6 Secrets to Make Traveling a Priority on a Limited Budget

Do you like to travel? I know I do!

Having the freedom to travel was actually the main reason I wanted to pay off all my debt in the first place. In my mind I would not only have more money to travel, but more time and energy if I wasn’t constantly a “slave to the grind” – working the 9 to 5 routine.

The only problem with traveling and seeing the world, is that it costs money – and lots of it. So when you’re paying down debt and money is tight, it might seem impossible to indulge in a little time away. But, that’s not true!

There are ways to make traveling a priority, even on a limited budget.

What’s Your Motivation?

Before I get to the money-saving strategies, there’s a question you need to ask yourself first.

Is traveling really a priority for you? Because if it is, you’ll find a way to make it happen. But if it’s not, you’ll always be struggling to “make the time” or “find the money”.

What’s your reason for wanting to travel more? Maybe it’s for freedom, to learn new cultures and try new things. My motivation was so I could have the freedom to spend my money how I wanted, to see my friends and family and to create a business that evolved around my lifestyle – instead of the other way around.

Whatever your motivation and inspiration is for seeing the world, make sure it’s at the forefront of your mind everyday.

Find photos from past travels or places you want to go and hang them in your bathroom, kitchen and office. Set up a vision board or Pinterest board to display all the places you want to visit.

Like with anything in life, once you discover what your motivating factor is, accomplishing your goal will be that much easier.

1. Do Whatever it Takes

Do you want a new big screen TV? The latest tech gadget? Or do you really want to experience new things? After you find what inspires you, the next step is finding out how bad you really want it.

Life is all about choices, and to get what you really want means you’ll have to sacrifice a few things to get there. That might mean putting off purchasing that new TV, eating out less and spending more of your time working to make extra money.

But don’t worry, it won’t feel like much of a sacrifice once you reach your goal!

2. Make Money With a Side Hustle

If you want more money to travel, then you’ve got to make more money! The best way to do that is with a side hustle. A side hustle is a project, freelance gig or business you start, on the side of your job to bring in extra cash.

I started my freelance writing business solely for the purpose of getting to travel. Some people like to allocate the extra money into a “fun money” account, but I funnel my side hustle funds right into my “travel fund”.

I prefer the approach of making more money, instead of cutting back on expenses because:

  • You won’t feel guilty for using the extra cash for traveling
  • You won’t have to change your spending habits
  • You can take time off  from your regular day job and still get paid

If you want to play hard, you’ve got to work hard!

3. Never Pay Full Price

I’m a big believer in never paying full price for anything and this includes travel costs. After a quick search on sites like BeFrugal or RetailMeNot you’ll find discounts, printable coupons and cash back offers for hotels, plane tickets, car rentals and eating out.

On top of that you can earn cash back on all your purchases with your travel rewards credit card or PerkStreet debit card. Try a few travel sites like Expedia, that let you earn travel rewards and points without a credit card.

Another tip I just learned this weekend, is to always call the hotel before booking online. Sometimes they’ll offer you a really good deal on a room, combine it with your AAA card and even throw in free extras – all just for asking. And don’t forget there’s tons of other apps and ways to save money by using your smartphone.

4. Know the Best Time to Purchase

After spending the past two years traveling from Chicago to Seattle to Colorado to California, I’ve learned a few tricks about the best times and strategies for booking travel plans.

  • Buy tickets on Tuesdays. The best time to buy is on Tuesdays. If you don’t find the discounts you’re looking for in the early morning, check back later in the afternoon.
  • Follow airlines on social media. Many airlines will share one-hour sales, weekend deals and daily discounts on their Facebook or Twitter pages. This is also smart to do, if you need customer service assistance. You’ll get help and tips in real-time.
  • Don’t fly on Fridays or Sundays. Take it from my experience and don’t fly on Sundays, because all the other business men and women are trying to be back in the office on Monday. Fridays are also really expensive and busy because everyone is doing the weekend getaway thing. The airport security and airplane be packed full, and you’ll be paying a premium too.
  • Travel early and on Wednesdays. The best time to travel on an airplane is early in the morning, before that days schedule becomes delayed, changed or cancelled. Wednesdays are the least busy, and the cheapest for booking flights.
  • Don’t travel during peak times. I know sometimes it’s impossible not to travel during the holiday peaks, but do your best to leave before and after the main stream of travelers. It will save you a lot of headache, time and money.

