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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

  • Reply lindsay Goldfine

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

    November 29, 2012 at 11:19 am
  • Reply erin fonnesbeck

    pinning this! need this for future travel!

    November 29, 2012 at 11:38 am
  • Reply bellissimom

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

    November 29, 2012 at 11:51 am
  • Reply CLJ

    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.

    November 29, 2012 at 12:21 pm
  • Reply CLJ

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

    November 29, 2012 at 5:06 pm
  • Reply Melvin Clifton

    A very travel inspiring picture and great travel tips.

    January 4, 2013 at 11:14 am
  • Reply Vicky

    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 6, 2013 at 10:57 pm
    • Reply headedsomewhere

      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

      January 7, 2013 at 6:01 am
      • Reply Amanda

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

        March 31, 2013 at 2:50 pm
  • Reply Anine

    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.

    January 8, 2013 at 4:56 am
  • Reply kelsey

    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 !

    January 17, 2013 at 3:30 pm
  • Reply daydreamcatcher

    Reblogged this on daydreamcatcher and commented:
    With traveling on my mind this is perfect!

    February 9, 2013 at 11:36 pm
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  • Reply Jennifer

    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!

    March 13, 2013 at 2:04 pm
  • Reply karen

    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 !!!

    April 9, 2013 at 6:38 am
  • Reply Vicki @ Knocked Up & Abroad

    Some fantastic advice here! Makes me want to get out and being adventurous again! 🙂

    May 4, 2013 at 2:54 pm
  • Reply allison

    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 8, 2013 at 2:06 pm
    • Reply headedsomewhere

      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!

      May 12, 2013 at 7:14 pm
  • Reply Cheap Students (@cheapstudents)

    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?

    May 23, 2013 at 8:06 pm
  • Reply Smart Janitor

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

    June 11, 2013 at 4:56 pm
    • Reply headedsomewhere

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

      June 11, 2013 at 6:25 pm
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    June 25, 2013 at 4:00 pm
  • Reply S. Smith

    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.

    June 25, 2013 at 4:51 pm
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    Great post, lots of excellent information and links, thanks for your effort :o)

    July 9, 2013 at 11:40 am
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  • Reply claire

    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!

    August 20, 2013 at 9:32 am
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  • Reply Lucie

    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. 🙂

    September 12, 2013 at 3:19 am
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    October 6, 2013 at 10:15 pm
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  • Reply crisisdelosveintitrés

    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.

    October 18, 2013 at 10:27 am
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    November 1, 2013 at 3:38 am
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    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!

    January 15, 2014 at 10:04 pm
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  • Reply Shane

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

    June 30, 2014 at 6:55 am
  • Reply natalietanner

    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!

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    July 26, 2014 at 1:20 pm
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    September 2, 2014 at 2:29 am
  • Reply Amelia

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

    September 29, 2014 at 11:36 am
  • Reply PaigeBrown

    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!

    October 19, 2014 at 3:57 pm
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  • Reply Missi

    Great tips! Definitely a great way to travel!

    March 6, 2015 at 12:13 am
  • Reply Steph of Big World Small Pockets

    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

    March 22, 2015 at 5:28 am
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