10 ways to TRAVEL CHEAP

I will tell you right now, I am no expert traveler. But after my husband got a job at the airline, we didn’t waste much time. In two years we have been able to travel to Thailand, New York, California, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica and Canada, and both of us have, well, not so awesomely lucrative jobs. So here are some rules we stick to make it all possible!

1. Avoid Weekend Travel

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, because they are the slowest travel days of the week, will be your best bet for cheap flights. Avoid the weekend rush and book mid-week flights.

2. Pack Light

So many airlines these days are charging $15 dollars or MORE for checked bags. Avoid these extra fees by packing light, is possible, don’t check a bag at all. I have become a believer of the carry on. Skip the checked back line and baggage claim. And never EVER pack more than 50 lbs. Your costs will skyrocket adding an additional $50-$60 to your trip!

3. VRBO, HomeAway, & AIRBNB

Stay away from hotels altogether if possible. They are usually way overpriced and for what?! A bed, bathroom, and if you’re lucky, a kitchenette, the same old scenery. Staying in a hotel will only add expense to your trip. Mix it up by opting for a home or apartment rented out by the owner. This way you can get a full home/apartment, choose how many bedrooms you’d like, and have a full kitchen (which I am suggesting you use J). Most of these owners treat their home as their business. You will not lack any of the amenities you would get from a hotel. www.vrbo.com, www.homeaway.com and www.airbnb.com are a few great websites to get started. And if you want to go REALLY cheap, airbnb offers room rentals where the owner will rent a room in the home/apartment for a fraction of the cost. Step out of the box!

4. Negotiate

On our last vacation to Costa Rica, we stayed in a beautiful 2 bedroom home, close to the beach, with all the amenities for dirt cheap! The price started at DOUBLE what we got it for because we were straight forward with the owner. We knew our budget and told him right away what we were looking for. He wrote back saying, “we love when people make us offers and are willing to work with you!” I have found that you should never take the listing price. Negotiation can save you hundreds of dollars. Owners will almost always choose to rent out their home at a fraction of their asking price than not at all.

5. Live Like a Local

When traveling, most people think that they need to eat out for every meal. And when staying in a hotel, do you have any other option?! Grocery Shopping will save you TONS of money, especially when splitting the bill. And don’t forget to buy SNACKS! Granola Bars, drinks, fruit, and veggies will curb the cravings when you are on the go. Pack little lunches and keep your bag stocked. This will help you deter from eating out while out n about.

6. Bring Friends

I know how hard it is to get a group of friends on a vacation. I have tried several times. But if you can swing it, do it. Splitting the car rental, house rental, and food will bring your costs down significantly. The more the merrier!

7. Tour Independently

Skip the tours. Especially if it is something you can see on your own. They are usually wayyy overpriced. (Yes, there are cases where tours are necessary. Ex: Riding elephants in Thailand, horses in Puerto Rico. I can see where tours could come in handy here.) But most tours are taking you to things you could do on your own. Be creative. Is it a jungle tour? Find neat off-the-beaten-path hikes and tour yourself. Museum? Read up on facts before you leave and share as you go. Be independent and don’t give in to the “this is the only way to see” scam.

8. Off Season

Most places you travel will have a time that is less busy. This is usually because the weather isn’t “ideal”. By traveling off-season, you will save hundreds of dollars. Your accommodations, car rental, admission fees, even souvenirs will be cheaper in the off-season.

9.  Rural Travel

Stay away from the “tourist trap” cities. If you choose accommodations that are a little out of the way you are sure to save a bundle! And this way, you are able to see how people really live and get the full experience.

10. Car Rental Insurance

In a few countries, car rental insurance is required, but not all. Make sure to check if it is required, because many car rental companies will tack it on to your bill when it is neither required, nor needed.  In many cases, your credit card company provides car insurance just by having their card. Call your credit card company and avoid paying for unnecessary coverage.

Happy Traveling!

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63 Comments

  1. lindsay Goldfine
    November 29, 2012 / 11:19 am

    Wow, I think you can officially call yourself “well travelled”. Woohoo!

  2. November 29, 2012 / 11:51 am

    Yes, I love “live like a local” and second don’t travel on the weekends.

  3. November 29, 2012 / 12:21 pm

    I especially love your colorful photo of Thiland! You have been able to take advantage of the airline perks, and in the process you have become very savvy about travel. Passing along your valuable tips to your readers is interesting AND appreciated.

  4. CLJ
    November 29, 2012 / 5:06 pm

    You are a good photographer, and writer. I love your blog.

  5. January 4, 2013 / 11:14 am

    A very travel inspiring picture and great travel tips.

  6. Vicky
    January 6, 2013 / 10:57 pm

    I am planning a trip to Costa Rica in March! Would you be able to give me the information for the home you stayed at? Thanks!

    • January 7, 2013 / 6:01 am

      Sure! We flew into Liberia Airport, the place we stayed was an hour from there. Most people fly into the larger airport in San Jose. But if you are flying into Liberia, I have lots of info for you! Contact me at mary.l.johnson1@gmail.com

      • Amanda
        March 31, 2013 / 2:50 pm

        I’d love any info you have about staying in Costa Rica!

  7. Anine
    January 8, 2013 / 4:56 am

    Me and my family also stayed in camping villages and saved alot of money. In my country the travelagencies does not even know about them.
    This was so much fun and we also got to see places other tourist not often get to see.

  8. kelsey
    January 17, 2013 / 3:30 pm

    A few friends and myself plan on starting to travel the world, not quite sure where, we’ve got some Ideas but were all new at this. I was wondering if you would have any tips on getting side jobs when traveling and what not. You can email me at KelseyALJulian@gmail.com. I would really appreciate the help !

  9. Jennifer
    March 13, 2013 / 2:04 pm

    Great article! I think this is some of the best advice I have seen on traveling on a shoestring budget! It’s realistic and honest! Thanks for sharing and happy travels!

  10. karen
    April 9, 2013 / 6:38 am

    also regarding car insurance, your own personal car insurance should cover you-be sure to call and find out ahead of time! or try to not drive at all-we found its more relaxing !!!

  11. allison
    May 8, 2013 / 2:06 pm

    I noticed you said you stayed at a home in Costa Rica….Do you remember where that was and how you found the house you stayed in?

    • May 12, 2013 / 7:14 pm

      We stayed in Playa Grande and found our place on VRBO. There are several homes on VRBO that are listed in Playa Grande, and all over Costa Rica. It’s an awesome resource!

  12. May 23, 2013 / 8:06 pm

    Thanks for the great tips. I’m trying to figure out some great ways to travel cheap after I graduate so I will definitely keep these in mind. Where in Canada did you vacation?

  13. Smart Janitor
    June 11, 2013 / 4:56 pm

    Could you please not use so many exclamation points? They make me panic!

    • June 11, 2013 / 6:25 pm

      Sorry… I guess I just get really excited about traveling. (!!!!!!!)

  14. June 25, 2013 / 4:00 pm

    Hello my family member! I want to say that this post is awesome, great written and include almost all important infos.
    I’d like to peer more posts like this .

  15. S. Smith
    June 25, 2013 / 4:51 pm

    I’d add skip cruises, at least in Alaska. The ports are all tee shirt and jewelry stores. Fly to Anchorage, rent a car and/or take local tours.

  16. July 9, 2013 / 11:40 am

    Great post, lots of excellent information and links, thanks for your effort :o)

  17. July 25, 2013 / 1:20 pm

    Ahaa, its pleasant discussion about this piece of writing here at this blog, I
    have read all that, so at this time me also commenting here.

  18. July 29, 2013 / 4:07 am

    It’s an awesome article in favor of all the web people; they will take advantage from it I am sure.

  19. claire
    August 20, 2013 / 9:32 am

    I agree that traveling off season is key. Never go to Europe in the summer, go in the spring or fall. However, some places have extreme weather that would make traveling during certain times of year. We visited Samoa recently, and in their rainy season you might see 80 inches of rain in one month. You wouldn’t hardly be able to leave your accommodation and lots of bridges and roads would be flooded.

    As long as the weather is doable, even if it’s not ideal, travel off season. But always do your research before you book your flight!

  20. September 2, 2013 / 5:28 pm

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  21. Lucie
    September 12, 2013 / 3:19 am

    Some neat advice here 🙂 I’m heading to Costa Rica in February, so I’ve appreciated your tip about that destination.

    Regarding the car insurance: steer clear of the insurance “extras”, but I would strongly suggest that you get the overall coverage that ensures that you’re not liable in case of damage (or at least that you’re only liable up to a certain sum), theft or such. Otherwise your trip can get pretty expensive pretty fast – I’m talking about renting cars in Europe in particular, where the insurance policies are slightly different than in the US (as far as I know, in the US, car insurance is tied to a “person”, while in Europe it’s tied to the car), so your personal insurance or credit card insurance mostly doesn’t apply when you rent a car. Also, the basic overall insurance covers you if you are in an accident and somebody gets injured – if you’re traveling without insurance, you might end up having to send money to the injured person for the rest of their life. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

    As for jungle tours – here I definitely would recommend hiring a guide, unless it’s a jungle with clearly designated, signposted paths. Otherwise, you could end up lost in the middle of a jungle with no idea how to find your way back.

