Jessica Ward

Travel is easily the best thing you can spend your money on. But how can you see the world when you’re broke? You’ve got to be extra savvy.

I have spent most of my life travelling on a tiny budget, and even though this may mean I need to give some things a miss, if I plan my trip smartly, I can stretch my change incredibly far.

Are you on a budget, too? Here are some of my budget travel tips that helped me explore the world while strapped for cash…

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3 of the best budget travel tips

#1. How to find cheap accommodation and food

One word: couchsurfing. Strangers allowing other strangers to stay on their couch not only instills some faith that people are good, but more often than not, it also means you’ll have people to show you how the locals live in the area you’re visiting and even share home cooked meals with you. This kind of cultural experience is priceless and is something cash-up travellers often miss out on. Be sure to check your couchsurfing host’s references, though, let someone know where you’re staying, and stick to your gut instincts if something feels wrong. And if your hosts are incredible, help your host out where you can, and leave them an outstanding review!

Hostels are also a great, cheap place to lay your head at night. If you’re travelling solo and want to make friends to explore with, they’re a brilliant way to meet other travellers, too. If you’re planning on staying in the one location for a while, it’s worth checking if the hostel will let you exchange housekeeping or reception duties for a dorm bed to save money. (Bonus: you may even get some free meals thrown in!)

If you’re paying for a room with breakfast included, hostel breakfasts can also become a sneaky lunch. Either eat later in the morning, or stock up some snacks while you’re by the buffet – there’s no shame in packing a sandwich and some fruit in your bag while you’re eating your cereal. I do it every single time I’m travelling on a budget and it saves me having to buy food for the rest of the day.

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But in all honesty, if you’re travelling cheaply, you need to become comfortable with feeling hungry. Before you depart, cut down to one or two meals a day to prepare yourself. But if you’re spending your time exploring new places and on adventures, you’ll most likely forget about feeling hungry because you’re focused on having fun.

Do keep some cash aside to try out the local cuisines or popular foods wherever you are, but don’t eat in restaurants of cafes every day. Instead, find budget supermarkets and buy filling staple items that’ll feed you for a few days. I often live on peanut butter sandwiches, vegetable soup, cereal and fruit while travelling on a budget. Most hostel kitchens have a basket of free food, too, so take advantage of that if you need to.

#2. How to find cheap transport

Affordable flights do exist – but you need to do you research to find them. Locate cheap flights using Google Flights and Sky Scanner, and sign up for email alerts from airlines to make use of their flash deals throughout the year.

You do need to be flexible with travel dates to capitalise on bargain flights, though. Your research will show you the super-cheap flights on offer, but you may need to be shuffle around your travel dates and even airports choices around these flight times.

My tips? Search flights to a particular location across a whole month to bring up the cheapest days to fly, and don’t forget to also search nearby airports to see if it’s cheaper to fly into a different airport in the same city. If so, you’ll likely find a bus or train to take you to your final destination at a fraction of the cost of the most expensive flight.

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In Europe, there are number of budget buses that will transport you between countries for cheap, especially if you’ve booked in advance. I once crossed six countries in one day by bus, which may have taken 14 hours but saved me hundreds of dollars. Some of the best budget bus companies in Europe are Flixbus and Polski Bus. Canada and America have a similar affordable transport options through Greyhound buses. I use the travel planning website Rome2Rio, which helps your explore all the transport options available to you while travelling on a budget.

Carpooling app Rideshare is also extremely popular and is sometimes even cheaper than a solo bus ticket. Try searching rideshare services in the country you’re travelling in to find the most popular platforms people are using in that area (BlaBlaCar for example) to find out if it’s a cheaper way to travel.

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#3. How to avoid paying airline excess luggage fees

Travelling for an extended time and boarding lots of flights? My best packing tip for saving money is to not pack any more than the maximum weight allowed on the flight with the lowest baggage allowance.

If your first international flight allows you a 25kg limit but all your other flights allow a maximum of 20kg, do not pack over 20kg! Baggage fees are a budget killer and can easily cost you a tonne of money if you are not careful. (Low budget airlines are notorious for charging expensive excess baggage fees.) Packing lightly also has other benefits – a heavy suitcase or backpack is a huge pain to carry around from place-to-place, especially if your budget accommodation has stairs and no elevator.

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When I’m on the move and on a budget, my laptop and camera equipment go into a small bag that’s considered my allocated ‘personal item’; my heavy boots go into my larger allocated carry-on bag; the rest of my belongings are placed in my checked baggage that goes in the hold.

My last budget travelling tip when it comes to luggage? Try not to buy too many souvenirs or presents for people back home. I have travelled around the world and the only presents I have bought for myself are stickers for my laptop, and I hardly ever bring back gifts. Not only does it keep my bag lightweight, it saves money, too!

They say money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy priceless travel experiences. And even when money is tight, you’re still able to have the time of your life if you’re savvy – I promise!


Jessica Ward is a commercial travel photographer and writer based in Newcastle, Australia. She has spent many months exploring the world and is always eager to embark on overseas trips. Jessica documents all of her adventures on Instagram @jesswardphoto and on her website Jessica Ward Photography

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.