Also try CouchSurfing your way through a country. If your only major expense is transportation and food, in many countries you can travel on nearly nothing. Also, if you have a decent home you can trade houses. I was going to go that route but it is too confining for me. I want to wander. Great list Matt. I work in a different city each week, and that has made coming home on the weekends seem like a vacation to me. Excellent list. I especially like the first two suggestions. I would have seen and done much more!
And when I go home to visit I look forward to doing just that. Can you imagine cashing in half your retirement savings to buy a condo in a foreign country? Take the risks, they are the pay offs. Love the concept of being a tourist in your home town! Recently did a photography challenge which had me looking at my home town differently. Was great fun to get out there over the duration of the challenge, open my eyes and look at things in a different light.
Have not tried the house sitting option, but have friends who have, and love it!
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Keeping that on the radar for the future! We took our kids 4 and 7 last summer and it was surprisingly stress-free. Our American friends thought we were nuts, but it totally worked, and was cheaper for two weeks even including our airfare than driving to and staying at the beach. Great tips here, Matt — especially about being a local tourist.
I know more about other countries than I do about my own. When I asked my parents about this the other day I found out that a cousin of mine had recently moved to Argentina and another was working in Prague! I had no idea. Great ideas, esp thinking outside of the box.
Contrarian travel is something every traveler or backpacker should do. This article really comes at the right time for me. None of these things are true. I also like the idea of being a local tourist. I used to live in Tokyo for a while and I used almost every day off to explore the city and its surroundings.
Excellent tips here — especially about being a local tourist. No matter what the size, your city has a number of wonders just waiting to be explored. Your blog contains lots of information about how we can plan our vacation in budget. All good ideas. Travel as a local is such a great way to see a country, in particular. I saw so much of South Korea living there as an expat that I might never have found traveling around the same amount of time. I think traveling your local area is a great tip! Also, camping is a really great way to get out! A bunch of friends and I drove to Virginia Beach a few springs ago and instead of spending a lot of money on a hotel we camped and it was surprisingly fun!
I always imagined they would be like flights and triple in price as the date for departure drew near. Awesome list. Jost Van Dyke! Become a WOOFer. My kids did it a few years ago and lived in Hawaii for 9 months. There are WOOFing opportunities all over the world. Catching up on your favorites, Matt. I like this one as well. Lots of good tips and feedback. I have always thought that traveling like a tourist made you a tourist, which I always refused as a caricature. I would much rather hang with the locals, eat what they eat, see what they see, go see a band play, get to know some families, etc.
The best way to do that is either to meet folks on the road, or meet folks at home, then catch up with them when they move abroad. Military families and marooned business folks could probably use the company and the familiar faces. Crash on their couch, do their dishes, take them out to dinner, make their lives a little better.
Anthony Bourdain has a great perspective on this. Traveling can be very expensive and can limit how long or far you travel. I want to stretch out my travels for as long as possible so have chosen to settle down for a few months in a beautiful city in Bolivia called Sucre.
On a side note…love the idea of traveling in your own back yard! Great blog! I just traveled across Europe and stuck to the less-popular destinations such as Serbia, Romania, Slovakia, etc. AND it was off-season, and it was amazing how affordable and un-crowded it was. Everywhere I went was surprisingly unique.
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Hello Mr. Matt, I will be going to Europe this coming April I will be traveling in 7 countries. How much do you think I need for a pocket money? I will be traveling alone. Thank you so much. God bless! Fantastic ideas for travellers on a budget! I agree that you should swap expensive locations like Paris for something not only cheaper, but also a bit more quirky and less well trodden, like Budapest. Good ideas. For accomodations, I would highly recommend hostels. Love these ideas — national parks are the best!
But food in those outback towns is often ridiculously expensive, so stock up in bigger places. Big love from Down Under. Great List! I love the idea of being a tourist in your home town, or home state. All the ideas really help and especially the 5th one. Traveling to non-commercial places is really a great idea to save on your budget. Really going to help a lot if one follow these ideas. Keep on posting interesting articles like these. Great post with some really great ideas! By posting a comment, you agree to our community friendly, anti-spam comment policy that can be found here.
