5 Totally Out -Of-The-Box Tips To Travel On The Cheap From Someone About To Hit The Road For A Year

Brett Holzhauer
April 10, 2019

Travel can be incredibly expensive. According to Credit Donkey, the average cost of a vacation for Americans reaches $1,200 per person. Just because that’s the average, though, doesn’t mean that costs have to dig that deep.

I’ve always been an avid traveler, spending about 50 days on the road, but this year beginning in July my wife and I are set to spend an entire year traveling. Needless to say, keeping to some kind of a budget is crucial.

Here are five of my favorite out of the box ideas for keeping a travel budget down.

1. Get A Side Hustle With A Travel Brand

Side hustling in today’s economy can make the difference between managing your finances and crushing them. And there are a lot of added benefits to considering a travel related side hustle.

Brands like Hilton Hotels are hiring a number of people for work from home positions, and the job comes with their Team Member Discount program. In other words, you’ll end up saving a lot when you travel and stay at a Hilton family hotel.

Or if you live near an airport or airline call center, you might consider a part-time role. For instance, I live in Salt Lake City which is a hub for Delta, and many people work as “ready reserve” for easy side money – but more importantly, flight benefits!

The largest costs that come with traveling are flights and accommodations, so finding any way to knock these costs down can make a significant difference.

2. Share Your Time At A Timeshare Presentation

You are probably rolling your eyes already, but this is a very tactical strategy to save a ton on accommodations. For instance, I recently saved over $1,000 in Las Vegas by sitting in a Hilton presentation for two hours.

The timeshare industry is hurting. There is an incredible amount of data and horror stories out there showing how disastrous purchasing a timeshare is. Hotel brands like Hilton, IHG, Wyndham, and Marriott all have timeshare properties and have lucrative offers to bring people in to their presentations.

To date, I’ve completed two presentations: One from IHG (I earned a $200 voucher to Universal Studios in Orlando), and one from Hilton (which I discussed above).

While some may look at doing a timeshare presentation as a complete waste of time, I look at it as an opportunity to learn about new travel destinations.

As long as you can say the word “No” about 47 times, it is an easy way to save money on your travels for a small sacrifice.

Pro tip: Watch the clock. If they expect 90 minutes from you, don’t give them a minute longer. At my Hilton presentation, it was supposed to be two hours. As soon as it hit two hours and one minute, I simply said “My obligation for time is up and I have a lunch date with my wife. Thank you but I’m not interested.”

3. Book Something With A Kitchen And Hit The Grocery Store

Getting a hotel when you’re traveling is not only expensive, but it’s restrictive as well. A standard hotel room doesn’t include any way to prep food, forcing travelers to eat out for each meal. However, an Airbnb or a similar homesharing platform offers plenty of properties with kitchens.

A best practice for this is to get settled into your new space, and immediately take a trip to the grocery store. While I would never recommend eating in for every single meal (food is part of the experience of travel!), it is easy to sacrifice a few meals out to save money. Don’t get me started on the unfortunate weight gain you’ll probably experience from only eating out while traveling…

4. Ditch Your Suitcase

We are all guilty of packing clothes we’ll never wear for a trip. To add insult to injury, checked bag fees are on the rise for most airlines (think $50 or even $100 to check a single bag with some airlines).

Carry-ons are much more convenient and safer. After all, we’ve all heard the horror stories of airlines mistreating luggage, stealing items, or losing luggage altogether. Furthermore, you don’t have to get in line to check your bag or wait around that annoying carousel. Who has time for all of that?

My wife and I ditched our suitcases about two years ago for large Osprey backpacks. We find that we are packing less, saving time, and  most importantly saving money.

5. Going Overseas? Get Your Money Beforehand

One large mistake that most travelers have made at some point is getting foreign currency after landing at their destination. The currency exchange market is extremely lucrative, and these businesses are intentionally giving you poor exchange rates.

There are a few ways to avoid this:

  • Get a credit card with zero foreign transaction fees. The credit card company will do the currency rates for you and will charge you nothing for it.
  • Open an account at a local credit union. Many times, they will offer great exchange rates on foreign currencies. You will get more bang for your buck and it is one less thing you need to do while traveling.

Bottom Line

Is this the golden age of travel? I argue, absolutely yes. In the 1950s, a one way flight from LAX to JFK was nearly $900 (adjusted for inflation). Now, you can get that same ticket round-trip for roughly $300. With the expansion of companies like Lyft, Uber, Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO among others – travel is the cheapest and most accessible it has been in history.

If you can adopt even one of these fives tips, you will be on a plane in no time on your way to wanderlust for much less than expected!

Brett Holzhauer is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University. He enjoy writing about personal finance, travel, and credit card rewards. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife, eating questionable Mexican food, and watching college football.

Feature Illustration: Laura Caseley For The Money Manual