How to Travel on the Cheap: Part 2

cheap travel tips

Did you like part 1 of this super long post? What’s more awesome than traveling? Traveling for $2. Here are a few more ideas for cheapo travel…Travel during the ‘shoulder’ season

Sure, I’d like to be in St. Tropez for Valentine’s day … but so would every other girl and her sister. All those eager travelers equate to packed hotels and high prices. The shoulder season is the month before the ‘real’ tourist season kicks. You’ll still see good weather, but you’ll be privy to open beaches, short lines and even discounted rates on your lodging. Here’s an awesome list of shoulder-seasons for popular destinations the world over.

Sniff out the deals
There are travel deals to be had everywhere, it’s just a matter of knowing where to look. Kayak and Mobissimo both search heaps of travel sites for you so you don’t have to shuttle around from one site to the next. I’m also a huge fan of Travelocity’s ‘Last Minute Packages‘ tab. If you’ve got a three-day weekend coming up and your only requirement is ‘somewhere warm’ you can get amazing deals. Right now, I could get a round trip flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta, plus three nights in a hotel for $247!And don’t discount non-air travel. Though America isn’t known for it’s public transportation system, Megabus is making some pretty significant inroads. Routes are limited to the Midwest and east coasts of the US and Canada. But! You can get tickets for $1! $1! Of course, a lot of the tickets are a bit more, but they are always reasonable. I’m actually heading to Chicago next weekend for less than the cost of a new sweater.

Stay with friends or Couch-surf
I encountered some dumb luck while planning my world ticket and happened to have friends living in four amazing cities that I wanted to visit. If you have friends abroad at the moment, seize the moment and go sleep on their couch! You’ll get free lodging, your own tour guide and insight into the city. Just be sure to clean up after yourself, cook them dinner and send a thank-you gift … But you already knew that, right?But if you’re headed to someplace obscure or friend-free, give couch surfing a try. Here’s how it works: After you select a country you’re traveling to, you sift through profiles of various intrepid souls who have opened up their homes to travelers. You email hosts that interest you, introducing yourself and sharing the details of your trip. If both parties are keen, you stay with them on your way through their city, make a new friend and return the favor to other travelers when you get home. So lovely, right?

Rental relocations

Sweet Jesus, but these are awesome! Countries like New Zealand and Australia have huge tourist industries with heaps of tourists driving all over, very often in one direction. Many travelers land in Auckland, rent a car and then spend a few weeks driving down to Christchurch where they fly home. And lucky you – the car rental companies are happy to rent you that car for $1 if you drive it back up to Auckland for them! The Mister and I spent a three-week holiday on the southern island of New Zealand driving wherever the rental relocations were going . We even drove a $300-a-night camper van for a few days. This website will tell you everything you need to know about the rental relocation process.

Eat like a local
One of the best ways of experiencing a new culture is through the food, right? What would Bangkok be without mango sticky rice or Edinburgh without haggis? Lame, that’s what. But eating out all the time gets spendy! If you’re going to eat out, nosh during the lunch hour when prices are a lot more reasonable and take your leftovers back to the hostel for dinner. Or make a picnic out of nibblings from the grocery store or the fruit and veggie market. I’m also a huge fan of eating from street vendor carts. Authentic, adventurous eats for a pitance. But stay away from those grey cubes rolled in black sesame seeds. They’re not tofu. They’re congealed duck blood.

I nearly turned inside out with embarrassment the first time I haggled a price down in South East Asia. “But it’s already cheap! And it’s so damn awkward!” It doesn’t have to be – just like most things, if you approach haggling with charm and confidence you’ll be fine. Often prices are not posted and the price you are quoted is a) intended as a starting point b) inflated because you’re a foreigner. So smile sweetly, reduce the price by a third and have a go!

photo by Giuseppe Milo // cc


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  1. Voila Megan

    Great series!

    I love staying in hotels and often you can come across amazingly cheap deals on the web, see:

    BUT! Take heed… These offers can definately be too good to be true and I’d recommend giving any hotel a search in which provides candid photos and real people’s reviews. They also give great recommendations for the budget traveller!

