How to travel on a budget in 5 simple ways

Travel hacks

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Traveling on a budget? We go into detail on five cheap travel tips to keep in mind when planning a vacation

It’s the end of 2022, and the rate of inflation has risen so drastically across the globe that many people are feeling the pinch. The main concern on the minds of those of us who love to travel is now “How can I take trips on a budget?” Fear not — the current state of the economy doesn’t have to stop you from traveling the world, because we’ve got some detailed pointers within five simple budget travel tips that’ll make your adventures even cheaper.

This article focuses mainly on the planning stage of your trip. For tips on how to get the most out of your destination on the cheap, read our article on traveling (almost) for free.

1: Travel light

Cabin bag being lifted into an airplane's overhead lockerIf you can, fly only with cabin baggage — Shutterstock

Cabin baggage dimensions

Be aware of the exact specifications of the cabin bag that your airline will allow you to bring on your person free of charge. For a lot of carriers — whether they’re low-cost or not, this will be a small suitcase not exceeding the dimensions of 56 x 45 x 25 centimeters. This is the guideline set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), but it’s by no means a hard-and-fast rule. For instance, some major low-cost airlines — two prime examples being Ryanair and Wizz Air — do charge extra for a small suitcase like this, as the size of their free baggage allowance is limited to that of a backpack. Still, the cost of an IATA-approved cabin bag is usually less than that of a checked bag.

So, what can you fit inside a bag whose dimensions are 56 x 45 x 25 centimeters? Your valuables and documents, minimal toiletries (which we’ll get onto in a minute), and a couple of changes of clothes. On that note, a common tip is to wear as many items of clothing as you can to travel in. You may look a bit chunkier, and you might get slightly uncomfortable if you’re jetting off in the summer, but it’s all in the name of saving those pennies.

Flying with liquids

Something else to take into account if you want to travel without checked baggage is the fact that your liquid allowance will be restricted. Try to skimp on the toiletries and cosmetics, and you definitely won’t be able to bring any normal-sized drinks with you.

On the other hand, if larger volumes of liquid are absolutely necessary for your trip, the checked baggage allowance would likely work out cheaper — rather than buying liquid items again either after airport security, or once you get to your destination. This is especially true for avid makeup-wearers (speaking from my personal experience). Yet, this is rather the exception to the rule: the less you take away with you, the more money you’ll save.

2: Eat smart

Lunch box of pasta against a hilly backdropPrepare your own meals to take with you on your travels — Shutterstock

While you won’t be able to bring drinks in your cabin bag, you can certainly bring solid food. Dining at airport outlets can be expensive, especially airside (after you get past security and/or passport control). Therefore, it stands to reason that some advance preparation to make sure you have something to eat on the go will lower the overall cost of your journey.

The same rule applies once you get to your destination. Eating out in cafés and restaurants is certainly part of the vacation experience, but if you’re mindful of your budget, it’s useful to stay somewhere where you’ll have access to a kitchen. Having a kitchen means that you’re able to prepare your meals with store- or market-bought food, just as you’d do at home — and carry them with you on your adventures. It sounds pretty straightforward and evident, but it really is an effective money-saving tip.

Choosing lunch over dinner

If you do decide to eat out, doing so at lunchtime, rather than for dinner, will help you keep to your budget. Cafés and restaurants tend to offer lunch options that are cheaper than their evening meals, plus, eating your main meal in the middle of the day means you’ll be full of energy for your afternoons of exploring.

It also pays to eat and drink local produce at small businesses — this is usually cheaper than going for international chains and imports. When in doubt, do as the locals do!

3: Buddy up

Women with backpacks climbing bunk beds in a hostel — Getty ImagesHostels are a great low-budget accommodation option — Getty Images

Communal living is the best way to lodge when traveling on a budget. Hostels are the classic mode of cost-effective accommodation, where you’ll typically pay for a bed rather than a private room. What’s more, a lot of them have kitchens (result!), and the set-up makes it easy for travelers to meet others just like them. You never know — you might make some lasting friendships, more than you bargained for on your economical exploration.

If you’re particularly easygoing, you might choose to go one step further for your budget and do a homestay. CouchSurfing is probably the most famous online network of hosts allowing travelers to stay with them in exchange for absolutely nothing, aside from their brief companionship. In essence, you get to offer your wonderful personality to someone, instead of the contents of your wallet.

