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How to Travel Cheaply (and Never Feel Like You're Missing Out)

Updated on October 2, 2011

How I Began to Travel Cheaply

When I decided that I wanted to take some time off after college before diving back into grad school, I knew I wanted to travel, and I knew I needed to travel cheap. While my classmates chose high-paying jobs to get ahead in their careers, and a few just hadn’t quite figured it out yet, I was 100% certain that I was going to travel.

You can read my hub on Almeria, Spain if you’re curious just where I ended up, but here I want to give more general advice about how to travel the world without breaking the bank, and tips to save money doing what you love.

The first trip tip is to think about where you want to go. I would advise leaving this as a general region at first, instead of a specific place, which will allow you the flexibility to travel cheaply when the opportunity arises. If you are set on going to, say, Amsterdam, you are fairly restricted to what and how much you can actually do on a tight budget (although, even in Amsterdam or Paris, there are ways to save money).

Traveling cheaply in Amsterdam is not impossible!
Traveling cheaply in Amsterdam is not impossible!

Plan to Travel Cheap

Conversely, you can ask yourself: What type of travel do I want to do? If you are set on using one of the travel networks like WWOOF, then I would recommend being as broad as possible in terms of region, and focus instead on the type of WWOOFing experience you want. There is a big difference between helping farmers in Granada make bread and cheese, and clearing fields in rural Spain for 5 hours. Often you may not know exactly what you are getting yourself into, but at least consider the type of work that they claim you will be doing. You could be in the most beautiful place in the world, but if you are shoveling manure all day, you probably won’t enjoy it. But maybe you will, I’m not one to judge.

WWOOF, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is a great way to travel for less. If you want more information, this is their website:

Other examples of activity-driven travel would be finding great surfing spots for cheap, or spending as much of your trip as you can on the beach (Almeria is a great choice for this!).

Beauty doesn't always come with a price
Beauty doesn't always come with a price

Air Travel Tips

Once you have your primary goal figured out, the first step (and most expensive) is buying the initial plane ticket. Sorry, I don’t have too many traveling tips on this one. My advice?

1. Scour the web. Seriously, spending time to find a good ticket is worth it. Bing Travel other sites with flight price predictors are your best friends, even if they don't give you the best flight price.

2. Consider flying into other cities and taking a train or bus. If you want to go to Amsterdam, look into flights to Belgium and take the train. Similarly, if you want to go to Mendoza, Argentina, fly to Buenos Aires and bus it. In sum, be creative, and you might even end up seeing some cool places that you would have never seen otherwise.

3. Monday nights and Tuesdays for some reason seem to generally be the cheapest for plane tickets.

4. For some strange reason, round-trip tickets can be much cheaper than one-ways.

5. I just found this out, but there is such a thing as a “Round the World” ticket. The price, number of stops and time limit vary, but for those serious about doing one huge World Tour, it might be a good option.

Travel Help: The Details of Cheap Global Travel

So, now you have a shell of a trip, but haven’t figured the details. This is the point at which you should start looking sites like WWOOF or Help Exchange if you want an experience working in a foreign country in exchange for room and board. Some consider these ways to travel for free, but remember, you are supposed to be working some. And again, the experience completely depends on where you end up, and I’ve heard everything from “it was horrible” to “best experience of my life”.

Another idea would be to search for teaching jobs abroad, either temporarily or long term. Teaching English abroad, either through a government program like the ones in France or Spain, at an independent English school, or giving private lessons, is an easy (if sometimes quasi-legal) way to subsidize your travels. The year programs usually require at least 9 months of work, but for me, at least, it was worth it. In fact, while my original idea was to go to Argentina, the benefits of the teaching program in Spain (including a legal visa to be there) overwhelmingly outweighed the alternative, so I put my South American plans on the backburner and hopped across the pond.