    Adoration x

  2. muchlove

    Thanks for the comment πŸ™‚

    Great post! makes me want to go out there and travel.

  3. Michelle

    This is a great post, but the only comment that comes to my mind is…EWWWWW congealed duck blood?! I think I would be scarred for life!

  4. Dana (MODAna)

    what would my life be without traveling?
    and haggling… hahah

  5. The Paper Doll

    These are great posts!! I’m thinking about traveling in a years time so I’ll have to keep these book marked – and thanks so much for your sweet comment on my blog πŸ™‚

  6. Lavender

    i like to follow locals around supermarkets to see what they are putting in their trolleys. Its usually the best (and often cheapest) meals to be had.
    Great blog.

  7. SnapandPrint

    I bookmarked a few of the sites you mentioned because I always get that ‘nomad feeling’ and would love to even have a three day getaway at times so going ‘on the cheap’ would be perfect for me.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. thepomegranateblog

    LOL… Haggling.. even if u get it down quite a bit it’s a sure bet they are making 10x off what they would sell a local. If u just look at something they’ll walk after you shouting cheaper rates for metres till u buy it! I remember being satisfied at bargaining a skirt down from 250 to 150 which worked out to be like $7 in my currency so I was pretty happy only to go around the corner and see the same ones going for 30 ~Argh!! hahaha…

  9. Susanna-Cole

    Love all these travel advice, I am dying to see the world, but I am broke broke broke! πŸ˜€ But the great thing is I have much more desire to go to very exotic off-the-beaten-path places, places where tourists rarely dare to venture, and where I can be immersed (sp) among the locals and truly experience and learn their culture vs. staying in a 5 star hotel and doing tours with other tourists. πŸ˜‰

    Great posts, going to read more of your blog later when I have a chance! πŸ™‚


  10. cheray natalie

    Ooh i love the idea of rental relocations!! πŸ™‚ The boy and I used a drive-away car in the US where we drove someones car from LA to Florida – absolutely amazing! And we were reimbursed for petrol too! πŸ˜€
    I’m big on hostels for meeting people – we made some great friends when we were overseas (well it’s when we met too!) and it’s been great to catch up with them years down the track πŸ™‚

  11. ambika

    The boyfriend & I have pretty much committed to only travelling in off or shoulder seasons. Both trips we've taken under those circumstances (Belize & Spain) were fantastic. So much less crowded and so much cheaper!

  12. Tash

    I love, love, love this post! From the smiling picture to the helpful hints. You give me fuel for my traveling fire.

    I love the general tone of your blog Sarah, keep up the good work. You just earned another subscriber πŸ˜€

  13. Sarah Von Bargen

    Awww, thanks Tash! Welcome to the party πŸ˜€

  14. Anonymous

    This has had some really great tips. Thank you!
    The link to finding out more about relocation cars in New Zealand isn’t working. Which is a bummer because that’s what I’m really intrested in. Are there sites that may be helpful for that?

  15. sachin kashyap

    Airlines and travel websites supply larger discounts and Cheap Airfares costs to people that book on-line as a result of it saves them the overhead prices of printing and handling a paper price tag. thus make certain to use the e-ticket possibility once getting your plane tickets on-line.

  16. Ainsley

    Sarah, I found you through Elise's podcast (loved it!) and have been sucked into your archives today. I love reading blogs with great writing–I'm a new fan :)!

  17. Pao

    I live in CancΓΊn and though some prices are indeed out of proportion. Mostly in "artisan" (made in China) stores or, restaurants, bars, etc. It pisses me off when people start haggling with well, real artisans. Most of them barely make a living and then they tend to give their prices more low for fear of losing a sell. And some tour guides encourage tourist to haggle even saying that artisans "love it" ugh.
    Some things are priced more higher, but if you are in MΓ©rida and the surrounding towns, Chiapas, etc or you are looking with your own eyes how women are making a hammock, please consider their work and time πŸ™‚
    I know your tip wasn't encouraging this type of haggling but I just had to give my two cents as I see it sadly to often.
    Anyhow, great tips! Just bookmarked a lot of the sites πŸ™‚

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