I’m going on an adventure for two weeks in Nepal this summer. I want to climb up to 17k feet at Mount Everest Base Camp, trek through the Annapurna region, and visit remote villages where there is no electricity.
It sounds incredible, and I know that I would have a blast doing all of those things. But it was not cheap. The flights alone will be over $1,000 each way. My planned budget? $3,500.
But what if I could actually afford to go without spending any money? What if I could find ways to cut costs without sacrificing my enjoyment level? That’s exactly what I’m going to try to accomplish with these tips and tricks.
Here are Five Ideas on How to Travel Without Money:
Plan Your Trip Around Free Activities
If you’re looking to spend as little as possible, plan your trip around free activities. There are plenty of opportunities all over the world to participate in free tours, hikes, and other activities. You just need to look around online or ask locals. Here are some places to start:
free tour (Web): Find free day trips from major cities worldwide.
Vayable (Web/iOS/Android): Check out daily walking tours across America.
GoEuro (Web): Compare free city breaks across Europe.
The cheapest time to fly anywhere is during the off-season when airlines offer deep discounts. If you don’t mind flying into a small airport, you might even get upgraded to first-class! In general, prices drop by 20%–30% between peak and low seasons. For example, last year we flew from Los Angeles to New York for about $600 roundtrip and paid hundreds more during high season.
Of course, it’s important to keep safety in mind before booking a flight. It may seem tempting to take advantage of lower prices, but when you book with a discount airline like Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines, AirTran, etc., you’ll end up paying for it later with higher fares. Also, check these common mistakes people make when they buy discounted tickets.
Stay With Friends Or Family
While staying with friends or family members isn’t always ideal, it’s often cheaper than hotels. Plus, it gives you much more freedom to explore and enjoy your destination rather than being confined to a hotel room. And if you live near your destination, it’s still cheaper than hotels. Of course, this only works if you have close friends or family who isn’t using their extra rooms.
Get A Cheap Place To Stay Online
One of my favorite ways to stay overnight cheaply was CouchSurfing.com. While it doesn’t allow you to meet hosts face-to-face, it does connect you to local residents willing to show you around their beautiful hometowns. Best of all, many Couch Sources were genuinely kind and generous, offering me food and drink whenever I needed it.
Explore On Foot
When exploring new destinations, consider getting lost instead of driving everywhere. Walking beats driving in every aspect. Not only is it healthier, but it’s also much cheaper. One recent study found that the average person drives 11 miles per day; however, walking 10 miles per day saves $10,800 over 30 years compared to driving.
Also, when you walk around, you see so much more than drivers do. This has been proven in several studies comparing both sides of the road.
Avoid Expensive Meals By Eating Street Food
Street food is delicious and inexpensive. However, eating street food can cause dangerous health problems such as food poisoning. Before eating street food, read reviews from travelers who’ve tried it.
For example, I recently ate grilled chicken on skewers in Morocco after reading positive reviews and photos on Chow.com. When I got back home, though, I felt awful. Luckily, I had diarrhea and fever for days. So, be careful!
Donate Used Clothing & Accessories
Donating clothes is great because you never really truly “own” them. However, donating used clothing and accessories makes sense for environmental reasons too, plus it helps other people. Sites like Dress for Success, Thrift Shop Nation, Goodwill, and Oxfam accept donations.
Use Public Transportation Whenever Possible
Public transportation is usually more affordable than taxis and private car services, which means you won’t pay nearly as much for convenience. Even if public transportation isn’t available in your area, you can use Google Maps to figure out approximate taxi ride rates.
Buy Local Goods & Services
Buying locally produced goods is better for the environment and keeps money within your community. Local products tend to cost less and are made with care. For example, I bought tassels for $12 at a fair in Portland, OR last month, but similar ones sell for $200 on Amazon.
Eat Only At Markets & Restaurants
Restaurants and markets typically charge far more than other options. They also serve good quality food prepared fresh, so you should avoid fast foods and pre-packaged meals.
Visit Big Cities During Weekends
Big cities are generally more expensive than smaller towns. Most likely, you’ll find weekend deals that are 50%–90% off. For example, we booked our Paris tour package for July for $300, while it normally goes for $700.
Consider Taking Part-Time Work After Your Vacation
After returning from your vacation, you may decide to continue working part-time. If you feel comfortable with it, why not earn extra income while enjoying your destination? For example, I took a job teaching English abroad in Costa Rica for three months, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Take Care of Yourself
Your body needs rest and relaxation. Make sure you schedule enough downtime for yourself. Otherwise, you might burn out and get sick.
Haggling is a skill that takes practice but can drastically reduce the price of souvenirs, admission fees, and other items. Haggling is especially helpful in developing countries where bargaining is customary.
Learn How To Drive
Driving is very expensive, so learn how to drive early! Driving is sometimes necessary to access certain parts of your destination. But you can also rent cars on Wheels.co.uk, KAYAK, Auto Slash, Budget Car Rentals, Priceline, and other sites.
Bring Back Liquor Supplies From Your Destination
Bringing alcohol back from your travels can be tricky since it can get confiscated by customs officers. Unfortunately, bringing alcohol back is illegal in most cases and carries heavy penalties. Still, it’s worth trying once or twice to bring back supplies. Just make sure you pack everything securely, including labels.
Save Cash On Tickets & Hotel Reservations
You probably already know about Kayak.com, Orbitz.com, Priceline.com, and others, but did you know you can also use Skyscanner.net to scan ticket prices? We scanned our return flight from LAX to JFK on JetBlue Airways and found that the fare was almost half of what we’d pay directly through Kayak.
Instead of renting a whole place by themselves, share accommodations. For example, maybe someone else in your group wants to host you. Airbnb is a popular alternative to traditional hotels, particularly for longer stays.
Volunteering is a fantastic way to give back to your community while having an amazing experience. If you’re interested in volunteering overseas, Charity Navigator ranks nonprofit organizations based on transparency and accountability.
Look Into Group Tours
Group tours can be extremely economical, but they can also involve long bus rides. Some tours are designed to maximize savings, such as tours that include airfare, lodging, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and sightseeing.
Combine Different Flights
Combining different airline tickets can save you quite a bit of money. Sometimes, it’s easier to combine flights than to split them.
Sign Up for Discount Cards
Discount cards can save you tons of cash. Many grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, and attractions offer loyalty programs. These are easy ways to save money.
Follow Price Comparison Websites
Price comparison websites like Kayak and Kiwi can save you money when you’re shopping online. Simply search for whatever product you want and compare it against prices from multiple retailers.
Join Rewards Programs
Many companies now reward customers who shop with them via rewards programs. For example, Starbucks offers its customers a free tall coffee beverage when they sign up via a mobile app. Other companies include American Express, Target, and Walgreens.
Ask About Student Rates
Most airlines offer special student rates. Depending on your age and status, you might qualify for significantly reduced rates.
Book Directly With Hotels
Hotels often offer significant savings by booking directly with them. Since hotels compete fiercely for guests’ business, they often slash their own prices to attract clients.