Just one of the many things I missed out on by not going to Argentina, sniff....
Just one of the many things I missed out on by not going to Argentina, sniff....
Couch(surfing) in Amsterdam
Couch(surfing) in Amsterdam
I would have never had this view of Lisbon without Couchsurfing
I would have never had this view of Lisbon without Couchsurfing
Beautiful, romantic Prague
Beautiful, romantic Prague

Where to Stay for Cheap

Lodging is the next big question when it comes to cheap travel. For programs like WWOOF, your lodging is provided, and if you are staying somewhere for an extended period of time, consider renting an apartment. For stays of a week or less, you of course have your run-of-the-mill hostels and guesthouses, which range from borderline expensive to dirt cheap, but for something a little more alternative, try camping or look into

The organization is increasingly more popular, and while at first, the idea may seem a little sketchy, staying with people you don’t know at all, my experiences have been nothing but positive. I’ve gotten to know Prague and Lisbon, for example, in ways that I would have never been able to otherwise. Plus, my gracious hosts would sometimes even cook meals, show me the city, or help me get into places, like museums, for free. It was refreshing being able to stay with locals instead of the hoards of young, foreign travelers that usually fill up the hostels.

I have little advice about food, because that’s usually the one thing I splurge on. I’ll take a good authentic meal over shopping any day. The little advice I have on this topic is as follows: cook if you have access to a kitchen, eat street food (with caution, for those without an iron stomach), and know if the water is potable. Even if the locals don’t drink it, that doesn’t mean you can’t, just find out for sure.

That pretty much covers the basics, but there are always little tricks that we find to save a few dollars (or your currency of choice). Walk when possible, take public transportation, be aware of the tourist areas since the prices are usually higher there, look for free museum days, free walking tours, etc. Feel free to leave me a comment if these tips were helpful, so that I can vicariously travel with you, or let me know if there is something I left out!

Buen viaje, bom viagem, buon viaggio and bon voyage (sorry that’s all I got without an online translator).


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    • Megan Coxe profile image

      Megan Coxe 6 years ago from somewhere between here and there

      Thank you so much! It was wonderful, and I´m missing it very much. But at least I can share it at HubPages!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 6 years ago from USA

      Your travels sounds wonderful, and the perfect thing to do before grad school! What better time of your life to sample the cultures of the world than this? Love your hub and your outlook...voted up!

    • Megan Coxe profile image

      Megan Coxe 6 years ago from somewhere between here and there

      Thank you very much MsDora!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Congratulations on your nomination! Having a wonderful idea is great, but living it is awesome.

    • Megan Coxe profile image

      Megan Coxe 6 years ago from somewhere between here and there

      Thank you all!

      @Hummingbird, yes, even looking at plane ticket prices makes me sad. I´m still looking for a secret (although I doubt there is one)

      @Kieran - Great tips! I will keep those in mind as I continue in my travels.

      @Pamela - I´m glad I did do it now. Everyone had always told me that earlier in life. However, I´m trying to find ways that it´s not just reserved for young adults before employment! I´ll keep dreaming...

      @Angie - I wouldn´t blame him! The only time I´ve been in Britain was in December. I understand wanting to get out of the grey and cold for a little (I´m a sun seeker myself)!

      @Jama Exactly, internet has changed so much about travel, and will continue to do so! And Couchsurfing just became a Not-for-Profit business, so it will be interesting to see where it goes in the next few years.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Now that most everyone has internet access, there's really no excuse for squandering that most precious resource for many travelers - cash. Thinking outside the box and willing to be flexible is the best way to save money.

      As for couch surfing, a recent (for me) episode of Globe Trotters featured and highly recommended it as a way to save a bundle on lodging. ;D

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 6 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      An interesting and very useful hub, Megan ... I need to pass it on to my stepson who wants to travel this winter ... he likes to get away from the British winter, and who can blame him.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

      Congratulations on your win for a wonderful hub that is filled with great ideas for affordable travel. I think you made a wise decision to travel while you are young before employment as these are experiences that will last a lifetime. This is an awesome hub.

    • profile image

      Kieran Gracie 6 years ago

      As one who has managed to travel extensively over several decades, I found your Hub inspiring, Megan. It almost makes me want to do it all over again!

      Yes, it is possible to travel cheaply, even with the crazy plane fares we now have to pay. It is still possible to get good deals locally, so keep an eye on what's available. For instance, some places like Singapore have great travel deals. Once I managed to trade in my economy ticket back to London for a business class one and had some cash left over!

