Budgeting 201
June 17, 2022

21 Tips for the Cheapest Ways to Travel on a Budget

According to a NerdWallet survey earlier this year, Americans plan to take two leisure trips in 2022. If you’re like the majority of Americans, you enjoy traveling and plan on doing so at least once a year if you get the chance. 

Unfortunately, travel isn't cheap. Usually, you can count on paying for transportation, lodging, food, and entertainment and all of that can add up — big time. In fact, the average cost for one person for a one-week vacation is $1,558. Multiply that by however many people you want to take a trip with and, well, that can turn into quite a huge sum of money.

If that news makes you want to push vacations out of your mind forever — don't fret. The good news is, that there are plenty of ways to travel on a budget. These 21 tips for the cheapest way to travel can help you start planning for your next destination asap. 

Transportation on a Budget

First thing's first. How will you arrive at your destination? You can take a car, a plane, a boat, or even a train — but which is the best mode of transportation for your budget travel? 

Flying on a Budget

In general, for a longer trip, flying is the quickest point from A to B. But the cost of flying is expensive, especially when the cost of gas is high. There are several tricks for how to travel cheap when it comes to flying. 

  1. The first trick is to get savvy when it comes to searching for flights on the internet. There are many cost-comparison tools you can use to quickly scan the best deal for your flight. Google flights allows you to search a grid by date to find the cheapest days to fly in and out of your destination. Or, if you're feeling spontaneous, you can click on their "Explore" tab to see good deals to various destinations in the U.S. and abroad going on right now. Kayak and Expedia are two other popular search tools that can help narrow down your flight search for the option that fits your budget travel needs. 
  2. Another way to watch for inexpensive flights is to sign up to receive notifications when deals for your destination occur. Once you sign up for their emails, Cheap Flights will bring deals directly to your inbox. You can also try an app like Hopper that predicts price changes in-flight fees and can tell you whether to buy or wait. You can also open the app at any time to see current rates on flights and compare. 
  3. You can go the airline mile route. If you fly a certain airline often enough (and have signed up for their miles program), you can accumulate these miles and cash them in for free or discounted airline flights. Another way to rack up miles is to use a travel credit card or airline credit card that offers additional miles on other purchases. 

Driving on a Budget

Driving is a relatively inexpensive way to get to your vacation destination. So long as there are roads (and you have valid passports), you can drive to just about anywhere. 

  1. Before you take off on a grand road trip adventure, make sure your vehicle is going to be able to make the trip. Take care of any regular maintenance issues you've been avoiding, get a tune-up if needed, make sure the tires are inflated properly, etc. Nothing derails a "cheap trip" like an expensive car repair in an unfamiliar town.
  2. Use a map and stick to it. Whether you use an app on your phone to get to your destination or you go old school and get a map print-out at AAA (or a mixture of both), a map can get you to your vacation going the fastest route, saving you gas. Apps can also point out gas stations, food stops, and other interesting destinations along your route so you don't have to go out of your way to find the things you need. 
  3. If you're driving and you have room, consider bringing food and drinks and other items you might need when you reach your destination. Grocery stores always tend to be more expensive at touristy destinations. 

Cruises on a Budget

Let's just assume that if you're taking a boat on vacation, it'll more than likely be a cruise ship. Cruising can be one of the cheapest ways to travel — but only if you know-how.

  1. Be flexible with your timing. Avoid high traffic times (summer, spring break, winter) and consider going in the off-season.
  2. Unlike airlines, you don't have to spend a ton of time searching sites for good cruise deals, as cruises have "specials" all the time and there isn't going to be a ton of difference for a cruise on one site versus another. If you see a deal you like and it fits your budget, go for it. If you do book a cruise and find out a few weeks or months later that that same cruise is being sold for a cheaper price, you can call the cruise line and see if they'll make up the difference.
  3. To save more money, you can let the cruise line pick your cabin. Keep in mind this is a coin toss: Although you could get a bottom deck cabin, the cabin they'll choose for you will more than likely be perfectly acceptable. 

Train Rides on a Budget

While it's true there aren't a ton of passenger trains left in the United States, Amtrak does operate more than 500 trips around the country. Trains may actually be old-school in the states, but consider the fact that on a train, there's no need to worry about navigating your way to your destination, nor will you have to stop for gas or food. Everything you'll need is already on the train (even sleeping compartments in some cases). Train travel can be a budget travel option too if you know how to book.

