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July 07, 2023 | By: Chrissy Kapralos

10 Tips for Affordable Travel in 2023

Money Management | Travel

Ever got excited about planning a trip? I’ll have a hundred tabs open — Expedia here, Airbnb there, and Reddit for those juicy local recommendations. 

But more often than not, we abandon ship.


Because travel is so darn expensive right now. I travel regularly as a freelance writer and I’m feeling the burn, too. Turns out, airlines are using dynamic pricing to jack up airfare prices more than ever. And don’t even get me started on Airbnb and hotels. 

So, how do you keep costs low when planning your next vacation? It’s a mix of research, adaptability, and planning. But it also helps to adopt a budget-friendly lifestyle in general, which Credit Canada’s online resources or free and confidential credit counselling services can support you with. 

Here are some tips I’ve gathered over the years. 

1. Don’t go into debt to travel — automate savings instead. 

Seriously — it’s not worth it. Racking up points on your travel credit card and then paying it off is one thing. But paying 19.99% interest each month on a massive hotel transaction with no plan for repayment is quite another. 

Instead, factor your vacation into your budget. I used to put away 4% of my monthly income into a dedicated savings account for travel and vacations. Of course, you don’t have to make your contribution percentage-based. A simple $100 per month into your travel fund will cover a plane ticket by the end of the year! 

You might try Credit Canada’s Budget and Expense Tracker to help you map out a comfortable monthly contribution to your travel fund. But I’d recommend preparing to use that travel fund to pay off any credit card debt quickly because your expenses (and interest!) can add up.

2. Compare and negotiate on Airbnb. 

Ask and you shall receive — at least, some of the time. 

I’ve noticed Airbnb prices have increased recently. So I usually request a discount. Nothing crazy, but it’s worth asking. I’d recommend writing a polite, respectful note describing your professionalism and respect as a guest and maybe point out some of your great reviews. Then, you could mention that you’re looking for accommodations under a specific budget and ask if they could accommodate you. 

In the past, I’ve received flat-out refusals. But I’ve also received offers somewhere in the middle, which helps shave off some costs. 

After sending out a few requests, compare your results. I’d also recommend comparing Airbnb prices to hotel prices. These days, the hotel might be more cost-effective— especially in cities with tough restrictions on Airbnb like Toronto, which result in higher prices.

3. Travel off-season. 

I know; I know — Europe is way more appealing in the summer. But winters aren’t as bitterly cold as they are in Canada, meaning you can still enjoy yourself on a European vacation in February. 

For example, I travelled to Ireland in early February and loved it. Sure, the skies were cloudy, and I caught some rain, but I paid less for airfare and accommodation than I would have during the peak summertime months.

4. Pack light. 

Many airlines charge a fee for bringing luggage. Avoid them by sticking to your personal item and carry-on, both of which are often included in your airfare. 

Plus, you’ll avoid the more recent airline fiascos of lost luggage. While you may eventually receive compensation, the sheer headache of landing without your clothes or toiletries is enough to deter me from checking a bag. 

Now, if you’re travelling with family or a group, it might be more worth it to check a bag or two. Just try to be strategic and disperse items evenly across your carry-ons.

5. Eat where the locals eat. 

Tourist traps are such a drag on your wallet. Trust me; TripAdvisor isn’t always going to show you all those local gems where food isn’t astronomically expensive. The best way to pick local restaurants is to make friends or at least get friendly with locals. Talk to the coffee shop barista or your Uber driver. 

Another one of my favourite ways to find local spots is through Reddit. I find it to be a wonderland of fresh, authentic insights that I just can’t get on the average review site or travel blog. The number of individuals contributing to different threads offers many opportunities to discover local gems. 

More budget tips for vacation eats: 

  • Buy snacks. That Cliff’s bar will hold you over in time for dinner and stop you from meandering into a tourist trap for a pricey afternoon snack. 

  • Pick one meal a day for restaurants. I like to dine in for lunch and keep dinner simple — a grab-and-go panino or local food truck, for example. But if I had to choose between a restaurant for brunch or dinner, I’d always choose dinner. Eggs and waffles don’t warrant a $52 price tag for two, in my books.

  • Chill on the meat. I’m a big carnivore. I love a solid steak and a juicy burger, but vegetarian dishes tend to be a little cheaper.

6. Stay flexible. 

Loose schedules help me save money. Let me explain. 

Say you’re 100% adamant about going to X town on X day. What if train tickets are cheaper the day after? I leave wiggle room in my itinerary to allow for savings where I can find them. 

