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12 epic tips on how to plan a trip on a budget in 2021

Are you ready to hit the road again and travel in 2021 but need some help with how to plan a trip on a budget?

After 2020 we are all in need of a budget-friendly escape. But travel in 2021 is going to look slightly different!

Whether you are travelling a road trip on a budget, planning a solo trip or figuring out the best way to travel in 2021 with COVID, this post has something for you. Discover our pro planning tips, tips on how to travel on a budget and how to travel safe in 2021.

Continue reading to learn 12 tips on how to plan an epic trip on a budget in 2021. 

Tip 1: Choose a more budget-friendly travel style

The first vacation planning tip for budget travel in 2021 is to change your travel style. One of the cheapest ways to travel in 2021 is to choose travel cheap! 

Forget prepaid tours and hotels, opt for slow travel and backpacking instead. Travel light and choose budget-friendly accommodation such as dorm rooms and local guest houses. Instead of dining at a restaurant for every meal, choose the accommodation with a kitchen and eat local food. 

Choose a slower style of travel where you stay in one place for longer. You'll get better accommodation deal and really learn the best money saving methods. 

plan a trip on a budget

Tip 2: Choose a budget-friendly & COVID safe destination

Our next tip to plan a trip on a budget in 2021 is to choose your destination carefully.

First of all, get clear on what budget-friendly destinations you are interested in visiting. Depending on how long you want to travel for you could choose one city, one country or an entire continent. The cheapest places to travel in 2021 include South East Asia, India, Eastern Europe and Central and South America.  Your money will go a long way, especially if you are travelling independently and for an extended period of time.

Consider the visa situation for you when making your decision. Research which countries are visa-free for you. If you need one make sure you know how long the visa is valid and how much it costs.

If a country is visa-free, always check how long the visa-free period is. Consider what the visa requirements are after that period has finished. Make sure you thoroughly check the latest visa requirements in light of the pandemic.

If you don’t already have a bucket list destination you’re dying to tick off, get some inspiration. Browse through blogs on Pinterest, follow travellers on Instagram and watch travel vloggers on Youtube.

Before getting into the details of planning a trip in 2021 do plenty of research into the country's COVID status. Get clear on the current laws, restrictions and visa and entry requirements. Look into how businesses, accommodation and transport may be affected.

Figure out how high the risk the destination is. Then plan your moves to lower your risk of being infected or getting stuck. Research the medical facilities and costs thoroughly of all the places that you are planning to visit.

The last thing you want is to arrive and find everything is closed and no one will accept you into any accommodation or attractions. Even worse would be if you were denied entry onto the flight you booked due to lack of research.

plan a trip on a budget

Tip 3: Plan a longer trip

When planning your epic 2021 budget trip consider travelling for an extended period.

Travelling for extended periods of time is much cheaper per day than a quick getaway. Creating a base in one location means you aren’t constantly forking out for transportation. You will also be able to take advantage of deals on longer-term accommodation. 

By travelling slowly you will be more likely to cook for yourself and get immersed in the local culture, food and activities as opposed to forking out a bunch of money on expensive tours and attractions. You may also have the opportunity to work while you are on the road online (see tip 12).

Tip 4: Make a budget

Our next tip on how to plan a trip on a budget in 2021 is to make a budget! This is the best way to make sure you have enough money for your trip and to keep your finances on track while you are on the road.

Before you make a budget, decide on the dates you want to travel. It doesn’t have to be specific. Decide which month you want to leave and how many days, weeks or months you want to go for.

Find out the cost of the basics in your chosen destination(s). Next create a daily budget based on how many days you are travelling, how much money you have saved and how much you want leftover.

When making a budget take flights, accommodation, food, transportation, activities, shopping, visa fees, insurance, miscellaneous costs and emergency funds into account. Consider what things you really want to spend money on and where you can cut costs. Calculate an overall budget by multiplying the daily budget by the number of days you want to travel.

Get an app like Spending Tracker so you can track expenses when you start travelling. This will help you stick to your budget. Allow yourself some flexibility in your budget depending on what happens when you are travelling. Always make space for the unexpected!  

Once you have a budget you will know whether you can save enough money to turn this 2021 budget travel plan into a reality. Having a budget is essential for travelling cheap.

plan a trip on a budget

Tip 5: Plan to travel during shoulder season

Our next tip to plan a trip on a budget is to travel during shoulder season. Travelling during the shoulder season is the best way to budget travel in 2021. 

During shoulder season most accommodation and tour providers will be operating and will be more likely to offer discounts. Accommodation, food, activities, tours and souvenirs will all be significantly cheaper. This is especially true for highly seasonal destinations like the Greek Islands and South India.

