How To Travel Well on a Budget

Let’s be honest here, who doesn’t want to travel more? I know I do. Always have, always will. Ever since my first trip to Jordan 16 years ago, I’ve known that I want travel to be a constant part of my life.

There’s just one problem, I’m not rich.

How can we afford to travel like we do? Very creatively, and on a tight budget. Let us show you how, with these tips:

Research Flights

Our research into flights begins months in advance. We don’t use sites like Travelocity and Expedia (both owned by major airlines). Instead try Ryan Air, MonmodoVayama, and Norwegian. We scored one-way tickets to Paris this fall for $180 USD. We found those tickets by constantly checking airfares, comparing deals, and jumping on the right deal at the right time. Also, clear the cookies from your browser before returning to a site because they often raise the prices for returning visitors. Advance planning on flights will help you stick to a travel budget you can afford.

Forget the Suitcase and Pack Light

The more stuff you bring, the more of a headache you’ll be in for. Skip the suitcase and avoid the checked baggage charges (which can run as high as $30 each).We packed light for six weeks in Mexico, but I still think I brought too much stuff. Everything I need is right at the local stores. The laundry across the street washes and dries a load of clothes for less than $3 USD. Not dragging a suitcase along means no checked baggage fees, and a quick exit from the airport after you get off the plane. The best tip I can give to a traveler in a budget is to bring as little as possible when you travel.

Stay Where the Locals Stay

As much as we wanted to stay on the white sand beaches of Tulum, $200/night was completely out of our budget. We found a place in town for $600/month USD. That is extremely high by local standards, but lower than we would pay for rent in the U.S. If you want to splurge now and then for an oceanfront room, go for it, but for long-term travel, stay in town where rentals are had for as little as $300 USD/month if you’re willing to share a bathroom and give up AC (we’re not!)

Make Sure Your Rental Has a Kitchen

Do you really want to eat out every night? Our answer is a big NO. We eat breakfast and lunch in our apartment, then eat dinner where the locals eat. We save hundreds of dollars and stay within our budget by making sure we have a kitchen and eating most of our meals in.

Eat Local When You Eat Out

The first few nights we ate right in the middle of the tourist street and boy did it cost us. Most of our meals were in the 300 peso range, which is about $18. That may not seem like much but, it’s a fortune for a meal in Mexico. After a few nights of expensive meals, we learned our lesson and scouted out the popular local restaurants. Our favorites in Tulum are Pollo Bronco (chop, chop chicken) ($8 for 2), and Chiapaneca ($3.50 for 2, including tip.)

Skip the Souvenirs, All of Them

There are many beautiful things to take home from Mexico. My weakness in particular is sterling silver. I have a piece of sterling silver jewelry from every place I’ve every visited. Even though quality silver is cheap in Mexico, it still adds up. On this trip we’ve spent more than a month’s rent on silver jewelry. While I don’t have any regrets (we’ve both saved money before we quit our jobs), the souvenirs really add up, and can kill a travel budget very quickly.

Use Local Transportation

This may seem daunting at first, but trust me, once you get the hang of it, it saves a ton of money. Joe and I prefer walking above anything else, but sometimes it’s necessary to take a taxi or bus. Here in Mexico the taxis are cheap, but they still add up. The local buses (colectivos), are about 1/4 the price of a taxi. We still use taxis now and then, but we use them sparingly to save money, and walk of take a bus everywhere.

Find Free/Cheap Activities

Tulum is all about the guided tours, which run as much as $200 USD per person. Instead of tours, take a local bus to your destination, and buy a cheap guidebook. Walking on the beach, bird watching, walking around town, people watching, talking to locals, and walking around the local park are all meaningful free activities.

Make Your Fancy Drinks at Home

One of my favorite things about Mexico is the fresh fruit. Fresher than anything I’ve ever had in the U.S. Fresh fruit is everywhere, and so plentiful it’s super cheap. We love getting fresh fruit smoothies when we go out, but they can run as much $2-3 USD. We started buying our fruit at the local market and making smoothies at home. Homemade smoothies now cost us cents rather than dollars. A giant pineapple, bunch of bananas, 2 mangos, and a few oranges cost less than $4. We can make 8 smoothies out of that.

Use a Credit Card With NO Overseas Transaction Fees

For us this means the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. This is absolutely the best travel card I have ever used. Not only do I get tons of points to use on anything I like (and extra points for travel and food), this card has no foreign transaction fees.

I LOVE this card (no I’m not getting paid to say this). I charge everything on this card, then pay my bill online. This saves money in bank fees, overseas transaction fees, and currency changing fees. I haven’t added up just how much we’ve saved, but I know it’s in the hundreds by now. I recommend getting a travel credit card, charging everything, and paying your bill online.

If you follow some of these tips, you will be well on your way to travelling as much as you want. You don’t have to be rich to travel, you just have to want to travel. Did we leave out anything? We would love to hear from you. Please drop us an email or leave a comment below.




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