I’m creating this post because I spent less than $200 on a vacation to San Diego which was probably my cheapest one yet. I get asked very frequently, “How did you do it?” I made a challenge out of budgeting as hard as I could, and it brought me to spending no more than a small monthly bill. It was such an impulsive trip, but I needed a break. I was feeling burnt out. I was easily irritated at work. I was not fun to be around. The bad attitudes we develop over time can be expected when we don’t really give ourselves time to breathe and appreciate the world. Even though I was working nonstop to save for something big, I needed a drastic breather. I needed change.
How did I end up planning this trip, anyway?
The main reason I decided to take this trip was the flight ticket. I saw an incredible deal on Frontier’s flights. The cheap flights from Las Vegas to San Diego averaged out to be around $50 to $70, but I played around with the dates a little bit and somehow ended up with a $30 dollar flight in my pocket (read about that here). I’m honestly still pretty amazed. I began overthinking and doubting this trip after about two days. Was it too impulsive? This mini vacay was going to be next month- less than thirty days! On top of that, I have a big trip to London after this one! I made myself a little promise that I was only going to spend what I absolutely needed. In all honesty, this ended up to be one of the best vacations I’ve had in a while. Here’s how I did it!
Here are 4 steps to make your trip cheap and easy to manage.
1. Check flights regularly.
On Frontier, I had subscribed via email on when flights would drop down in prices. When I had seen an opportunity for a $28 Round Trip, I knew that I had to take it. I wouldn’t have seen that deal if I didn’t constantly check up on the plane ticket!
Opt In to receive emails from the airline regarding when the prices will drop for the destination. It could save you a good amount of money.
2. Only spend what you need.
While I was in SD, I ordered about five meals in total. It’s actually crazy looking back and knowing I didn’t spend an insane amount of money on food, because that’s one of my favorite part of traveling! On my vacation, I ended up buying a bigger meal to keep me full through out the entire day, and also tiny portions so that I could try a little bit of everything the following days. For example, the sushi I had was ordered in several small rolls rather than one big roll. This helped me to finish my food easier and save a lot of money on my bill.
If you’re traveling to experience various foods and want to try new things, you can order small portions of everything you want to try. This will save room in your stomach for different things, while also saving money.
One thing that I recommend while budget traveling is to go to the marketplace and stock up on some inexpensive fruits, snacks, and meals.
If you’re in a beautiful environment, any meal will feel like a beautiful experience! I bought a coconut water from the market, and sitting on the beach drinking it with some fresh fruit felt like luxury.
I would also recommend to buy cheaper souvenirs. Sometimes you want to go all out and buy everyone a keychain, mug, and a new hoodie from each spot you visit. If you are budget traveling, this should not be one of those times.
Going big when it comes to gifts will limit your activities and luggage space.
A fun activity while you are away can be to buy postcards, (They shouldn’t be more than a dollar each) and go out of your way to mail them out. This is such a fun activity! It feels like a scavenger hut in a way. It also provides a lot of sentimental value by letting your friends and family know “Hey, I’m taking the time to write this to you on my vacation!” You can also write a letter to your future self. How fun would it be to come home to a letter from past you in your happiest moments? If you choose to not send off the postcards right away, you will still save a bunch of room in your luggage. After all, it is just paper.
Something else that you can do is make prints on your photos when you get back. Ordering many copies of your beautiful captures will add a personal touch to your gifts. – I recently found out that you can actually send off a physical photo in the mail as a postcard! If you’re feeling really adventurous while away, you can DIY your own postcard by ordering prints and then going to the post office.
3. Make Sacrifices
For the most part, I felt uncomfortable with the idea of staying at the hostel. One bathroom, sleeping around strangers, socializing, etc.. I was definitely uncomfortable with the thought of the accommodation and walking as transportation, but even more uncomfortable to think about going to Europe with nothing at all. The first place that I stayed at added up to be $80 for a two night accommodation at Ocean Beach Hostel and the second one was a one night accommodation at ITH Adventure for $30. In total for three nights in San Diego, $110. That adds up to be less than the price I would have paid for a one night stay in an average hotel. Side note: if you don’t feel comfortable or safe in certain areas do NOT ignore your intuition because of cost. Your safety matters the most. I never really felt threatened by walking, but I always had my Lyft app on hand if a place looked too sketchy or unsafe.
If you can, walk or take the bus from point A to point B. This gives you a beautiful experience and you get to feel like a local by doing this. It will give you opportunities to see a lot of things that a car wouldn’t allow you to.
Staying at a hostel (A dorm-like hotel) can open up opportunities to meeting new people and trying new experiences. Certain hostels have certain foods served for dinner, and provide a shuttle to different parts of the city.
Even staying at a low costing private bedroom hotel will save you a good amount of money. I use the website / app – Hostelworld – to see where the cheapest accommodation is. This app is especially beneficial if you are backpacking.
4. Pack Less
I didn’t buy Checked baggage. Not even Carry on. ..I didn’t pack less because I wanted to wear bikinis the whole time! Well.. maybe that is why.. But I also packed less because carry on was an extra $40, and checked baggage was the same. Together, that’s the price of two extra nights at a hostel!
If you can, pack less. I know it’s hard. I’m still learning that I don’t need every pair of heels or three huge “just in case” jackets.
If it came down to it, I’m sure you could buy whatever you thought you needed at your destination for even cheaper than you would have spent on the luggage. Make sure to get all the necessities, then think about the energy and money it would take from you by packing too much.
You don’t have to spend a fortune in order to see the world. Remember that there will always be a way to fulfill your passions. You just have to do a little research beforehand! Take some time to incorporate these tips into your next vacation.
The Solo Travel Handbook – One of my personal favorite reads. This book gave me some of the best tips and motivation on traveling by yourself. There are a bunch of app and website recommendations for your journey!
Big Travel, Small Budget – Learn how to budget travel on big trips.
Kicking Ass on the Road: The Ultimate Guide for the Solo Woman Traveler – Solo traveling book recommendation for women.