Exploring the World on a Budget: Your Ultimate Guide to Affordable Travel

Our modern interconnected world is inspiring more people than ever to travel; the promise of new experiences, cultures, and breathtaking landscapes is driving millions to globetrot and explore new locales. Unfortunately, expanding interest in exploring the world has not led to a dramatic fall in the cost of travelling. Sadly, for many of us we simply don’t make enough money to take the trips of our dreams, however, that doesn’t mean that we have to give up. What if I told you that with careful planning, smart choices, and a little bit of creativity, you could embark on unforgettable adventures without breaking the bank. Would you believe me? Well, in this post I’m going to share all the tips I’ve learned over the years to travel the world on a budget.

Plan Wisely

You’d be surprised how much money you can save from simply planning your trips in advance. Spontaneous solo adventures might be alluring, but they’re amongst the most expensive mistakes someone seeking to travel on a budget can make. From plane/ train tickets to accommodation and entertainment, most will be cheaper if you book months in advance.

The foundation to travelling on a budget begins with careful planning. It’s best to begin with your budget and the goal of the trip and work backwards from there. For example, let’s say that you’re looking to enjoy a beach vacation in the sun, and you have a budget of $1,000 for the entire trip. All your friends have been telling you that you must go to Santorini, for the crystal blue waters and the picturesque vistas. However, a quick google search reveals that the hotels alone for the 5-day trip will cost more than your entire budget.

For many people, that would be the end of it. They might give up and just say that they can’t afford to go on vacation this year and use the money for something else. However, what you should do instead is remember my advice and begin thinking about what it is that you really want. If what you really want is to relax by the beach and take breathtaking pictures, there are many destinations outside of Greece that can accomplish just that and for a fraction of the cost. If you’re thinking to yourself that you wouldn’t even know where to begin when looking for alternative destinations, why not try Google Flights. Google Flights has a great feature called Explore, which shows you all the cheap flights that will be departing from your home city on a particular day. You can use this to find new destinations that fit both your budget and the vibe you were seeking to create for your vacation. You never know you might stumble upon a hidden gem that you can tell your friends about.

Embrace Alternative Activities

When I began this post, I talked about why many people travel, for the promise of new experiences and cultures. This doesn’t have to be expensive. It really helps to go off the beaten path and see parts of a destination that might not be as popular. “Travelling like a local” can open you up to new culinary experiences and allow you to make unique experiences as you see a destination in a whole new light.

Beyond, seeking more fulfilling experiences there are often alternatives to the expensive experiences that people tell you that you must do in a destination. For example, the London Eye has become world famous, but in my opinion, especially for the price, is incredibly underwhelming. When you think about the fact that the London Eye is effectively a moving observation deck by the river you begin to see that there are many alternatives that provide a more memorable experience. Many tourists seek out afternoon tea whilst in the city, so why not combine the two and do afternoon tea in the Shard. On a clear day you’ll have breathtaking views of the city whilst eating a delicious meal. If you want a completely free alternative that still has great views, try the Sky Garden, located on the 35th floor of the Walkie Talkie.

Seek Creative Ways to Pay

We’ve all heard the expression “Cash Is King” and in many ways that is true, however, Cash isn’t the only way to pay and sometimes the cheapest way to pay for something is to use points and miles. You might be asking yourself, how you can pay for a flight with points and miles if you don’t have any. The easiest and cheapest way to quickly obtain points and miles is with credit cards. However, that’s not what we’ll be talking about today, but stay tuned for my comprehensive guide to using credit cards to maximise your travel experiences. Instead, today we’ll be talking about Buying Points & Miles. To be clear, purchasing points and miles is not always a good deal, but it can often provide either outsized value or a genuine discount on your travel experiences.

Air France KLM, for example, often has sales where flights around the world are heavily discounted in terms of their value in points, but their value in cash has not changed. To take advantage of this all you have to do is go here, and buy the points and move them to your account then redeem them for the trip of your dreams. Air France isn’t the only brand that does this, several major airlines including Etihad, JetBlue, Qatar Airways, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines.

To illustrate just how much money you can save, I was looking into booking a trip to Tampa/ Orlando from London to surprise my wife for her birthday. Since it is a special occasion, I was looking at flying in business class. I love Virgin’s product to Tampa, but on the days I was looking to fly, the cash flight would have been over $4,000 USD each way, but by buying points I would have been able to purchase the round-trip flights for $4,000 USD in total. Just by purchasing points, I was able to cut my flight cost in half. This might be an extreme example, but the same principle applies to economy flights on several airlines around the world.

Airlines aren’t the only companies where you can buy points, the world’s largest hotel changes also offer similar programs with their own sweet spots. Marriot Bonvoy, World of Hyatt, IHG Rewards & Hilton Honors all allow you to buy points to redeem at a later date for outsized value.

TLDR

Travelling doesn’t have to break the bank. By planning ahead, choosing budget-friendly destinations, and embracing local experiences. Swapping costly attractions for unique alternatives and buying points and miles for discounted flights and stays you can explore the world without overspending.

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