Usually, in the shoulder season, most restaurants and activities will be open and the weather is almost as good as what it is during high season. 

Due to the pandemic, many places will be perpetually operating as if it is shoulder season. This means there may be many opportunities to grab a deal and help get local economies back on their feet.

plan a trip on a budget

Tip 6: Use money-saving hacks to book your flights

Tip 6 to plan a trip on a budget is to use all the money saving hacks when booking flights. Flights are expensive so this tip can save you a lot when travelling on the cheap.

There are many hacks to save money on flights so make sure you implement them when planning your 2021 trip. Before you even start seriously looking for flights, make sure your visa (if needed) is organised first. The last thing you want is to be denied a visa after booking a non-refundable flight!

Get your visa organised before you book any flights, especially if they are non-refundable. The last thing you want is to be denied entry onto the plane when you check-in!

Here are our flight money-saving hacks:

  • Book your flights a few months in advance to secure a good deal. Turn on price alerts on Skyscannerwhich will alert you to a rise or drop in flights on a certain route.
  • Use a VPN or Incognito mode in Google Chrome when searching and booking for flights. This means cookies can’t track your location or search history. 
  • Be flexible with your travel dates and destinations to take advantage of the best rates. You could save a small fortune by being flexible!
  • When booking flights just make sure that the cost of staying somewhere for a bit longer doesn’t outweigh your savings from getting a cheaper flight!

plan a trip on a budget

Tip 7: Do your research

In the planning phase of your 2021 trip set aside time to do some research on your destination. 

Blog posts from Pinterest searches, Youtube vlogs and travel Facebook groups and Tripadvisor forums are all amazing places to research your destination. There are thousands of Facebook groups specifically set up for travellers in particular destinations where you can ask specific questions.

Look into must-see attractions and activities, find out the price and build these into your budget. Then find out what you can do for free like walking tours or if any attractions have days that are discounted or free.

See if you can find any coupons or offers available online for tourist attractions. Also, look into how much negotiating power you may have for certain things. If there is competition amongst local providers you will likely be able to negotiate a good deal once you are there instead of booking online.

Do research into epic nature spots and hidden local gems to discover. Finding the best place to watch the sun go down or finding a mountain to climb with an awe-inspiring view, or which jungle waterfall to hike to is (usually) totally free and will create memories for a lifetime.

Other things to look into are the best areas to stay in, how to get around and the cultural expectations of the country you are visiting. This will set some healthy expectations of what to expect, costs and give you the best chance of having an incredible time

While researching where you want to go is essential, don’t over research. You want to leave some room for the unexpected and to be spontaneous. If you do a lot of research you are more likely to be disappointed by your destination. 

plan a trip on a budget

Tip 8: Make essential bookings

Making bookings is when your 2021 trip will really start coming to life!

Based on your research and what you have devised in your itinerary, you can start making bookings for accommodation, transport and activities that are essential. Research which places are worth booking in advance online and which places you can grab a better deal booking once you have arrived.


When travelling on a budget in 2021 you want to avoid hotels. Stick to family guesthouses, hostels, Airbnb, couch surfing or even house-sitting.

Send a note out on social media, letting people know where you are travelling. You might find you have some connections there who you can stay with.

When looking for accommodation check whether you have access to a kitchen. This will save you a fortune on food expenses!

Look thoroughly into the location of the accommodation, particularly if you are staying in a big city. Check it is safe and has good access to transport, restaurants, supermarkets and attractions. You are always better off paying a bit more to stay in a good location.

When making bookings check the price of your accommodation on various platforms like, Hostelworld, Airbnb and so on. Compare prices and see if any apps have special deals. It is also a good idea to ring the accommodation directly and see if they offer a better rate directly or can give you a long stay discount.

Always have your first night pre-booked at least. The rest can be booked as you go if you are more spontaneous. If it is high-season, expensive and busy you should consider booking all your accommodation in advance.

For other places, it is a better idea to find most of your accommodation when you are there. For example, guesthouses in India are very affordable, negotiable and usually not even online.


If you know you need to get a flight to reach a new destination get that locked in. It will give you something to work around for your trip.

In some places, like in India and the Eurorail, you will need to book trains in advance as they get very full long before travel dates. It is usually cheaper to book these trains in advance as well.

With buses, it is much more likely that you can book a seat once you are already there. 

Be careful about booking trains and buses online in advance. You may be getting ripped off by a middleman agency without even realising. Do your research and find out how much things should cost before you book online.

Tours and activities 

Some tours and activities have to be booked in advance like Sail Croatia or hiking the Inca Trail.