So what do you do when you only have a short amount of time and a short amount of money? Want to learn how I travel the world for free? Travel counter to the prevailing trend. Zig when everyone zags. Here are some other great airline booking sites where you can find deals: Skyscanner — Skyscanner has a very intuitive platform that lets you search for an open-ended trip. You can also search multiple cities and countries at once, making this a must-use platform when looking for budget flights.
My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are: World Nomads for everyone below 70 Insure My Trip for those over 70 Looking for the best companies to save money with? There are 31 Comments. House sitting is a great way to go for digital nomads, too. Then contact them to maximize your experience of England, Ireland, and Scotland.
The next best thing? Let him arrange your itinerary, including the most scenic drives between all those fairytale properties and otherwise-hard-to-book restaurants. Of course, they can also snag tickets to special events including Wimbledon and Premier League Soccer. Contact Jonathan.
Read reviews of Jonathan. Then contact him to maximize your experience of England, Ireland, and Scotland. They are furnished with fine amenities: high-thread-count linens, plush towels, modern kitchen appliances, comfortable beds and sofas, and a supply of drinks and snacks to tide you over until you can get to the grocery store. She and her team know their properties inside and out and can answer questions about location, local transport, quality of beds, type of coffee machine, whether guests can control heating, and so on.
Each party is met by a greeter who gives a thorough orientation and leaves behind his or her phone number, along with a thick file containing all the local intel a guest could possibly need. Contact Madelyn. Read reviews of Madelyn. Pricing includes accommodations, regional flights or trains, car rental, visits and guided excursions, and some meals.
Contact Jack and Michael. Read reviews of Jack and Michael. She can make the line at the Eiffel Tower disappear, snag front-row seats for Paris Fashion Week, or get you tickets to the Ferrari pit during the Grand Prix. Her VIP meet-and-greet starts at the aircraft door and includes fast-track entry through immigration and customs to a waiting car. Contact Jennifer. Read reviews of Jennifer. The reason he knows so many charming villages, country lanes, waterways, and cowpaths is the many years he spent captaining both hot-air balloons and luxury hotel barges: He frequently ended up in the middle of nowhere in rural France, making unusual discoveries and meeting interesting local characters.
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An Englishman who has lived in France since , he still personally guides the occasional Hollywood celeb and Forbes Lister, but usually he is too busy running his Provence-based travel firm. He can unlock the Palace of the Popes at night, unlock most doors in Bordeaux, helicopter you in to hike with shepherds in the Pyrenees, or ensconce you in a chic beachside villa whose guest list looks like the Oscars seating chart. From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, he excels at trips that focus on food and wine or adventure often a bit of both : enjoying oysters fresh from the sea, wine tasting with world-class sommeliers, canyoning in the Verdon Gorge, or surfing in Biarritz.
No hotel-only requests, please. Contact Philip. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Paris. She specializes in highly detailed self-drive and train itineraries for independent-minded travelers and will map out for you the most scenic driving, hiking, cycling, train, and ferry routes, and even where to bobsled or ski for a couple of days.
She can point you to the best castles to sleep in along the Rhine, hire the latest-model Porsche for your tour of the Bavarian Alps, connect you with a World War I historian, or get you past the lines in the Keukenhof Gardens. For trips of less than one week, ask Wendy. Contact Claudia. Claudia is unavailable to plan trips that start before October. Read reviews of Claudia.
Greece As far as culture goes, few destinations can top Greece. But that compact size belies the hours—days, even—one can waste trying to get from place to place. With more than 2, islands to choose from, each with its own unique character, it can be impossible to figure out which particular pieces will create the perfect trip for you. Contact Jacoline. Jacoline is unavailable to plan trips that start before mid-October. Read reviews of Jacoline. The challenge of planning a vacation here is also unusual: First, Iceland is surprisingly expensive. Second, tourism to Iceland has skyrocketed, causing demand—for accommodations, activities, all-terrain vehicles, glacier adventure guides, etc.
Third, the tourism infrastructure is geared to mass-market group package tours.
