How To Travel On A Budget And Have The Best Experiences

You may see many travel blogs telling you to “travel more, spend less”, but, personally, I feel this is not always the best advice. If you follow this religiously you will not necessarily have a great experience when you travel. Yes, the budget is important, especially if you are travelling long-term, but you can’t let yourself be ruled by it. You’ve got to find a balance between your travel budget and having a great experience.

I happily admit I am a budget traveller, but this doesn’t mean I’ll miss out. Comfort is still important for me, so you won’t find me sleeping rough when I travel. You also won’t find me in a luxury hotel. But when it comes to finding your balance, you’ve got to do what’s right for you.

Planning For Your Trip

It’s important you have at least a loose plan if you don’t have the luxury of endless money when you travel. Even if you plan to work in some countries, you need to have an eye on that cash.

Before you set off, be sure to think about:

Your Budget For Travel

First things first, you’ve got to have money to travel. It’s that simple. Whether you are going for a weekend city break or buying a Round the World Ticket, know how much you’ll need to put aside. Then double it. Always have more money than you’ll need, just in case.

Before you go, save up this money/put it in a separate travel bank account (I like Starling) and do not touch it until your trip.

Have trouble saving? Check out my Tips For Saving Money For Traveling

Rialto Bridge From A Row Boat

Seeing Venice From The Water Was A High Priority Experience For Me

Be aware, once you get to your destination, whether this is the first spot on your world trip, or a one-city short break, keep an eye on that money. Know roughly how much you want to spend a day and keep on top of your budget.

Need help sticking to your budget? Check out my Tips For Saving Money When Travelling

The Experiences You Want

It’s your adventure, so you need a loose plan of what you want to do. Make a list (I even make a Google Map) of the points you want to visit. If you’re travelling around the world on a long trip, you may want to do this in stages, picking a few cities at a time to plan out.

Rough Guide Maps

Having A Map With A Loose Plan Of What You Want To See Can Help You Strike The Balance

Planning a gap year? Check out my Basics Of Planning A Gap Year

Think about any day trips you may want to do. Maybe walking tours in a city, such as Sandemans Free Walking Tours. If there are museums you want to visit, note them down to. Food is also an important part of travel, so find out good spots for local dishes.

Sandemans Free Walking Tour Sign

Planning In A Free Walking Tour Is A Greta Way To Save And See The Sights

As you’re recording these experiences, note down the average prices. Be a little pessimistic too, especially with food, and assume they’ll be a little more costly than you expect.

Not sure where to go to plan a trip? Find out why I Sill Use Guidebooks

Singapore Sling Cocktail

I Saw A Singapore Sling As A Must-Have Experience In Singapore

Finding The Balance Between Your Travel Budget And Experiences

Once you have your budget and experiences thought out, you can find the balance. Here are a few things to consider:


Firstly, set your experiences in priority order. Try to have a good mix of free activities and those that will eat into your budget. Then try to arrange your days so that you are doing activities close together so that you are not having to use public transport too much.

Also, you should do a bit of extra research here. Are museums free on certain days? In Mexico, many were free on Mondays. Aim to go on those days. Also, see if any of your priority places are covered in a city card and do the math. If you’ll save money, get a city card. But if you only want to see a few places that are on a city card, don’t bother.

natpacker holding i Amsterdam City Card On Tram

Sometimes A City Card Can Help You Find The Balance Between Budget And Experience

Check out how I fared with the I Amsterdam City Card

As you’re prioritising, think about any “treats” you may want whilst you’re travelling. Fancy a night out? Are you going to have to sacrifice something else to afford this? I have met people on trips that literally stayed in the hostel all day, living off free rice and pasta as they had no money left, yet they still managed to buy a six-pack every night. Don’t be that person, you will only regret it.

What about Souvenirs? Have you budgeted for these?

Accommodation Considerations

Next, think about your accommodation. If you are wanting to save money, go for accommodation that has self-catering facilities, such as hostels (I like searching on HostelWorld). Then, you can choose whether to splash out on a meal out or cook cheaply at the accommodation. Personally, I like to eat out once or twice, but then save money on days where I’ve splashed out a little on museums or tours by eating in.

Large Empty Hostel Kitchen

A Kitchen Means You Can Save Money By Eating In

Not stayed in a hostel before? Check out my post about What Makes A Great Hostel

Final Thoughts On Finding The Balance Between Budget And Experience

No matter what your travel style, finding the balance between budget and experience will ensure you have the best time. Unless you have a bottomless bank account, it’s an important lesson that travelling will teach you.

Whether you are on a full gap year or taking a weekend break, finding this balance is essential. Remember though, it is your trip, so it’s all about you. Don’t go with the crowd if it’s something you’re not into (though you may be pleasantly surprised like I was at the Mercedes Benz Museum).

The best you can do is have a loose plan, know your budget and prioritise. But be sure to be flexible too, as you never know what’ll crop up. If you plan to have some free activities and some that you have to pay for, you should be able to make your budget stretch. It’s not just about cheap travel, it’s also about having a fun experience.

natpacker With Neuschwanstein Castle In The Distance

Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle Was Expensive, But Worth It

The best way to have a great travel experience no matter what your budget is to listen to your heart. If there’s something you really don’t want to miss out on, make sure you have the cash for this. It’s your adventure, so make your travel budget work for you.

Categories: Backpacking | Comments

Author Bio: Nat

I’m Nat, the backpacker behind natpacker. From the UK, I was bitten by the travel bug during a round the world trip in my early twenties. Since then I have been determined to see as much of this world as possible. My passion for travel led me to start up this blog, partly to record my adventures and partly to inspire others to travel.


  • Justine says:

    Such good advice, thank you!
    I agree, theres no point being a “povo backpacker” if you are too broke to enjoy the place. My first trip to New York was like that, and I then realised that some locations are just on te expensive side, and if you want to see them properly, you need to spend a bit of money.
    But its all about priorities, and being savvy with travel cards, accommodation and deals.

    Hope you get in some ‘budget luxe’ trips in 2021!

    • Nat says:

      Hahaha! “Povo backpacker” not heard that one before. I feel like on my first trip I did miss out on a few things (mainly local foods), but since then I have made sure I budget in a couple of meals out of the hostel. Some destinations really so need some cash to see. Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

      Hopefully, we can all travel again soon!

  • Hannah says:

    This is great advice! I agree that it is super important to travel within your budget, but you don’t want your budget to be detrimental to your experience – otherwise what is the point in going?? I think research and planning is definitely the key to making sure you have a suitable budget for your trip. Wherever possible, I’ll book the attractions I really want to see online before I leave as you usually get the best price booking online and early and I always find that is super helpful for making my budget stretch further! I have learned the hard way about the importance of budgeting your trip properly. I had no idea how expensive Dublin would be before we visited and we ran out of money for food on our last day…oops! It was a lesson well learned! Thanks for the great guide!

    • Nat says:

      OMG! Hope it didn’t ruin your experience of Dublin. Research is definitely key. Booking advance online is a great idea, also means you have already spent on a few bits, so you’ve had time to build your budget back up.

  • Neha says:

    So true..We travel as a family and try to save on few and splurge on some that we desire for.

  • Cristina says:

    These are great tips! I normally travel on a budget, but if I really want to experience something, which is more expensive than normal, I don’t limit myself. It’s all about finding the right balance 🙂

  • Krista says:

    You don’t need to spend a lot of money to enjoy travelling! I love budget travelling when I can.

  • Keira Ball says:

    Totally agree with you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *