22 Tips for Traveling Abroad on a Budget This Summer

By   

View as:

person with arms out at the city
Photo credit: oscarhdez/istockphoto

DUST OFF THAT PASSPORT

For those planning a trip abroad, there's a lot to consider, from getting the best deal on a flight to finding a cheap place to stay and identifying affordable ground transportation. The good news is there are plenty of ways to keep costs to a minimum while globetrotting.

Louis DeNicola contributed to this story.

two happy young women on trip together
Photo credit: Ann Haritonenko/shutterstock

LET PRICES DICTATE YOUR DESTINATION

If you have a flexible schedule and an adventurous spirit, find good travel deals by leaving your destination open. Recent finds on The Flight Deal, which curates inexpensive airfares, include a $417 round trip between San Francisco and Hong Kong and a $324 round trip between Boston and Costa Rica. Last-minute travel packages that include flights and hotel rooms can also be found by checking large travel websites, airline websites, and specialty sites such as Cheap Caribbean.
empty airplane seats
Photo credit: Kritchanut/shutterstock

FLY FOR FREE

Airline miles come in handy when booking overseas travel. Follow The Points Guy and the frequent flyer blog network Boarding Area to learn how to earn points and miles quickly with credit cards, and how to use them effectively.
blonde smiling volunteer picking up trash on the beach on a sunny day
Photo credit: wavebreakmedia/shutterstock

RAISE MONEY TO DO SERVICE WORK

Most volunteer vacations require you to pay your own airfare, but you can raise money from local organizations, friends, and family to cover costs. Consider using Kickstarter or other crowdfunding sites to share your story and what you want to accomplish on the trip, or approaching the Lions Club or Rotary Club for sponsorship.

BUY 2 ONE-WAY AIRLINE TICKETS

Airlines don't want you to know that buying two one-way tickets rather than a round-trip fare can be much cheaper, says Rishi Kapoor, founder and CEO of Nanak Flights, a budget flight search engine. "Only a few consumers know this trick of saving big money by buying separate one-way tickets," Kapoor says. "My only advice is to be careful on the cancellation penalty in case you want to cancel your tickets, as you will be paying a fee for each airline."
selfie with a group of friends on vacation
Photo credit: SolStock/istockphoto

JOIN FREE WALKING TOURS

Free walking tours have proliferated in cities worldwide, with countless small entrepreneurs and start-up websites getting in on the action. Adriana Smith, founder of Travepreneur, a resource for new travelers, suggests checking out Free Tours By Foot, a platform that connects travelers with licensed freelance tour guides who lead tours for no upfront cost. Participants decide what the tour was worth and pay or tip what they want.
Using an ATM
Photo credit: ilkaydede/istockphoto

AVOID FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEES

Many credit cards charge an extra 1 to 3 percent on every purchase made in a foreign currency. Avoid it by using a card with no foreign transaction fee. There are many to choose from, including some from Capital One, Chase, Discover, and others that also have no annual fee.
Ryanair taking off
Photo credit: Senohrabek/shutterstock

USE BUDGET AIRLINES

Budget airlines such as Ryanair, EasyJet, and Wow Air can get you from place to place at steep discounts. While some have fees for everything from paying with a credit card to bringing luggage over a certain weight, often they are still cheaper than other means of transportation. Skyscanner and WhichBudget are popular travel search engines that can help find flights on budget airlines.
happy couple enjyoing their vacation on spanish finca
Photo credit: amriphoto/istockphoto

SWAP HOUSES OR HOUSE SIT

Homeowners who have a single destination in mind and live in a tourist destination can house swap. It can be tricky to make dates work for both parties, but the potential savings are tremendous. Love Home Swap and HomeExchange help facilitate.
woman talking to a travel agent
Photo credit: vadimguzhva/istockphoto

ASK TRAVEL AGENCIES FOR UNPUBLISHED FARES

Another insider tip from Kapoor of Nanak Flights: Travel agencies typically have access to airfares that average consumers do not. "Airlines give special retail fares to travel agents only to be sold on the phone," Kapoor says. "These are the cheapest fares, and you will not find these fares online. So try calling a travel agency for airfare and you can easily save up to $100 per airline ticket."
two young backpackers at hostel
Photo credit: Rawpixel/istockphoto

STAY IN HOSTELS

Popular with younger travelers, inexpensive hostels can be found in just about every major travel destination. Many include breakfast or have a kitchen where you can make your own meals. Although the dorm-room setting won't appeal to everyone, it is conducive to making friends on the road, and private rooms are sometimes available for travelers who want their own space. Hostelworld and Hostels.com have listings from around the globe.
man on web surfing on the couch with a smile
Photo credit: alvarez/istockphoto

STAY FOR FREE

All around the world there are people willing to host guests for free. Couchsurfing is the most popular online exchange for free lodging; Global Freeloaders is another option. The website Staydu offers a variation on the concept, listing lodging options that require help around the house or a small fee. To stick with the spirit of such arrangements, consider opening your house to guests when you return home.
man on laptop and cell in city cafe
Photo credit: DuxX/istockphoto

