Touring Cities on a Budget | 10 Ways to Save

One of the questions I always get asked is “how do you afford to travel all the time?!” And it is pretty simple. I travel strategically. Most importantly, I travel within my budget. Meaning I’m not living beyond my means and putting myself more in debt just because society says it is cool to travel a certain way! I travel for the experiences, not to brag about my 5 star hotel and breakfast in bed.

I recently ran some polls on my Instagram and what I understood from the results is a lot of millennials are still trying to pay off debt. Some don’t even have retirement accounts. But ALL want to travel more. I was extremely happy to see that the majority were willing to make the changes they needed in order to travel more!

Take a look at the way you travel and what you spend your money on. How frequently do you get to travel? And when you do, how much are you spending? I’ve been able to travel monthly sometimes weekly for a couple years now and I am no different than the rest. To me, it is all about a balance between continuing to work to pay off your debt, save and invest for the future, then take a look at what you can do with what you have left (traveling within your own means). So what if I told you that you could travel more frequently too if you just changed the way you travel?

Below I’ve listed ways I’ve been able to save money while traveling to major cities! Recently I visited Cincinnati so I’ll be listing what I did and the amount I spent as an example along the way.

1. Free parking

I realize this may be easier in some cities than others, but if it is at all possible to get free parking it can save you $25+ at times. Even if this means arriving a little earlier than you want or walking a little further. Depending on which city you are in, parking on the street and using meters is usually cheaper than paying to park in a garage, and may even be free certain times on certain days! In the end I’d rather burn off calories than unnecessary amounts of money 😉

In Cincinnati we found free parking- $0

Parked at a meter once for dinner- $2

2. Public Transportation

If you haven’t taken advantage of public transportation in major cities then it is time!! If you combine this with a bit of walking you can really save some money. The prices usually beat taking Uber’s or Lyfts everywhere plus can give you a better experience in that city! Taking the city train, trolley, or double-decker bus will only add to the overall experience. Not only that, but depending on what form of transportation you take you can save time and skip the traffic. I don’t know about you, but I don’t go to visit cities to sit in traffic.

In Cincinnati we bought all day trolley passes- $2

3. Free Festivals

This is one of my favorite things to do! I LOVE festivals. I also think it is one of the best ways to experience the vibe of a city. There are so many different kinds of festivals- food, arts and crafts, special occasions, holidays, carnivals, and most of these all include live music! Of course it can take a little bit of planning to be sure you’re visiting when a festival is going on, but most cities usually have events going on especially during the summer.

While in Cincinnati we ended up visiting the Farmers Market which included hand crafted vendors, a food festival, and even a pet event where people brought their dogs out to socialize and play, and purchase goods to help out local humane societies. In the evening there was a FREE live concert where a local band played their original music and food trucks lined up.

Brunch- $9

Dinner (Sandwich and drink)- $8

Evening Drinks- $12

4. Sight-seeing

My other favorite thing to do while traveling! And it is almost always FREE. I live to walk around cities and appreciate their architecture, find cool wall art, browse unique shops, and see views that take my breath away. This is how I get to learn so much about the cities and history of the country we live in. There’s something unique about each city so this shouldn’t be too hard!

In Cincinnati we walked around a historic neighborhood and saw amazing homes. We also walked all around downtown, visited an antique shop, walked across the bridge to Kentucky, and around Hyde Park which is full of green nature and more history. I can’t forget the outstanding art museum that was free as well!

5. Group Trips

Traveling in groups is not only good for the soul, but your bank account too! If you can manage to get everyone on board, you can save a lot of money traveling as a group. Say you take a road trip- saves gas money. Stay in an Airbnb- saves on accommodations. You guys want to Uber everywhere- saves on transportation. You get my drift. Usually planning a group trip overseas with a travel agent can get you great deals as well. Gather up your friends and have a big reunion!

6. Hostels or Camping

Accommodations can get expensive quickly and limit the amount of time you get to stay. Personally, I don’t splurge on where I stay because I’m never there anyways. I’m always on the look out for good Airbnb deals, using Expedia points on hotels, or down for camping! And yes, major cities have camping within them. It won’t be remote camping, but nonetheless it is camping and it is cheaper. My favorite thing to do is find a camping spot on the beach if I’m on a coastline or a place with a view to park my car.

7. Crash at a Friend’s

I can’t be the only one who has friends or family scattered across the country. Kill two birds with one stone- go visit the awesome people you rarely get to see, get to travel, and save some bills! I think that was 3 birds, even better 😉

In Cincinnati I crashed with people I know- $0

8. Eat during happy hour

Food can be a major expense while traveling. I know some people who LIVE to eat at new restaurants everywhere they go. I get it, food is good. But if you’re traveling on a budget and want to dine out all the time, sometimes all it takes is a little rearranging! It helps to check out happy hour specials ahead of time and plan where to go eat. A lot of places offer cheaper drinks, half-off apps, and late lunch specials. When I travel I usually only eat twice a day since I’m so busy running around anyways. I’ll fill up on brunch because I love brunch and it is usually cheaper, then I’ll eat later at festivals or just before dinner time during happy hour!

In Cincinnati we ate out at a fancy restaurant on their 1/2 off day- $13 + drinks

9. Have a Picnic

Depending on your situation, packing a picnic could be a great option! It’s no secret that buying and preparing your own food is way cheaper than dining out. Say you want to visit a park or do a hike in the area- a picnic would pair SO well with these activities! If you’re traveling as a couple this also is a cute date idea while exploring a new place together. The picnic doesn’t have to be anything fancy either or require much preparation. Think creatively yet strategically!!

10. Become a Couponer

Okay, you don’t have to be one of those extreme couponers, but let’s be real it is fun to get a good deal and save some money! If you know you’re going to have to pay for an activity, do a little bit of research ahead of time and find some coupons online! Usually their website or Facebook page will have some or you can search on apps such as Groupon. This will especially come in handy if you are a family of 3 or more and have to pay for multiple people. What I love doing when I go out to eat is searching on Yelp for the businesses’s page because a lot of them offer a discount just for showing them you were referred there or if you’ll leave a good review 🙂

In Cincinnati we visited the Butterfly Exhibit and got coupons online- $9

These 10 things are just brushing the surface, but are really simple ways to save some money. Even if you think you can afford to splurge and have all the money in the world, think about where else that money could do some good. Like pay off any debt you have for instance. Or invest it into a retirement fund or other investment accounts. If you can let yourself change the way you travel then maybe you can travel more frequently while upping your financial situation! Just some food for thought 🙂

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