The Best Adventure Travel on a Budget

John Jun 24, 2023
10 People Read
Table of Contents
  1. Budget adventure travel: what you need to know
  2. Popular adventure activities
  3. Booking Your Adventure Tour
  4. Pros and Cons of Small Group Tours
    1. “Pros” of Adventure Travel Tours
    2. “Cons” of Adventure Travel Tours
  5. Why Carry-on is the budget-friendly way to go
    1. The Right Way to Pack Luggage
    2. The Wrong Way to Pack Luggage
  6. Frequently Asked Questions
    1. Q: How do I go on vacation on a budget?
    2. Q: What is considered adventure travel?
    3. Q: How can I travel the world on a budget for cheap?
    4. Q: What is the cheapest country to visit?
    5. Q: What is the cheapest country for Americans to visit?
    6. Q: Which country is cheapest and safest?
  7. Conclusion
    1. Related Articles

You've decided to take a vacation, but you want to save money without dipping too far into your savings or worse break the bank! Adventure tourism is becoming extremely affordable for smart budget travel.

Many ask, "What is the best place to go on an adventure?" Well there are countless options from day trips to weeklong adventures. However, you should always choose carefully before putting down cash. Read our guide below for the best adventure travel on a budget and how to get started.

Adventure tourism is growing at an impressive rate. According to research conducted by Travel Weekly magazine, over $80bn was spent worldwide on adventure holidays in 2017. The majority (71%) of these travelers took part in activities such as hiking, biking, swimming, rafting, climbing and zip lining.

Not only is adventure tourism a great way to to create an amazing experience for yourself that will profoundly broaden your perspective, it's also an excellent way to help the local small scale economy that relies on adventure seekers to sustain a living, according to USA Today.

Adventure tourists seek out destinations where they can discover local culture, participate in unique natural phenomena and explore uncharted territory. So if you're looking for a fun adventure while staying within your travel budget, you've come to the right place. Below are the top recommendations that you need to consider when choosing a budget friendly adventure trip.

man next to waterfall

Budget adventure travel: what you need to know

The prices of adventure tourism vary depending on the type of activity you're looking to engage in. A number of companies offer a variety of cost savings vacation packages that will help you find the perfect combination of adventure and value. You may be interested in a hike through the mountains of Nepal, or maybe you'd rather go zip lining in Costa Rica. These are just two examples — there's a variety of destinations and activities that you can choose from that will offer the best value to save money and offer one great adventure.

While many adventure tours offer great travel deals, not every company operates using fair practices. Some offer overly expensive tours with poor customer service which could lead you to feel cheated after your return home. It is important to do your homework and look into any potential concerns before booking. Make sure the company offers clear descriptions, honest pricing and transparent communication. If the company offers vacation packages, ensure to account for ways and costs of travel between airports and excursions. Many times the local economy can provide by way of affordable transportation like bus or car, but just be sure to bring local currency or a travel credit card that you can use for emergency expenses and other travel-related costs.

For example, if the price quoted does not include airport transfers, accommodation or meals, then this needs to be disclosed upfront. Many companies also add hidden fees during the planning process, making it hard to plan ahead. If you spot anything suspicious, use the review pages available on websites like to ensure you aren't being taken advantage of. Also, make sure to check if the company has a physical address, as it is easier for them to contact you if needed. Finally, read all the fine print before purchasing your tickets and check it again before boarding the plane.

relaxing on an adventure

Popular adventure activities

There is no shortage of things to do while on a budget friendly adventure holiday! Here are just a few of the top activities to see and do based on your smart financial decisions:

1. Trekking/Hiking – Enjoy breathtaking views of nature as you walk along trails across mountains and forests. Hike up volcanoes and climb waterfalls. There are plenty of trails to choose from around the globe, and each one offers something different. A great resource to plan your destination in the US is the National Park Service where you can explore all of the various hiking options in the United States and its territories. The Great Smoky Mountains for the Rockies are two of the best premier adventure hikes, but there are many great adventure trekking options throughout the country. Check with the National Park Service or your state's park service. Another great option to help plan your travel getaway is AllTrails where you can seek out specific locations, trails, reviews and updates from across the globe. 


