Traveling on a Shoe String Budget

Every once in a while we all sit down to read the news and halfway through reading the negative headlines and constant devastation, we think, “that’s it. I need a vacation!” For some people, the sudden need for a vacation is easily met. For the rest of us, it takes scrimping and saving up—which is hard when most of our budgets are already stretched as far as we can possibly get them to stretch. But what if you really need to get away?

Here are some tips to help you travel as extravagantly but still as cheaply as possible.

Credit Cards

Credit cards can be used to pay for your vacation in a couple of ways. The first is the most straightforward. Simply charge your tickets, hotel room, and other expenses. Then spend the next year paying that debt off. The other way is more subversive but ultimately more helpful across the board:

Start a line of credit with a card that offers the best credit cards miles program. Then charge things to this card and pay them off. For example: charge groceries then go home and pay off the expense. This way you build your credit and accumulate travel miles that you can use to reduce the cost of your airfare and maybe even other travel expenses.

Stay With Friends

Thanks to the Internet and social media it’s easy to find friends pretty much anywhere in the world. You probably already know at least a few people (with whom you converse regularly online) who live in great travel destinations. Staying with your friends means that you don’t have to pay for a hotel room. It also means at least a couple of free meals. Even better, your friends can show you the local culture in ways that tours and tourist areas cannot.


Here’s the truth: backpacking kind of sucks. So do most hostels—including those that are aimed at younger people.  But! If you’re really desperate to get out of dodge and see somewhere great staying in hostels and carrying your stuff with you lets you travel very cheaply and even with a bit of abandon. If you hate your hostel you simply find a different one. If you decide after you get to destination A that it isn’t working for you, you can hop a train or a bus to destination B for, typically, reasonable prices.

Note: all travel requires a certain degree of carefulness. Backpacking, though, requires a degree of care that other types of travel do not. Sure it is exciting but, if you aren’t careful, you can find yourself in some mighty unsafe situations.

What are some of your favorite ways to afford quick trips to help refresh your mind and soul? Do you simply travel a few towns over or have you found a way to hop a plane and travel around the world? Share your tips in the comments section!

5 thoughts on “Traveling on a Shoe String Budget”

  1. jefferson @SeeDebtRun

    Driving instead of flying is an absolute necessity.

    We are saving THOUSANDS on our family reunion coming up by making that one switch. Sure, its going to suck, but we still get to take an awesome vacation 🙂

  2. I get together with college friends once a year for a road trip. We share hotel rooms and driving expenses. We eat cheap during the day and splurge on a nice meal in the evenings. Mainly we just enjoying getting together again so we don’t care if we don’t see every touristy thing.

  3. The cost of food and basics like drinking water always get me when I travel. See if your hostel or hotel has a kitchen to save money by preparing food at home.

  4. I stayed at a few youth hostels in Europe and they are basically just a place to put your head for the night. I was out to see some of the great places that I will never get a chance to see again and didn’t care about where I stayed for the night. If you can accept the bare essentials, than youth hostels could serve you well. They are plentiful and cheap.

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