10 tips for budget-friendly travel in 2023

Jun 17, 2023

Planning Your Budget-Friendly Trip

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Traveling on a budget doesn't mean you have to sacrifice quality or miss out on unforgettable experiences. With a little planning and creativity, you can enjoy a fantastic trip without breaking the bank. Want to travel to Alaska? Got big plans to roadtrip around the United States? Here are 10 tips to help you plan your dream getaway on a budget.

1. Be Flexible with Your Travel Dates

One of the easiest ways to save money on your trip is to be flexible with your travel dates. Airfare and accommodation prices can vary significantly depending on the time of year, day of the week, and even time of day. Consider traveling during the off-season or shoulder season when prices are generally lower, and avoid weekends and holidays when possible. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days to fly domestically on average, but there's no real pattern to which day of the week has the best deals. Be sure to turn on alerts from your favorite airlines so you never miss a sale!

cheap flights

2. Book Accommodation in Advance

Booking accommodation well in advance can help you secure the best deals. Many hotels and hostels offer early bird discounts for those who book months ahead, while others may have limited-time promotions. On average, the cheapest days to book hotels are Fridays and Saturdays. Booking hotels on Sunday through Wednesday puts you in with the large majority of people booking their vacation plans, which drives up prices. Don't forget to compare prices on multiple booking platforms and consider alternative accommodation options like vacation rentals, guesthouses, and homestays. With the rise of Airbnb and Vrbo, there are more options than ever. And if you're feeling like getting in touch with nature, try Hipcamp!

3. Use Public Transportation

Public transportation is often the most affordable way to get around a new city or country. Buses (Greyhound, Megabus, etc.), trains (Amtrak), trams, and subways can save you a significant amount of money compared to taxis or car rentals, especially in many European countries. Research the local transportation system before your trip and consider purchasing multi-day passes or discount cards if available. If you've decided on using a car, you would be better off getting a rental car if you're driving multiple places during your stay as those Uber/Lyft rides add up extremely quickly. 

public transportation

4. Cook Your Own Meals

Eating out can quickly add up, especially in touristy areas. Save money by cooking your own meals whenever possible. Shop at local markets and grocery stores for fresh ingredients, and make use of the kitchen facilities at your accommodation (and if you're using Airbnb to book your accommodation, there is a "kitchen" filter that shows you which stays offer kitchen access). Not only will this help you stick to your budget, but it's also a great way to experience the local cuisine and culture.

Some examples of cost-efficient food (based on May 2023 U.S. averages):

Chicken: $1.920 per lb.

Eggs: $2.67 per dozen

Bananas: $0.63 per lb.

Potatoes: $1.01 per lb.

Beans: $1.70 per lb.

Source: https://www.bls.gov/regions/mid-atlantic/data/averageretailfoodandenergyprices_usandmidwest_table.htm 

5. Take Advantage of Free Activities

Many cities and attractions offer a variety of free or low-cost activities for visitors. From walking tours and museum visits to outdoor concerts and public parks, there's no shortage of budget-friendly entertainment options. Websites such as Timeout offer articles on free events in particular cities (e.g., NYC). Do your research before your trip to find out what's available and plan your itinerary accordingly.

An underrated activity: state fairs! State fairs usually only cost a couple of dollars per person for entry and are filled with lots of fun. Regardless of if you're into riding rides or not, the state fair atmosphere is one that brings joy to so many.

free activities

6. Travel with a Group

Traveling with friends or joining a group tour can help you save money on accommodation, transportation, and activities. Group campsites and Airbnbs often bring the price down for everyone overall, giving you more money to put towards things like souvenirs. Additionally, gas costs and car rentals become much more manageable when it's not just you paying. By splitting costs and taking advantage of group discounts, you can stretch your travel budget further. Plus, traveling with others can make for a more memorable and enjoyable experience.

7. Use a Travel Rewards Credit Card

A travel rewards credit card can help you earn points or miles for everyday purchases, which can then be redeemed for flights, hotels, and other travel-related expenses. Some cards also offer additional perks like free checked bags, priority boarding, and airport lounge access. Choose a card that aligns with your travel goals and spending habits to maximize your rewards. I personally use the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which allows points to be worth up to 25% more when booking travel. Other great cards include the Capital One Venture Card and the Wells Fargo Autograph Card. Some of these cards also have introductory point offers, but make sure to choose the card that fits your needs!

travel rewards credit card

8. Pack Light and Avoid Excess Baggage Fees

Airlines often charge hefty fees for checked luggage and overweight bags (I'm looking at you, Spirit). Save money by packing light and only bringing a carry-on bag if possible. Invest in a lightweight, durable suitcase and pack versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched. This will not only save you money on baggage fees but also make your travels more comfortable and hassle-free. If you really want to come prepared, consider investing in a digital luggage scale.

9. Use Free Wi-Fi and Communication Apps

Roaming charges and international data plans can be expensive. Save money by using free Wi-Fi at your accommodation, cafes, and public spaces. WiFi Map is a hotspot finder that pinpoints the locations of all of the free wifi networks in a city and provides you with the password at the click of a button. You can also download communication apps like WhatsApp to stay in touch with friends and family without incurring additional costs.

free wifi

10. Purchase Travel Insurance

We're probably all guilty of skipping this! 9 times out of 10 you won't end up needing it, but you don't want to be stuck in that one situation without it. In the event of an unexpected illness, injury, or travel disruption, having insurance can protect you from costly medical bills and other expenses. Shop around for a policy that suits your needs and budget, and enjoy peace of mind knowing you're covered during your travels.

Thank you for reading!