We’re big fans of budget travel here at TFD, and we’ve written a number of articles about how you can travel more efficiently and cheaply. Personally, I feel that the biggest key to unlocking affordable travel is being flexible. When you open yourself up to different dates, locations, times, flights, etc., there’s nothing stopping you from seeing the world (without breaking the bank). Whether it be frequent and affordable weekend trips or actually living abroad without going broke, there are many strategies to make travel fit into your budget.
I’ve spoken to a lot of individuals with regard to how they travel, and I’ve found that a good deal of early twenty-somethings are still navigating how they want to travel, and are in the process of breaking away from the model set by their parents, family, or friends. Growing up, my parents were able to take us on frequent vacations by setting strict budgets for themselves, and they tried their best to show us new places and people. Sometimes, it meant renting a car to drive from New Jersey to Florida (with three small kids in the backseat), or taking us to Europe only after they had saved up enough points for free airfare. They managed their expenses to make it happen because it was a priority to show us the world was bigger than we could imagine. It has taught me to be frugal where I can/need to be, and to have a discerning eye when booking flights, hotels, or budgeting meals out.
Below, I’ve rounded up the way 11 other 20-somethings manage affordable travel. Depending on your preferences and priorities you, too, can make traveling part of your life. You don’t need to drop a grand on a European ticket if you see the world, as a whole, as something to be explored. Read on below!
1. “The biggest tip I’ve learned over the years is to be flexible with what city/place/area you fly into. I was going to Italy a few years back, and flying directly into Rome was inordinately expensive. I researched cheaper airports in Italy, and then just took trains around once I got there. It actually forced me to see places I otherwise wouldn’t have. It’s really beneficial to explore cheaper alternative cities nearby. Even if it’s one country over, don’t dismiss that airport as an option. Everything in Europe feels like a hop, skip, and a jump away anyway! (Be sure to check out cheap European cities to fly into here.)” — Laura
2. “When I travel, I try not to get married to the idea of going to one specific place. Usually, I’ll look at what the cheapest cities to fly into are, and start making travel plans around the best deal I can find. Kayak has this neat explore map feature which allows you to see the price to fly (nearly) anywhere based on the dates you put in. It looks like this.
It’s a great visual tool that always helps my friends and I decide where we want to go. I also always set up fare alerts on flights I’m interested in, so I’m emailed as soon as a really good deal pops up.” — Eric
3. “This might sound like an obvious and/or silly tip, but the way I do affordable travel is to make sure I travel with people in similar financial situations as me. In college, my friends and I traveled in big groups, and everyone’s priorities and budgets were different. Now that I’m older, I only travel with small tight-knit groups of friends. I’ve lost a lot of tolerance for people who want to travel and settle on touristy crap I can’t stand because they’re too lazy to plan. Since I’m on a tighter budget, I want to make sure that every trip I go on is meaningful and special. That means going with people who share my values and travel style, and who want to explore well, and on a budget.” — Roseann
4. “Some people think I’m nuts, but I refuse to fly nonstop flights. It just eats up SO much of my travel budget, and I’m not at the point in my life where I can afford that luxury. I’m 22, have no kids, no boyfriend/husband, nothing holding me back from traveling the way I like. My friends and I suck it up, and book flights that have a stop over (sometimes multiple stops). If the layovers are long, we’ll try to venture out into the city for a few hours for a meal or a drink, so we can see something of the city. Some people think it’s a complete waste of time, but if it allows me to vacation for a longer amount of time (because I’m saving money), I feel like it evens out in the end. Maybe when I’m older I’ll think multiple-stop flights aren’t worth the money you save, but at this point in my life, I can deal with it. It’s all about perspective, and I view the journey to get to the final destination as an ~adventure~. Yes, I obviously have some horror stories, but nothing where I would say ‘I’m NEVER doing that again,’ so I’ve lucked out.” — Julia
5. “I never knew that there were cheap days to fly on. Nowadays, I try not to book a flight unless I’m booking on a less expensive day, so I can get a cheaper flight. Also, holidays. Flying on holidays feels like you hit the jackpot because it’s insanely cheaper. It’s not for everyone, but it doesn’t bother me that much. I have every other day of the year to see my family!” — Marielle
6. “EAT STREET FOOD! It’s a great way to save money, stick to a budget, and try out a bunch of local cuisines. The first time I traveled abroad, I was totally unprepared to spend what I did on food and booze. (Speaking of booze, wait until you’re back home to resume long and expensive nights out at the bar if you can. Drinking at every turn will drain your funds faster than you can say ‘hangover.’) Now when I go away, I always research the local street food options, so I know what to expect. This helps me plan out how much money I’ll need per day with ease. Obviously, use your best judgment depending on the situation — I’ve seen some places which I’ve passed up because I didn’t want to chance a very upset stomach. Be sure to check out these online street-food guides here and here.” — Gabrielle
7. “While it doesn’t work every time, calling hotels and accommodations on the phone might land you a better deal. I’ve been able to knock room rates down a bit by calling up and asking to speak to a manager or supervisor. Sometimes, the rates you’ll see online won’t be the absolute best a place can do, and they might be willing to work with you. Obviously, it’s helpful if you’re trying to book during the low or off season because they have more of an incentive to cut you a deal. It doesn’t always work, but it’s worth trying. I think a lot of people underestimate the power of getting a real person on the phone when they need something.” — Rachel
8. “I’ve been able to make affordable travel part of my life because I rarely fly abroad. I live on the East Coast, and there are so many domestic cities and places I want to see first. I have my life to travel, and with the salary and discretionary income I have available at the moment, I’m perfectly content to do frequent weekend trips. I’m thrilled to explore the museums of D.C., the rocky cliffs of Newport, R.I., the harbors of Maine, etc. Traveling smart means knowing my limits and embracing what I’m able to afford at this juncture in my life.” — Emily
9. “Try and snag a place that has a nook to eat in or a small kitchen, so you can shop at grocery stores/bakeries/markets and make some of your meals at home. This will significantly cut down on the amount you need to eat out, and will allow for things like an aperitif and drinks at your place before you head out. The bar tab goes way down when you already have a buzz on. At the very least, you can try and organize picnics in place of sit-down meals at restaurants, but it’s also very cheap if you are able to grab breakfast and lunch supplies to have at the place you’re staying.” — Ryan
10. “Airbnbs all the way. I’ve stayed in some truly amazing and unique places, and I have experienced traveling abroad in a way I would never have been able to otherwise. Make sure you give yourself enough time to research different options, and make sure you have all your host’s details before booking. There are some great articles here, here, and here that will help you navigate the world of booking an Airbnb. The platform has been a lifesaver!” –Lia
11. “When possible,ple, etc. You can save a ton on lodging and divide expenses among more people, which is always a win-win. Plus, the more the merrier!” — Katie
Travel Be sure to check out these helpful articles from around TFD that will help you travel on a budget.
- 11 Websites (You May Not Have Considered) For The Frugal Traveler
- I’m Not Rich, But I Quit My Job To See The World
- The 12 Commandments Of Super-Cheap Travel