My Favourite Tips/Hacks for Travelling on a Budget | Juleen Meets World

My Favourite Tips/Hacks for Travelling on a Budget | Juleen Meets World

My Favourite Tips/Hacks for Travelling on a Budget

Store on Magazine Street in New Orleans

So you would like to start travelling but you can’t afford a luxury vacation? I consider myself a budget traveller who occasionally allows herself some luxury. However, I have a lot of experience hopping around Europe on a tight budget. Here are some of my tips and hacks for saving for travel on a budget:

1. Let costs determine your destination

As someone with a limited budget, I often let the costs of various destinations decide where I go. Obviously, if you can’t afford a particular place right now, you should not be going there. However, there might be a lot of places that are within your budget. How do you decide which one(s) to visit? Based on costs.

A great place to start is looking at the costs to get there. Flight comparison sites such as Skyscanner and Google Flights let you enter your home city and show you the costs to get to various places around the world. Some airlines will also let you see the flights deals currently available from your departure city. From there, you can compare the costs of accommodations, food and other expenses in the city at the time.

Skyscanner’s empty destination feature

Going to more affordable places means being able to go to more places. Particularly if you are new to travelling, your options are endless as you are less likely to have the problem of having already visited the cheapest places. By visiting less costly destinations now, you can simultaneously save up to visit the more expensive destination. You can also just wait until you can afford that place or have someone to travel with to split costs.

2. Travel during off-season or shoulder season

What will be your next destination?

Every destination has a time of the year when it sees its most visitors, whether it be because of better temperatures, major events or other factors. For example, tropical destinations are most popular during the summer while ski resorts are popular during the winter. This is called peak season and when possible you want to avoid this when on a budget.

Peak season is typically characterised by large crowds, higher prices while being able to have some of the experiences that that city is known for. The opposite of peak season is off-season during which some opportunities are just not available but accommodations are cheaper, flight prices go down and there are likely no crowds.

The sweet spot, shoulder season, is that time between off-season and peak season when crowds are smaller, prices are reasonable but you can still experience some of the best things the city has to offer. It’s like the equivalent of fall or spring if you love the summer but hate the winter (or vice versa). Funny enough, fall and spring are shoulder seasons for many places.

3. Budget airlines can be your friend if overpacking isn’t

Ok, let’s be real! Spirit really isn’t that bad for travelling around the US and when I was living in Europe, NOBODY loved Ryanair, EasyJet and the whole array of budget airlines more than I did.

With that said, most budget airlines make a huge chunk of their profits from fees, especially baggage fees. If you can master the art of packing light, you can save a lot of money. If I’m being totally honest with myself (and you), I am an overpacker. Someone asked me the other day

Are you #TeamCarryOnOnly or #TeamCheckThatShit?

My response?

I pack light to save money (hello budget airlines) but I check a bag and hate myself for it on travel days when it’s included in the ticket price cause I’m a compulsive overpacker.

Recently I took a three-week trip visiting three cities, travelling through at least two different climate types, using only budget airlines, i.e. Spirit and Frontier. I was determined not to pay for a bag. Knowing that I would have access to laundry facilities in all 3 cities, I just decided to pack enough clothes for 1 week and was able to successfully complete my trip without paying any baggage fees for any of my five flights. The saver in me overpowered the overpacker and I wish the same for you.

Fun fact about budget airlines: They don’t count your coats/jackets, umbrellas and food as a separate personal items so if you are travelling between two different climates or stop to buy food in the airport (since it costs and arm and a leg on the flight) you can carry those on the flight in addition to your free personal item.

Sunset during flight from Las Vegas to Baltimore
Sunset during my flight from Las Vegas to Baltimore

4. Credit cards can also be your friend

A lot of credit cards (in the US) come with rewards programmes such as travel rewards (miles or statement credits) or cashback.* Usually, you can earn points, miles or cashback on your daily spending with bonus points being earned for particular types of purchases or using your card with a specific company. Others, usually store-branded cards, offer discounts whenever you use the card at that store. If you often frequent a specific store or you use a particular airline or hotel brand more than others, it might be worth getting the credit card for that company.

My credit card philosophy is if I’m going to be spending money anyway, I might as well be earning rewards for it. We all need to go grocery shopping right? I do not believe in credit cards that do not offer rewards, and yes, I did say “believe in” because as far as I’m concerned, they do not exist.

Personally, I use these rewards to save for travel or pay for parts of my trip. For example, in the past, I’ve paid for a round-trip ticket home to Jamaica from New York using my travel rewards points. You might do the same or you can use them to save, in the case of getting discounts instead, so that you can put the savings towards a trip. Different methods, same results. One of my goals is to completely pay for a trip using only credit card rewards or airline/hotel loyalty points.