  1. Train prices don't go up and down like airline flights. To get a good deal, it's best to book as far in advance as you can. If you're traveling overnight, consider booking a sleeping car, which can book up as far out as 11 months in advance. You can also search for discounts for seniors, active military, kids, and groups.
  2. Pick a starting and ending point on your train travel that is easily accessible by car (or a cheap flight). You'll have to consider how to get to and from your train trip as well as the train ride itself.
  3. Choosing to sit in coach vs. business class or first class will save even more money. 

Lodging on a Budget

Thereare many options for lodging, but the most typical options include a hotel, an Airbnb, camping, or staying with others. With a little research and knowledge of how to travel cheap, you can save money on these housing options.

  1. Again, much like flights, pricing for hotels can vary widely. However, many of the apps and websites you use to find deals on airlines will also show you deals for hotels (and can also bundle those two things together for a deal, too). Other websites to search for cheap hotel prices include Trivalgo and Priceline. You can also redeem hotel points for free hotel stays within some hotel rewards programs or credit cards.
  2. You can get great deals on Airbnb if you can wait till the last minute to book a place to stay at your destination or go during off-peak times. Oftentimes, lodging owners just want to fill up odd weeks they have empty and will negotiate for a lower price (you might have to ask though). Along that same vein, longer stays at Airbnbs can also get you discounts because the owners don't have to pay for cleaning or laundry in between guest stays.
  3. Camping is one of the most budget-friendly lodging options. There are campsites all over the country — and the average cost per night for tent camping is about $30 a night, whereas RV campsites can cost upwards of $50 per night. Bring your own gear (or borrow some), your own food, and your own linens and you've got yourself a budget-friendly place to stay! Staying with someone you know is the cheapest way to travel. If you know someone who lives in a vacation destination spot or somewhere you've never been, consider asking them if you can stay for a while. 

Eating on a Budget

Unavoidably, you have to eat while you're vacationing. But that doesn't mean you have to dine out at five-star restaurants for every meal. With a little ingenuity, you can eat on the cheap. 

  1. Bringing your own food is the easiest option if you have access to a kitchen, especially if you are driving to your destination. Bring as much as you can from home and hit the grocery for whatever provisions you still need for the week.
     
  2. Eating out for all meals isn't the favored option, but it's sometimes necessary, especially if where you are staying doesn't have a kitchen or you are flying and can't bring food. Decide ahead of time where you want to eat by looking at menus online for restaurants that are fairly priced. Consider eating brunch every day and save a meal. A lot of touristy restaurants will offer coupons or discount specials some nights of the week. To save even more money, consider being extra healthy and only drink water by skipping sugary sodas and alcoholic beverages!

Entertainment on a Budget

When you're thinking of how to travel cheap, spending lots on entertaining yourselves probably doesn't make the list. But with a little ingenuity and creativity, you'll find it's easier than you think to keep yourself busy and have fun on vacation by spending little to no money.

  1. If you're headed for the beach, a lake, the mountains, or another scenic place with lots to do, consider that your entertainment is covered. No need to pay for putt-putt when there's a whole ocean to play in. Hit up the area's parks or just wander on foot with no place to go and see where the day takes you.
  2. Check out the calendar of events where you are staying ahead of time. A lot of
    destinations will have live music or free concerts at bars or on patios or in parks.
    Look for other free entertainment options like museums or other attractions. Some local libraries even let you "check out" tickets to goings-on around certain cities.
  3. You can make your own fun by:
    • Going on a scavenger hunt
    • Recreating a photo
    • Playing an outdoor game or cards
    • Go to the library and read up on the town you're in
    • Talk to a local
    • Visit area festivals. 

If that vacation still seems out of reach, consider applying for an installment loan with Check `n Go. 

Installment loans are a kind of loan in which borrowers get the opportunity to pay the loan back over time. For example, say you needed $1,000 for a vacation. You could borrow the money as an installment loan, then pay it back in increments throughout a set amount of time or in a lump sum. Installment loans can come in higher loan amounts than other types of loans and have longer terms. 

Even if you have bad credit, installment loans can help – so long as you pay back your loan on time and at the agreed-upon payment amount. Installment loans may help bad credit by adding another type of credit to your credit mix and showing your creditors that you are capable of being a trustworthy lendee. 

Check `n Go is here when you need us and can help you make your vacation dreams a reality! For more information on installment loans, head here.