Over my last 12 years of full-time travel, I’ve tried every cheap travel trick out there, from sleeping on airport floors and in cheap hostel dorms to eating dry macaroni for dinner (I only did that once). But few typical budget travel hacks stuck for me and my champagne tastes.
Over time, I learned how to travel in style for a fraction of the price. This is thanks, in large part, to two cheap travel secrets that you won’t likely read about elsewhere; cheap travel tips that can transform your travel budget — and your trip.
Get Off the Beaten Path
To make the best use of these tips — and to curate your own cheap travel techniques — it’s time to think outside the box.
Getting “off the beaten path” is a traveler’s cliché, yet few are prepared to follow through. They want travel experiences that aren’t overpriced and riddled with tourists, but that remain easily accessible, complete with clean washrooms at the entrance. The challenge for intrepid travelers is that, generally, if you want a truly local experience, “off the beaten path” means there is no path.
Once you accept this contrarian approach to travel, you can start saving money with my travel tips.
More on Travel Savings: 50 Easy Ways to Save Money on Travel
Cheap Travel Secret No. 1: Go Rural or Scale Down
Cities are built for spending money. From lattes to new outfits, cities inherently urge you to spend, spend, spend. On the positive side, they’re accessible, easy to get around and a hotbed for art, history, museums and more. If you need the buzz of a city, consider visiting smaller cities. Instead of London, try York. Bypass Bangkok for Chiang Mai. While there are still plenty of spending opportunities, smaller cities are generally less expensive, and sometimes even a more authentic cultural experience.
Want to go all the way? Get out of the city entirely. While staying in a quaint mountainside Bulgarian villa, popping out to Starbucks isn’t feasible. Instead, maybe your Bulgarian hosts will make you a homestyle coffee — and it could become your new favorite way to drink coffee. This happened to me in Vietnam, and now no other coffee compares.
I started my full-time travel career as a city slicker, through and through. Now, however, I vastly prefer rural areas. Staying rural has offered the greatest opportunities to meet locals, experience country hospitality, and truly unwind and relax. Some of my nicest rural accommodations have come from volunteering and housesitting — which also saved me tons of money because I was getting my accommodations for free.
Learn More: Save Money on Travel by Living Like a Local
Cheap Travel Secret No. 2: Supermarkets
While preparing your own meals is a money-saving travel tip, this isn’t why I recommend visiting supermarkets. Have you considered the cultural and educational value of visiting supermarkets in and of themselves? It’s actually my favorite thing to do abroad because it gives me the best insight into my destination.
I can spend hours browsing the aisles, studying what’s for sale, who is shopping, how much things cost and how to buy things. What’s the popular snack food? How are things packaged? You’ll learn so much by lurking in the supermarket. Not convinced? Check out what I saw in Tokyo’s supermarkets.
Supermarkets are also great places to shop for souvenirs and gifts. Rather than a fridge magnet or a tacky T-shirt, why not bring home a unique staple, candy or snack food from your destination? It’ll be a better conversation piece, stands a greater chance of actually being used and enjoyed, and will most certainly save you money.
Even if these two tips aren’t your thing, they will hopefully inspire you to approach your travels unconventionally and to carve out your own unique (budget) travel style. Happy travels!
Click through to read tips to save money on travel necessities.
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