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Travel Tips

20 Ways to Travel More—Even On a Small Budget

Jessica Spiegel
By 
Jessica Spiegel
Freelance Writer
5 min read
Last updated 
June 25, 2020

There are plenty of people who wish they could travel more, and dozens of reasons why those same people may think that’s an unachievable goal. The phrase, “I’d like to travel more” is very often followed by, “but…”

Sure, some trips may be on the once-in-a-lifetime end of the scale, and if you’re struggling to pay bills, travel may not be in your immediate future. But if you’re looking to maximize the amount of travel you can do with limited vacation time, a busy schedule, or a tight budget, you’re in luck. We’re living in the golden age of travel, and exploring the world has never been easier, more accessible, or cheaper.

Here are 20 ways to get more travel in your life. 

1. Take shorter trips more often. 

When you have a limited number of vacation days from your job, using them all at once means you’ll spend the rest of the year waiting for new vacation days to kick in. Using a few here and there means you’re traveling more often throughout the year. And when international flights often cost less than traveling across the US (like NYC nonstop to Madrid for $275 roundtrip, or Los Angeles to Shanghai for $313 roundtrip), it’s easier to justify a week-long trip to Asia or a weekend jaunt to Europe. 

2. Take advantage of long weekends and holidays. 

Scan the calendar for every three-day (or more) weekend to see how many short trips you can squeeze in. And if you’re not big on a major holiday that gives you extra time off at work (such as Christmas or New Year’s), use that opportunity to take a trip. You can also maximize your time in the destination by departing for your trip after work and returning late in the evening the day before you’re due back in the office. 

3. Go where—and when—the deals dictate. 

Most people decide where they want to go, pick their dates, and then look for flights. We recommend flipping that script. If you’re open to a range of destinations, keep an eye out for deals and book when you see something you like. Having some wiggle room around dates can also help; sometimes the price can be significantly lower if you change your dates even by a single day. By being flexible, you can save big.

>> Read our guide to using the Google Flights Explore map to find the cheapest place to go. 

4. Prioritize inexpensive destinations. 

We’ve all got those lists of places we’ve dreamed of going for ages, but those aren’t necessarily budget-friendly destinations. If money is what’s holding you back from more trips, help each dollar go farther by heading to places that are cheaper to travel in. Places in South America, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe, for example, tend to be on the less expensive end of the spectrum. 

>> Check out our list of the world’s cheapest destinations or read about the cheapest places to fly in 2020.

5. Work remotely when possible. 

woman working from a cafe.

You don’t have to turn into a digital nomad in order to work remotely. Find out whether your company would be amenable to the idea and, if they’re open to it, give it a test run or two to prove your efficiency. The ability to work remotely, even occasionally or for part of your trip, can help you stretch out limited vacation days. Yes, you’d be working part of the day, but when you turn off your computer you’re still on vacation.  

6. Examine your prioritizes and eliminate expenses. 

This takes a little soul-searching and a lot of honesty, but it can be worth it. Consider the things you spend your disposable income on, and then examine whether those expenses reflect how important each thing is to you. Maybe you can swap your daily coffee shop run for coffee you make at home. You might be able to do more second-hand shopping, stretch out the time between salon visits, or cut down on ordering takeout. And perhaps you don’t really need Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and HBO. Cutting out even $80-$100 per month could quickly add up to an extra trip. 

7. Stay focused on goals. 

Once you’ve decided you’re going to travel more, it’s important to reinforce your commitment to that goal—especially if it requires changes to your routine. Think of any potential expenses in travel terms (this season’s must-have boots might be another night in a budget hotel, for instance). It may even help to put out visual reminders, like a guidebook or photo of the place you’re planning to visit, so you don’t lose sight of how sacrifices you’re making now will pay off later.

8. Try house sitting or home exchanges. 

While house sitting (or pet sitting) means someone else’s travel schedule is dictating when and where you go, it also means you’re not paying for accommodation when you get there. And, if you own your home, doing a home exchange can be a fun way to explore another place on a budget and get someone to take care of your house while you’re gone. Sites like Trusted Housesitters connect homeowners and house and pet sitters. 

9. List your own place when you’re away.

Anytime you’re out of town, listing your home on a home sharing site like Airbnb means you could make money while you’re traveling. While it can be a big undertaking to make sure you and your home are equipped for guests, it could pay off. More money in your account means more trips in the future, and more opportunity to earn while you’re away, so it’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

10. Get a side gig.

If you’ve got talents beyond what you do from 9-to-5—or if the skills you use in your day job are in demand on the freelance market—consider taking on some extra work to fill your travel fund. The ever expanding gig economy means there are dozens of options, such as selling handicrafts (like woodworking or sewing), driving for a ride-sharing company, walking dogs, tutoring, or even running errands or being a virtual assistant. 