5. Turn a Business Trip into a Personal One

If you take a lot of trips for work or plan to attend a business conference, one smart strategy to save money is to extend the trip and squeeze in a days for personal stuff.

I did this with my recent conference trip to Denver. Since I was paying for the plane ticket anyway, I stayed an extra five days to spend time with my family and friends who live near there.

I took full advantage of the opportunity to learn, network and grow my business, while rewarding myself with a few days off afterwards. It’s a win-win situation!

6. Get Away For the Weekend

If your time or limited budget won’t allow you to take off a whole week to travel, try getting away for the weekend instead. Not only will it cost less money, but it could be just what you need to refresh and recharge your mind.

You could even consider going on a staycation, where you do all the touristy stuff in your local city or in a city close to where you live. I do this occasionally since I live so close to Dallas and there’s tons of things to do for the day, that are both inexpensive and fun.

Remember to Have Fun

The main thing about traveling is to have fun, and you don’t need to spend a lot of money to do that. Sometimes you just need to adjust your perspective and learn to enjoy the little adventures everyday.

The best way to make traveling a priority on a limited budget is be patient, creative and hustle to make it happen. But always remember to have fun, no matter where you’re going or what you’re doing.

Life itself is an adventure!

What are some other tricks you know, to cut back on the costs of traveling?

About the author: Carrie Smith is the financial artist and editor behind Careful Cents. She helps creative entrepreneurs make a living with their creations, and reach financial freedom through systems and financial organization. She’s been featured in The Huffington Post, Glamour Magazine, Kiplinger Finance and several other business websites. In May 2013 she quit her full-time accounting job to pursue entrepreneurship and blogging. You can find her on Twitter or Instagram @carefulcents.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Mo' Money Mo' Houses October 17, 2012, 1:18 pm

    I experienced my first staycation this year and it was awesome. It was so nice to be able to enjoy my city and not feel like I had to go spend a bunch of money shopping or checking out a bunch of landmarks. Staycations are great when you need to relax but have no travel budget.

    • Carrie Smith October 17, 2012, 4:57 pm

      I’ve been taking advantage of staycations more myself too. Just a couple weeks ago I attended the state fair and spent the night out for only about $30. I had a blast!

  • Shannon_ReadyForZero October 17, 2012, 2:26 pm

    Awesome tips Carrie! I can’t wait to utilize these in my own life. Between having my family in Ohio, my fiance’s family in New Jersey, and our own desires to travel to other parts of the world, these will be very useful to us!

  • Mrs PoP @ PlantingOurPennies October 17, 2012, 7:21 pm

    Glad you included the combining with a business trip! We do that as often as possible =)

  • Shannyn October 17, 2012, 8:28 pm

    Great advice! I agree with the social media tip- that helped me snag a great deal to fly out to see my boyfriend for a steep, steep discount (40% off!) I flew in/out on Thursdays, but it was darn, darn cheap!

    • Carrie Smith October 18, 2012, 9:16 am

      That’s awesome Shannyn! I always feel so much more refreshed after visiting my loved ones. :)

  • Budget & the Beach October 18, 2012, 9:10 am

    Great tips! I do think I need to rethink how I’m doing things in order to make this a priority. Thanks for reminding me!

  • Bucksprout October 18, 2012, 10:31 am

    Great tips!! I saved a lot a of money couchsurfing and camping while traveling.

    • Carrie Smith October 18, 2012, 10:43 am

      Thanks an excellent tip! I haven’t tried couchsurfing myself, but I love camping and spending the weekend outside.

  • Gillian Money After Graduation October 19, 2012, 9:50 am

    I’ve definitely done a few weekend getaways since I can’t afford a big vacation… yet. Great tips!

  • Katherine Scott October 21, 2012, 7:49 pm

    Great article!! Have you ever tried traveling with Groupon deals? I look at them, but some of the restrictions throw me off…just curious!

    • Carrie Smith October 22, 2012, 10:24 am

      I’ve tried Groupon Getaways a couple times and I really enjoyed it. I saved a lot of money and was able to visit some awesome places. The only downside is that you can’t always choose where you want to go, since the deals are random. But it’s still a great idea, thanks for mentioning this!

  • Robb @WatchOutForFlyingNinjas! October 22, 2012, 1:27 am

    Reading this makes me want to take a trip, now just need to figure out where heh.