I’m not a financial adviser and I don’t want anybody coming back and saying “Well Juleen said I should get a credit card to earn points”. You know yourself, your financial situation and your level of self-control. Use credit cards wisely. I said they CAN be your friend if you don’t let them be your enemy. Avoid credit card debt at all costs.

a. Ensure you have at least one credit card with no foreign transactions fees. Paying 3% of your purchases hurts my soul. I prefer to use credit cards when I travel because it’s safer and they usually have better exchange rates than a cambio.
b. Also, ensure to always add cashback offers to your credit cards and use that card for your purchase/reservations to earn back some of the money you are spending anyway. For example, one of my banks is currently offering 5% cashback for Airbnb reservation. All I have to do is activate the offer on my card and remember to use that card if I make an Airbnb reservation before the offer expires.
c. *To my Jamaican readers, cashback and travel rewards credit cards have landed in Jamaica so now you can put your cashback savings towards your travel fund.

5. Sign up for airline miles and hotel points programmes.

I’ve never flown on an airline that didn’t have a miles programme and most common hotels also have a points programme in which you earn miles/points any time you travel with them. Why would you throw away potential savings by not signing up for the programmes? Sure, you might think this is just one trip, the miles are not sufficient but things add up. Jamaicans have a saying, “one one cocoa full basket” which basically means (small) things add up.

Furthermore, if an airline is a part of an airline alliance, which most major airlines are, you can earn miles for that airline by flying on any of the other airlines in the alliance. Similarly, a lot of the larger hotels are a part of chains, you can earn points by staying at any of the properties in that chain, even the more budget-friendly properties. Even better, you don’t have to be the person who paid for your trip in order to earn the miles/points, so if your company, school, or any other institution or person funds a trip for you, you can still claim those miles/points by just adding your loyalty number to the reservation online or when you check-in.

In addition, there might be ways to earn points with hotels or airlines indirectly. A lot of partnerships exist between airlines, hotels and other travel-related entities. So for example, if you use Uber/Lyft you can earn points by linking your account to the hotel partnership (I know Hilton does this for Lyft) or you can earn Delta miles when you book an Airbnb by booking from their partnership website.

You never know when you might accumulate enough points to book an almost free flight or a free night at a hotel. There are even some airlines (e.g. Delta) that will have sales on flights booked using miles and some hotel chains (e.g. Hilton) give you free nights on stays booked using points. Don’t throw away “free” points people!

6. Extend work trips.

Extend work trips, i.e., mix business and pleasure with bleisure travel. If you are lucky enough to have a job that allows you the occasional work trip, make the most of it by using your off-clock hours to explore and get to know the city/country you are in. You can also consider extending the trip if that is an option. That way, you save on the cost of the flights (or train). If your work trip takes you to a place that is normally too expensive to fly to or to an airline’s hub, this might be a great opportunity to take vacation right after your work trip and save money on the flights by getting cheaper tickets from that location.

Read more about Bleisure Travel.

7. Additional tips:

  • Subscribe to flight deal websites (such as Thrifty Traveler or Secret Flying) or follow them on social media to keep abreast of good flight deals.
  • Use hostels, Airbnb or visit places you have friends/family so you can save on accommodations
  • Public transportation is usually the cheapest option for getting around. However, if that is not an option or isn’t practical compare the costs of renting a car (including gas, parking fees, tolls) and getting Uber/Lyft.
  • When staying for more than a few days, cooking and having picnics from grocery store food can cut food costs.
  • Free walking tours are a great way to get to know a city while meeting others and saving money. Don’t forget to tip. Another option is a self-guided tour, many of which you can find on the internet by just googling “Self-Guided Tour for ____”.
  • Recognise that some things really aren’t worth the hype. They are just “tourist traps”.
A room at The Quisby Hostel taken from their website

Hopefully, you found my tips useful. This is in no way an extensive list. I definitely did not include some of the more common tips but if you have a favourite tip/hack that was not included, leave it in the comments. I’d love to hear them.

18 thoughts on “My Favourite Tips/Hacks for Travelling on a Budget | Juleen Meets World

  1. I was a teacher for years, making it hard to travel when it wasn’t peak high season everywhere. The flexibility now is awesome, as is the freedom to book things based on good deals we see!

  2. Being a solo traveller I really have to watch the cash as travel is geared towards double occupancy. I find the best way to save money while travelling is to at least have some meals available in your room. It’s also a good way to eat relatively healthy while travelling.

    1. Absolutely true! I was just on a trip that had a lot of 2-for-1 deals which meant they were basically useless for me. I hope the travel industry starts recognising that solo travellers need good deals too.

  3. Great tips! People often forget about shoulder season – which is our favorite time to travel! Fewer crowds, but still have many of the benefits of the high season without the cost! Even if it’s just a week outside of the high season – it can save you hundreds!

    1. Yes indeed. I love shoulder season but I also sometimes prefer off-season over high season depending on the location. I despise crowds haha

  4. These are all great tips for traveling on a budget. I love my Chase Saphire card! I rack up so many points to use for hotels and flights, and no more transaction fees! Such a great tool!

    1. Not everyone is a big fan of credit cards and that’s fine. I agree, limiting drinking and eating in restaurants will also help save money.

  5. Yes! I follow them religiously and all is well until I hit the shops. Really great advice, especially about “cheaper” destinations. We are quite spoilt here in Europe because a lot of culturally diverse destinations all within a 3-5 hour reach on a budget airline

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