Overseas Travel for Less

by​ Josh Nadeau
Overseas Travel for Less photo

Do you someday hope to spend your days globetrotting but worry your dream to travel will always be beyond your financial means? Seeing the world could be in your budget and your future if you take advantage of these ways to save.

Ask anyone for their bucket list and you’ll find something in common: see the world. But when you ask why a dream as universal as travel often gets left unfulfilled, people just shrug and start with excuses. They don’t have the time. They’re not as young as they used to be. Everything was easier before they had kids. And, of course, it’s so darn expensive.

That friends, is where I would like to interject. Not only is travel much more accessible than you think, but there are plenty of ways to make sure it won’t break the bank – even during high season. So no matter whether your dream is a night under the Australian stars, salsa classes in Colombia, or a glass of wine by the Eiffel Tower, we’re here to help.


Transportation is often a deal-breaker. The thought of countless zeros on your ticket receipt is enough to make anyone think twice about planning a big trip. But once you’ve looked in the right places, you’ll find that things may be much more affordable than you thought.

The hardest part is finding the right plane ticket, but there are a few strategies that can get you to your preferred destination affordably.

The first is to consider not making a direct flight. Start looking for major cities that might offer tickets to your final destination at a considerably lower cost, even with the additional cost of a flight to that city. Metropolises like New York, Los Angeles, or Toronto are classic examples, but consider cities like Chicago, Seattle, or Austin. Even making a quick trip up north to Vancouver or Montreal can save you hundreds on flights to Europe or Asia.

The second trick is finding discount airlines once you’re overseas. Mainstays like RyanAir and WizzAir help you fly between European cities for as low as fifteen dollars a go. Don’t ignore a potential connection either. If you’re looking to fly to London from New York and instead find a cheap flight to Portugal, take the ticket and make a cheap transfer once you’re on the continent. If all the cities on the destination list are unfamiliar, take it as an opportunity to discover a hidden gem. If you’re looking to explore Cambodian temples or Thai beaches, AirAsia offers just as many options.

Travel expert and coach Matthew Kepnes, known online as Nomadic Matt, suggests bumping around your dates for major savings. “It’s always cheaper to fly during the middle of the week,” he says. “Prices are also cheaper if you fly after a major holiday, as are early morning or late night flights. The difference of one day can mean hundreds of dollars in savings.”

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While all-inclusives might be tempting for their ‘pay once and don’t worry’ attitude, you’ll be paying quite a bit for the hotels they’ll have lined up for you. “Next to finding a cheap flight,” Kepnes says, “finding free or inexpensive lodging will have the biggest impact on your budget.” Options such as pansions (think boarding houses) and B&Bs offer local flavor and a better price. Everyone and their grandmother have already heard of Airbnb and for good reason – it’s often an ideal pick for young professionals and families.

If you’re a little more adventurous, local hostels or hospitality networks can help stretch your dollar and give you unforgettable memories. Couchsurfing is the most famous hospitality network and its premise is simple: stay with a local and see the city through their eyes. Food is often included, as well as some kind of walk through the city. And it’s absolutely free. If it sounds sketchy, don’t worry. Every potential host has a profile with pictures and references from previous guests. Just remember to trust your gut, engage with your host and have fun.


Whether you’re on a gap year or a sabbatical, voluntourism is a great way to spend more time in one location and really explore. By combining tourism with some kind of volunteer activity, travelers can find a way to contribute to the communities they visit. Whether it’s teaching English, managing a hostel desk, organizing activities with refugee children, or learning the ins and outs of organic farming, voluntourism gives you real-world knowledge and a window into a life you never knew. Many organizations are open to hosting families, even for just a week or two during summer break.

Networks like WorkAwayWWOOF, and HelpX have been helping travelers find openings that are just for them. Just remember to do your research before you go and clarify everything with your potential host: work expectations, accommodations, internet access, room for kids, etc. Most sites have search filters that help you find the best fit, no matter if you’re traveling alone or with family. And try to avoid agencies that ‘facilitate’ voluntourism for a fee. They often take a hefty cut from travelers, and sometimes their projects have a less positive impact in the locations they claim to serve.

As long as you do your research and ask other travelers for advice (TripAdvisor has an excellent forum), you can find yourself an unexpected globetrotter.

Reviewed March 2023

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