2. Cycling – Ride bikes through beautiful scenery and enjoy fresh air. Choose between road cycling or mountain bike excursions. This way, you can explore small towns and villages without having to worry about traffic. Check out this Classic London Landmarks Bicycle Tour from TripAdvisor for only $45 per person. Also check with the company for coupon codes that are usually offered on site.

mountain biking

3. Caving – Discover underground caves filled with stalagmites and stalactites. Explore underwater caves and swim with cave fish. In the US, the top cave destination for budget travel is Mammoth Cave National Park. This is an awe-inspiring visit for one of the ultimate spelunking vacation packages you can have, and a must see if you have never been. If you're looking for out of the country caves and caverns, one of the best low-cost destinations is the Maastricht Underground in The Netherlands. With relatively easy access via air from Brussels, Antwerp or Dusseldorf, seeing this spectacular site is easily within reach. And getting to the destination is just part of the adventure. Check out TripAdvisor for a local company's vacation packages that will take care of everything for your tour, to include airport pickup and return. Again, some local travel companies will offer you a coupon code if you ask them, because at the end of the day, they simply want your business.


4. Swimming – Let the sun dry off your sweat after a long day hiking or biking. Swim at beaches, take a dip in the ocean or relax by the pool. The options are endless when it comes to swimming adventures. One highly rated adventure trip is on a Catamaran Day Sail in St. Maarten for one of the best travel deals at a low price of $129 per adult. This excursion offers swimming, sunbathing, Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP), and you can “even launch yourself into the waters via the boat's own Tarzan swing.” These activities alone that are included with this excursion are worth foregoing one of the travel companies vacation packages, and opting for a local campground or hostel to save money.


5. Rock Climbing – Climb rock faces and scale cliffs in search of amazing views. Don't forget protective gear. You'll want to protect your skin from cuts and bruises, especially if you're climbing high above the ground. For this type of excursion, unless you're an avid rock-climber, it's best to let the professionals handle the planning and safety gear. For this reason, a top fan favorite is the Rock-Climbing Adventure in Colorado's Front Range. Whether you're a beginner, intermediate, or advanced climber, the unique rock formations make for great climbing conditions. Denver's outskirts (transportation not included, but Uber and Lyft readily available) are the setting for a thrilling, adrenaline-filled adventure where you can spend 5 hours rock climbing ( ropes, harnesses, and shoes are provided, as well as snacks and water). Just show up ready for a good time, since all climbing equipment is provided.

Rock climbing

6. Rafting – Float down rivers and raft over rapids. Take a class or book a guided trip. Get ready for thrills and spills as the boat zooms past obstacles and through narrow passages. Looking to Colorado again, a top rafting destination is the Echo Canyon River Expeditions. With 40 years of business providing rafting adventures and making vacation memories that last a lifetime, Echo Canyon offers NEW Premier Packages as well as Half-Day, Full-Day, and Multi-Day Arkansas River rafting trips, offering a coupon code on site. Just an hour away from Colorado Springs, family and adventure whitewater rafting is available. If you're looking for something more relaxing without the adrenaline rush, you should check out the bamboo rafting in the Martha Brae River of Montego Bay, Jamaica. Almost all the travel reviews cite “relaxing” as the key term for this peaceful excursion. 

white water rafting

7. Snorkeling – Go and discover coral reefs and exotic marine life. See colorful fish and rays below the surface. One of the top destinations close to home is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, FL.  With an excursion option at $79 per person or $474 for a group of six, this is one of the best travel deals for the value you get in return. You'll have three hours to explore the beautiful underwater thriving environment and discover the magnificent reefs and its sea life.