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A bilingual former guide, she knows all the time-saving tricks for exploring the most popular sites while also squeezing in the hidden gems. Be sure to speak with her personally, as she interviews travelers in depth to gain a thorough understanding of their travel fantasies, preferences, and pet peeves, then uses that knowledge to custom-tailor the perfect itinerary. Trips start at 1, euros per day per couple—twice that for trips that include 5-star hotels, private transport, and guided experiences on the Amalfi Coast in peak season.
In addition, Andrea charges a trip-planning fee of euros per person that is non-refundable in case of cancellation. Contact Andrea. Read reviews of Andrea. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Italy. Together with their team of terrifically knowledgeable and charismatic guides and drivers, they deliver a charming and intimate trip every time.
Contact Brian and Maria. Read reviews of Brian and Maria. Etna with a volcanologist, a market tour and cooking class with a chef, a visit to Greek ruins with an archaeologist, a private lunch at an herb farm, or a tour on a lovingly restored sailboat, all hosted by passionate locals whom Marcello considers family.
Contact Marcello. Read reviews of Marcello. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Sicily. Italy: Ultimate Villa Vacations Mara Solomon, Homebase Abroad For two decades Mara has been hand-picking the most atmospheric and magical estates in Italy, inspecting them seasonally, and using her fluent Italian to strengthen her close relationships with the property owners.
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Read reviews of Mara. Both citizens of Malta where their mother was born , Damon is based on the islands and Jason lives in Canada—so you can reach one or the other of them at just about any hour of the day or night. And they work with a range of accommodations, from luxury hotels to locally run boutique properties and classic Mediterranean palazzos that you can have all to yourself with private maid, butler, and chef service, if you like.
Ask Jason and Damon. Read reviews of Jason and Damon. Then contact them to maximize your experience of Malta. Enter an in-the-know local expert, who might hire a boat instead to whisk you from your seafront hotel to dinner in style. Click below to get our advice on the right Montenegro specialist for the trip you have in mind.
Multi-Country Europe Jill Taylor, Jetset World Travel After a study-abroad experience in France and a stint living in northern Italy, Jill found herself planning so many pan-Western-European itineraries for family and friends that she decided to go into the travel business. Now living in Chicago, she enjoys coordinating trips that combine several countries, utilizing small, local, Europe-based travel firms for the arrangements in each spot.
Contact her when you prefer using one point person who is based in the U. Or, if what you really want is a group tour, she can point you to the best for your particular needs. The Netherlands Everybody knows Amsterdam is a strong dose of fun and culture, but to experience the best of the Netherlands, you need to dig further. To make the most of your time in the Netherlands, you need someone who can design a smart itinerary and arrange the local encounters that make a trip really special.
How to find the right Netherlands trip designer? Norway and Scandinavia including Iceland Jan Sortland, Norwegian Adventures From his home base in Oslo and additional offices in Bergen and Stockholm, Jan specializes in custom-tailored adventures into the lesser-known regions of Norway and beyond. His imaginative itineraries often involve seeing the Northern Lights or sampling the best Nordic cuisine, but he can also arrange activities you may not have known were possible, from sea kayaking around fjords to reindeer sledding to fishing in the Arctic Ocean to building your own snow cave—and sleeping in it.
In Iceland, he can have you join locals on traditional hunting trips, meet with experts in Icelandic Saga literature, and stay in private villas. In Denmark, he can orchestrate a public audience with the queen; and in Sweden he can get travelers onboard the famous 17th-century ship the Vasa—an honor usually reserved for royalty and heads of state.
Contact Jan. Read reviews of Jan. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Norway and the rest of Scandinavia. Leigh is willing to arrange private shore excursions for Baltic cruises—but fair warning: Local rates for private drivers and guides make these extremely expensive. No home rental.
Contact Leigh. Read reviews of Leigh. Meanwhile, his relationships within the cruise industry spell excellent value for his travelers, last-minute availability when things appear to be booked solid, and a strong advocate on your side should anything go wrong. Read reviews of Tom. Then contact him to maximize your cruise experience. Contact Raluca. Read reviews of Raluca. Today he has offices in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev, Prague, and Dubrovnik. He and his team troubleshoot everything for you—they even pre-book all museum visits so you can skip the lines—and negotiate upgrades and other perks at the best hotels in the country.
