So you want to see the world. You little adventure-seeker, you.
We’d like to first mention that you have great ideas. There’s nothing in life more important than learning, and as Jack Hanna says “The world is a true classroom, and the most rewarding type of learning is through experience, seeing something with your own eyes.”
Getting off the couch and embarking on an international trip can be scary – especially if you’re not swimming in money like Scrooge McDuck. That being said, it’s worth the adventure all the same. Travelers embark on journeys with nothing in their pockets every day. Give the book Vagabonding a read if you don’t believe me.
Here’s a look at how you can travel internationally on a budget.
1. Know when to book flights
Typically, your prime booking window is between 70 and 300 days out. More on this later (it depends on where you’re going). It’s also important to note the expensive days and months. Try not to book flights in July or December since they’re the most expensive months, and see if you can get a flight out on a Tuesday or Wednesday. These are usually the cheapest days of the week to travel.
Cheap Air put out an extremely detailed article that covers prime booking windows to several international destinations. You’re going to want to bookmark this article.
2. Eat with the locals
This is a good tip regardless of what your budget is. The locals know where to find the best food, without question. If you see a lineup forming at 11AM, you’d better believe something great is at the end of the queue. Unless you’re visiting an extremely expensive country, eating where the locals eat can also be an affordable way to see a country. Skip the touristy restaurants and try the street food. It has more flavor and is definitely easier on your wallet.
3. Try bed and breakfasts, hostels, or couch surfing
All three of these options are cheaper than your typical hotel – and you’re probably going to leave them with a better story, too. Bed and breakfasts will be the most comfortable, but they’re also the most expensive. Hostels are great if you want to meet groups of people looking to have fun, and couch surfing is a great way to learn about a city from a resident. Go with what you’re comfortable with.
4. Work on the weekends
If you’re only going away for a couple of weeks, you can discard this advice. However, for those of you who are looking to travel internationally for months on end, picking up a gig or two on the weekends can help extend your vacation quite a bit. Versions of Craigslist are available in most countries, check and see if anyone needs help moving or setting up an event over the weekend. It’s a great way to earn some pocket money.
5. Search all modes of transportation
Before you go anywhere, be sure you do your research on the cheapest way to get there. You can save hundreds of dollars by taking the bus instead of the train, and vice versa depending on where in the world you’re visiting. Asia, for example, has extremely cheap domestic flights, often cheaper than taking the bus. Visit forums on places like Reddit and ask around about the cheapest forms of transportation in the countries you’re visiting. It’s a great resource.
6. Select your country carefully
Maybe the most important thing to consider when traveling on a budget is selecting the right country. You might think that countries close in proximity will cost you the same in day to day expenses, but this isn’t the case. Thinking of visiting Austria? Try Hungary instead. Is Hungary too expensive? Visit Slovenia. There’s always a more affordable destination fairly close by. Consider how much spending power your dollar has when you convert it into the local currency, and analyze things like how much a cup of coffee costs. You’ll learn a lot about affordability very quickly.
7. Pack light
If you think you can travel internationally with a carry-on, we’d highly recommend it. This will save you money on every single flight you book. Bring a handbag with you as well to store any souvenirs you purchase along the way, or to carry around your camera equipment or anything else bulky. Checking bags is a sure way to lose $50 every time you book a flight.
8. Book ahead whenever possible
Museums, gondolas, famous tourist attractions – they’re all typically cheaper when you book ahead. If you show up at a ticket window, you’re probably going to be paying extra. Always go online before you book any sort of tourist attraction and see if there’s a discount for booking in advance. The same goes for Airbnb’s. Message your host beforehand and see if they can offer you a discount. It never hurts to ask!