Our Top 5 Travel Destinations on a Time and Money Budget

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We love to travel as often and to as many places as possible. So we like to book trips for as cheap as possible without sacrificing too much comfort. After all, the less we spend, the more trips we can take. BUT we usually can only take one week off at a time (sometime a week and a half) so we will pay more for faster transportation, convenient flights and extra comfort on the road. We don’t stay in hostels, nor do we take long rides on the chicken bus—but those are great options for travelers who are on a tight budget and want to have an amazing adventure! We spend a little money for speed and comfort since we are vacation travelers rather than slow travelers at the moment. But we want to show you the experiences you can get by just saving a little bit each week.

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Save a Dollar, See the World!

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We never wrote anything about our February trip to Panamá. So we are sitting here in our hotel in Bogotá talking about how accessible the world can be if you make travel a priority – and you really don’t have to break the bank.

We’ve heard the question many times: “How do you get to travel so much?”

Of course there are numerous factors that go into the answer: available vacation time, pet sitters and the lack of unforeseen life expenses.

But world travel doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive.

We’ve read a lot of articles suggesting that you cut back on expenses, like cable, or brow bag your lunch instead of buying an unhealthy $8 sandwich every day.

These are great ideas, and if those don’t work for you, We have another suggestion.

The next time you get a pay increase, open a separate savings account and have $1 an hour of your paycheck automatically deposited there–or stash $40 every week.

If you work full time, you will have $2080 dollars saved up a year later.

We’ve done many trips around the world for $2,000 or less per person. And it isn’t super budget travel either. We’ve done a bunch of trips for $2,000 to $2,500 for both of us, too!

Our days of staying in dorm-style hostels are over. But we do stay in comfortable, low-cost (sometimes low frill) places in great locations around the world.

Here’s how we did Panama:

We usually like to go somewhere warm in February because it’s cold at home and it’s the dry season in Central America and other locations. So, six months ahead of time, we picked a week we wanted to go and plugged three different destinations into our Hopper app for those dates: Panama City, Lima and Quito.

Then we waited. In the mean time, we watched Anthony Bourdain (Update: RIP, sigh, sigh, sigh), Samantha Brown and Jack Maxwell explore these areas. We searched Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet and Viator for suggested itineraries and neighborhoods to explore. This research is half the fun!!

In November, we got an alert from Hopper: “Your flight to Panama is $214. You should book now.”

What?! $214 direct to Panama from Washington, DC? We’re on it!

Flight booked!

Through our internet and television research, we decided to stay in the El Cangrejo district for the first three nights.

An Orbitz promotional rate of $75/night including tax got us a nice room at the Riande Granada Urban hotel. Great pool, workout room and beer garden. We would stay here again!

The hotel was in walking distance to casinos and to Via Argentina–which had lots of restaurants and bars. The area felt much less touristy than other places in the city, and there was still plenty to do.

Theo in Casco Viejo

We hired an Uber driver to take us to the Miraflores locks to check out the canal. The driver waited for us for an hour and kept the meter running. It cost us $20 including an extra tip.

We also hired an Uber driver to take us out to the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. We should have had him wait for us, because, although the view was beautiful, there wasn’t much to do. In hind sight, we would’ve had him take us to the nearby Soberania park and wait for us. This wound up being about $70 round trip.

After three nights, we relocated to the touristy Casco Viejo area for one night and stayed at Tantalo, a trendy and fun hotel with an amazing rooftop bar. $145/night. It was definitely cool to check out that area for a night!

After that we took an hour flight to Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean side for $200 per person.

We stayed in walking distance to Bocas Town in a little rustic cabin on the water–which was $100+ per night, depending on which cabin you rented.

We splurged and got the cabin on the end overlooking the water for $154/night including tax.

Bocas Town is very much a backpackers town. We had fun hanging out in town at a hostel bar, Selina, that had great happy hours, a pool table, friendly patrons from around the world and a relaxing view of the water.

There were lots of excursions we could have arranged from Bocas Town, but we just decided to relax.

There were some great little restaurants in town, and food prices were reasonable.

After four nights in Bocas, we flew back to Panama City and headed home.

It was an amazing trip!!

Factor in an additional $50/per person for taxi/uber to and from the airport and around town.

So there you have it. Here’s the per person breakdown:

International flight: $214

Domestic fight: $200

Sightseeing transport: $50

Airport and other transport: $50

Accommodations for 8 nights: $500

That’s a little over $1,000 per person for flights, accommodations and transportation. That leaves quite a bit per day to spend on food, drinks, excursions and whatever else.

Or you could budget some of that for the next adventure!