10 Ways To Actually Stick To Your Travel Budget

By Yahoo Travel
August 18, 2015

This article was written by Jarryd Salem and Alesha Bradford and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel.

You’ve worked hard for a few years, diligently saved every cent you could, and now you are ready to start that big travel adventure. The research has been done, flights are booked, and before you know it you’ll be sipping cocktails on a beach with no end date in sight! You’re finally living the dream! But the hard part is far from over. Now you need to learn how to stretch your money as far as possible. Certain parts of the world like Southeast Asia and Latin America are famous for being cheap, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible to spend all your money in only a few weeks.

We have been traveling for almost seven years now, and have finally started to figure out the best ways to manage a sustainable budget on the road. But it didn’t come easy. We made a lot of mistakes as we stumbled our way around the world. At one point we even ended up $25,000 in debt—all on credit cards. Yes, we had an incredible time, but most of the debt didn’t come from ticking off bucket-list activities; It came from being careless with our money. After a lot of hard work we managed to get out of debt, save some more money, and get back out into the beautiful world. To help you avoid making the same mistakes, we have put together this collection of our 10 best tips for sticking to a travel budget while you’re out on the road.

Keep track of every dollar spent

We write down every single dollar we spend in a little pocket diary. Every. Single. Dollar. At the end of the week we add up how much we’ve spent and use it to keep track of where our money goes. Doing this helps to keep us focused on our goals and see where we need to improve on ways to stick to our travel budget. Having the numbers in front of you makes it seem real and gives direction in your spending habits.

Make a daily travel budget

The biggest tip for sticking to your travel budget is to actually have a budget to start with. Work out how long you plan to be away and make a budget to get you through the journey. Then stick to it. Our travel budget in Southeast Asia is $25 a day each. Some days we go over it, but we always make up for this by having a few quiet days to even it out. If you stop caring, then you may run out of money a lot sooner than you wanted to.

Related: 12 Countries You Can Visit for Less Than $50 a Day

Cut back on the alcohol

Don’t get us wrong, we love a drink or two. But alcohol will cut deep into your travel budget. For example, the average cost of a beer in Southeast Asia or Latin America is about $1.50 (give or take). If we have five beers each every night of the year, that works out to be $5,460 annually. That’s nearly 30 percent of our yearly travel budget! We do love a night out every now and then, but through lots of experience, we have learned that travel is much more fun without a hangover.

Travel slowly

Slow travel has a lot of benefits, but the one we are focusing on now is that it saves you a lot of money. Staying in one place for an extended period of time allows you to work out where the cheapest places to eat and drink are. Depending on your bartering skills, you might also be able to make a deal with your accommodation and get a better price for a week-long stay. Once settled, you’ll no longer need to take transportation every other day, which can really cut into a traveler’s budget. What’s more, you’ll get the chance to take a few rest days when you don’t go to museums or check out awesome tours. This means you can relax by the beach or go for a walk, enjoying the downtime by doing some free activities. Trust us, the slower you travel, the less you spend.

Catch public transportation

If the locals do it, why shouldn’t you? Using public transportation can be one of the biggest fears for first-time travelers to developing countries, but 99 percent of the time the local buses or trains are great. Not only are they really cheap compared to taxis or tourist buses, but they can be very entertaining and culturally eye-opening. There’s nothing quite like sharing your seat with a local family of four, their luggage, and a goat to get you up close and personal to a different way of life. Sure it might be a bit less comfortable than taking a private car, but it’ll help with your budget—and your experience. Embrace the public transport, or if you are really adventurous, try hitchhiking.

Eat where the locals eat

The locals usually know where the best and cheapest food is, whether it is street food, a hole-in-the-wall eatery, or a sit-down restaurant. If a place has a crowd you can almost guarantee it will be good. Western-style meals in third-world countries are usually expensive and very rarely as tasty as what you can get at home. Don’t avoid the local food just because you think you may get sick. Fancy restaurants and street vendors all buy their food from the same markets. So if the locals are eating there, it is probably safe.