Contact Greg. Read reviews of Greg. Click below for our latest intel. He has explored all 17 regions and 52 provinces of Spain and maintains a network of connections that ensures he can reserve tables at the most sought-after restaurants in San Sebastian, arrange private Spanish guitar or Flamenco lessons in Madrid, or get you into the best wineries in La Rioja.
No villa rental. Spain and Portugal Virginia Irurita, Made for Spain and Portugal Born in Spain and based in Madrid, Virginia ditched a decade-long career in banking 20 years ago to go into the travel business and share her love of Spain. Her little black book is thick with the names of a fascinating variety of local experts and noteworthy characters—museum curators, chefs, architects, flamenco dancers, picadors, sommeliers, landed nobility…. She has a particularly keen interest in wine and winemaking—so keen, in fact, that she bought herself a vineyard on the banks of the Duero River.
In recent years, as her company has grown big fast, so have its prices. Virginia charges an additional trip-planning fee of euros. No villa rentals. Contact Virginia. Read reviews of Virginia. In the Alps, she plans trips that include hikes with Saint Bernard dogs and introductions to how cowbells are made and traditional Appenzell costumes embroidered; elsewhere she adds plenty of iconic Swiss elements, such as chocolate- and watch-making workshops, or even a romantic dinner of raclette warmed over a candle inside a cave.
Overnight accommodations on her itineraries range from family-run inns and alpine farms—where you can help milk the cows—to private chalets and five-star grande dames. Contact Nina. Read reviews of Nina. She is the go-to for cruise shore excursions she can make the crowds at Ephesus disappear and gulet charters too.
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Contact Karen. Read reviews of Karen. Earl knows that a guide can make or break a trip, and he is known for handpicking only the savviest, all of them highly educated, personable, and accomplished in their own right. Contact Earl. Read reviews of Earl. Then contact him to maximize your experience of the U. Contact Diane. Read reviews of Diane. Her vast network of loyal friends and experts on the ground means you get an especially warm welcome as well as unique, meaningful experiences far from where other tourists go.
Toni is dedicated to making a positive contribution to the countries where she operates; READ Global , the renowned nonprofit she founded, has built more than libraries in Nepal, Bhutan, and India. Contact Antonia. Read reviews of Antonia. Then contact her to maximize your experience of Bhutan, Myanmar, and Nepal. They are also places of tremendous ethnic diversity, with each group having its own fascinating customs, religions, and cultures. Curious about the possibilities in Indonesia and Malaysia? Her personal contacts at museums, exhibition sites, and performance companies translate to exclusive access for her clients, and the encounters that she orchestrates with artisans and businesspeople help bring alive aspects of the culture both ancient and contemporary.
Contact Zulya. Read reviews of Zulya. Her guides and drivers are the best in the business, opening the doors to authentic Chinese culture and steering travelers away from the crowds, the expected, and all things touristy. Contact Mei. Read reviews of Mei. Then contact her to maximize your experience of China.
He began mountaineering and rock climbing in the high Himalayas at age 15, and since has led groups on trekking, climbing, touring, and safari trips not only in India but in Tibet, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bhutan. Contact Sanjay. Read reviews of Sanjay. India Bertie and Victoria Dyer, India Beat While living for ten years in Jaipur—where they were married and had their first child—Bertie and Victoria introduced so many visiting friends to their favorite places and people in Rajasthan that it turned into a travel business.
They plan unique trips tailored to individual interests—a type of travel experience that is rare in India, where most tours emphasize ticking off as many main sites as possible. They returned to England to have their second child, but their Jaipur office is run by a dedicated team of local employees who have been with the company from the beginning. Contact Bertie and Victoria. Read reviews of Bertie and Victoria. Japan is cherry blossoms, ancient temples, high design, square watermelons, white-gloved bus drivers, shockproof high-rises, and tea ceremonies in which nearly every hand movement is prescribed.
