9 Ways to Travel Big on a Tiny Budget

Ever wondered how to take a tight budget and turn it into an opulent travel fund? With a few tweaks and tricks, you can explore all the places on your travel bucket list, without draining your bank account. Here are nine ways to travel big on a small budget. (See also: How to Build Your Best Travel Budget)

1. Prioritize your spending

In order to make your budget stretch as far as possible, it's important not to splurge every minute of every day. Instead you need to pick your moments to splurge, and decide which activities you don't mind cutting back on. Enable yourself to afford the expensive things by spending as little as possible on the bits that you don't care that much about.

Maybe you enjoy eating out at fancy restaurants. Perhaps you love to catch a show whenever you're abroad. Or maybe you like to stay in pure luxury at five-star hotels. Whatever it is, think about what really makes you happy and be sure that you reserve the majority of your budget for doing those things. (See also: 6 Ways to Travel On a Budget While in Expensive Countries)

2. Plan, plan, plan

Planning is the most effective way to live like royalty on very little. With proper planning, you can save on everything from flights and accommodations, to meals and daily activities. Rather than leaving it all to chance, take control as early as possible to ensure you get great value for your dollar. Country- or location-specific money saving tips can be invaluable, and travel blogs are a fantastic resource to find those kinds of details. (See also: 10 Flight Booking Hacks to Save You Hundreds)

3. Choose the right country

Opting for an up-and-coming destination that's not yet fully on the mainstream tourist trail is a great way to save yourself some cash. Equally, there are some countries and regions where you just get more bang for your buck and even top end luxury can cost a fraction of what it does elsewhere. (See also: 7 Countries Where You Can Travel on $30 a Day or Less)

On the other hand, some destinations are designed to cater to high-end tourists, and will set their prices accordingly. Make sure you check out the cost of flights before settling on your destination, though, because the countries with the cheapest cost of living aren't always the cheapest to get to. (See also: How to Wisely Choose Your Next Travel Destination)

4. Try a home swap

Accommodation is often the biggest expense when you travel, but with a home swap, there's the potential to reduce that cost right down to zero. You can arrange to simultaneously switch homes with someone in your desired location, or swap at different times of the year if you've got a second home. Either way, you get all the benefits that come along with being in a house rather than a hotel or shorter-term rental.

It does rely on you having your own home, ideally in a desirable location that other people will want to visit. By saving big on your accommodation, you'll have more money to spend on other things. (See also: 10 Vacation Rental Alternatives to Airbnb)

5. Seek out free activities

Just because you're on vacation doesn't necessarily mean you have to spend a fortune on finding fun things to do. Most places have loads of awesome free things for you to see, visit, or take part in — it's just a case of finding the best ones.

Check for local websites advertising this type of thing by typing "free things to do in X" and see what comes back. You might find festivals, shows, museums and galleries, educational opportunities, and many other awesome things available at absolutely no cost. (See also: 8 Free Things You Can Do on Any Vacation)

6. Go in the offseason

Traveling at peak times is the quickest way to drain your budget, period. If you have any flexibility, then you need to make sure that you're traveling during times when most other people aren't. That means avoiding U.S. public holidays and common vacation periods, but also checking the location you're interested in to make sure there aren't any special holidays or festivals that may drive prices up.

This doesn't mean you have to go when there's absolutely no one there and the majority of attractions have shut down. Even a few weeks on either side of peak times can make a huge difference price-wise, so double check before booking tickets. (See also: Why Timing Is Everything When Saving Money on Travel)

7. Travel with friends

Sorry, solo travelers, it's just a fact that traveling with more than one person brings the overall average costs down. A room for two is less than double the price of a single. You can also share meals at restaurants to cut down on food bills. And travel costs like taxi fares can be split evenly between the number of riders.

Instead of heading off into the sunshine on your own, try roping in friends, family, work colleagues, or anyone else you might want to vacation with. That way you can share costs and significantly lower your overall expenses. Plus, it's usually more fun to travel with people you like. (See also: 5 Affordable Vacations to Please Every Age Group)

8. Use those points

Rewards and points are one of the best ways to make your budget stretch as far as possible when you're traveling. However, there are plenty of people who don't take advantage of them, so if you're one of those people, now's the time to start.

There are many different options available, from hotel loyalty programs to air miles, and they can save you thousands of dollars with very little effort on your part. Just make sure you know exactly how they work and how best to redeem them before you get going. (See also: Choose the Best Travel Rewards Credit Card with this Guide)

9. Take some luxury with you

Luxury means different things to different people, but a lot of us can easily get sucked into paying more for a hotel or flight if the amenities and perks are dripping in glamour. So rather than pay more for them to be included in your flight or accommodation, give yourself a free upgrade by taking them along with you.

With a bit of planning and preparation, it's easy to turn no-frills travel into a luxury-laced expedition. You can bring everything from gourmet home-cooked meals to enjoy in-flight, to luxury toiletries that add a little bit of glitz to your hotel stay.

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