Calling all budget travel tip seekers! We all want to know how to travel for cheap, and even better if we can figure out how to travel for free, right? Whether you’re gathering information on how to travel the world or just trying to learn how to travel on a budget, here are eight travel mistakes to avoid:
1. Paying to fly.
Don’t be me. For years I thought I was too poor and flew too infrequently to get anything out of frequent flyer miles. Since I finally started travel hacking, I’ve flown 12 out of 13 times for $11.20 or less. You can get free flights, too!
2. Paying for accommodation.
I don’t always sleep for free. But the times that I do are almost always more fun, interesting, and memorable. My favorite sleep-for-free methods are house sitting and work-exchanging, but they aren’t the only way. Here are 10 ways to sleep for free when you travel.
If you need to camp and can’t find a free spot, this friend referral link for HipCamp — like AirBnb for camping — will cut your cost by $20.
3. Staying in hotels.
If you’re going to pay for a place to sleep, wouldn’t you rather wake up in ‘your own bed’ on vacation? Wouldn’t your rather eat breakfast in your pajamas? Wouldn’t you love to have a full kitchen at your disposal? Wouldn’t you rather walk out your front door into the big wide world instead of a hotel hallway? Wouldn’t you rather not listen to the neighbors or their kids until 3 a.m.?
You can have all those things. You can rent a an entire house for the price of a hotel room with AirBnb. If you’re a first timer, my friend-referral link gets you $40 off your first stay!
Here’s an AirBnb overview.
Everyone has their own comfort-zone when it comes to how much planning you should do for a trip. Planning too much, however, can cost you extra money. How? Let’s say you’ve booked tickets for a museum, show, or site for every day of your trip. But then you get sick. Or just tired. You either forfeit the cash or drag yourself around to things you don’t really feel like doing.
Planning too much can cost you awesome opportunities, too. I’ve explained before why world travelers shouldn’t buy Round-the-World tickets. Even if you’re just going on a short trip, the go-with-the-flow rhetoric still applies. Only plan the things you’d be absolutely heartbroken to miss. Fill the rest of your time with magical experiences that can’t be planned!
When you’re on a trip, it’s easy to feel like you owe it to yourself – like you deserve – to overindulge. But a night out at the bar with three beers is just as much fun as a night out with thirteen. Dinner at a funky restaurant is just as good without the appetizer and dessert.
Set yourself a daily spending limit. If you don’t feel like keeping track, there are apps to do it for you. Or just go cash-only. Give yourself an allowance every morning and only spend what’s in your wallet. (Although the cash method means you won’t be racking up free flights!)
If you think setting a spending limit sounds uncomfortable and not fun, consider getting a handle on your financial habits.
6. Paying more because you paid less.
Let’s say you didn’t get it together to fly for free. Instead you found really cheap flights using Skyscanner like this. But you go so excited buying tickets that you picked the rock bottom flight. It was $20 cheaper than the second cheapest flight!
But you didn’t consider that your flights require you to be to the airport well before public transit starts running. Or they get in later than public transit runs. Suddenly you’ve just spent that $20 saved on cab fare. But there’s more! You also didn’t notice the eight hour layover, which means you now have to buy expensive airport food. Unless you had space in your already-brimming carry-on for snacks? When you arrive, you’re so tired that you end up skipping the hostel and springing for a hotel room (because all the good AirBnbs were taken!)
Like I say in my novice travel tips – know when to spend more!
Not only could you end up paying checked luggage fees, but as I told U.S. News – overfilling your bag is a mental drain just begging to be self-medicated with extra sleep, shopping, food, booze… whatever your go-to is when you’re exhausted.
If you’re staying in more than one place on your trip, packing and unpacking all that stuff robs you of precious vacation hours. Having a big bag can attract thieves. And sometimes public transit will charge you for carrying on too much luggage.
Here’s what I take when I travel the world long term. You’ll need even less on a short trip.
8. Forgetting travel insurance.
Despite loathing insurance, I still recommend not risking your financial life or the financial lives of your loved ones. Read Travel Insurance 101: Do You Need It? for the basics.
It’s likely your policy at home won’t cover you when you travel. For short trips, I usually find an affordable basic policy (e.g. $50 for six weeks in Australia) via Insure My Trip – a policy comparison site.
That’s it! May you avoid all the travel mistakes on your next trip. And if you have any tips of your own, please add them in the comments!
Bonus Mistakes-Not-To-Make material:
1) Don’t climb mountains in thunderstorms.
2) Be afraid when your volcano guide is afraid.
3) Be patient with your eardrums underwater.
4) Don’t jump off the top of jeep taxis.
5) Save yourself thousands of heartbeats: just buy a new towel.
6) Don’t get on a ferry in the wake of a hurricane.
7) When you parents visit you in Bali, don’t try to kill them.