How to Travel on a Budget

How to Travel on a Budget

How to Travel on a Budget

In case you missed it, I’m pretty passionate about travel. Did having a blog dedicated to traveling give it away? Traveling allows me to be more compassionate towards others, as I realize just how many different people there are in this vast world. It reminds me that my way of doing something isn’t the only way…and might not even be the best way. And, most importantly, when I travel I have intentional, uninterrupted time with my husband; we’re able to reconnect and bond through our adventures.

Overlooking the beautiful Smokey Mountains in Tennessee
Shortly after I had a miscarriage, we went to Tennessee to get away and reconnect. This is a trip I’ll always remember.

Still, traveling can be costly! Even if you can’t afford a 2 week international vacation, maybe you can come up with your own adventure you can afford using these tips.

Create a Budget

If you want to have money to travel, you need to actually include traveling into your budget! How much of your income you put aside to travel is up to you and your current financial situation. While there can be times in your life where you absolutely have no money to put aside for traveling, I think most of the time for most people it is possible to travel in some capacity. If you want to travel but don’t think you can afford it, look at your budget and see if there’s something you can give up (eating out? a latte? going to the movies?) for the sake of travel.

We use a zero-sum budget, which means that each month 100% of our income goes somewhere: savings, utility bills, travel, and whatever other categories you may have. That doesn’t mean we actually spend all the money each month. It just means that all the money gets spread into each category. If we don’t travel for a few months, our travel category will grow until we have a nice little sum of money there. We use mint to track our finances, and I can’t recommend it enough. It made budgeting practically hassle free, and best of all—it’s completely free!

Once you’ve created your budget and incorporated travel, you’ll know just how much money you have for a trip and can start planning.


Smores While Camping
Enjoying another perk of camping…s’mores!

Hotels are costly, and a few nights in a hotel room can add up quick. Why not camp instead? Even if you’re doing a city vacation, camping is still an option. It might require driving out of the city a bit each night, but it will save you a good bit of money. Plus, you can cook over the fire at night, which is delicious and cheap! It also leads me to my next point…

Pack Meals

Instead of eating out 3 meals a day (plus, if you’re like me, snacks), pack your own meals. Bring a cooler in your car where you can keep sandwich supplies, crackers, chips, fruit, and veggies. Most hotels have mini fridges now, so you can keep your main supplies there and just take a day’s worth of food with you. If you’re camping, your car is already your home base, so you’re good to go! We like to eat our own meals, and then splurge on eating out for snacks. This lets us try the local treats, but saves our money (and calories) during the main meals.

Drive Instead of Fly

Tickets are expensive! If you’ve got a family, then they’re mega-pricey. Choose locations to visit that are close enough to drive to. There are amazing sights to see all across the world, including near wherever you happen to live! We split a long drive up by switching off between driving and sleeping every 2 hours (one person drives while the other sleeps, then switch). Sure, it’s not the most fun part of the trip, but it gets us there quickly! And the sooner we arrive, the sooner the vacation really begins. If you have kids, try leaving in the evening so that they’ll sleep in the car through the night.

Get Off the Beaten Path

The touristy parts of town are often the most expensive. Museums and other famous sites can be pricey too. If there are paid things you really want to see, pick which ones are the most important to you, then, spend the rest of the trip doing free things. Hike. Take in the architecture with a walk around the city.  Find free museums. Let the kids play at a park. Find coffee shops that have free music in the evenings. Now you’re saving money and getting to experience the city a bit more like a local.


Statue of Liberty from Ferry
Instead of paying to see the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island, we took the free State Island Ferry from a distance.

Combine Hobbies with Travel

Running a mountain in Napa Valley, California
Running in Napa Valley, California.

What are your hobbies, and how can you incorporate them into your travel? My husband and I are both marathon runners, so we always run when we travel and find that it gives us a unique way to experience the places we’re visiting. Are you a photographer? Seek out ways to take different pictures. An outdoorsman? Hike! Musician? Find free outdoor concerts. Since you know a good bit about your hobby, it’ll be easier for you to find information about it wherever you’re visiting.

Remember the Reason You Travel

Why do you travel? To me, traveling has 2 purposes: First, to spend time with those that I love. Second, to broaden my understanding by experiencing more of the world. Remembering the reason I travel helps me to spend the money I have budgeted for travel in the best way possible. Eating a fancy, expensive meal doesn’t really fit into my goals, so I choose to not partake. People watching and talking to my husband over a latte in a coffee shop (or at a park) is right in line with my goals, so I choose to spend some money for that experience. There’s no right or wrong way to travel, as long as you can afford it. 

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Now it’s your turn! How do you save money while traveling? What are your reasons for traveling?

5 thoughts on “How to Travel on a Budget

  1. Fantastic tips! I actually use mint all the time and I absolutely love it (great for finance-stupid people like me). And I loved the bit about camping. I’m an avid camper, but people think I’m crazy when I preach that!

    I’m so sorry you had a miscarriage. I have no concept of how hard that must have been, but you and your husband’s obvious strength through it is so inspirational!

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