    And one more piece of advice: From experience, I know that it can help save quite a bit of money on activities (diving, museums, tours etc.) when you book online in advance – this applies in almost all countries in the world. If you’re not on a completely loose schedule, this will help you structure your trip and save you some money. Also, tains in Europe (e.g. Germany, Austria) have limited numbers of cheaper tickets (50% less or even more) that you can buy in advance, or even special online offers.

    Happy travelling. 🙂

  22. October 6, 2013 / 10:15 pm

    I am actually happy to rerad thiss blog posts which carries tons of useful information, thanks
    for providing such data.

  23. October 18, 2013 / 7:01 am

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  24. October 18, 2013 / 10:27 am

    I’m from Puerto Rico and I’m reading this hahaha thanks for the advices and I hope you liked the island. I want to go to Costa Rica and Thailand so much.

  25. November 1, 2013 / 3:38 am

    Headed somewhere indeed! I wish more people knew these brilliant ways to keep travel affordable. Everyone should be able to if they want to….

    I actually found my own way through similar techniques. I used http://ineedtotravel.org/ to trade living spaces with people for free, and I got absurd airfare around the world thanks to http://anyonecantravel.com/

  26. November 8, 2013 / 4:48 am

    With blogs like this around I don’t even need website anymore.

    I can just visit here and see all the latest happenings in the world.

  27. Green
    November 12, 2013 / 9:35 am

    Also I’ll recommend you to use roaming simcard instead of your regular ones, it is much much cheaper! I used TravelSim and it was great

  28. November 22, 2013 / 10:59 am

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  29. December 18, 2013 / 5:41 am

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  30. Karla Solis
    January 15, 2014 / 10:04 pm

    Great article lots of useful tips I will use in the near future. Except one thing “Is it a jungle tour? Find neat off-the-beaten-path hikes and tour yourself.” If its a jungle I will never go on my own and away from the path into the claws of a panther. This was a great laugh. Thanks!

  31. January 16, 2014 / 7:56 am

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  32. January 16, 2014 / 3:10 pm

    I want to thanks you as you had shared very valuable tips for hiring cheap vehicles and these ideas are very beneficial to me when i will plan for my next tour in near future, THANKS!

  33. January 23, 2014 / 10:35 am

    Very good guide for travel cheap, very userful information for me, keep up the excellent work. It has a really excellent content and your comments are quite accurate.

  34. January 26, 2014 / 6:12 am

    Awesome advice and photo in this post, just discovered your blog through Pinterest, it’s fabulous!

  35. January 31, 2014 / 1:58 am

    Howdy! Do you use Twitter? I’d ike to follow you if that would be okay.
    I’m undoubtedly enjoting your blog and look forward to nnew updates.

  36. June 30, 2014 / 6:55 am

    These tips are amazing! We used AirBnB last weekend for our trip to Niagara last weekend, it worked wonders!

  37. natalietanner
    July 26, 2014 / 1:20 pm

    Marvelous tips! May I suggest Rick Steve’s books, too. No matter where we travel I check out his books first. Your ideas are wonderful! We’ve used VRBO in Europe and have always enjoyed the experience. Going to the grocery to find things to cook for dinner is a GREAT experience. We learned in Italy, though, that what looks like spaghetti sauce in the jar is only tomato sauce (with NO seasonings). That was an interesting meal and a great memory!!

    If you travels include children, visit http://www.theeducationaltourist.com for tips on packing light and traveling with kids. My $3 downloads keep kids engaged in countries like Spain and France and in world class museums like The Louvre, The Prado, and The Galleria Borghese AND they serve as cliff notes for adults!

    I love your travel tips and am going to link to a post on my blog where I write about traveling with kids. I would love a shout out from you!

    Thanks,
    Natalie, The Educational Tourist

  38. September 2, 2014 / 2:29 am

    Reblogged this on With All My Art and commented:
    Being a travel agent this helps in advising clients. But then you find the best offers that we have fall during the weekend. Either way,this is worth sharing.

  39. September 29, 2014 / 11:36 am

    Great advice…thank you for sharing! Tips like these allow for more people to understand that travel is possible for them! Great job!

  40. October 19, 2014 / 3:57 pm

    These are great, easy tips! I’m always looking for ways to expand my travel budget! I truly realized how expensive traveling with a tour company is this year… I think I took my last tour. Thanks for sharing your tips! Cheers!

  41. March 6, 2015 / 12:13 am

    Great tips! Definitely a great way to travel!

  42. March 22, 2015 / 5:28 am

    Some nice, neat tips here – couldn’t agree more with the grocery shopping recommendations and avoiding tours – so often you can get the same sights or eat just as well doing things yourself

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