Travel Influencers And Experts Divulge Their Best Budget Hacks

Everyone wants to travel. But having the financial means to do so? That’s a different story.

These days, it’s next to impossible to scroll Instagram without seeing the “travel the world” folks. It might make you stop and wonder exactly how these people travel as much as they do. While many of these beautiful people may have unlimited funds due to old family money or trust funds, are financed by rich partners or modeling agencies, or can bring in brand money thanks to their account size — not all of us have those same set of privileges. (Attractiveness privilege is the motor that powers social media.)

For the majority of us, it’s how you stretch and make the most of your cash that will get you wandering. And if you’re smart about navigating money, we truly believe that you can see a whole lot of this world for a whole lot less cash than you might think.

With “Loud Budgeting” emerging as the new savings trend and increased opportunities for work exchanges and house-sitting gigs, traveling doesn’t have to be expensive. Add in scouting ultra-cheap airfares and maximizing your everyday purchases with the right credit cards and… well, you might just have a recipe for traveling the world on the cheap.

To help you hit the road without waiting for a windfall, we asked travel writers and experts for their best budget hacks ever.

EDITOR’S PICKS: Steve Bramucci (@steve_bramucci): Read Uproxx & Always Eat Street Food

Via steve bramucci

The first pick is my bias showing. “Read Uproxx” is my fix or hack for a lot of things. But this year, in particular, our travel section has been an absolute treasure trove for travelers looking to do more while spending less. These pieces have all been published in the past 30 or so days:

There are more too, including budget-focused guides, etc. So… come hang with us. Follow @UproxxLife on IG! Comment on articles you want to see! Also…

Eat street food.

I’ve been saying this since the start of my career, more than 20 years ago. From a pure health standpoint, street food is cooked fast and hot. “Hot” is a bacteria killer; “warm” (as in the warming lamps used as tourist traps) is a bacteria breeding ground. But more than that, street food is the food of the people. It represents the flavors and dishes most sought out in any given place. You literally can’t come to know a culture’s foodway without knowing what its vendors serve from their carts and stalls.

When it comes to the pure budget aspect, not only is your cost per dish less, but you’re supporting a vast network of locals — from vendors to fishermen to farmers and beyond. So dive deep into the street food and save your restaurant meals for a big splurge. Not only will you be traveling cheaper but you’ll also be getting to know the local culture better.

Genni Franklin (@travelingfranklins): Use Google Flights Explore

If you’re looking for a destination on a budget, use Google Flights Explore! It’s one of my favorite budget travel hacks and it amazes me how many people don’t know about it. Explore is a tab in Google Flights that shows you flight pricing but on a map view. So you can browse around the globe and see flight prices to each destination all at once. You can track prices, set a budget, and see when it’s the best time to visit with the best activities. I like to make it a game. I’ll choose a date and price range and then see what the map shows me. Maybe even close your eyes and just point to a spot on the map!

Bonus: You can also see what people ask Google about the destination.

Chloe Caldwell (@bychloecaldwell): Fly Tiny Airlines

This is a money-saving tip for luxury travelers who want to live that G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S first-class lifestyle without actually spending the big bucks. Instead of a classic business class airline tickets, consider flying with a semi-private air carrier, such as JSX. Flights start at just $300 one-way, which completely surprised me considering that’s less than many coach major airline tickets.

The convenience of this flight type is the best part. With JSX, for instance, you can valet your vehicle and arrive just 20 minutes before your flight to breeze through a crowd-free security process. Once you’re on the flight, you get a spacious seat (there are no middle seats) as well as complimentary cocktails and snacks, so you’re saving extra cash by avoiding overpriced airport food. Not to mention the free wifi!

Will this “hack” always save you money? No. But in cases where the price is right, the time savings and other elements will make a big impact while feeling luxe.

Ed Olebe (@edolebe): Make Your Credit Card Rewards Work For You

Ed Olebe

2024 is set to be a record year for travelers and, as the recent Loud Budgeting trend has shown us, some consumers are more willing to cut back on spontaneous, out-of-budget expenses in favor of spending those dollars on more valuable experiences such as travel.

One of the easiest tips to stay within budget and make those experiences a reality is simply to make your credit card rewards work for you. Using your credit card for everyday expenses can help you earn points or cash back that can be redeemed to get you closer to making your dream trip a reality, from flights and upgraded hotel stays to rental car reservations and unique experiences at your destination. Last year, Chase cardmembers redeemed more than $2 billion worth of Ultimate Rewards points on air travel, and we expect to see it grow.

And don’t forget that either purchasing or redeeming rewards for a vacation with your Chase credit card gives you added benefits like trip delay insurance and lost luggage reimbursement that can offer the ultimate peace of mind – especially when traveling internationally.

Jessica Kelly (@adventures.are.waiting): Buy From Local Markets & Street Food Vendors

My favorite budget travel hack by far, especially when solo traveling, is to hit up all the local markets and street food vendors. Having done quite a mix of luxury, adventure, wildlife, and culinary travel, I’ve experienced all the lows and highs and can tell you that sometimes the food from a street vendor who knows what they’re doing is truly better than a sit-down, seven-course meal.

