Micah and I have become experts on how to travel on a budget without missing out. We are not budget travel bloggers, but we are not lavish spenders with an unlimited budget, either. We’re a little like Goldilocks here, fitting somewhere in the middle.
I know what you are thinking–you can’t do both, it’s either follow the tips of the blogger who vows he has never spent more than $14 on a hotel room, or the person who clearly has never heard the word budget and stays in over-the-water bungalows like they’re a Motel 6. We personally get a little wary of places that are only $14 a night–that might be perfect for college kids on a budget, but when you are two adults who work full time on your annual vacation, you want to make sure you have a private bathroom and a full-sized bed. On the other end of the spectrum, our average nightly budget for a hotel can’t exceed $150 USD. We are always on somewhat of a budget and would rather spend on experiences, rather than just a place to sleep.
Micah and and I are polar opposites sometimes. He has expensive taste and loves to go all out when traveling, while I am insanely practical and constantly looking at the bigger picture. You can imagine that can lead to some disagreements. He suggests we splurge on first class tickets, and I say he is insane! We usually compromise by putting the money we would have spent on upgraded flights towards a big meal out. He is the yin to my yang, and through our travels, we have learned to not break the bank but not miss out on any great experiences, either.
Here are our tips on how to travel on a budget without missing out!
Create a travel budget!
This is a key step in getting the most out of your travels without going broke. Do a little flight and hotel research prior to booking so you can get a ballpark of how much the bulk will cost. Then factor in an amount you feel comfortable spending each day. Take into consideration meals, activities, and transportation. Even though you’re traveling on a budget, don’t forget to factor in some extra funds for any unexpected costs or a spontaneous adventure–you never know what might pop up.
Book flights 3 months in advance.
When booking in advance, I would suggest getting insurance on your flights just to be on the safe side. According to Travel + Leisure, the ideal time to buy flights is 90 days out. Using a flight tracker, like Google Flights or Skyscanner, can also be a great way to save money on flights–you’d be surprised at how often prices fluctuate, and buying your flight on a Wednesday instead of a Tuesday could translate to big savings. Saving money on your flights is one of the easiest ways to give yourself more money for your daily budget, and that means more to spend on epic experiences. https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-news/cheapair-airfare-study-best-time-to-book-flights-2018.
Research your destination’s high season.
Choosing to travel outside of the peak season could translate to savings of thousands of dollars when you add up your hotel and airfare. When we were shopping for our tickets to Bali for our honeymoon, I read that July and August were the best times to go as far as weather, but the flights during that time were up to $1,500 a person, which was well out of our budget. However, when I switched the dates to September, I was able to book each flight for $800. I was a little worried about the weather, but luckily, our friend who used to live in Bali told us that we didn’t have to worry about the rainy season until the end of October. When you plan a visit during the off season, not only will you get better rates on flights and accommodation, but you’ll also experience fewer crowds and have more chances to see your destination as the locals do.
Make a “Must-Do” list.
Prepare a list of the things that are a “must” on your trip and make sure you plan and book those first. Price out your must-do’s, add up the cost of everything on your “must” list, and if you find yourself way over your daily budget, something’s gotta give or you will need to find a money tree. We usually space out big activities so we have some time to chill in between. When we went to Iceland, we knew we wanted to go to the Golden Circle, (read more on Iceland), so we booked that for our first full day there and gave ourselves free time the following day to go check out stuff on our own. When we plan our must-do’s in advance, we know that we’ll have enough funds to cover them, and we can end our trip without feeling like we missed out on anything.
Price Check Airbnb vs Hotels.
While I love Airbnb, it can be a better choice for some destinations than for others. If you are staying somewhere for an extended period of time and you will have access to a grocery store, staying at an Airbnb with a kitchen could save you a lot of money! Making sandwiches to take along or being able to cook a meal to eat in can help you keep to your budget, but if you are only going to be there to lay your head, sometimes it’s better stay at a hotel that serves a light breakfast and coffee. That will save you the headache of having to go a store, and you won’t have to hunt down a Starbucks in the morning, either. In Iceland, we stayed in an apartment we found on Airbnb because the cost difference was huge, but in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, we splurged and stayed at the Eibsee Hotel. This was a highlight of our time in the EU: the hotel had an amazing spa that was free for guests, stand up paddle boards, a private beach, and an epic breakfast spread included with our stay. Where you choose to stay all depends on where you are going and how you want to spend your trip, but doing some research and taking into account the pros and cons of each option will help you make the right choice for your budget.
I know that when traveling, food is such an integral part of the experience, but if you give yourself a food budget, you will save a lot! Don’t miss out on the most amazing meal of your life, but if you know you have reservations at one of city’s hottest restaurants, try getting some local street food for lunch instead of eating at a sit-down place. A lot of restaurants in touristy areas are mediocre at best, so chances are, you will end up paying too much for a so-so meal anyway. We usually ask the locals what is best in town and plan to go big on a few dinners. Obviously, we are big foodies, so that is a huge part of our travel experience.
Do you have any tips for travel on a budget? If so, we would love to hear them! Comment below!