Related: Designer Hostels That Only Look Expensive

Stay In cheap accommodations

Accommodations are usually the biggest day-to-day cost of any traveler’s expenses. In many countries dropping a few hundred dollars a night on a nice hotel room is very easy to do. Instead, choose small locally run guesthouses or homestays, or find cheap hotels on the edge of town. In many countries these inexpensive accommodations are pretty clean and comfortable, and they offer the basic necessities—a bed, running water, and a door. Really, what more do you need? To help keep your costs down, you could also try CouchSurfing, but remember CouchSurfing isn’t just about free accommodation.

Shop at the markets

If you are looking to buy  anything from fresh fruit to souvenirs or new clothes, local markets are the place to go. The stalls usually have far lower overheads than stores do, and as a result their products are cheaper. If your accommodations have a kitchen, or you travel with a portable stove, you can buy all your meat and vegetables from the markets to cook yourself. Two great travel budget tips in one!

Don’t buy things you don’t need

This should be obvious, but you’ll be surprised how hard it is to not buy that funky trinket or those custom-made shoes as you travel along. If you are only on a short holiday, then go for it. But if you are planning on being on a long-term adventure, seriously consider holding off on any impromptu purchases. If it is something you have always wanted, then that is a different story. But if we had bought every single wood carving and painting we liked, we would be broke. Plus, we would need a truck to carry all the extra gear! For souvenirs we collect small denominations of money from every country—takes up far less room and sometimes only costs five or ten cents.

Related: 7 Cheap and Chic Beaches You’ve Never Heard of…Until Now

Don’t give up!

Sticking to a travel budget is hard work, but don’t lose sight of your goal. After a few months on the road staying in basic accommodations, it can be very tempting to go out and splurge on a fancy hotel room and a five-course meal. To be honest, sometimes you deserve it. Just don’t make it a regular occurrence. The longer we’ve been on the road the more we appreciate how far we can stretch our money. Chances are you will never remember that great night’s sleep you had in a $200-a-night hotel, but you will definitely remember forking out only $10 on a room so you could spend $190 on a once-in-a-lifetime activity. Long-term travel is hard, and so is sticking to a budget. The rewards however, are always worth it.

WATCH: The 2 Dives Every Foodie Is Obsessed With in Miami

Keep reading
Travel Tips

Air Travel Trends for 2015

Summer is the high season for air travel, and we've been keeping an eye on new developments that are changing the way people get to the airport, what they do during layovers, and even how they choose to travel with their pets. COOL AIRPORT LOUNGES. Got a layover between flights? Airlines are making that time more enjoyable with exciting new "sky lounges" that include eye-popping design, great service and food and drinks, and even outdoor areas.  JetBlue's outdoor rooftop lounge at JFK is open to all passengers who've passed through security and includes landscaped spaces, seating, great food (hot dogs and ice cream!), a children's play area, and a dog-walk - a first! Other lounges are a little more exclusive - a few hundred dollars a year or a $50 "day pass," like Delta Sky Club in Atlanta, includes showers, work stations with plug-ins, and a separate "quiet" room. FLY WITH FIDO AND FLUFFY. We may joke about how "traumatic" flying can be for humans, but for pets stored in the baggage hold, the experience is no joke. Despite airlines' best efforts, there's lots of loud noise and jostling (though, contrary to urban myth, the hold is heated). Many fliers with cats and small dogs are now opting to carry their pet in the cabin in a container under their seat (as a "carryon"). When flying with a dog or cat, you should check the airlines' policy in advance, leave extra time for check-in, and be sure you have an up-to-date health certificate. SAY BUH-BYE TO FREE BAGGAGE CHECK. Of the major U.S. carriers, only Southwest still offers free checked bags. JetBlue recently did away with the policy for its basic fares when it rolled out a new three-tiered fare system last month. So if you're flying JetBlue, American, United, or Delta, you're allowed two checked bags under 50 pounds and a carry-on, but you've got to pay for the checked bags. TIP: If you're a frequent flier, some reward program credit cards will give you access to free baggage check and other perks. MIDDLE SEAT ANXIETY. The folks at Zodiac Aerospace had the best intentions when they designed their LifeStyle airplane seating. Their goal was to give passengers more room and to fit more seats on the plane. But the Twitterverse reacted harshly to the proposal, which would include middle seats that face "backwards," so you're face-to-face with the folks in the row "behind" you. Some fliers have described that proposal as a dystopian fantasy/torture device. NEW WAYS TO GET TO THE AIRPORT. Can't talk your friends or your significant other into driving you to the airport anymore? You're not alone. But a new generation of car services is stepping up to make the trip easier than ever: Download the Uber app and you can order a car with a touch of a screen and even track your car's location via real-time map. We Drive ("Your Car, Our Driver, You Save") will drive you to the airport in your car, then drive it back to your home, and text you a photo of your car safely parked, for less than most car services.

