12 Budget Travel Tips for Traveling on the Cheap

As you read this, I am in Austin on the last day of SXSW. I’m on the second business related trip I’ve ever taken, and it’s only my third time on a plane in the last 10 years.

Travel can be very expensive. But if you plan ahead and anticipate expenses, there are corners you can cut to ease up on the budget without impacting the fun.

Budget Travel Tips

Airline Travel

  • Bring your own snacks. You can bring food through security, so make sure you bring plenty of snacks. The last time I flew, a bag of potato chips cost $3. I passed.
  • Bring an empty water bottle. When you get through security, fill it at a drinking fountain.
  • Make sure you are aware of all expenses before using a service. Know the rates on pay phones, wifi connections, etc. Some airports have free wifi. Others charge way too much.


  • If you can avoid eating out, do so. Bring a crockpot or hot plate and cook in your hotel room. Better yet, choose accommodations with a kitchen, so you can really cook!
  • Eat your biggest meal at lunch. Often lunch and dinner menus are similar, but dinner is more expensive. Eat a big lunch and have sandwiches for dinner.
  • Look for kids eat free options. That can save a bunch!
  • See if you can find travel publications in front of grocery stores or fast food restaurants. They’re free and often include restaurant coupons.
  • Take advantage of any free food options your hotel provides. Many provide free breakfast, and some hotels provide free snacks from 4-7 p.m.


  • Look into an entertainment book, if you’re going to be spending a lot of time at a destination. This time of year, you can get a great deal on one.
  • Call and inquire about special deals. You never know what’s out there, if you don’t ask.
  • Do free things, like hiking or playing on the beach. Have a picnic lunch at a park.
  • Focus on building relationships with those you are with, rather than on activities. In the end, that’s what matters.

I can’t wait to get back and tell you all about how I saved money (or not) on my trip to Austin! Do you have any money saving travel ideas? I’ll be reading the comments from Austin, so I’d love to hear them!

15 thoughts on “12 Budget Travel Tips for Traveling on the Cheap”

  1. Great tips!!! I thinking bringing your own food is KEY when traveling! I always bring snacks and even packed cereal for my trip to Turks & Caicos! Sounds crazy, but I wanted to see the beautiful Grace Bay Beach and go snorkeling without breaking the bank! :)

    Anyway, I recently started a blog to brag about my bargains, hence the name “BargainBrags.blogspot.com.”

    My top 3 tips:
    1) Use SkyScanner.com to search for lowest priced airfare. (For my last 3 vacations, I paid half price for roundtrip tickets.)
    2) Find a hotel you want and use any search engine to look up the lowest possible rate across a multitude of sites – plus sometimes it iss cheapest to call the hotel directly. (My husband was able to get one night free for our honeymoon!)
    3) Be your own tour guide with internet resources and a good guide book

  2. Good ideas, but FYI, some hotels will penalize you for cooking in a room without a kitchen. We usually pack a cooler (extra ice from the front desk as mentioned earlier) and try to do the cold food route, or oatmeal or packaged soup mix with water heated in the coffeemaker.

  3. I travel on business a TON and I’m able to use my hotel and rental car points as well as frequent flier miles. On our family trips these really come in handy!

    Always ask the hotel front desk about where to eat on the cheap and what low or no cost entertainment options are in the area.

    Ans while you’re in Austin, be sure and go see the bats that come out from under the bridge downtown. It’s the largest urban bat colony in the US and it is impressive when they start coming out … and it’s free.

  4. Using priceline.com for flights and hotels is one way to save money. I regularly get hotels 1/2 off.

    Oh Also, SXSW ends on March 22. I think you were referring to just the Interactive portion ending March 17.

  5. Good ideas! I like the one about switching your biggest meal (dinner) to lunchtime where it should be. This way you can also take adavantage of cheaper menu prices!!!

  6. i have two sons so eating out turns really expensive .when on holidays I carry some paper plates,knife,salt ,black pepper & lemons.buy local fruit & add above mentioned spices ,a great snack is ready.
    also,carry some ketchup .buy bread ,use cottage cheese ,some ketchup,salt & pepper,another snack is ready.
    we usually choose a park with swings etc & i make these snacks so the boys can have fun plus healthy snack.
    i get to relax,save money & spend time with their father.

  7. And pack some extra zip-style plastic bags in qt. and gal. sizes. Good for leftovers or for keep food dry in the ice bucket mentioned above.

    Another thing we do when traveling with family is to bring a collapsible cooler. Great for picnics, room/food storage or just as a tote. We L.O.V.E. our collapsible coolers.

  8. Even if you don’t have a fridge in your hotel room. Ask the front desk for a bucket or extra bucket. That way you can get more ice to cool the foods overnight.

  9. Try to find a small grocery store, deli or market and pick up some things (rolls, fruit, deli meat, salad bar, cheeses, etc.) to keep in the refrigerator in your room (if you have one).

    If you’re traveling with your family, find a suite with a kitchen (mentioned above) or check out one of those “vacation rentals by owner” sites and rent a whole house for the price of a hotel. We did that when we stayed in CA, once in Anaheim and once in a mountain town. Both were great.

  10. Kristen is right: Always ask the locals for recommendations. Not only can you save money on food this way, but you can often find really good entertainment options for much less (or even for free!) I can’t wait to hear about your trip. Details! include the details!

  11. I really like this idea you shared…”If you can avoid eating out, do so. Bring a crockpot or hot plate and cook in your hotel room. Better yet, choose accommodations with a kitchen, so you can really cook! ”
    And the other thing you said about focusing on the ones you are with rather than what you are doing was a very wise thing to focus on. Thank you for what you shared.

    Blessings in Him<

  12. A little research when traveling can really save you a lot of money. I have a group of girlfriends with whom I travel quite a bit. We always find good bargains. We went to Italy several years ago. Everyone kept telling us how expensive the food would be, so we were really nervous. We ended up asking locals and veering off of the main tourists streets a bit and ate for cheaper than we could have at home. I only spent about half the amount I budgeted for food, and we ate really well!

  13. Great post Lynnae.

    I used to have to travel for work all the time and it was the little things that ate up your budget.

    I used to bring my own snacks and drinks to avoid the honor bar.

    I would add, on the rare occasions we go to the movies, we eat first and sneak in our own snacks to avoid the high costs and poor choices of the snack bar there.

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