How to travel on a budget

Learn how to make the most out of your trip broke

Travelling on a budget is often thought to be limiting. It is true that less money might mean shabbier accommodation and unappetizing food, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Of course, where money falls short, you become more flexible. And as a 20-something solo traveler, my flexibility often allows me the opportunity to explore and experience things that may be deemed unfit for young solo traveler, especially for a girl. So here’s my guide for a safe, unique and memorable trip. I’ve got you 😉

This article gathers information collected over time, during successful or unsuccessful journeys, by adding the lessons received thanks to this wonderful network of travellers met on the roads.

As a young solo traveler, I’ve managed over my trips to bring together some hacks to be able to fully enjoy the experience while saving money. Within my last trip, I’ve travelled around West USA for 2 months. While it’s not the cheapest destination (especially California), a lot of my expenses were reduced thanks to a few tips I’ve payed attention to on my road.

Solo-travelling but not alone

If you’re ever afraid of travelling solo because you’re scared that you’re not going to meet people : be sure that you will. 

Finding pals along the road and share a part of the trip together is first a great way to connect and make unique friendships but it’s also convenient because you’ll share most of the expenses. 

Here’s some tips to meet with some fellow travellers and not end up alone:

  • Stay in a youth hostel

This kind of accommodation has a lot of pros; it’s usually quite cheap and in most of them you’ll even have breakfast included. Also, as it’s social, you can use breakfast and activities offered by the property (bar crawl, game night…) to connect with other people. 

  • Couchsurfing

For me, this is THE absolute app. I’ll elaborate about all the features this app can offer later in the article but it’s basically a community for travellers. Besides all the options of the platform, it allows you to create and join events near you. So wherever you are, you can join an event or hang-out with people in the same area. Planning a week-end trip ? Wanna grab a coffee with locals ? Post your event and eventually, fellow excursionists will join.

  • Join group excursion

If you’re travelling somewhere, you might wanna stop at sightseeing point, or visit a certain place. If it’s the case, there’s often group excursion that you can join to share this experience with other people and eventually make plans for the next days with your new friends.

Where to sleep ?

One of the major challenge for nomads is to find a place to spend the night. So if you’re on budget and do not want to spend every pennies on an hotel room, I’ve got other solutions for you. 

So first, you wanna consider camping. As wild as it sounds it’s actually pretty easy to find good affordable camping gears nowadays. If you’re backpacking and don’t have space to carry tent, mattress and sleeping bag, no need to panic. You can find several groups on apps such as Facebook or Couchsurfing to find people selling or giving their camping gears at the end of their trip. Trade is also pretty common in hostels. (p.s: if you happen to have to buy a tent, buy a children tent. It’s a lot cheaper and can usually fit a regular sized mattress.)

Again, you wanna consider sleeping in hostels. If sleeping with 8 strangers sound creepy to you, it’s more and more common that properties provide smaller rooms, female only rooms, even double-rooms. 

If you’re travelling in group, booking an Airbnb is usually a good deal. Make sure to have a kitchen so you’ll be able to cook. (Uber Eats every day is unfortunately not budget friendly.)

Finally, Couchsurfing (again). Get free stays in all of your destinations by staying directly at a host’s place. Having used Couchsurfing throughout my trips, I believe that the platform really helps me travel like a local. Most hosts happily showed me around their city and gave me advice on transportation, food, or must-visits within the country. But it’s not for everyone. You gotta be ready for last minute changes, awkward situations and uncomfortable beds. Also, hosts are not here to serve you, so you have to behave and stay flexible. 

Of course, sometimes certain behaviors may be a tick off. Both from the host or the surfer. So it’s important to keep in mind that this platform does not guarantee you a 5-stars experience. Finally, if you feel uncomfortable in a situation, get out! Thus, as they got hardly hit by covid, there’s a monthly fee for the app subscription (2 CHF). 

Sometimes though, a comfortable bed, a warm shower and a peaceful night is calling. In this case, you might need an hotel room. I’ve realised that booking last-minute, especially in motels, is often discounted. Also, if you can, look at the availability on, look at the price but book directly at the front desk. Platforms are charging fees from hotels so they often have better prices booking directly through them. 

Personally, I like a mix of all those options. I believe you can always find a balance between confort, adventure and social.


When in some countries is quite easy and cheap to travel with public transportation, in the US, it’s a burden. Given the size of the country and the monopole of the cars, it’s almost impossible to find fair prices and connections between cities (other than flying.)

Hitchhiking ? Not really. While I’ve been hitchhiking in Zanzibar and in Europe for exemple, laws are pretty stricts in the USA regarding hitchhiking. It changes from state to state and most law enforcement officers don’t like hitchhikers. So, before starting hitchhiking in any state of the USA, it is better to read the laws about hitchhiking in that state and the experiences of other hitchhikers to avoid any possible trouble while on your journey.

However, when staying within a city, youth hostel are usually well located. Before booking, try to make sure that you’re not too off-centered because you’ll have to take a 2 hours bus to go from point A to point B (speaking from experience.) Trafic is crazy.

The easiest solution is then to rent a car. While big car dealers have a ton of extra-fees such as young driver and often ask for a huge deposit amount, platforms such as Turo can help you find a car for a decent deal. It’s basically like Airbnb but for cars. Cons: miles are often limited and you have to drop off the car at the same place you collected it. 

Obviously, there’s always specific tips given specific situations and destinations. The more I explore, the more I discover new way of travelling.

Apps you should get to travel cheap:

GasBuddy: find cheapest gas — great for road trips

Worldpackers or Workaway: free places to stay in exchange for working part time

FreeRoam: finding free campsite

Tricount: keep tracking of your expenses

Couchsurfing: Get free stays in all of your destinations while making some lifelong friends

Turo: car sharing marketplace

Maps.Me: fully offline map that requires no cellular or wifi connection 

Last but not least, connecting with people from all over the world give you the chance to visit them on another trip eventually, and trust me, there’s no such things as travelling with locals 🙂

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