Bougie on a Budget

Eight Ideas to Jumpstart Your Budget Travel Planning

Are you ready to travel but worried about doing so while a bit more budget-conscious? Budget travel can feel intimidating because it gets so focused on “cheap”, but as long as you remember this is all about the experience, you’ll do just fine. Whether you’re on a tight budget or just super perceived value focused, budget travel can offer something for everyone.

Budget travel forces you to prioritize what matters to you and what your non-negotiables really are. Read all about it in my Beginner’s Guide to Budget Travel.

Here are eight ideas to help jumpstart your budget travel planning:

Local Tourism

Tourism is so often focused on “away” that we forget that there is so much to explore in our own homes. Remember, there is a likelihood a tourist is exploring your stomping grounds as we speak. This isn’t about a staycation or visiting that restaurant you go to every Saturday. This is about seeing your home in a new light and experiencing things you’ve never seen or tried yet. New restaurants, art galleries, hiking trails. As a New Yorker, there are a number of touristy destinations I never saw until my husband wanted to see them. And then I realized how much I was missing out by taking it all for granted. 

Road Trip

For many, plane tickets end up being a large part of the travel budget. Transportation can be costly. And even on a road trip, visiting multiple locations can add up. There are ways to road trip with a budget-friendly mindset, though. If you love the outdoors, consider adding some camping along the way to reduce accommodation costs. Or a little couch surfing if you have friends or family on your route. Also, be mindful of gas needs and use one of the gas price apps to make sure you’re filling up with the most economical fuel possible. Pack smart, too. Bring your own snacks and try to cover all your potential contingencies so you don’t need to buy anything on the road.

Explore Nature

Do you have state or national parks near you? UNESCO world heritage sites? The great outdoors has so much to offer you and for a relatively small fee (if there is a fee at all). Most will also offer camping as an accommodation option which means you can make a whole trip of it. Not into camping? Find reasonably priced accommodations nearby. If you bring your own food, as well, the cost of this vacay is fairly low while the value is very high. 

Book Last Minute

If your schedule is more flexible, look for last minute deals for cruises, flights, accommodations and tours. Many of these services will offer amazing last-minute deals because no business wants an unsold ticket, cabin, seat, or room. Flexibility is key here, but it’ll work out in your favor. Remember, once that ship leaves or the plane departs or the tour starts, the operating costs for that business are relatively the same with or without you. More revenue from you, even discounted, will be a win for them. Take advantage of that.  

Go Off Trend

Like most things, travel trends can be cyclical. And definitely seasonal. If everyone is excited about China in June, that will likely increase the overall cost to go to China in June. It’s all about supply and demand. Instead, look for places that aren’t part of the current wanderlust zeitgeist. The more you buck the trends the more your wallet will thank you, as long as there are available flights and accommodations. If you buck the trends so far to one side that you land in non-touristed destinations, that will also potentially be a bit pricey. 

Become a House Sitter

If you want to see new sights but your budget can’t manage the accommodation costs, it’s time to get creative. Look for free accommodations. You can put a call out for folks who need house sitters in destinations of interest to you. I’d recommend building a bit of a resume first with friends and family, so you have references you can share. Alternatively, you can also do a house swap with friends. Have friends who live in a city of interest to you? See if they are willing to do a house swap. This way, you both have accommodations covered, access to kitchens, and can explore someplace new at much lower costs. 

Book Far in Advance

More time means more opportunities to save and grow your travel budget. Booking in advance is beneficial on that front, but can also net you some stellar discounts if you’re patient and willing to put in the work. This can also help you book a more expensive overall destination due to the reduced upfront costs, as well. If possible, try to avoid booking non-refundable. Especially when booking far in advance. You never know when your plans might need to change and non-refundable will not afford you the flexibility you really need with budget travel. 

Check Out Travel Packages

So, at times all-inclusive can mean you’re paying for services you don’t want or won’t benefit from. That being said, that isn’t always the case. Again, budget travel is very research forward. Look for travel packages that align with your needs. And not just through travel agents or all-inclusive resorts or cruises. Even discount warehouses, like Costco, will occasionally have a deal that seems too good to be true. Be mindful of all the small print when selecting a travel package. They often have some fairly strict restrictions.

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