On the other hand, if you feel uneasy about living with new people, consider bringing your own friends along on your trip. If you were all to rent a single house, apartment or hotel room, naturally, everyone’s budgets would only take a fraction of the hit. Sharing is caring.

4: Stay on the ground

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You can get some incredibly cheap plane tickets nowadays (and there are hacks to make them even cheaper, which we’ll see in due course). But if you don’t mind taking the time, consider making your journey on land instead.

Another thing that ground transport has over flying is that you’ll almost always reach the center of your destination, arriving at a train or bus station. This means there’s less of your budget to be spent on the sometimes time-consuming transit between the airport and the city. Depending on where you land, you might have no choice but to take a taxi, and no cash-conscious tourist wants that.

Traveling by train

Traveling by train can be more economical than flying, so it’s definitely worth researching your rail route and ticket options. If you happen to be planning an extensive European tour, the popular Interrail and Eurail passes allow you plenty of flexibility to plan your journey for great-value prices. Let’s not forget that long-distance train travel can be a charming experience in and of itself; sit back and enjoy the rural views from the window, share a beer or a game of cards with your fellow explorers, and allow yourself to be soothed at night by the gentle motion of your sleeper carriage.

Traveling by bus

Long-distance buses are a great means of transport if you’re traveling on a budget. What’s more, your baggage allowance on a bus will typically be more generous than it would be when flying with a low-cost airline — most operators accept one piece of hold luggage per passenger, free of charge.

In Europe, some of the biggest international bus companies are Flixbus, Megabus, and Eurolines. Together, these companies operate routes spanning several tens of countries, so you’re sure to be able to get from A to B efficiently on the road. There are lots of long-distance bus companies operating elsewhere in the world, too. Kiwi.com’s search aggregator allows you to filter results by mode of transport — a nifty way to check for bus (and train) links from wherever you are, to wherever you want to go.

At your destination

When you’re on vacation, especially in a city, walk whenever and wherever you possibly can. Carrying yourself with your own two legs is a simple way to save money on taxis and public transport, an efficient way to get some exercise, and a wonderful way to get a real feel for your surroundings.

5: Book with Kiwi.com

 

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At Kiwi.com, we hack the system. Our Kiwi-Code has a few tricks up its sleeve to show you the best possible prices to help you stick to your budget for your trip.

Search to Anywhere, for Anytime

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It pays, literally, to be flexible when you search for flights. On the Kiwi.com website, you can broaden your options by searching without a specific date or even destination in mind. Simply input ‘Anywhere’ into the destination field or ‘Anytime’ into the departure date field, and the Kiwi-Code will present you with a detailed breakdown of where or when it’s cheapest to fly. If you can, it’s worth traveling off-season, and sometimes landing at a smaller airport that might be a little further away from your final destination.

Price alerts

Got your eye on a particular route? Click on the little bell icon on your search results page to sign up for Kiwi.com’s price alerts, and we’ll let you know immediately, via email or push notification, once the price of your trip drops. This way, you don’t have to spend days making recurrent searches to get the cheapest deal — the cheapest deal comes to you.

Nomad

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If you’re a real globetrotter, one of these hacks that you can use to your advantage is Nomad. Nomad ingeniously takes your desired destinations, along with the lengths of time you intend to spend in each, and draws up the cheapest itineraries for you to choose from. Voilà — wanderlust satiated, without breaking the bank.

Throwaway ticketing and hidden cities

 

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Another, rather unique way in which Kiwi.com sources low-cost tickets is by including extra flights in some itineraries. It might seem nonsensical, but some (usually legacy) airlines will charge more for a one-way ticket than for the same route with either a return or an onward flight. When this is the case, the Kiwi-Code will show you the cheaper ticket first, whether it includes a return flight (what we call a “throwaway ticket”), or an onward flight (a “hidden cities ticket”).

Our website finds these special tickets within a matter of seconds. Rest assured that it will always tell you if any of your search results contain a hidden flight, and it will make you aware of the itinerary’s conditions. Read more about how the throwaway ticketing and hidden cities hacks work, including these conditions. If you can’t or don’t accept the conditions, that’s absolutely fine — Kiwi.com still offers lots of cheap ticket options that don’t include hidden flights.

So there we have it — five cheap tips, in detail, for traveling on a budget. Seeing the world doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg; some careful planning, fine-tuning and all-around good thinking is all that’s necessary.

Do you want more travel articles? Visit Kiwi.com Stories.