Many countries have off seasons where the flights are significantly cheaper. Plan your trip at this time. Not only will you have cheaper flights, there will also be fewer tourists around (so fewer lines and possibly cheaper prices all around).
7. Visit friends abroad. If you have friends living abroad, chances are they would love to have you! Ask them if you could stay awhile and save the money you would spend on living arrangements.

During the trip - places to stay

8. Stay in an AirBnB. This is our favorite thing to do. This usually puts you living like a local. Currently, we’re in an AirBnB one block away from the square in Cuenca, Ecuador. If you are traveling for an extended period of time, look at the discounts for week or month long stays. We were able to get this apartment (in a good part of town) for $11/night for a whole month. We are a walk away to anything we could want, besides the mountains that we can see from every street corner. Here’s the view from the AirBnB we’re in now:
9. Stay in a hostel. It’s not that scary. They’re mostly clean and nothing at all like the horrifying movies that gave them a bad reputation. Plus, you could meet some new friends!
10. Stay on a couch. Couchsurfers is a site that lets you stay on couches for free! People sign up because they want to support traveling, connect with people from different cultures, etc. This is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture.

During the trip - what to eat

11. Make your own meal. This is where that AirBnB comes in handy again. They often have a full kitchen, and you can make your own meal. It is nice to experience eating out, but you don’t have to do this for every meal. This is usually a traveler’s biggest expense.
12. Pack a lunch. Again, I know this isn’t as exciting as trying the restaurant around the corner, but if you’re on the go, it’s a great way to sustain yourself. This is especially useful on long bus or plane rides.
13. Limit eating around tourist places. These prices are often marked way high, and they’re not as good as the local cuisine (most of the time). Try out a local restaurant where the prices will be set for locals.

During the trip - what to do

14. Go to free festivals or museums. There is almost always something that you can do for free. If not, just walk around and explore the city. But make sure you know where is safe!
15. Enjoy the natural beauties. This is usually free, and one of the best ways to experience a different country. Take a hike in the mountains, go to the beach, etc.
16. Choose transportation wisely. If you can go on foot, do that. You see so much more, and you can stop and explore shops or parks at your leisure. Plus, it’s free! Buses are also a good way to go. They’re cheap and big cities have them running all over. Here we hitched a ride up the mountain with a smiling Taiwanese man:
17. Get connected. Other travelers are often friendly and excited to share their experiences. If you want some inside information, join a Facebook expat group and ask away. There is always someone that knows how to answer your question. Also, don’t be afraid to ask the locals! If you can speak the language, ask away! They’ll certainly know how you can save a buck or two!
I hope this encourages you to start planning now! Happy traveling!

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