How to Have an Awesome Travel Experience on a Budget

Didn’t have the chance to save up for your next trip? Don’t worry, most of us are in the same boat and instead of putting off that sensational adventure until next year, you can travel on a budget and still have an amazing experience. It can possibly cost just as little as the plane ticket to get there.

My go to websites to make the magic happen

Nowadays there are tons of travel websites trying to make the budget travel planning process easier, but really just fills our browser tabs with sites we never actually look at! Let me help declutter your bookmark tab. Helpful links are underlined.

Help out in return for room and board…

Social traveling with sites like Workaway, Helpx and Staydu have gained tons of popularity among budget travelers and those wishing to travel for a month or more at a time. Most hosts ask guests to help out between 2 to 5 hours per day doing tasks such as gardening, farming, housework, babysitting or language exchange with days off of course and are willing to show you around their city in exchange for room and board. Care to work and live at a surfing camp all summer and meet new people? Want to help out at a secluded and calming yoga retreat? These are just a few examples of hosts you can discover. The sites allow first time users to check out hosts for free before signing up and paying a small fee. Yes, you must pay a yearly or lifetime fee to contact hosts on these sites, but it’s hardly a thought when you are able to have a real experience with locals showing you around and not have to pay for accommodation.

  • Workaway – 23 euros or 30 euros for a couple/two friends per year.
  • Helpx– 20 euros for 2 year membership. You can’t contact hosts with their free account.
  • Staydu – 19 euros for 2 year membership and if you host, you get a free account. Hosts can decide if they want guests to work, pay a small fee or stay for free with no compensation.

Or, get your accommodation for free (or almost for free)!

By now everyone has heard of Couchsurfing. If you’re on a tight budget and don’t have a friend in the city, this can be the way to go. While great for cultural exchange, meeting new people and learning about how locals truly live day to day, the drawback is if you are traveling with a group or for a long period of time. Most hosts only want to house one or two guests at a time and for just a few days.

For group travel, check out Home Exchange and Stay4Free. I say this because the membership costs are higher and this can be offset if you are traveling in a big group and therefore don’t need to spend on multiple hotel rooms or per person costs at a hostel. These sites are for home swapping so both families can go on vacation. Just connect with others in the city you wish to travel to and exchange homes for an agreed upon time for your trip. You can also agree upon (or not) the use of their cars, bikes, boats, etc.

  • Couchsurfing – Free to sign up and contact hosts. Stay on their couch, air matteress or spare bedroom.
  • Home Exchange – 130 euros per year. Travel in a group or large family to make this worthwhile.
  • Stay4Free – $12 per month for basic plan and $14 per month for premium plan with higher success rate of finding a match.
  • Hostelworld – Site is easy to use with all your hostel and B&B options in one place. This was my go to site during my 3 month Europe trip in 2012.
  • Airbnb – I don’t think it needs an explanation these days, but airbnb is great for individuals and groups alike since you can rent a shared room, private room or full home or apartment for extremely reasonable prices. An entire studio apartment in central Bangkok, Thailand is renting for $13 a night, which is why I chose this site for my trip there last year.
Budget airlines in Europe include Easyjet, Ryanair, Wizzair and Jet2
Budget airlines in Europe include Easyjet, Ryanair, Wizzair and Jet2.

Getting around on a budget

Of course while in the city, do as the locals do and take public transportation. The best website to figure out the cheapest or quickest way to get somewhere is Rome 2 Rio, where you are able to see all methods of transportation, flight, bus, train, ferry, walking, rental car, ride share, etc. and compare trip time and costs. I found my route through this site when trying to get from Naples to Sicily, which was cheapest on an overnight ferry (photo above). Just make sure to double check times and prices on the actual transportation website (although estimates are pretty accurate).

Rideshares are now a big thing, since drivers love that they are able to save on gas and have some company on the road. Take a look at Carpool World and Bla Bla Car. If you want to rent a car, see if Zipcar is available in your city, or if you already have an account, you can now request Zipcars in other countries! Currently, they are operating in the USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Austria, Turkey and Spain (called Avancar). With only a $25 annual fee for students, it’s a great way to save on renting a car during your time abroad.

Budget Travel - Museum
Vatican Museum steps – The Museum is free every last Sunday of the month and always reduced price for students, educators, those who hold a religious title and everyone age 18 and under.

Things to do: Making memories without breaking the bank

  • Free museum days are common everywhere. They’re usually during one afternoon a week until closing or all day on Sundays and holidays. Students, art or history teachers and the disabled usually have free entrance as well. Check out each museum’s website in order to plan and time your visit correctly.
  • Enjoy an amazing tour of the city with local guides for a voluntary donation. Pay what you want or what you can! My favorite free tour was in Amsterdam, where I learned the history of the city, saw all the main sites and was able to speak with my guide about his daily life in the city.
  • Get outdoors – Hit the beach or go on a hike.
  • For nightlife make sure you visit the venue’s official website and signup for free guest lists. There are always long lines so make sure you arrive way before the designated time to get in for free!
  • Before leaving for your trip, join a Meetup group to be in the know about free local events. For example the group Free & Fun Barcelona currently posted events for a free Rumba night, contemporary dance show and blues concert, which are going on in the city.
  • Headed to Barcelona? Check out my post, Free Things to Do in Barcelona That Aren’t Museums for a list of my favorite budget activities.

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading and happy traveling! Please leave a comment below with your personal experiences. I’d love to hear from you!

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