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How To Travel Cheaply in 2024

Updated: Mar 27

"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:

Note: Always Pack Tissues represents many tried and tested travel sites as what is called an 'affiliate' partner. That means if you click on my ads I may get a commission from a resulting sale.

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)

Transportation Costs

Airfare Costs

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.

Some airlines and services offer cash back, like WayAway and Google's Price Guarantee. That means if you book a flight and it gets cheaper, you get money back in your wallet. Nice.

Cruise Costs

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.

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.

Cheap Car Rentals 101:

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.

Use Walmart+ or Expedia to find a rental car.

If you haven't already discovered it, Walmart+ is like Amazon Prime, but for people like me, who are as obsessed with Walmart as most people are with Target. Walmart is where I get all my heavy duty household items (and then some!) and I can now save money and get Walmart cash back just for booking travel. And guys, that's on TOP of the cash back I get with my credit card for purchases, not to mention the points I get for booking travel. It's a no brainer to me.

Walmart+ is (at time of writing) $98/year to sign up, and with it you get perks like cash back, 10 cents off per gallon at the gas pump, free shipping and this amazing perk - the Walmart+ travel platform.

I've always used Expedia to research the best car rental prices. It's my preferred tool, in fact. So when I noticed Walmart+ was leveraging Expedia for booking travel, I immediately signed up.

Whether you use Expedia directly or the Walmart+ Travel platform, you'll be getting great deals that you can compare against numerous different rental companies. The only difference is, with Walmart+ you can also get cash back on the spot with Walmart cash.

So yea, if you're looking to save some money on car rentals. Check it out!

Other Ground Transportation

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.

  • Group tours also take care of transportation costs for you, so look into options like Contiki (for 18-35 year olds) or SmartTours for the older age groups.

Lodging Costs

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 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.


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Hi, I'm Maria!

Globetrotting since 1995, I'm not a digital nomad or a social influencer.

I'm a traveler. I'm a storyteller.

And I'm here to inspire you to

Travel More.

Learn about International Travel Destinations and Advice through the lens of an American perspective. 

​Never AI-Generated. Only real stories from my travels.


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