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When you travel, you gain experiences that you just don't get from your normal, day-to-day life. This is the part where the "Yes, of course, I'd love to travel but I can't afford it" train of thought arrives at the station. We get it. Traveling is awesome but can be costly.
Thankfully, there are ways around the typically ominous price tag associated with travel. Here is everything you need to know to get started traveling while on a tight budget.
Plan, plan, then plan some more
This might seem obvious, but traveling cheaply begins with extensive research. Set up fare alerts for flights so you can grab a cheap ticket and look up the off-peak travel times for your destination.
» Learn more: What a travel agent can do that a search engine can’t
Research your excursion as much as possible. Knowledge is power. The more you know, the more options you have to save cash.
Check all accommodations
Looking for a hotel? Try sites like Skyscanner and Booking.com. If nothing comes up within your price range, call the hotel and ask for a better rate. Hotels want all their rooms rented, so many times they'll offer you a deal rather than see a room go empty. You can also try HotelTonight for rooms that are available at the last minute.
There are other options for accommodations to explore, too. Try Airbnb or CouchSurfing to find a spot in someone's home or apartment. The big bonus of this strategy is your spot will likely come with a kitchen, which can save you even more money.
If you're staying at a place with a kitchen, plan to make some meals there. You don't have to eat every meal at your rental, just some. Maybe you make all of your breakfasts at the rental, thus allowing you some extra cash for dinners out on the town.
Use public transportation
When traveling on a tight budget, public transportation is your friend. Look up the options available at your destination and try planning out some routes during your trip. That way you won't be baffled by the maze of subway and bus lines when you arrive.
Try stateside cities
Stay stateside to save some cash. There are plenty of great cities in our nation that are cheap to visit. Check out San Antonio, Texas, for its many (free) museums, national parks and the River Walk. The city also has a gigantic bus system — VIA Metropolitan Transit — that makes getting around San Antonio quite affordable.
» Learn more: How to save for a vacation
Another great city to visit on the cheap is San Diego, California. There's a trolley for transportation, you can explore the beach and stay at a variety of hostels. As for the latter, try Hostelworld.com for booking — we found rooms in San Diego for right around $30 per night.
Spend little, go big
No matter where you want to go, there are likely countless free or affordable activities. Find the best things to do by asking the hotel front desk or your Airbnb host. Locals are a great source of information.
Use the right card
Don't: Use a credit card to fund your trip.
Do: Take advantage of travel credit cards to keep your trip affordable.
There are many credit cards that partner with airlines, hotels, car rental companies and more, all of which will help cut costs.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card