7 Best Tips for International Travel on a Budget

International travel on a budget is easier than you might think!

Prior to 2017, I’d reluctantly dismissed all thoughts of solo travel abroad—convinced it was too dang expensive.  And yet, I took 7 international solo trips from January 2017 to November 2019.

For Paris, I spent just under $1,000 on ALL trip expenses, and Barcelona cost me slightly over $1,000. So, basically, two major European cities for two grand. How’d I do it? Follow these tips, and you can, too!

1. Sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights

Sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights email notification service for cheap flight alerts. I’ve mentioned Scott’s before, but I can’t mention it enough! These deal alerts were the #1 reason I booked my first international solo trip – and my second, and all the ones hereafter. My Paris flight was $467. Barcelona was $440. And, Italy just $390. I could go on. These are round trip prices, people! Sign up today and you may just book something tomorrow!

2. Choose Airbnb vs Hotels

Ditch hotels for Airbnb. Not only will you save money, but you’ll feel more like a local—AND have a kitchen, which comes in handy for my next tip. Many of my Airbnb stays were less than $100 per night!

3. Buy local groceries wherever you travel

Don’t eat out for every meal. Of course, enjoying the native cuisine is important, but limiting yourself to one or two restaurant meals per day won’t lessen the experience, just the expense. I promise. Plus, grocery stores and markets sell fresh, local ingredients and products unique to that country – so you can create your own authentic meals on the cheap. I also pack a foldable, neoprene lunch bag (like this) for snacks and portable meals when you’re on the go.

4. Take advantage of walking and public transportation

Before you go, familiarize yourself with your destination on Google Maps. How far apart are the things you want to do? And, how far are they from where you’re staying? What public transportation options do you have available? If there’s a metro system, determine which type of pass you’ll need to cover the distances (and days) you don’t plan to walk. Many cities now offer bike rentals, too, so check all your options to weigh the cost and practicality of each.

5. Consider a shorter trip

If you plan to stay in just one city, shortening your trip by a few days will significantly reduce your food, transportation, lodging, and sightseeing expenses. And, if you prioritize your itinerary by what’s truly important to you and then organize it by the location of each attraction, you’ll maximize your time and still feel like you had the full experience.

Also, think about the travelers who city-hop. They generally only spend a few days in each city anyway, so going to Paris for the weekend like I did is really not so crazy after all.

6. Choose what is worth the splurge

What is it that you don’t want to skimp on? Are you a foodie? Do you want at least one night in a luxury suite? Is souvenir shopping a must for every trip? Allowing yourself to indulge a little where it counts will keep you from feeling too restricted by your budget. So, go ahead. Treat yourself with a few things or experiences that you won’t regret.

7. Take lots of photos

I don’t have to tell you that snapping photos with your phone is free. So go nuts. Act like this is the only time you’ll ever be in this place, because maybe it is! And, you’ll always have the photos to remember the international trip you once thought you couldn’t afford to take.

Where is your dream international destination? Use these tips to help make that dream a reality!

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