If you aren’t sure, ask in Facebook Groups and forums whether you need to book a tour or activity in advance. Tour companies will always prefer you book in advance online. They can get away with charging more as you won't really understand the costs or competition yet.

Quite often tours and activities are cheaper if you book on the day when you arrive. You will have bargaining power as the operators will be trying to fill seats and you will be able to get prices from competitors.

If you are going somewhere in high season, it may be safer to book in advance if it is a must-do activity.

plan a trip on a budget

Tip 8: Packing on a budget

Having a plan for packing your bag is an excellent way to save money when you are travelling. 

When the time comes for you to pack, make a list of items you need. Buy the things you don’t have and tick the list off as you actually start packing.

Borrow things you need instead of buying them. Buy second hand where you can and also look into what you can buy for cheaper once you arrive at your destination. Consider what the weather will be like as well as the cultural norms for dressing.

Always take basic cutlery with you like a spoon, knife and a stainless plate and mug. This will make preparing your own food on the go easy even if you don’t have a kitchen.

Travelling during the pandemic means it is a smart idea to carry plenty of supplies with you when you are travelling. These include masks, sanitiser, hand wipes, emergency medication, water and your own food.

Pack as light as possible to save on luggage fees but don’t forget to leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs and clothing you will buy on the way. Always thoroughly check the baggage allowance you have on all your air tickets and take luggage scales with you to keep checking your weight.

Also, don’t stress too much about packing every single thing you are going to need. You will be able to buy almost anything essential when you arrive.

Check out this blog post for more tips on how to pack like a pro!

plan a trip on a budget

Tip 9: Check your travel insurance

Having travel insurance is always a travel essential, but during a pandemic, it can become even more critical. 

Most travel insurance companies have exemption clauses that will not cover you for anything related to a pandemic or epidemic. This means if you get the virus or you have to cancel plans due to the pandemic you won’t be covered.

Your insurance company might not cover you for anything at all. Ring your insurance company and triple check all the details in relation to your policy. Specifically asking what is and is not covered during a pandemic. Even if there is no outbreak currently, check what will happen to your policy if there is.

Tip 10: Sign up for a volunteer or exchange program 

Have you always wanted to work and travel at the same time? 2021 could be your year for finally doing this!

Our 10th tip to plan a trip on a budget is to do volunteering or an exchange program.

When planning your trip for 2021 consider signing up for a volunteer or exchange program. Most of the programs will give you free food and accommodation for a few hours of work a day, making this the single best way to travel on a budget.

There are numerous volunteer and exchange programs out there such as Workway and WWOOF

The type of work you do varies greatly depending on where you are. You could be behind the desk at a hostel, painting murals at a guest house, picking fruit on a farm or recording videos for a hotel, teaching kids English or teaching yoga at a retreat centre. 

This works especially well if you are planning an extended trip and trying slow travel as mentioned above.

Tip 11: Get a prepaid travel card 

Our next tip for how to plan a trip on a budget is to get a prepaid travel card.

Plan how you are going to pay for things overseas before you go! Forget using your banks debit and credit card. Instead, opt for a prepaid travel card. These cards are the best way to save money when exchanging currency and withdrawing funds from local ATMs. The savings in fees and exchange rates will really add up, especially if you are travelling for a long time.

Prepaid cards from companies like Revolut, Transferwise and Monzo allow you to open an online app-based account with a debit card attached. You load money from your regular bank account into your online account using a debit card or bank transfer.

From there you have the option to exchange your currency on the app with great rates. Even if the country you are visiting doesn’t have its currency on the platform you can use your card to withdraw funds from local ATMs using their better exchange rates. 

You will also get access to free ATM withdrawals up to a certain limit per month. After your limit is reached the fee that is taken is a small percentage. You will incur no other ATM withdrawal fees when using these prepaid travel cards.

Card transactions in different currencies are also free! 

Tip 12: Consider becoming a digital nomad

Our last tip to plan a trip on a budget is to become a digital nomad. Before you set off on your long trip in 2021 make sure you pack your laptop! 

It has never been easier to become a digital nomad with online businesses and remote working exploding in the wake of COVID.

Working online as you travel is a great way to fund your trip, find more freedom while still keeping your career alive.

Freelancers and people with skills in teaching, graphic design, content creation, translation, social media management, photography and more are perfect candidates for becoming a digital nomad. If you don’t have these skills or experience yet it is always just a matter of learning!

plan a trip on a budget

There you have 12 epic tips on how to plan a trip on a budget in 2021!

You might be wondering “why travel in 2021?”. There is so much to discover and 2021 could be the perfect time to do it for less. All you need is to be a bit more prepared than usual. 

While travelling may never be quite the same, nothing will stop the wanderers exploring the world. It may just require a bit more planning!