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How to Travel on a Budget
June 14, 2022 By CityPASS
You don't need to spend loads of money to make special vacation memories you'll look back on for years to come. When you follow budget travel tips, there are plenty of ways to cut costs and still enjoy exactly the kind of holiday you want.
After reading our tips on how to travel on a budget, all you'll have left to decide is when you're going on holiday and which U.S. city you want to visit.
6 Solid Tips to Help You Travel on a Budget
1. Create a Travel Fund and Add to It When You Have Spare Cash
When you don't have to borrow money to fund your holiday, you can come back from your trip relaxed. Instead of having to pay interest fees on holiday debt, set up your own travel fund in advance.
Saving isn't always easy, so start small if you need to. Make a list of the things you'll have to pay for before you can go on holiday. This will vary, but could include:
- Travel insurance
- Flights or fuel costs
- Car hire
After, consider the day-to-day expenses of your holiday, for example:
- Food and drink
- Day tours/excursions
- Bike rentals/public transport
Add these figures together to reach your savings goal. Then figure out how much money you can realistically put aside each week to reach it. Commit to saving a regular amount. Be flexible to reduce it if it becomes unrealistic or increase it if you can put more aside further down the line.
2. Use Travel Credit Cards and Travel Rewards Cards to Save on Flights to Your Favorite Destinations
Also known as "travel hacking," using travel credit cards and general rewards cards is one of the savviest ways to save money on cheap accommodations and flights. You can even collect points and miles on these cards by spending money you were going to spend in the first place.
Sign up for a few travel credit cards and rewards cards, collect miles, then combine them to use toward your trip. You'll often be able to earn card points through:
- Everyday expenses — like groceries, restaurants, and clothes
- Credit card bonuses
- Online surveys
Get cheap flights and accommodations and you'll have more left over in even a tight budget once you get to your destination. Before you've even left for your holiday, you could find you have enough points to hop on a plane for free. Most travel industry cards in the U.S. offer sign-up bonuses of at least 50,000 points — which alone could score you a free round-trip flight.
3. Find Travel Deals for the Major Attractions
If you plan on seeing a lot of sights while you travel, it pays to look for:
- Travel vouchers or coupons
- A tourist card
- Admission tickets at discounted prices
Travel deals like these are available in most major destinations around the world. They'll offer you discounted or free access to attractions like museums, zoos, aquariums, planetariums, tours, and much more. CityPASS is an easy way to access cheaper tickets for major attractions in 14 cities across the country (plus Toronto, Canada).
If CityPASS isn’t available at your destination, the local tourism office, hotels, hostels, or travel companies can often help. They’ll answer questions about what deals are available and which attractions you can make savings at.
Additional travel deals are also available to students, teachers, or travelers under 26 years old. By getting a student/youth discount card, you may find more savings available to you than you realize, including 50% off at many attractions. As you travel around, ask if places offer these discounts, as they're not always clearly advertised.
4. Plan a Daily Budget and Stick to It to Save During Your Trip
Stick to a daily allowance that sets realistic amounts for food, drink, day trips, and anything else you spend larger amounts of money on while traveling. This way, you'll make sure you don't run out of money before your trip ends.
How can you make sure budget travel is a breeze?
- Get recommendations from the locals: You'll probably want to spend some time in the city's main museums, but it pays to ask people who live in the area about their favorite hotspots. We can guarantee they don't pay tourist prices for activities.
- Use the sharing economy: Search online for hospitality exchange websites at your destination. These can offer access to gems like unusual tour guides, rideshare options, cheaper accommodations, and even home-cooked meals.
- Cook your own meals: Even if your budget doesn't allow for eating out three times a day, you won't look back at your holiday and remember the times you chose to cook instead. Most AirBnB rooms and hostels feature access to a kitchen, and using it to make your own simple meals will slash your costs.
5. Don't Travel to Popular Destinations During a Peak Season
Many holiday-makers already have their destination and dates set in stone. But one crucial tip for how to travel on a low budget means being flexible with dates and location so you can spend less. If you choose to travel to a popular location at a peak time of the year, it can affect more than just the airfare — restaurants, hotels, and attractions all set their prices higher, too.
Visit your destination during off-season, and take advantage of weekdays when you can — weekends tend to be more expensive. If you can be flexible with your dates of travel, look for which month flights are cheapest to your destination.
If you're open-minded about where you go, research a few amazing destinations to find the cheapest within the targeted time frame.
6. Plan Your Travels Months in Advance
Just anticipating a vacation up to eight weeks before your trip can have benefits on your mental health. It doesn't feel exciting and spontaneous, but you'll often spend far less if you book transport, accommodations and your main excursions far in advance. This travel budget tip might save you some last-minute stress, too.
Airlines release their flight seats up to a year in advance. There's no exact science to getting the cheapest flight deals. But generally speaking, the closer you get to your departure date, the more the price bumps up.
As a general rule, book domestic flights at least one month in advance and international flights at least two months in advance. Allow a couple more months if you're traveling during a peak season like Christmas.
There may be parts of your travel plan you can't book as early as others. Set calendar reminders to alert you as soon as early tickets and deals will become available.
Don't Let a Budget Constraint Stop You From Having a Great Experience
Considering a trip to an exciting, bustling city, whether near you or across the U.S.?
Having fun while traveling within the States needn't push you past your budget. Save money on dozens of major attractions in 15 cities in the U.S. and Canada. Spend less by using CityPASS and you'll be able to see more of whichever city you choose.