      Another tip - beware travel review sites. One of the top ones has just been referred to the government travel supervising agency in the UK for stuffing its reviews with 'sympathetic' articles about certain hotels.

      Great travel Hub!

    • Hummingbird5356 profile image

      Hummingbird5356 6 years ago

      An interesting hub. It is true that it doesn't need to cost a fortune to travel. Plane tickets are the most expensive part of travelling but when you arrive at a place it is quite possible to live quite cheaply.

    • Megan Coxe profile image

      Megan Coxe 6 years ago from somewhere between here and there

      Thank you so much! Sometimes you have to make your own opportunities to travel, though (I´m trying to find another one right now!). Good luck on finding yours!

    • prektjr.dc profile image

      Debbie Carey 6 years ago from Riverton, KS, USA

      Congratulations on your Hubnugget nomination! Good hub! I love to travel and would love to have the opportunity to set out like you did! Good luck and God Bless! Voted up, useful and interesting!

    • Megan Coxe profile image

      Megan Coxe 6 years ago from somewhere between here and there

      @Deborah Demander - Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the tips. Hopefully they are useful!

      @JenniferRW - I love your enthusiasm (and thank you so much!). For me, it's important that everyone who wants to is able to travel. It shouldn't be reserved just for people who have a lot of money! I know that feeling that life gets in the way sometimes, but traveling is worth it!

    • JeniferRW profile image

      Jen 6 years ago from Couch

      I loved this hub! It gives people like myself hope that possibly some day in the near future I will actually be able to travel after all. I have dreamed of traveling the world since around the age of 15 but between school and just life happening etc., it simply hasn't happened for me yet. When the time comes I will definitely be looking back at your hub for advice. LOVE it!

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 6 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      Congratulations on your hubnuggets nomination. These are great tips. Some of the best trips I've taken have been on the cheap.


    • Megan Coxe profile image

      Megan Coxe 6 years ago from somewhere between here and there

      Thank you ripplemaker. And will do!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Keeping your tips in mind as I review my bucket list of places to travel! :)

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! Follow me: Be sure to read and vote okay? Have fun.

    • profile image

      TommyBoy 6 years ago

      Megan, you have given some valued information to novice travelers, and I found your advice to be spot on! Your advice on Amsterdam is great and I'll utilise it the next time I go there.

    • Megan Coxe profile image

      Megan Coxe 6 years ago from somewhere between here and there

      Thanks MonetteforJack! I´m glad you could stop by and read it, and and thrilled to have a seasoned traveler enjoy my tips!

    • MonetteforJack profile image

      MonetteforJack 6 years ago from Tuckerton, NJ

      Hi, Megan! You surely had a good time here and so did I! I had fun looking at the photographs and reading your hub. I voted up and interesting :)

    • Megan Coxe profile image

      Megan Coxe 6 years ago from somewhere between here and there

      Thank you both! And I bet both of you have your own great tips as well.

    • urbancreation profile image

      urbancreation 6 years ago from A Kitchen in Cali or Abroad

      I love! I have hosted some rad peeps from France and Germany. Great advice, maybe we will have a travel adventure together one day!!!

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 6 years ago from Southern California

      Wow, what great tips, I will use some of these in the future, because I intend to travel for a while.

    • Megan Coxe profile image

      Megan Coxe 6 years ago from somewhere between here and there

      Thank you both so much! Traveling for me has brought such enrichment to my life, but it´s such a shame that so many people are unable participate. I believe that no one should be barred from the experience of seeing some other part of the world, just because they can´t afford the $1500 plane ticket. The prices nowadays are obscene.

    • maddot profile image

      maddot 6 years ago from Northern NSW, Australia

      Very interesting hub. Well done. You are so does not have to expensive, in fact the best experiences are free and so rewarding.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 6 years ago

      Hello Megan from lake erie time ontario canada 1:12am just finished watching an old VHS copy of the Blues Brothers movie and was so pleasantly surprised to find you at my humble little hubspace with your endorsement and I must say coming from such a great writer like yourself this is really quite a honor - and you certainly have the expertise, passion and enthusiasm to become a world class travel consultant for any magazine online or at the newstand.