Another way to stay flexible is with dates for visiting attractions. Some museums offer discounts on certain days of the week or times of the day — use them to your advantage. 

Finally, flexibility on location can also help you save on costs. Sure, Paris might be on your bucket list — but if you notice a cheaper flight to Lisbon around the same time? Come on, a trip to Portugal will still leave you with wonderful memories. 

7. Work while travelling. 

This is a matter of preference. As a freelance writer, my schedule allows me to disperse my work hours throughout the day and plan sightseeing and activities around it. I’ve even met digital nomads who work 9 to 5s on longer stints and enjoy a nice long walk or lunch on their break, plus nighttime activities. 

Of course, this isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. Mixing work mode and travel mode might feel stressful for some — it can be for me, too. But having income coming in really helps to make me feel financially secure while travelling.

8. Get on those apps. 

I found a $440 roundtrip ticket from Toronto for five days in Milan and ten days in Ireland through the app “Next Departure.” Wild. Skyscanner is another great option, and so is Google Flights if you toggle the cheapest filters on the platform. 

You could also set up price alerts to get the latest updates on cheap flights, though these might force you to book quickly or off-season — which is better for avoiding the hustle-bustle of tourist season anyway. 

Here’s a list of some of my favourite apps to save on travel costs: 

  • TrustedHouseSitters: The $220 annual fee isn’t cheap, but watching someone’s cat or dog in exchange for free accommodation can make it worth it. You can also peruse listings on house or pet-sitting groups on Facebook. 

  • Next Departure: This Canadian app shows me the latest deals — sometimes even ridiculously low flight errors — from all of Canada’s biggest cities. It documents each deal with clear instructions on dates to input.

  • Maps.Me: Have you ever returned home from a trip to a $500 cell phone bill? Not fun. But those data charges do add up. Apart from calling your cell provider prior to your trip for a deal, you might check out Maps.Me, which helps you access worldwide maps offline.

You might also want to consider budgeting apps pre-travel to help you save for your trip! Check out Credit Canada’s guide on the best budgeting apps.

9. Skip the souvenirs. 

Most people (including your mom or best friend) won’t lose sleep if you return home without a cheesy magnet or snow globe. 

Even that local artisan jam you thought your aunt would love? Don’t worry about it. Souvenirs and gifts just add more to your travel bill, and they really shouldn’t be a priority if you’re trying to budget. After all, you can’t give from a cup that’s empty. 

If you must send a token from your trip, consider a cheaper option like a postcard.

10. Embrace Public Transportation or  Walk

I try to walk everywhere I go — it’s like a free tour of a city. Car rentals are increasing in price, and taxis can be really expensive, especially at the airport. If I can’t walk, I always look at Google Maps for a public transportation method to get somewhere. And depending on the country I’m in, Uber is sometimes cost-effective enough to take as well. 

Here are a few more budget-friendly transportation options you can explore: 

  • Bike shares: Get a side of cardio on your way to your planned attractions. You’ll usually spend around the same on a bike share program as you would on public transportation. 

  • Metro, buses, subways: If you’re travelling in a group, just remember to compare the cost of multiple bus tickets and a taxi. Go with whatever is cheaper, or makes sense. For example, I’d pick a $15 cab before collectively spending $3 each for a group of 4 ($12) to take the subway. 

  • Scooter rentals: Talk about zoom zoom! If you’re in a city that offers this, I highly recommend trying it at least once. I had so much fun zooming around Austin, TX on these things. Just take care to track your time — a day pass is usually cheaper than paying per half hour, which can add up quickly. 

  • Carpooling apps: I’m not talking about Uber. Blablacar, Poparide, and KangaRide all let you hop into cars with drivers already heading to your location. I used this for cross-provincial travel in Canada and saved a ton of money.

Did you expect to see a hitchhiking suggestion? I’ve seen some people do this, but it’s too risky for me, and definitely not recommended.

Get Budgeting Support from Credit Canada

The vast costs of travel make it intimidating and downright unattainable for many — especially if you’re already dealing with debt. But I hope these tips help you feel more confident in planning your next vacation on a budget. It’s doable with the right planning and a little compromise on location, food options, and accommodations. 

Don’t forget to leverage the resources around you. For example, Credit Canada offers no-cost, confidential credit counselling from certified credit counsellors. This is a great way to ground yourself amidst overwhelming debt and find pathways to getting back to a financially comfortable place. 

Book a call with a credit counsellor today!

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