I’d trade a caviar bump and a glass of champagne for the creamy AF pad thai I had at a floating market in Bangkok, Thailand for 40 baht ($1.12) any day, and I’m still dreaming about the bao buns and chili crab I had in Singapore. So good and so inexpensive! Some of the Hawker Center vendors in Southeast Asia have Michelin stars for a reason. They’re simply the best!

Emilia Salomão (@blackgermantraveler): Stay In The Neighborhoods Where The Locals Live

A lot of countries have lower income and cost of living than Germany, my home country. So, when I travel, I try to stay and go where the locals go and spend money like they do.

So, my best budget travel tip is to stay in the neighborhoods where the locals live. It’s most of the time cheaper than tourist areas, and you often get more value for your money. While you could stay in your own room with a bathroom in the local area, in a tourist area with the same amount of money you would get like… a bed in an 8-bed dorm in a hostel.

Plus, staying where the locals are allows you to experience the country and culture differently and see unique perspectives. The locals know the best places to visit, things to do, and where to eat. Just make sure the area where you choose to stay is safe and trust your instincts. Also, don’t walk around showing your valuables, and respect the local culture.

Bonus: When you stay where the locals are you make more authentic travel experiences, spend less money and maybe find friends for life from different parts of the world.

Olivia (@olivia.isoutofoffice): Rent A Camper

As budget travelers we always squeeze the most out of every trip, exploring as much as we possibly can while sticking to a tight budget. Although we can almost always find a good deal on accommodations, renting a car on every trip significantly increases the cost of our travels.

On a recent vacation, we approached this problem from a different perspective and decided to try renting a converted campervan. This allowed us to combine our two biggest expenses, transportation and accommodations. Staying in the campervan brought extra adventure to our trip, and added flexibility to our itinerary. Without hotel bookings to worry about we were free to come and go as we pleased and were able to change our plans on a whim.

By utilizing the included cookware and propane stove we could make very inexpensive meals as another way to save money on our adventure. Not only did we save a considerable amount of money by staying in a campervan, we made the best memories!

Melanie Gordon (@livinginflowco): Use Public Transportation

There are a million nifty budget travel hacks, so we’re taking it back to basics: use public transportation.

It may not be the most glamorous experience, but you’ll get from point “A” to point “B” for cheap and get a taste of the local vibe while you’re en route.

In many cases, the bus or train is cheap enough to pay in coins, which means it was free, right? Travel math. Plus, taking the bus instead of ordering an Uber – yes, even an Uber Green – is giving you some good travel karma. Let’s do it for the wallet and the planet. Deal? Deal.

Emily Hart (@emilyventures): Understand Your Credit Card Benefits And Use Them

Emily Hart

As a – very – frequent traveler, I am a hawk when utilizing my credit card benefits. I use a couple of cards in conjunction, taking time to ensure I am utilizing all the available benefits. I save on travel insurance (much is included with one of my cards), baggage fees (included), airport lounge access (yep, you guessed it), upgrades and credits at some hotels, hundreds of dollars of airline credit per year, cashback offers, and Uber credits.

Of course, some hefty annual fees accompany these cards, but I’ve found that I’ve made back the fee and at least double it each year in travel benefits. Besides benefits, of course, there are points! Using my cards for everything – and paying them in full each month – has netted me thousands of points for airfare hotels and helped me achieve airline status, which has netted me even more money-saving benefits.

Vivian Tu (@your.richbff): Travel During Shoulder Seasons

Vivian Tu

Try and travel during the shoulder seasons. When booking for peak seasons, it’s going to be very busy full of tourists, and expensive. Everyone wants to go on vacation but if you are a single person, you can request a break whenever. Travel right before or after the holidays. Early December is a key sweet spot, as people are getting back from Thanksgiving and staying put until Christmas. You can score some great deals on cool places this way.

Michele Lowery (@fancytravelpointers): Take Advantage Of Airport Lounges

Michele Lowery

One of my favorite ways to save money while traveling is airport lounges. Before we had access to airport lounges we’d easily spend $50+ every time we were at the airport. The best thing about airport lounges is that you don’t need to be a business class traveler or a frequent flyer to access them – you simply need to hold the right card for access.

My favorite credit card for lounge access is the Capital One Venture X. We live in Denver and the new Capital One lounge at Denver airport is incredible (they also have Capital One lounges at DFW & IAD). I love that you can have your pre-flight (or layover meal) at an airport lounge to save money. But what is unique about Capital One lounges is that they also offer a “to go” section, with sandwiches, salads, snacks, and bubbly water. This is so helpful if you have a long flight because you are going to need something to hold you over.

Best tip: Capital One Venture X allows you to add up to four authorized users for free – and they get the same lounge access you get (you + 2 guests). This is very helpful if you have a large family. You pay 1 annual credit card fee but add your spouse as an authorized user to allow for additional lounge access.