AVOID ROAMING FEES

Making calls or using data while overseas can get expensive quickly. Depending on where you're traveling, you may be able to buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card and get cheaper local service, but this works only with an unlocked GSM phone. If not, the large providers offer temporary vacation packages; some T-Mobile plans include roaming in 140 countries. VoIP apps such as Viber and WhatsApp allow calling as well as messaging over the internet. Skype $14 a month for unlimited web calls to mobile phones and landlines in 63 destinations.
starfish on a doctors office
Photo credit: nito100/istockphoto

GET TRAVEL HEALTH INSURANCE

Most health insurance plans provide limited coverage overseas. A medical emergency is a sure way to bring your trip to a halt, but don't let it lead to a financial crisis as well. The comparison site TravelInsurance.com makes it easy to check prices from well-known providers such as AIG and Allianz.
mother and daughter visiting city of Florence
Photo credit: Imgorthand/istockphoto

TRAVEL DURING SHOULDER SEASON

Shoulder season travel (otherwise known as off-peak travel) is almost always less expensive. "You can save money on a flight regardless of where you live if you opt to travel during the off-peak season," said Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing for Dealnews. "Typically January, February, and March are the cheapest times of year for much of Europe, for example." The trick is to find a happy medium for travel dates and the weather. Shoulder season typically offers moderate temperatures and lower-than-usual prices.
buses on the Westminster bridge, London
Photo credit: johnkellerman/istockphoto

USE BUSES TO GET AROUND

Particularly in Europe, where distances between destinations are relatively short, traveling by bus can be a budget-friendly option. "Bus fare is just a fraction of what a plane ticket costs, and bus stations are normally located in the center of the city, saving you even more money on taxi fares when compared to airports that are typically on a city's outskirts," said Staffo Dobrev, of Wanderu, a search engine that consolidates bus ticket information for more than 10,000 destinations in North America and Europe.
happy traveler woman
Photo credit: Dragon Images/shutterstock

ASK ABOUT AAA DISCOUNTS

People are often surprised by how many places offer discounts to AAA members, travel blogger Jme Thomas says. The company offers specially negotiated AAA member rates at hotels in Canada and Mexico (as well as the United States), and car rental discounts and auto services through partnerships with auto clubs around the world. You can work directly with AAA travel agents to book discount vacations.
African young woman having appetizer in sidewalk cafe
Photo credit: LaraBelova/istockphoto

EAT LIKE A LOCAL

Food is easily one of the biggest travel expenses. Save by looking for off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods and eat at restaurants locals frequent, says Nicolas Desolino, founder of Get Local Travel. "This will give you a cheaper and also a more authentic experience." Not sure where those neighborhoods are? You can nearly always find affordable and lively places near universities, Desolino says.
friends prepare and serve food for dinner party at home together
Photo credit: monkeybusinessimages/istockphoto

COOK FOR YOURSELF

Booking an Airbnb or other vacation rental can cut lodging expenses but also help defray food costs if there's a kitchen, says Lindsay Sakraida, of Dealnews. "Eat breakfast in the apartment and make a lunch to eat while you're out," she says. "The benefit to making your own lunch, too, is that it doesn't interrupt your day, and you can focus on having a leisurely dinner after sightseeing."
woman backpacker at check in baggage at airport terminal
Photo credit: Weedezign/istockphoto

CONSIDER ALTERNATE AIRPORTS

Choosing an airport outside a departure or destination city can cut the cost of airfare, says Aaron Deutsch, founder of Plane to Train, a site focused on travel using budget transportation such as trains, buses, taxis, and rideshares. When searching for flights, be sure to select "All Airports" when flying to or from a large city such as Paris or New York, not just a major international airport like Charles de Gaulle or JFK. Most search engines also let you check a box to "include nearby airports."
St. Martin/St. Maarten
Photo credit: SeanPavonePhoto/istockphoto

VISIT LESS POPULAR DESTINATIONS

Selecting lesser-known places not only saves money in most cases but also may provide a unique and more authentic travel opportunity. Some of 2018's most budget-friendly destinations include Albufeira, Portugal, Zanzibar, Uzbekistan, St. Martin, and the Cook Islands.
euro and dollars currency
Photo credit: Maryna Pleshkun/shutterstock

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF CURRENCY FLUCTUATIONS

The dollar is still fairly strong, and American travelers can get good exchange rates at plenty of tempting locations worldwide, including South Africa, Norway, Indonesia, and India, according to Travel & Leisure.
Statue of Liberty Eiffel Tower Leaning Pisa and London Bridge
Photo credit: PeskyMonkey/istockphoto

SKIP SOUVENIRS

Traditional souvenirs can be inauthentic and expensive at major tourist spots. STA Travel, billed as the world’s largest student and youth travel company, suggests saving money by passing them up in favor of unique, local experiences that will make for good photos, create lasting memories, and feel more personal.

Cheapism.com participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product through a link on our site. This helps support our work and does not influence editorial content.