Travel Tips

Funniest Celeb Travel Tips Ever

Comedians are some of the most experienced travelers in the world. After years spent shuttling from city to city for gigs, they have an, ahem, "unique" perspective on universal travel experiences. And let's face it: We nomadic types could all use a laugh after a third flight delay or while trying to ignore rowdy kids interrupting our piña colada zen at the pool. With that in mind, we asked 14 comedic stars of the stage, TV, and silver screen to share their funniest summer travel tips—some are so practical, you'll pray for a travel snag so you can try them out.

Travel Tips

Flight Attendants’ Tips for Sleeping Well on a Plane

This article was written by Sid Lipsey and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel. It’s one of the most unfair things about flying—other than being charged a fee to check a single bag (We won’t be getting over that one anytime soon, airlines.): Some passengers are able to fall asleep before takeoff and snooze soundly until the plane lands, while others struggle to get even a moment of shut-eye. “Everyone wants to get some rest on the airplane,” says flight attendant Betty Thesky, author of Betty In the Sky With a Suitcase: Hilarious Stories of Air Travel by the World’s Favorite Flight Attendant. "But crowded airplanes, small seats, and crying babies don’t always dovetail with restful slumber.“ Flight attendants witness first-hand passengers’ struggles to sleep on planes. Thesky says some sleep-deprived passengers have gone so far as to ask her for sleeping pills (as if a pill cart comes down the aisle right behind the beverage cart).  Related: Secrets of the Skies: Flight Attendants and Pilots Tell All "I was flying back from Hawaii and a woman rang her flight attendant call bell and told me, ‘I called ahead and told reservations that I needed to sleep on this flight and they said I would be able to sleep,’” says Thesky. Apparently the passenger thought her sleep reservation entitled her to a bigger seat or a bed. “I told her that every single person on the airplane wants to sleep,” Thesky says, “and the reservations operator probably got a good chuckle when you called in with your 'sleep request.’” Thesky tells of another passenger who had an even stranger request straight fromThe Twilight Zone. “Once, an odd-looking guy at the window seat asked me if he could go and sleep out on the wing,” she remembers. "He then explained that it said in the in-flight magazine that you could sleep on the wing.” Not only did the flight crew reject his request — because,of course!!!! — they moved him out of his exit row seat. Apparently, someone who asks to sleep on the plane’s wing may not be all that reliable in an emergency.  But Thesky does offer a word in the passenger’s defense. “As I retold the story to a coworker she said, 'Oh, there is an ad in the in-flight magazine with a cartoon of a passenger sleeping on the wing,’” she remembers. “So at least he had some reference to his wacky request!" But funny stories aside, flight attendants have unique insight into what works, and what doesn’t, in the quest to get some mile-high shuteye. Here are their best tips. Adjust your expectations The first rule of successful in-flight sleeping: Don’t go into a flight expecting to sleep. "Passengers will often have unrealistic expectations on a all night flight,” Thesky says. “They think, 'I’ll sleep on the plane and be ready to hit the ground running’ when they land at their destination many time zones away.” Such a mentality is a recipe for a sleepless flight. “Putting pressure on yourself will almost guarantee that you won’t dose off,” Thesky says. She suggests trying a little reverse psychology on yourself and adjusting your sleep expectations.  “It’s easy to fall asleep when you’re supposed to stay awake, like in a boring classroom or at jury duty,” she says, “so set a plan that you’renotgoing to sleep on the flight and instead catch up on all the movies you haven’t seen. You just may wake up as the wheels are coming down.” Related: Everything You Need to Know About Sleeping on the Plane and Beating Jet Lag Get a window seat A window seat gives you a nice flat surface on which to rest your head. But flight attendant Lauren McLaughlin has turned this no-brainer into a science: “On most of our planes I look for the indent in the window,” she says of her efforts to find a window seat most conducive to sleeping. “If the window indent is an inch or two in front of the seat, it’s the best place for your head to lean into." Of course, when you book a flight online, it’s impossible to tell which seat has the magic sleep-maximizing indentation. Hey, SeatGuru, you guys need to get on this! Dress for sleep success Good airplane sleeping can be a matter of what you wear. "On long flights it helps to have on comfortable clothing and loose-fitting shoes,” says Southwest Airlines flight attendant Emily Witkop. “Due to pressurization, our bodies swell and it can be uncomfortable if you aren’t used to it."  Witkop raves about a flight she took where first-class passengers were given pajamas and slippers, which is sometimes the case on international flights. "Genius!,” she says. “Just don’t wear your personal pajamas on the plane if you are over five years old. That is poor traveling etiquette and people will not disregard your just-rolled-out-of-bed look."  Related: British Airways Testing 'Happiness Blanket’ to Help You Sleep Better on Flights Get the right gear There’s a reason many airport shops are filled with airplane sleeping gear. Many passengers swear by it. Says Witkop, "The travel pillow, eye mask, and earbuds/headphone combo usually works well on short flights.” Flight attendant Michelle Lazzaro also has her sleep gear preferences. “If I really tried [to sleep on a plane] I would first of all have one of those really plush eye masks like the Tempur-Pedic,” she says, “and a neck pillow so my head doesn’t fall from side to side!” Eating and drinking the right things “If its a long flight bring a chamomile tea bag,” suggests another flight attendant. (The crew can provide the hot water and cup.) You might also want to take a second look at the in-flight snacks, some of which might make you feel too uncomfortable to sleep. “Avoiding salty snacks can reduce some bloating,” says Witkop. Wear sunglasses at night Pulling a Corey Hart might help protect you from chatty seatmates who seek to foil your sleeping plans. “If you want to be left alone, wear sunglasses,” says Lindsay. “Some people want to chat with their neighbor, so it’s the one time I suggest wearing sunglasses indoors. Any other time is just rude.” Big headphones also tend to have the same effect. And whatever you do… “Just don’t put your feet up on the bulkhead,” says Lauren McLaughlin. The last thing the people around you need are your feet in smelling distance as they’re trying to sleep, because the only thing worse than not sleeping yourself is preventing a fellow passenger from sleeping. . Plus, it’s just bad manners. Remember, the sleep gods may be mercurial and fleeting with their generosity to weary travelers. But they also believe in karma. WATCH: A Broad Abroad: Flying Singapore Airlines First Class For an Hour Ruined My Life

Travel Tips

Traveling to Greece? Bring Your Own Euros

If you haven't already heard, Greece has been having some financial problems lately. According to an article by The Guardian, travelers to Greece are being urged to prepare for the possibility of zero bank and ATM access during upcoming trips. As of right now, Greek residents are only allowed to take out 60 euros per day from available ATMs, and while technically there is no restriction on foreign withdrawals, the overruling issue is that Greek cash machines are running out of money. Translation: Bring your own cash. For American travelers, that means euros, by the way, not USD. Credit cards will work as they usually do, but you can avoid long lines at ATMs and spend your well-earned vacation time touring the Parthenon or relaxing on the beach in the Greek Islands if you plan ahead. Pack enough cash to get you through your trip, whether it's for a long weekend or a two week adventure, and try to bring as many small notes with you as possible, as it's easier to pay with 5-, 10-, and 20- euro bills, than to try to break a 100 euro bill right now. We want to know: Would the country's financial woes stop you from visiting Greece? Are you willing to make little adjustments for the sake of a potentially amazing vacation? Sound off below!