Budget Travel: Destinations and Top Tips to Save Money on Your Next Vacation

Traveling has never been cheap. Ever since Marco Polo traded Venetian goods on his journey across the Silk Road, we humans have weighed the cost of adventure with the weight of our wallets. And in 2024, the costs seem higher than ever as checked bag fees, skyrocketing hotel prices, and general cost-of-living increases combine to create a serious deterrent to world travel.

However, budget travel is still possible. With the right destination and a few travel hacks, you can save an appreciable amount of money on your travels. What you do with that saved money is up to you. Save it for another vacation. Use it for everyday bills and life costs. Or reinvest it back into your trip so you can enjoy lavish dinners, fancy cocktails and the odd shopping spree!

Here’s how to do it.

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Where to Go: Budget Destinations that Stretch Your Dollar the Furthest

People worry about the cost of a flight, but it’s smarter to consider the cost of living at your destination. For instance, a $1,300 trip to Vietnam might seem steep in comparison to an $800 flight to Europe. But consider that the average four-star hotel in Hanoi runs around $50, whereas an equivalent in Paris will cost you $300. If you’re staying longer than two nights (and you probably are), it makes more economic sense to choose Hanoi. (Plus, the food and ambience are, remarkably, on par between the two cities).

With that said, here are some top picks for the best budget destinations that stretch your dollar without skimping on excitement and pleasure:

  • Southeast Asia: As mentioned, destinations like Vietnam offer significant bang for your buck. Also, consider countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia and the Philippines, which blend gorgeous beach spots with stunning cultural experiences. Most travel experts agree that these are the cheapest destinations to travel in the whole world. It’s a stroke of luck that they’re also among the most exciting.
  • Central America: Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica mix beachy vibes with jungle appeal. As Lonely Planet notes, you can easily travel these countries on $30 a day. Up your budget to $50, and you can live like a queen!
  • Cuba: All the appeal of a Caribbean Island at a fraction of the cost. If you can travel to Cuba (i.e., if you can work around government restrictions), you should. Hotspots like Varadero and Havana never fail to impress.
  •  North Africa: Saharan Africa is an evocative expanse of desert containing some of the world’s most beloved historical sites. Tour countries like Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt on a scant budget, visiting hotspots like the Marrakesh markets and the Great Pyramids at Giza.

By choosing one of these destinations over a more expensive one (like, say, London or Hong Kong), you’ve already saved yourself lots of money.

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Travel Tips: How to Save Money on Your Next Vacation

You may have your heart set on Paris or London – and no one’s denying you that right! In these cases, a few shrewd travel tips should be enough to make your trip economical. Below, explore tried-and-tested advice for saving money on your next vacation.

Avoid Checked Bag Fees by Packing Light

Everyone’s been there before. You over-pack a large suitcase, stuffing it with seven different outfit changes just in case the mood strikes. However, at your destination, you realize the error of your ways, forced to lug around a bulky bag that cost you $70 to check at the flight desk.

Instead, save money – and hassle – by trying a minimalist approach to packing. Create a capsule wardrobe, decant your skincare products into travel-sized bottles, forgo the bulky jewelry, and download reading materials on your phone. Voila – that’s $140 saved right there.

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Pack Merino Wool Clothing to Avoid Laundry Costs

Merino wool is like gold in the travel community. It’s sweat-wicking, breathable, fast-drying, and insulating. But perhaps best of all, Merino wool is antimicrobial, meaning it stays fresh for a very long time between washes.

The benefits here are twofold. First, packing Merino wool means you can pack ultra-light (see above) since you only need a few garments for a long trip. Second, you save money on laundry costs while abroad.

To make this tip work, be discerning about what Merino products you buy, since some companies design frankly unappealing garments. For an example of chic Merino products, check out the latest merino fashion for women at the link.

Book Overnight Transit Between Destinations

If you’re planning on traveling to various destinations on your trip (most people do), consider booking overnight transit.

Overnight trains in Europe, or overnight buses in places like Southeast Asia and Central America, are fantastic opportunities to save money. Essentially, you’re killing two birds with one stone. You’re getting where you need to go without wasting precious daytime hours to transit. And you save on a night’s accommodation. It’s a win-win that puts money directly back in your pocket.

Book Accommodations with a Kitchenette

If you can, spring for a hotel/motel room with a kitchenette. Don’t deny yourself the pleasure of eating out while abroad – sampling the local cuisine is one of the highlights of travel, after all. However, for those average lunches and dinners, it can be cost-effective to skip the restaurants and make yourself something in the room.

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Get Comfortable with Haggling

In most places across the globe, haggling is the norm. It may fly in the face of our North American sensibility – we don’t want to offend anyone, nor do we like being ripped off – but it’s a must in certain destinations.

If you don’t want to be massively overcharged for goods, get comfortable with haggling. This YouTube video offers a sensible primer for those unfamiliar with the “competitive sport” of bargaining abroad.

To make a long article short, it isn’t difficult to save money on a trip. Choose the right destination, pack a minimalist bag of Merino wool travel clothing, book your transit wisely, and follow a few other straightforward tips. With the money you save, you can enjoy your trip in better ways.