Most people dream of traveling the world, but just as many are put off by the cost and time investment it requires. But for savvy travel hackers, there are always ways to save money on transportation, accommodations, food and beverages by planning ahead, taking advantage of deals and being flexible with your preferences. At the end of the day, any destination can be made more affordable if you’re willing to make tweaks to your travel plans as you go.
Click through to discover how you can save money on last-minute travel while vacationing at hot spots.
Hawaii is typically reserved for special occasion vacations such as weddings and honeymoons because it’s considered a splurge trip. But for savvy travelers, there are always ways to cut corners. Get a Go Oahu card, which lets you save up to 55 percent on popular tours and activities around the island. Over 30 attractions are included, including dolphin encounters and waterfall hikes. Various card options are available for one- to seven-day tours starting at $69. To save on lodging costs, you can actually camp in any of Hawaii’s 53 state parks for as little as $18 per night (supplying your own gear and tent, of course). A-frames and cabin rentals are also available for $50 and $90 a night, respectively.
Audrey Hepburn said, “Paris is always a good idea,” which might even mean visiting in the offseason. Excluding major holidays and Paris Fashion week, which is the last week in February, the cheapest time to save on plane tickets and hotels in Europe is November through March. If you’re flexible on travel dates, you can search for cheap airfare by month on Skyscanner to see when the most affordable day to depart is.
If you really want to be flexible with accommodations, who says you even need to sleep on land? Sailweek Croatia is a great way to island hop while eliminating separate lodging, food and transportation costs. You’ll get accommodations on a yacht, breakfast and lunch, free WiFi and an epic trip — starting at less than $120 per day. It also provides snorkeling equipment and a stand-up paddleboard so you can spend time exploring on land and underwater. You’ll also be able to enjoy the area’s free attractions such as national parks and the walled city better known as King’s Landing, which was the main filming location for “Game of Thrones.”
While Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail are undoubtedly Peru’s biggest draws, they require serious planning. Only 500 trail permits are granted per day to official government-licensed guides, and tour groups typically cost an average of $620 to $700 for four days of basic service. If you’re open to other options, there are plenty of other incredible hikes for a fraction of the price. Hiking on Rainbow Mountain costs just $50; Humantay Lake is just $42; and a hike in Urubamba in the Sacred Valley costs as little as $76.
Once you get over the initial shell shock of the cost of flights to Asia, most of the in-country experiences in Thailand can be had for cents on the dollar. One way to curb the spending is to skip the booze. Alcoholic beverages in Thailand are pricier than airport transportation, river ferries, kayaking, snorkeling and even pedicures. You can even find a hostel for less than the cost of one day of drinking, according to Budget Your Trip.
Zanzibar sounds remote and luxurious, but if you do your homework, it can be done affordably. Ferries from mainland Tanzania are just $35, which are cheaper than flights, and there are beautiful beachfront Airbnb rentals starting at just $25 per night. When searching accommodations for trips, be sure to compare all options — hotels, home rentals and hostels with private rooms — to get the most bang for your buck.
Safaris aren’t usually synonymous with discounted travel deals, but wildlife experiences don’t need to break the bank. There are 20 national parks in South Africa that are much cheaper than privately owned and operated safari tours. Plan a visit to Kruger, which is home to several parks that house the Big Five — lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, elephants and Cape buffalo. To enter, you just need to pay the daily conservation fee of $28. You can camp in the park for less than $25 per night during the shoulder seasons (January through March and November through May), renting a hut from $33 or a safari tent starting at $50. That means your daily costs could easily be less than $100 a day.
To save money in Greece, you just need to head away from the main tourist hot spots. Mykonos, Santorini and Athens are well-known, but with over 200 inhabited islands, there’s no shortage of places to fall off the grid for some sun and fun. Serifos is a good choice with whitewashed houses and rocky hiking outcrops. Hotels start at just $29 per night. Leros is another good option with beautiful beaches and low-key apartments renting for around $34 per night.
Generally an expensive country, there are ways to save money on travel to Japan — especially now that the exchange rate is more favorable. Invest in a Japanese Rail Pass, which starts at just $274 for 7, 14 or 21 days. While this may sound steep, it definitely pays for itself when you realize just a one-way fare from Tokyo to Kyoto is $128. You can also use the pass for most of the JR Group’s bullet trains, a few railways, the Tokyo Monorail and some local buses instead of purchasing metro cards separately.
Getting to Iceland is cheap, as discount carriers such as Wow Air offer flights as low as $100 from a handful of major U.S. cities. But once you get there, it’s a different story. Like most islands, everything has to be imported, and goods and foods are subject to very high import taxes. Since a meal at McDonald’s costs almost $15, skip dining out as much as possible. Shop at the local supermarket instead, and cook your own meals. You can even score a bottle of beer from the grocery store for less than $4, which would cost you almost $11 at a restaurant.
Patagonia is a huge region spanning parts of Chile and Argentina. Its far southern reaches, vast deserts and mountainous areas make it difficult to get to and expensive to travel around — especially if you try to see it all. It’s cheaper to focus on just one of the regions, as transportation via long-distance buses, cars and flights can cost up to $515. Consider all your options for getting around, from different airport combinations to different modes of transportation. If you plan on camping or trekking, rent gear locally instead of investing in expensive equipment and paying hefty luggage fees to take it with you.
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While primarily thought of as a luxury destination, Bali can certainly be done on a budget. Transportation is one of the areas where you can save the most, as renting a motorbike for a day is often cheaper than a one-way cab ride. It’s the perfect place to get comfortable on the back of a bike, which costs just $4 per day and even less for a weekly rental. You can also eat on the cheap by going outside the resorts and frequenting the small roadside food stalls known as warungs.
California Wine Country
Sometimes finding amazing vacation packages is just a matter of looking beyond the well-known tourist destinations. California has more than 130 wine regions, but only a few such as Sonoma and Napa routinely steal the spotlight. Instead, explore lesser-known regions such as Livermore Valley on the Central Coast — a true off-the-beaten-path gem. Hotels are also cheaper, and since it’s a smaller city, you can get around using the public BART bus system or via bikes, saving on those pricey Ubers or wine trolleys.
If you’re looking for a ski getaway that won’t break the bank, Tahoe is it. A shuttle from the airport will set you back less than $30 each way, which is cheaper than rental cars that start at $69 per day. You can even ski for free the day you land at most Lake Tahoe resorts by simply showing your boarding pass, and transportation around the area is cheap via bus or bike.
If you’re looking for an island getaway, prices are especially affordable in Puerto Rico right now. Flights from most eastern states currently cost less than $250. As of December 2017, over 65 percent of the island’s power has been restored after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, and most of the hotels are operational. You can also sleep well knowing you’re contributing to the post-hurricane rebuilding process and offering economic support to a nation in need.
Click through to find out which countries you can visit on $50 a day or less.