Traveling may seem like something only for the wealthy or financially comfortable. However, there are many ways to travel on a tight budget, even if you consider yourself broke!
Forget searching the couch cushions for spare change. Instead, we’re taking a closer look at the creative, unusual, or offbeat ways cash-strapped travelers make their trips happen.
Can I Travel If I Have No Money?
Unfortunately, if you have no money, it won’t be easy to travel. Even if you plan to earn money along the way, you’ll generally need some funds to get started. This could include money for a ticket or transportation, a few meals, and a temporary place to stay.
However, beyond this relatively modest amount, travelers willing to be flexible can explore for long periods even if traditional society considers them broke!
How Much Does It Cost to Travel?
Everyone has a different travel style, desired destination, and length of trip, so there’s no one firm answer on how much it costs to travel. However, you can ballpark the number based on a few general principles.
Cost for Accommodations
Accommodations will generally cost $10-50 per person nightly at low-cost hostels or campgrounds, $60-200 at many mid-range hotels and RV parks, and $200+ for luxury accommodations. The sky’s the limit.
Some people may camp, stay with friends or family, or work jobs that include a place to stay to eliminate this expense.
Cost for Transportation
Transportation is also a significant but varied expense. Those traveling by plane typically spend the most, potentially hundreds of dollars per ticket. The cost is high even when choosing budget airlines with the best deals.
Roadtrippers in cars or RVs should factor in gas, insurance, maintenance, tolls, and other costs.
Beyond these two high costs, you’ll need to look at your budget and preferences to determine how much to spend on the rest of your experience. Some travelers will happily eat cheap meals at their hostel and pay the difference in experiences, while others wouldn’t dream of missing out on the best restaurants.
Consider food, daily necessities like soap, toothpaste, deodorant, and excursions. You may want to check out free attractions and low-cost museums or spend big on unique activities.
Before planning any travel where the price is a factor, you should sketch out a general budget to understand how much your trip may cost and where you may cut costs if necessary.
Have $15K? Here Are the Travel Trailers You Can Buy.
Creative Ways to Travel If You’re Broke
If your bank account is regrettably low, but your desire to hit the road is high, don’t despair. Here are some of our favorite travel methods when your budget is extra tight.
House Or Pet Sit
Eliminate one of your most significant travel expenses by helping out someone in your desired destination. House and pet sitting provide a place to stay in exchange for taking care of some typically brief and straightforward tasks. These might include watering plants, feeding or walking pets, taking in mail, or other simple jobs.
This option may be best if you have friends or family in your desired destination. Strangers may naturally be warier about trusting you with their homes or pets. Still, house and pet sitting services can connect you with those in need and provide references.
Travel in Off-Peak Seasons
Everyone loves to go to Arizona and Florida in the winter and Maine and Montana in the summer. These are only a few destinations with clear “peak seasons,” when weather, events, and other factors create conditions that draw most tourists.
The flip side of peak season is off-peak. This could result in trips to Yellowstone in the dead of winter or Texas in the height of summer. It can also save you big, as demand will be dramatically lower, especially for accommodations.
Stay in Hostels
Hostels have been vital to cheap travel for hundreds of thousands of people for decades. Hostels often sleep several people in a dorm-style room and have shared bathrooms.
They can also be a unique place to meet fellow travelers. If you don’t mind a shared living arrangement, you can often stay in incredible locations for a fraction of what a hotel costs.
Many people think of traveling as purely leisure. However, many workers are taking their jobs on the road, splitting their time between seeing the sights and doing business. This is more manageable now, with many jobs remaining remote following COVID changes in 2020.
Typically, you’ll need a reliable internet and phone connection, which are simple to secure thanks to public wifi and mobile internet solutions. With the right job and budget, you could theoretically travel as long as you’d like!
Pick Up Odd Jobs Along the Way
No matter where your travels take you, there are generally businesses in need of extra help. Keep your eye out for “help wanted” signs or other indications of places looking for employees.
Be upfront with them about your travel schedule and how long you plan to work. Even if you are only in town for a short time, those with skills or experience can still make a few bucks for a few days’ work.
It’s essential to note this can be a bit complicated legally in some cases. You’ll need to ensure you pay the necessary taxes in every state or country you travel to, and some foreign countries may have strict limits on how and where you can work.
Crew On a Sailboat
Experienced sailboat crew members are always in high demand, making it a perfect job for travelers looking to make a good salary.
There are even services like Crewseekers that connect would-be sailors with employment opportunities. You’ll need the necessary skills to do the job, and you won’t have much control over where your travels will take you.
Still, this is one of the few ways to travel full-time and come out ahead financially, thanks to the substantial pay and tips.
If you want to travel on a budget and give back simultaneously, volunteering can be a perfect choice. Various organizations may offer free housing or meals for volunteers willing to travel for their work.
Depending on the cause, you may end up anywhere from remote parts of Africa to troubled parts of an inner city community. However, you can explore your destination mostly on someone else’s dime and sleep well knowing you’re making a positive difference in the world.
List Your Apartment Or House On Airbnb While You’re Away
A significant reason travel is so costly is that you’re essentially paying for two places to stay; the one on your trip and your normal house or apartment. If you don’t mind some strangers in your space, you can dramatically cut your travel costs by putting your home up for rent on Airbnb, VRBO, or other similar sites. You may be surprised what people will be willing to pay for a night in a place that would otherwise be empty!
Keep in mind, while most rental services provide some protection, guests likely won’t treat your home with the care you would. Renting could lead to some severe wear and tear over time.
Go Hiking and Tent Camp
Hiking and camping are among the best forms of travel for those without much cash. Camping permits, especially for backcountry areas, are generally inexpensive and readily available.
Naturally, this isn’t an option for folks who aren’t comfortable roughing it. Still, you’ll have days of exploration for next to no cost other than your camping materials and food.
Visit Places Close to Home
Who says the only exciting places to travel are across the country or worldwide? Chances are there are many spots to travel nearby that you haven’t explored, no matter how long you’ve lived there.
State and county parks, regional attractions, nearby cities, and scenic areas offer local travel opportunities. You’ll save money on transportation by putting fewer miles on your car, avoiding incidental travel costs, and skipping the airport.
Is Traveling On a Small Budget Worth It?
We all have different goals and desires regarding travel. Some people are satisfied with two weeks per year of relaxation at a pleasant resort, enjoying the finest meals and experiences.
For them, traveling on a tight budget may not be worth it. They’ll prefer to take fewer trips, saving money for more infrequent but luxurious vacations. Their travels are a case of quality over quantity.
However, others may want to travel for extended periods or may not have the income to support expensive trips. These travelers will benefit significantly from budget-friendly travel, as it may be the only way to accomplish their goals.
No matter why you need to save money or what kind of trip you’re looking to take, these tips will help those with the emptiest bank accounts see the country and the world.
Where would you go on a budget-friendly vacation?
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