Traveling isn't just something that rich people do. Well, not anymore. In fact, if you have a pretty decent job, a determination to save up, and a few tricks here and there to learn how to travel on a budget, you can actually travel within your country or even outside, but within your means as well.
We don't have to extol on the virtues of traveling (if you're reading this, we're guessing you're already convinced) but we do need to talk about money. You don't need to be filthy rich, but you do need some sort of financial stability to be able to travel. It doesn't have to be in the millions. Here are some tips you can follow to be able to travel on your own financial terms.
1. Choose a dream destination, but be realistic.
If you're looking at your bank account and you feel like a European tour is out of the question at this moment, then choose somewhere that is more realistic (financially speaking) and more feasible. You may have to settle for somewhere nearer, and then do that dream vacation somewhere in the near future (but start saving up for it too!). Once you've settled on your immediate destination, do your research so you know how much you need to save up for.
2. Start an actual travel fund
Oh, we've all put that in our New Year's Resolution: start an honest-to-goodness travel fund. But how many of us actually do it? Well, if you're really determined to travel soon, you should actually put that bill (or coins) where your mouth is. Make sure that when you're setting aside that money every month, you will absolutely not touch it, even if there's a great sale on Saks or something. You can even moonlight or take on a second job if you still can, just to save up for your dream vacation.
3. Watch out for airline seat sales
While we all of course would love to fly first class and with a top-notch airline, chances are that would not be a priority if you want to travel on a budget. So your best bet would be to watch out for airline sales from apps like Skyscanner Flights, Kayak, etc. The planes are smaller and the service may not be that great, but hey, at least you're on your way to wherever it is you want to go.
4. Find a comfortable, affordable hotel/hostel
If you're going to spend 80% of your time outside, exploring a new place, then why would you want to spend a lot of money on a place where you're just going to sleep and take a bath? Sites like Agoda, Hotels.com are the best ways to look for hotels/hostels/apartelles because they offer cheaper rates than booking directly. Air BnB is also a great option if you're looking for no frills places (meaning you most likely will have to look after yourself). But don't just book the cheapest one you can find. Do your research. Go to Trip Advisor and see what they say about the place you're eyeing. Google your potential accommodation just to be sure. Just choose the minimum viable things you would need (WiFi, a small closet, air-conditioning) and make sure that the hotel is somewhere near the main areas so you also wouldn't spend a lot on transportation.
5. Set the itinerary after researching well.
Having a planned and detailed itinerary will save you a lot of money. Going to a place unprepared is always a no-no and will always be more expensive, because, eventually, you'll end up hiring a tour guide or going with a tour group because you know nothing. But going on sites like Trip Advisor, CNN Travel, Lonely Planet, various travel blogs can help you whittle down the things you need to see and then help you plan out how much you will spend or which places will fit in with your budget. Remember, DIY-ing it is always cheaper and probably more fun.
6. Don't fall into the tourist traps.
Every country has one, so make sure to do your research so you can avoid them like the plague. You don't really need that overpriced souvenir when you can get simpler, cheaper ones. You don't really need to go to a fancy looking place when you know you won't buy something or you won't enjoy touring it anyway. Travel bloggers are pretty helpful in weeding out these traps.
7. Walk and take the bus or train as much as possible.
There are a lot of tourist places where walking is encouraged because after all, you can enjoy a new place more on your feet rather than on wheels. So as much as possible, walk. Or if their public transportation system is pretty good, go for the buses or taxis. Just try to avoid taxis as much as you can, especially if you're obviously a tourist. And if you have no choice but to take one, make sure you research beforehand what's the regular rate so you won't get duped.
8. Limit your shopping and shop wisely.
Of course you can never avoid shopping, even if it's just for small trinkets and souvenirs. But make sure that you set a budget for it, and then stick to it. Find out where the best places to go to are and check if these are legit shopping meccas or just tourist traps. Buy only things that you would need or you would give to someone. Yes, you can treat yourself to something silly and cute or something that's really nice, but only if you're not over your budget yet.
9. Look for "freebie" tourist spots.
Sometimes, you have to pay an exorbitant amount to get into museums, temples, etc. But if you feel like that is beyond what you can spend on entrance fees, look for ones where you don't have to pay anything. You can still go to one or two places, especially if the fee is absolutely worth it, but there are also places where everyone is free to look around and take selfies. Some galleries and museums also have free days, so you can check them out too.
10. Make sure you have an emergency fund.
There's nothing worse than being in a strange place and you run out of money. So make sure that you set aside a certain amount which you will only touch for emergency purposes. Remember, you can't call anyone to come pick you up in case you come up short on cash.