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.
When my trip extends beyond 90 days, I buy a World Nomad’s policy, since True Traveller only serves UK and European (EEA) residents.
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.
Overpacking is definitely one I was guilty of in the past, but it took only a few trips to learn how much it wasn’t worth all the trouble involved. Bringing less stuff and thus having less stuff to worry about is sooo liberating.
I think that the biggest mistake I make of these is overpacking. Not really because of the luggage fees, but because I just don’t need all the crap I bring with me and it weighs me down. I never, ever leave on an international trip without my travelers insurance. It’s a must!
I’m almost converted to always-buying-travel-insurance! If the company (Berkshire Hathaway) I got a policy through recently for a trip to the Caribbean pays out (I expected maybe a hurricane, but had to rush to my grandmother’s bedside)… I’ll probably change my tune. Happy Travels, Paige!
Great list of tips – and very common mistakes I think a lot of people make – travel doesn’t have to cost you a fortune – I also jumped on the travel rewards / frequent flier bandwagon too late, but now swear by travel hacking – it’s a fantastic way to get a free upgrade or flight every now and then!
Interesting. I don’t know if I’d call some of these mistakes per se, like paying for flights/accommodations or staying at a hotel. Travel hacking to pay less or nothing is great, it just doesn’t follow that paying at all is a mistake. Same thing with hotels, AirBnB isn’t always available and sometimes you just want that anonymous touch a hotel provides. The rest are spot on, I’ve made some of them myself, like overplanning.
Hey Peter – hope I didn’t offend you! This site’s readers are often people who are very limited financially and really struggle to afford travel. So the “mistakes” are aimed at people really wanting to save money. Happy Travels to you, good sir 🙂
I love utilising Airbnb whenever I travel. Unless I’m in a place for only night or two, I prefer an Airbnb apartment. I like waking up in the morning and being able to cook breakfast and make coffee in my pyjamas, rather than throwing on some clothes and hitting a underwhelming breakfast buffet in a hotel lobby. Plus, you can get way more space for less.
Great information! I I love Airbnb and I always overpack (such a bad habit). Going to check out how you fly for free right now, I could use some pointers on that!
Hey! I checked out your blog… especially if you’re juggling your travel around a restricted time schedule, travel hacking (the free flights!) is so amazing. I hear you on the overpacking. If I’m just going to be somewhere a week or two, I overpack, too! It’s so hard not to. Fow what it’s worth, I think overpacking isn’t near as stressful for a shorter trip. It’s when you have to admit that you never used that ________ for the 34th time (on your 34th repack!) that really stings. Happy Travels, Sherianne!
Also – I have to say I love your site! It’s super well organized. I’m really enjoying cruising around checking everything out.
And – you probably saw already on the free-flights page, but with all your travel the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the starter card I’d recommend for you. All the airport lounge access (and I even got to take a nap in Atlanta at an affiliated facility there) is so worth it!
These are such good tips and a reminder that it’s easier than you think to save money on travel and to do with less than you think you need on a trip. I almost always overpack and, yes, it’s such a waste of time and space!
I always overplan, but I just can’t help it. I feel anxious if I don’t have things planned out ahead of me. But you’re right, it doesn’t allow flexibility and can lead to miss opportunities. I need to work on it!
If you feel like it would be an improvement, yay! Happy travels, Cat!
Great post!! We always stay in Airbnb’s and love them!
Hm, I make many of these ‘mistakes’. But actually I love doing some of them – like sleeping in hotel rooms (I have a thing for staying at hotels) or planning my trip into every details. Inspiring post, anyway.
I don’t mind hotels sometimes, and I definitely tend to plan a bit more on short trips! For long trips, I tend to research really heavily, but have been disappointed so many times by making decisions too far in advance. To each their own, hey?! Happy Travels, Renata! 🙂
These are all very useful tips! Until recent years I was always guilty of over packing, but now I’ve definitely learnt to streamline. And I agree about staying in hotels. The privacy is wonderful after a long, busy day of crowds and dealing with people, hehe.