"I can't afford to travel" is one of the most common excuses people use when asked why they don't travel more. I recently outlined the myriad of excuses people use, but hands down this is the one I hear the most.
It's time to break into that change jar or travel fund, because I'm here to tell you travel can definitely be affordable.
Humor me a few minutes and discover a few tips, considerations, and some advice from an avid traveler on how you can manage to travel for cheap and sometimes even how to travel for free, with the use of online booking tools.
In this article I overview:
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What We Spend Money On When We Travel
Travel does NOT need to be expensive. You have three costs you need to consider when you book travel:
Transportation (including airfare, cruises, rental cars, trains, etc)
Lodging (camping, hotels or vacation rentals)
Daily incidental costs (including food, entertainment and tours, and souvenirs)
If you are traveling overseas from the United States, do not pay more than $600 per ticket to get there by plane. Typically, I get my tickets around $400 using Google Flights to track and search for cheap airfare, or I combine points earned from my credit cards to snag good fares. Sign up for airline programs and keep an eye out for deals.
Cruises are an amazing way to travel cheaply. I've seen deals recently for $119 for a 7 day cruise. It's so ridiculously cheap, why wouldn't you go? I've detailed how to book a cruise in a previous post, so check that out to understand more.
On cruises, you'll find that lodging, transportation and even incidentals like food are included. Simply drop the money in advance (first a deposit, then the final total 90 days before cruising) and the trip is paid for.
Ground Transportation Costs
Maybe you want to keep your travel local. That's great! Road trips are the great American past time, just ask the Griswolds. Maybe you are getting cheap airfare to your starting destination, then it's a matter of paying for a rental car to get from A to B.
Just consider a few things first:
Rental cars are more expensive if you do not return it to the place you picked it up. There will typically be a hefty one-way rental fee if you are dropping off in a different destination.
Rental cars have age restrictions for both young and old. In some instances you may pay more or less for being a certain age due to insurance and liabilities.
Rentals are both gas or electric vehicles these days, so factor gas money into your savings and costs plans.
Aside from driving yourself, always consider alternatives such as:
Buses like FlixBus are low cost carriers offering transport for next to nothing. For instance, you can take a bus between LA and Las Vegas for $3 a person. Not bad! Same goes for routes from Orlando to Miami and many other major city routes.
Trains are a superb way of traveling and can often be cheaper than flying. In the US the primary rail service is Amtrak, and abroad you'll find that each country has their own rail lines. You can find out more at sites like Trainline, RailEurope and Omio to learn more about pricing and routes.
I can write you articles and articles about how to find cheap hotels and lodging, but the bottom line is - know where you want to go, and start cross-referencing your favorite tools. For me, I love to use Booking.com. I've provided details on how to book affordable accommodations on another post, so that is worth checking out.
There are plenty of ways to stay cheaply somewhere:
Look for deals on your favorite booking platform
Opt for camping or RV rental
Sign up for a house-sitting program where you can stay for free
Stay at vacation rentals
Use points to book
As a general rule of thumb, I never max out beyond $120 per night, unless in a rare circumstance. For the most part I can stay for $85 a night at a lovely hotel, B&B or boutique inn.
Cheaper Travel: Total Costs Comparisons
All in all, transportation will be the most expensive part of your costs. After that, lodging will be the second, with incidentals being up to you. I prefer sit-down meals to street food, so that adds costs. But I also enjoy destinations like Spain, where food costs are low.
Traveling to Southeast Asia you will spend more on airfare than anything, because once you arrive you'll find lodging to be maybe $40/night and food to be less than $5. I got a mani-pedi in Vietnam for $4, plus a $1 tip and you'd think they'd died and gone to heaven.
Remember, costs will be relative to your destination. Paris and London, for instance, will be more expensive because they are big, glamorous cities. But small towns outside these cities like Normandy in France or Southwold in England will be significantly cheaper.
You CAN travel cheaply, with the right tools.