It is also otherworldly in the extreme. Japanese society relies heavily on personal connections to unlock doors. Without them, your experience of Japan is guaranteed to skim the surface. And because the number of savvy guides with exceptional access is limited, they can command high fees. If you are seeking the right bespoke trip-planning specialist who can deliver the best that Japan has to offer, and if you fill out your wish list below, I can point you toward your smartest options.
All information you provide is private; it will be seen only by me and the travel expert I recommend for you. Japan Scott Gilman, JapanQuest Journeys After seven years living in Japan working for Goldman Sachs—and raising three children there—Scott launched his own firm focused on delivering five-star-only journeys into the soul of Japan, peppered with the sorts of experiences that are normally very difficult for travelers to access. He has spent decades cultivating local relationships, hand-picking the savviest guides, and uncovering unusual opportunities that unlock the mysteries of Japan.
He and his son Jason, who now works alongside him, orchestrate trips for visitors of every age, from children fascinated by samurai swords and manga comics to romantic couples in pursuit of exquisite ryokans with secluded hot springs. Based in Washington, D. They can even deliver a practice session at a sumo training stable where you are seated a few feet from the wrestlers or a dinner with geisha entertainment at a teahouse open only to invited guests.
Five-star accommodations and private transportation are additional. Contact Scott. Read reviews of Scott. The Maldives and the Seychelles Lindsey Wallace, Linara Travel Lindsey expertly matches travelers to the Indian Ocean with the specific island, resort, and overwater bungalow—even with the specific dive instructor or massage therapist—that best suit their needs, and then on top of that masterminds unique experiences such as seaplane jaunts to idyllic desert islands for surprise marriage proposals. Lindsey is based in the U.
Then contact him to maximize your experience of the Maldives and the Seychelles. Read reviews of Jalsa. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Mongolia. Tell us about the trip you have in mind, and we can point you to the best travel specialist for it. Sri Lanka Miguel Cunat, Sri Lanka in Style Miguel, who has been living with his wife and three kids in Sri Lanka for 17 years, founded his company to provide travelers with insightful, engaging experiences in his adopted homeland—an enchanting but logistically very tricky place.
Contact Miguel. Read reviews of Miguel. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Sri Lanka. Approaching travel planning scientifically, he began doing surveys to measure minute-by-minute tourist flow around the Angkorian ruins, using the data to calculate the timing and routing that would make for the least congested experience.
When Andy is away from the office sussing out the hidden pockets of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam in order to create imaginative new itineraries for travelers, his deputy, Joshua Clayton, can ensure that travelers sent by Wendy receive the deeply authentic experiences they crave. Andy and Josh help travelers connect not just with friendly locals but also with prominent academics and scientists who are leading excavations in the area. Andy also holds the post of British Honorary Consul and wrote the well-regarded Angkor Guidebook, a coffee-table-worthy tome.
Contact Andy. Read reviews of Andy. Eventually he formed his own tour company, with offices in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Today, living in both Atlanta and Saigon, he and his son Jackson whose mother started one of the first private tour companies in her home country of Vietnam craft tailor-made itineraries that make the most of your precious time. Sandy has a vast network of powerful contacts in the hotel industry—where Jackson worked for a decade—which translates into status for you, and he maintains complete control of every detail of a trip, right down to handpicking every guide—all charismatic locals whom Sandy considers family.
These hosts are the ultimate well-connected experts in their destinations, ensuring you get a trip of a lifetime. Contact Sandy. Read reviews of Sandy. Andrea specializes in family travel, while April is the beach and island expert—and a master at crafting extravagant yet affordable honeymoons. Both women are committed to philanthropic travel, weaving volunteer work into many itineraries. Contact Andrea and April. Read reviews of Andrea and April.
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Contact Daniel. Read reviews of Daniel. Then contact him to maximize your experience Thailand. Africa and the Middle East. Based in the U. They are eager to immerse you in the local culture via overnights in village homes or desert camps, but are also well-acquainted with the most magnificent five-star properties. Contact Jonny. Read reviews of Jonny. He also hired his army buddy Jonathan Rose, who works alongside Joe sketching out itineraries for their travelers.