11. Use a budgeting app to save. 

Financial apps can help you with just about any budgeting challenge. You Need a Budget helps you figure out how much you can spend on travel, while Acorns rounds up your purchases so you can save with minimal effort. If setting aside money for a trip feels like too much of an abstract concept, there’s an app for that, too. Albert let you move money into a specific budget when you’re saving so you can see your money grow in a more tangible fashion.

12. Find a travel buddy or group... 

group of travelers taking selfie on the beach.

When you’re not comfortable traveling alone, you’ve got options. Maybe your book group wants to plan a trip to the setting of a favorite novel, or your best friend is interested in the same trip you’ve been planning. There are lots of group tours that offer built in companionship as well. Companies like Intrepid, Contiki, and Globus offer tours based on age group, travel, style, or whatever you’re into, from river cruises to long-distance biking. 

13. Or go solo. 

If your friends and family aren’t into traveling and you don’t want to do a group tour, you still don’t have to turn into a homebody. There are lots of resources to make solo travel easier, from the above-mentioned tours and cruise lines (many of which don’t charge an extra fee for a single room) to virtual communities of other solo travelers sharing tips.

>> Check out some tips for solo travel from our Travel Community. 

14. Negotiate for more vacation days. 

Just because your company offers a certain number of vacation days doesn’t mean that’s set in stone. You may be able to get a few extra days, or work out a flex-time arrangement so that when you work overtime you can “bank” some of those hours to take additional days off. The best times to ask: when negotiating a new job, receiving a promotion, or during your annual review. 

>> Get tips for negotiating more vacation time here.  

15. Extend work trips. 

If you’re fortunate enough to travel for work even occasionally, turn your business obligation into a fun experience by adding a day or two to your trip after you’re done with work. Even if it’s not a place you’ve always wanted to visit, part of the fun is discovering what to do there—or figuring out what side trips you can take. Depending on where you’re going, you may be able to easily and cheaply hop from your business trip destination to another spot with more personal appeal. 

>> Read our tips for getting around cheaply in Europe

16. Be sure your credit card earns rewards. 

Credit card rewards can go a long way towards enriching your travel budget, so long as you don’t carry a balance. If you pay off your credit card bill each month, look into a card that offers frequent flyer miles, hotel points, or the ability to “erase” travel expenses. Then, everything from groceries to gas to a doctor’s visit can help offset the cost of your next trip.

17. Explore close to home. 

No matter where you live, there are trips you could take from home, whether it’s for a weekend or just an afternoon. Pack a picnic and go for a scenic hike with your family. Go to a museum or gallery. Check out tours on Viator or Airbnb to find new things to do in your city. If you approach your own backyard with the same curiosity as a foreign place, you don’t even have to get on a plane to have an adventure. 

18. Lose the “once-in-a-lifetime” mindset. 

mother and daughter in Rome.

It’s worth repeating. We’re in the golden age of travel, and international flights can often be had for just a few hundred dollars. Yet, people still often put off their dream trips because they want to wait until they can “do it right”—whether than means splashing out on a lavish hotel or going for more than two weeks. But since they can’t “do it right” at the moment, they don’t end up doing it at all. Forget about doing it right and focus on doing it now; it may not be the exact dream trip you envisioned, but it may turn out to be exactly what you wanted. 

19. Change how you define “travel.” 

Using every second of your allotted two-week vacation from work in one fell swoop to take an epic overseas adventure is fantastic, but if that’s the only thing you consider “traveling” then you’re only going to get one of those per year. When the word “travel” encompasses being anywhere that’s not home for any length of time, suddenly a world of possibilities opens up

20. Join Scott’s Cheap Flights.

We search dozens of websites, airlines, and OTAs to find the best deals and and when we find a deal departing from you home airport, we send an email with everything you need to know to book the deal. Our members save an average of $550 per ticket with deals like $98 roundtrip to Hawaii, $486 roundtrip to Tahiti, and $270 roundtrip to Barcelona

We search dozens of flight booking sites every day, so you don't have to. When we find an amazing deal departing from your airport, we let you know and tell you exactly where and how to book it—either directly with a reputable airline or on your favorite OTA. Our members save an average of $550 per ticket off average prices.

Last Updated 
December 26, 2019
20 Ways to Travel More—Even On a Small Budget
Jessica Spiegel
Freelance Writer

Jessica Spiegel is a freelance writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. She's an obsessive knitter and loves Italy, pho, Sazeracs, the Portland Timbers, and altruism.

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