How To Travel on a Budget

16 November 2016

So you want to go on an adventure to see new places and meet new people, but your bank balance doesn’t seem to want to play along? The good news is that you don’t need a small fortune to be able to cure your insatiable wanderlust, especially since it’s easier today than ever before to travel on a budget, and HI USA hostels around the country are an easy answer to the question of where to stay. And since we know a thing or two about traveling on a budget, here are some helpful tips to help you save while on the road.

1. Do as the locals do

This is a good rule in general, but applies especially when you’re trying to watch your spending because a lot of tourist places tend to have marked up prices and the locals usually avoid those. Whether you’re looking for a place to eat, a quick drink or shopping for supplies, look for the places that aren’t on main roads and seem to have more locals than out-of-towners. And when in doubt, ask the friendliest locals who also happen to be in the know – the front desk staff back at the hostel!

2. Plan to eat out only once a day

One of the joys of traveling is definitely getting to indulge in the local food, and it’s still entirely possible to do so without breaking the bank. Take advantage of the free breakfast offered at most HI USA hostels and stock up on supplies to make your own food in the well equipped kitchens. Then, you can choose one meal per day when you can eat out – keep an eye out for lunch deals and daily specials (Taco Tuesday, anyone?) as well as happy hours where you can get a lot of great bites at discount prices. Plus, there are always group dinners and tasting nights at many of our hostels if you want to get a taste of local fare.

3. Be flexible

While it’s a good idea to have some things planned out, it might be friendlier for your wallet to be a little loose with your plans. Maybe it’s easier to stay another night at the hostel so you can get a free ride to your next destination with your new traveling friends, or maybe there’s a hostel activity that allows you to see many local sights so you don’t have to pay for a tour. If you’re flexible and don’t really have any time constraints, take advantage of last-minute travel deals and off-season rates at our hostels to make your money go further.

4. Take public transportation

Many of our hostels are conveniently close to city bus and subway lines, so you can go exploring and see a lot beyond where your two feet can take you without having to rent a car. Look out for student discounts and day passes that will allow you to use one ticket multiple times, and ask at the hostel front desk for suggestions on great places to stop that are easily accessible. With the combination of Amtrak trains, multi-city bus lines and local public transportation networks, you can easily visit our hostels on both coasts without it costing an arm and a leg.

5. Travel as a group

Every January and February, HI USA encourages groups of eight people or more to volunteer in the communities surrounding our hostels for just two hours a day, and in return they can stay for free! This program, known as the Great Hostel Give Back, is open to anyone who believes that giving back makes for a more rewarding travel experience, and you can stay up to five complimentary nights whether you choose your own project or need us to recommend a worthy local cause. After your volunteering, you can join in a hostel activity or mix and mingle with other hostellers in the common areas – a win-win!

HI USA tip: Take a look at these guides to visiting Portland and Los Angeles on the cheap, and find out why it's better to travel during off season if you're really looking to save.