I love to travel but I'm working on a college student budget. I work part-time and I'm lucky that my parents are helping me out with the costs of college, but I don't rely on them for everything. I'm hoping that in my 20s, I will be able to go on more vacations since I will be graduating college soon and I will be able to make more money from working full time. For the time being, I try to make the best of what I have and try to find ways to save money on traveling. Here are some tips for traveling on a budget.
Book a hotel outside of the city
Staying inside of major cities is always a great experience, but you can find a hotel for half the price that's right up the road. When I recently went to Washington D.C., we looked into hotels both in the center of the city and right outside of the city. We ended up staying in a nice hotel in Arlington, VA. It was only a 10-minute drive from the center of the city, and with the amount we saved from booking a hotel just outside the city, we were able to stay an extra night. Parking costs were also a lot cheaper in Arlington than in the D.C. hotels. If you're driving to your destination, this is usually the easier more cost-effective way to go but even if you're flying, Uber can be a cheap resource to get you where you need to go.
Look into Airbnb
Airbnb is another great option for those who want more space or don't mind skipping the hotel. Airbnb can offer a more unique experience for a better price than most hotels.
This will allow you to spend less money on soft pretzels and will allow your budget for more experienced-based tourism. You'll also find you save a lot of time by not waiting on long lines for food.
Turn a flight into a road trip if you have the time
Sometimes it's just fun to be on the road. It's also less expensive to drive and you won't have to worry about renting a car or using Uber.
Take advantage of the free coffee and breakfast at the hotel
If you're staying in a hotel that offers a complimentary breakfast, this can be an easy and convenient way to save food/coffee money. Make sure to double-check the hours and location that they offer breakfast when you check-in.
Ask for experiences as gifts instead of items
Lately, I've been asking for vacations from my parents instead of gifts. Last year for my birthday I stayed at The Paramount (my fave hotel, like, ever. It's so close to Times Square.) Then this Christmas I asked for a Disney trip and I wasn't disappointed one bit. I'll take an amazing experience over a new pair of shoes any day.
Take time to be a tourist in the cities close to home
Being a tourist in your hometown can open you up to amazing learning experiences. You'll have a newfound appreciation for your own city. On days when you can't afford a hotel, check out some of your local museums and tourist spots. I'm lucky to live close to New York City and the Hamptons, two popular tourist destinations. I would also like to visit upstate New York or New Jersey for a one/two-night mini-vacation soon since it's so close to home. Even if you don't live in a huge metro area, you can still find new things to do in your own neighborhood.
If flying is a million times more convenient, shop flights
This could make a huge difference. Flight prices fluctuate like crazy. Google has a feature where you can track flights and they will update you on the costs of flights. I would suggest doing that before you commit to a flight.
If you're going to fly, pack light
Trust me, I struggle with overpacking, but it's worth it to bring less. Do you really need to bring five hair products and six pairs of shoes for seven days? Not necessarily, just prioritize what you're really not going to live without. Airlines charge a lot of money for extra bags so being very selective when choosing what you want to bring can help save you a lot of dough. I've seen certain circumstances where the costs of the airplane ticket were less than the cost of a carry on bag.
Rent a bike instead of a car
Obviously this only works for certain destinations, but there are many places you can visit that are bike-friendly. If you're staying in a city such as NYC or Boston, this is probably your best bet as traffic and parking expenses can get quite expensive.
Stop spending money on things and start spending money on experiences, trust me you'll be a lot happier
If you really want to spark joy, fill your house with photos and memories instead of items that you don't really need.