How to Travel on a Budget

posted by Dan Carter April 10, 2016 4 Comments

The day before, begins again. I excitedly rush around the house trying to find that jumper I wore last week; the trousers that still need washing and a brush to clean the dense thick mud off the soles of my trainers. As I head to the USA this month, I thought now would be the perfect time to write a little blog on the best ways to save money and travel on a serious budget! I’m hoping to remind myself of a few tricks considering my bank account is currently empty and I am yet to find a place to stay or how to get there. But, panic not. It all just adds to the adventure, right?


Over the last year and a half I’ve been fortunate enough to travel one heck of a lot, often with very little money. I have a habit of getting overexcited when I get paid and tend to splash out on a flight rather than be sensible and buy equipment. Here’s some tricks I’ve discovered to save money when travelling.


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“Do more. Don’t buy more. How you spend your time is far more valuable than how you spend your money.” – Chris Ward


My Tips:


  1. Be flexible: It’s a game changer.


If you are flexible, you can find some incredible deals. This means being flexible in as many ways as possible: When, where and for how long: it makes such a difference!


There are so many crazy deals on flights, both last minute and when planning a few months ahead. You just have to keep looking and be ready to grab the deal when you see it. Don’t think twice, just do it! If you are able to be flexible in terms of which airport you fly from, this could make a massive difference (Hint: London Luton is so cheap because it’s literally nowhere near London. Like, you may as well fly from Manchester). What I would say, is: don’t undervalue your time. Convenience may be worth more to you than travelling 4 hours to the airport or going indirect to a hundred different places.


  1. Indirect flights aren’t always a bad idea.


I hate indirect flights. They seem like such a chore and I’ve been known to pay a lot more to fly direct, especially when time is my most limited resource, which it is for many people. However, I’ve recently found that if for instance, you have a stop-over in New York, you can actually stay there for day and continue on with your flight the next morning. It’s a win-win. A cheaper flight and you can explore another city on your way! This is definitely appealing to me with long haul flights and if you’re stopping for a couple of hours, why not extend it!


  1. Price comparison websites are actually quite good.


I use sites like Kayak and SkyScanner all the time. They are actually such a good way to compare the prices of different airlines. When I went to Switzerland last year, I managed to find a return flight for £20 which is mad! That said, if you are looking at long haul flights, I’d be less inclined to choose the budget airlines with old uncomfortable planes for 10 hours. I’ve done it, but it’s most certainly, not a vibe. Also, a side note: avoid Opodo like the plague.


  1. Always eat local.


I guess this is an obvious one but don’t head straight for a city’s downtown or waterfront area when you are searching for somewhere to eat. Often a couple of streets back, you’ll find the real gems at a third of the price, packed full of locals. It’s worth hunting them out not only from a price perspective but also because you’re likely to get a much better feel for the place.


  1. Give ‘couch-surfing’ a go!


If Airbnb is still a little pricey and you want a real adventure then couch-surf. I can only speak from my own experience and perhaps I just got very, very lucky but couch-surfing is one of the greatest things that I have ever done. Through couch-surfing I made friends for life and every time I visit Cape Town I know I have a home from home there. I’d advise that you get to know the people who you plan to stay with a few months before travel; keep in contact and make sure you have similar interests and obviously be vigilant. Going to a country where I knew nobody, Couch-surfing was the absolute best thing I could have possibly done.


  1. Travel with a friend or hustle


If you don’t fancy couch-surfing, find a friend to travel with. Hotels/Airbnb/Car rental will all be half the cost. I’m such an advocate for travelling alone and I spent much of last year exploring by myself but travelling with a friend gives you a totally different perspective and can be just as amazing. You can usually find some great deals with Airbnb particularly if, like me, you’d like nothing more than a cabin, way up on the mountainside.




So what if none of the above has any relevance to your trip? Well, hustle. I’m still learning this one but my sister has been known to blag a free car, hotel or upgrade all with a little background story, a bit of grovelling and a lot of persistence. There’s no harm in asking!


I’m sure there are a tonne more tricks for travelling on a budget so if you have any suggestions feel free to leave them in the comments! Travelling doesn’t have to be to the other side of the world but it doesn’t have to be in your back garden either. It’s definitely cheaper to travel closer to home but you’ll be surprised at how accessible so many countries are these days. It can often be worth looking at flying into neighbouring countries and driving across the border, especially if you plan on visiting Europe.


Travel doesn’t always mean jumping on a plane. If you already have a car, why not hit the road and forget flying all together. Finally, always choose public transport if you can. Trains across Europe are a great, cheap and eco-friendly way to get around and I even relied solely on the train in Chicago which worked great for me.


Remember: tents are cheaper than hotels, nobody forgets a road-trip, adventure is out there. What’s stopping you?

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Greg Vierra April 11, 2016 at 3:33 pm

Excellent advice Dan! I’ve traveled all over the world over a few decades. I even started a hospitality exchange group that linked travelers with free places to stay in other people’s homes/apartments. Wired Magazine wrote a great article about HOSPEX, the hospitality exchange group I co-founded. Many of my current European friends I met when they hosted me, or I hosted them. My travel motto is: I’ll go anywhere I can stay free! When I stay in someone’s space, I always clean up after myself. I run errands for my hosts and I’ve cooked them meals. In some cases, I’ve cleaned and vacuumed (hovered) their living spaces to show my appreciation for hosting me.

I use Skyscanner too. I love the month view of flights leaving from my two local airports. I look for the cheapest tickets out and back from my local airports.

I have a sofa and floor space you’re welcome to use anytime you come to the San Francisco Bay Area. As my guest, you get your own key so you can come and go as you like. Plus, I love being a tour guide and showing guests all the awesome hidden gems around the San Francisco Bay Area—and sometimes—around the West Coast of America. I **LOVE** road trips!

While you’re in Oregon, Crater Lake is an awesome place for Instagram photography. If I didn’t already have plans during the week of April 17–24, I would have offered to drive up an meet you and George in Portland to do a road trip in my Subaru Forester to places in Oregon and Washington.

In case you have’t figured it out by now, I’m an extrovert! ;-)))) Cheers!

Dan Carter April 21, 2016 at 6:11 pm

That sounds great! I’ll have to check that out.

That’s so kind – thank you. Enjoy the sun in San Francisco!

Michael Brown April 20, 2016 at 5:56 am

Cheers for the blog Dan! I’m travelling Europe for about 2-3 months from New Zealand at the end of next month for the first time. I will definitely be using your tips. I noticed you didn’t mention Hostels much, is there a reason for this? Do you avoid hostels?

Dan Carter April 21, 2016 at 6:09 pm

Awesome!! You’re going to have the best time. To be totally honest, I avoid hostels like the plague. I know a lot of people love them and they can be so nice and great value but it’s not really the ‘experience’ I tend to look for. I find you can end up with a load of other tourists, hang out with tourists and essentially see a place from that view. I’d much rather couch surf (which is often free) and actually meet local people. Or… AirBnb and just do my own thing. Just preference I guess. Have a great trip 🙂


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