Think you don’t have what it financially takes to travel? These next 5 budget-friendly tips will have you and your bank account rejoicing:
- Travel during low season. Low season refers to months when there are no major holidays. For many in the United States, this will be mid-January through mid-April, and September through mid-November, if traveling to Africa, Asia, or Europe. It is nearly the opposite when traveling to many parts of Latin America. During low season, prices normally drop, plus there are less tourists. This means you can eat out for less and have museums, parks, and other attractions to yourself! There are also many flight deals available, as airlines try to fill as many seats as possible during low season. Be sure to do research on the climate of the country you will be visiting, as low season may also mean colder or rainier weather.
- Be flexible with your destinations. Many of us have certain destinations on our travel list; you can, however, find amazing flight deals to unexpected destinations – if you let them come to you. Check websites such as Secret Flying and The Flight Deal often; they release information on amazing flight deals and error fares throughout each day. Keep up with airlines on social media -sometimes they announce special travel discounts. Use the “everywhere” option on skyscanner to see the cheapest flights from your city to anywhere in the world. Finally, check for some of the lowest fares on one way and round trip tickets to specific destinations for a two-month period on the Matrix Airfare Search.
- Skip the hotels. Room for free with locals through communities such as Couchsurfing or Be Welcome. If staying with locals you do not know makes you uncomfortable, pay a fraction of the price of hotels via hostels or airbnb. Personally, I prefer staying with locals for free. I have had some of the best and most interesting (and yes, some strange and weird) experiences of my life. I have also had some wonderful hostel experiences, such as staying in a treehouse. Finally, airbnb is always my final, but trusted, last resort. Excitingly, options geared towards black travelers are in the works, such as noirbnb.
- Room and board for free. Volunteer your time through programs like WWOOFING (World Wide Opportunities on Organics Farm) and get free board and meals; you can also teach English in pretty much any country where English is not largely spoken for room and board or for actual pay. Many programs do not require any specific degree or certification.
- Do free and cheap activities. Many cities have free tourist guides that are tip-based. Visit museums on days where entrance is free or discounted. Stay away from tourist traps and gimmicks; eat street food when possible, as you will find that in many cities the quality and price is much better; grocery shop while on longer trips; pack a lunch for long days of exploring. Travel with people who have similar eating and tourism tastes – or, travel solo.
Using a combination of these methods, I have been able to travel to many national and international destinations without feeling as if I were going broke. Earlier this year, I found round trip tickets from D.C. to Guatemala for $128; my 8-day backpacking trip, roundtrip tickets included, came to only $577. In 2012, I spent six days in Italy with no more than 15 euros, after buying roundtrip plane tickets from London for 80 euros, and train tickets between Venice and Florence for 40 euros; throughout my entire stay, I relied on the kindness of couchsurfers for room and food. In 2015, I visited five countries for less than a total of $4,500 – with two splurge days per country. If I can do it, so can you…happy budget traveling!!