They can arrange all manner of special-access experiences our favorite is the chance to take part in the excavation of 5,year-old ruins , as well as side trips to Petra, Wadi Rum, and other iconic sites in neighboring Jordan. Contact Joe and Jonathan. Read reviews of Joe and Jonathan. Morocco Morocco has shot up the travel charts, becoming the exotic-yet-doable-withindays destination of the moment.
Logistics are especially tricky if, like so many travelers, you want to combine Morocco with nearby Spain and Portugal. Contact Michael. Read reviews of Michael. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Morocco. Then contact him to maximize your experience of the United Arab Emirates. Whether you choose to track gorillas in Rwanda or follow the annual Great Migration in the Masai Mara or the Serengeti, she will make sure that you optimize your time and resources.
Her particular passion is the nomadic traditions of the Maasai; she has been interviewing Maasai elders for more than ten years, and loves to arrange authentic cultural interactions. Contact Linda. Read reviews of Linda. Then contact her to maximize your experience of East Africa. Safaris: East Africa and South Africa Nina Wennersten and Dan Saperstein, Hippo Creek Safaris Nina and her son and business partner, Dan, draw on their decades of knowledge and vast network of connections to ensure that each safari really is the trip of a lifetime and that each traveler gets the most rewarding safari experience possible for their travel dollar.
Based in the New York City area, they are always on call and always making sure their clients are treated like royalty at every lodge and camp. Parents and grandparents wanting to take young children on safari, do yourself a favor and have an honest conversation with Nina about which countries and parks are truly the most child-friendly.
Contact Nina and Dan. Read reviews of Nina and Dan. Then contact them to maximize your experience of East Africa and South Africa. Safaris: Southern and Central Africa, Ethiopia, Madagascar Cherri Briggs, Explore Cherri—who splits her time between homes in Zambia and Colorado—has spent the past 25 years combing the African continent to create unique travel experiences: canoeing the Zambezi; galloping on horseback with zebra and giraffe across the Okavango Delta; scuba diving off Mozambique; and exploring the remote corners of Ethiopia, Gabon, Madagascar, Cameroon, and the Congo Basin.
Her obsession with all things safari ensures that her clients both private travelers and groups enjoy excellent value and a smart selection of lodges and camps in Southern and East Africa. Cherri serves on the boards of several African conservation organizations, and she selects lodges that support local communities and invest in conservation. In she was appointed Honorary Consul to the USA by the Zambian government, and in she became the first non-citizen appointed to the Botswana Tourism Organization. Contact Cherri. Read reviews of Cherri. Safaris: Southern and East Africa Julian Harrison, Premier Tours Fluent in Afrikaans and Zulu, Julian was born and raised in South Africa, where he spent the early part of his career establishing his safari bona fides by working as a ranger in KwaZulu-Natal and cohosting a weekly radio program about wildlife conservation.
Contact Julian. Read reviews of Julian. Then contact him to maximize your experience of African safaris. Australia and Pacific. Australia Australia feels deceptively familiar but holds a wealth of surprises: The wildlife bounces. The landscape ranges from sere red desert to lush rainforest and just about everything in between. And while we may share a common language, Australians hold a distinctly different view of the world. A first-rate trip designer can help you focus in on the least crowded destinations and activities that align with your interests, and the smartest ways to cover the distances often considerable between them.
Australia Stuart Rigg, Southern Crossings From his homebase in Sydney, Stuart plans tailor-made travel to Australia, covering the length and breadth of the continent. He has personally tested nearly every property, heli-tour, yacht charter, and waterfront restaurant that he recommends. He can arrange access to private homes, golf courses, and art collections, and will offer careful guidance on everything from self-drive itineraries through the Margaret River wine region to sailing trips around the Whitsundays. As for the Great Barrier Reef, Stuart has failsafe strategies for steering clear of the masses, and he knows exactly which island properties are best for hyperactive families, spa-loving hedonists, or Robinson Crusoe fantasists.
Contact Stuart. Read reviews of Stuart. Then contact him to maximize your experience of Australia. She even moved there ten years ago and now carries Fijian citizenship.