Budget Travel: The Best Ways To Spend $20 on Vacation

Budget Travel: The Best Ways To Spend  on Vacation
Budget Travel: The Best Ways To Spend  on Vacation

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Vacations are a lot of fun, but it’s easy to spend too much money, leaving a costly trail in the wake of your good time. However, there are a surprising number of fun things to do, eat and see for as little as $20 or less, if you know how to find them.

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“A lot of times it’s the simple, under-the-radar experiences that create the most meaningful memories anyway,” according to Anjali Chawla, a family travel blogger and founder of Travel Melodies.

“The best part about traveling cheap is it forces you to engage with communities in an authentic way,” she said. “It’s not about flashy tourist attractions, but slowing down to discover little cafes, street artists and out-of-the-way viewpoints that give you a true insider experience.”

She and other travel experts explain the best ways to spend $20 on vacation.

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Food should be your first choice if you only have $20 to spare, according to David Ciccarelli, the CEO and founder of the vacation rental platform Lake. 

“Choose a popular food truck, market vendor or local eatery, which tends to be much cheaper and more authentic than tourist-oriented restaurants,” he urged.

Local Markets

On the topic of food, Elaine Warren, a travel expert, founder and CEO of The Family Cruise Companion, suggested checking out local markets for snacks with your $20.

“Cruise food is fine but you miss out seeing how locals eat. Markets have goodies like filled pastries in the Caribbean or meat on sticks in Asia. Try the real local foods — it’s interesting and not too pricey. Speaking of tastes, another low-cost option is stopping at coffee shops or cafes…You can get specialty drinks and feel the local vibe.”

Then, once your belly is full, go check out museums with free admission, Ciccarelli said. “Spend the cash on public transit; you may even have some left to spare at the end of a culture-filled day. Or, go on a walking tour and check out local art, sculptures, and architecture, stopping for a snack along the way.”

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Outdoor Experiences

For any vacationer with $20 to spend, Jonas Zook Jr., an Airbnb host with Sweden Valley Cabins, recommended investing in memorable outdoor experiences.

“For instance, Cherry Springs State Park offers exceptional stargazing, often for free or a nominal park entry fee. This aligns perfectly with spending little but gaining a lot — connecting with nature and enjoying spectacular celestial views,” he said.

Similarly, in the surrounding Susquehannock State Forest near him, there are numerous hiking trails, which are accessible at no cost except perhaps for parking.

“These trails not only offer physical activity but also expose travelers to breathtaking natural scenery and wildlife, maximizing the value gained from an inexpensive or free activity. Moreover, the mental and physical benefits of spending time in nature provide a substantial return on a minimal investment,” Zook Jr. said.

Local Community and Cultural Events

Zook Jr. also suggested that if you’re interested in cultural experiences, “Local community events such as small-town festivals or markets can be incredibly enriching without denting your wallet.”

These events often feature local crafts, foods and sometimes free performances, offering a taste of local life and community spirit.

“My experience hosting near such a vibrant outdoor and community-focused area has shown me that the most rewarding travel experiences often come from engaging authentically with the area’s natural and social offerings, all while on a budget.”


While lodging can be one of the bigger expenses when traveling, if you’re traveling outside of the U.S., many countries offer hostels, essentially shared lodgings where you might sleep in a dorm-like setting, for very little, according to Alexandra Dubakova, travel expert and chief marketing officer of FreeTour.com.

“It depends on where you are going for vacation. For example, if you were visiting Bolivia, you could spend $20 on a hostel, $9 on a tasty meal … and spend the remaining in a minibus across town,” she said.

Likewise, in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, you can get accommodation in a hostel starting from $5, street food at $1 or at a hotel for $5, and you can visit museums, markets, etc. she explained.

Many cities offer these kinds of deals on hostels.

Public Transit Day Passes

Another tip Chawla recommended is taking advantage of public transit day passes.

“Whether it’s the buses, trains or subway, most big cities have passes available for short-term tourists that allow unlimited rides in one day. For around the $20 mark or less, you open up so many affordable sightseeing possibilities,” she said.

She shared that this is how her family has been able to cover twice as much ground in a day in big cities like Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago.

Museums, Landmarks and Monuments

Additionally, you’d be surprised how much free or inexpensive culture you can soak up in a place too, Chawla said.

Many museums, landmarks and monuments have discounted or even free admission days that only require a bit of online research beforehand, she explained.

“Just $10 towards the entrance fee means my kids get an education while we’re traveling. It’s amazing what you learn wandering around taking in the exhibits and history. I always leave feeling like I understand a destination so much better after a few hours in its cultural attractions.”

Don’t Forget What’s Free

You can also save your $20 by taking advantage of some free options, according to Rob Burley, a travel tour operator expert and the founder of GP Traveller.

He recommended free “culture days” at local museums, zoos and attractions.

“During my last trip to Washington D.C., I was amazed at how much history and education I absorbed across multiple Smithsonian museums — all without spending a dime. Another top recommendation is free walking tours. Not only do you see the sites, but you gain priceless insider perspectives from local volunteers who share their city with pride.”

He also urged people not to forget about libraries.

“On rainy days they’ve entertained me for hours with movies, books and more. And in summer, public parks worldwide put on wonderful free concerts and shows perfect for taking in while meeting locals,” Burley said.

Town squares or parks sometimes have live music from street performers, Warren added.

“Even historical sites may have outside areas open to all, so you can see nice buildings or ruins at no cost. And don’t forget cheap postcards to send friends pictures from your trip,” she concluded.

Whether it’s food, transit or culture, there are many ways to spend a day traveling on just $20 if you get a bit creative.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Budget Travel: The Best Ways To Spend $20 on Vacation

Source: finance.yahoo.com

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