8. Paragliding/Parasailing – Feel the wind rush by as you soar thousands of feet in the sky. Catch a ride on a paraglider or parasail. Both allow you to glide over the sea. Fly over the coastline, or land near picturesque lakes. One of the top paragliding destinations in the U.S. can be found in Glenwood Springs, Colorado at Adventure Paragliding. With no prior training, you can soar over Glenwood Springs with a US Hang Gliding Association (USHGA) certified instructor at Adventure Paragliding. This tandem flight combines the free-flight feeling with stunning sights to create one of those once in a lifetime vacation packages. For one of the best parasailing trips in the states, head to Sky Pirate Parasail in Hilton Head, SC. Sky Pirate Parasail provides the greatest and longest Parasail rides on Hilton Head at the lowest price, in addition to Jet Ski rentals, boat rentals, tubing, water skiing, paddle board rentals, dolphin ecology cruises, and sunset cocktail cruises. They've been in operation for over 20 years and retain many happy returning adventure seekers. Furthermore, they receive excellent reviews.


9. Skiing/Snowboarding – Hit the slopes of ski resorts and slide down powdery snow. Learn how to ski or board in a resort's school. If you don't own a pair of skis or a snowboard, opt to rent and give this adventure a try. Even if you can spare three days to fit this adventure into your budget, it is well worth it. If you're a newbie to the slopes, it's highly recommended that you sign up for a lesson to learn the basics. After just one lesson, you'll understand the basics and can take slopes at your own pace and enjoy the time. One of the best places in the U.S. is Breckenridge Ski Resort in Colorado. There are four large peaks, five terrain parks, three half-pipes, two high-speed six- person SuperChairs, a top-quality Ski & Ride School, unmatched grooming, exciting events, and a historic mining town with endless shopping, dining, and nightlife at Breckenridge. This is a great place for all ski levels, from beginner all the way to professional. There is something for everyone.


10. Surfing – Surf the waves of oceans. Practice your surfing skills on a beach where there are less people or better conditions. No matter what kind of wave you prefer, you'll find it at the School of Surf in Cocoa Beach, FL. Year-round perfect surfing conditions are available at Cocoa Beach, Florida, where you may learn to surf with a highly qualified, trained professional instructor. School of Surf provides private and group lessons as well as seasonal week-long camps. School of Surf is a family business that has been around for generations, and it aims to spread the love of surfing with everyone. They also offer windsurfing for those who are looking to up the ante and try an extreme sport. They also offer a coupon code on site, but you need to physically be present to take advantage of that, so don't forget to ask.


11. Zip Line Tours – Jump into the treetops or fly through the skies. These tours provide thrill seekers with an exciting experience that gives them a bird's eye view of the landscape. When you think of ziplining, images of sailing through the rainforest in Costa Rica may come to mind. That's because Costa Rica offers the best ziplining, and at an affordable price. Check out Go Tours Costa Rica where over the course of a 14 hour tour you can zipline, visit waterfalls, see a volcano, and explore hot springs for one of the best travel deals at a low price of $165 per person. Ask about their onsite coupon code for even more savings.

Zip line

12. Mountain Biking – Travel through scenic countryside and forested valleys. Bike a range of terrain including hills, dales, desert, lake, mud, cobblestone roads, etc. For an epic mountain biking trip, head out to Moab, Utah and encounter the thrill of Bighorn Mountain Biking. For all riding levels, mountain bikes can be rented and taken on one of Moab's most renowned trail systems, where you can ride right from the rental location along the 30 miles of world-class bike trails with stunning views of Arches National Park and the La Sal Mountains.


13. Wildlife Viewing – Spot rare animals in their natural habitat. Track tigers, elephants, lions, rhinos, bears, wild cats, giraffes and more. One of the best African Safari Experiences is the Chobe Full Day Trip by Cherish Travel and Tours located in Botswana, Africa. On this tour, you'll be picked up at your hotel and transported to your guide who will lead you through the Chobe National Park to view the many animals like the African painted dog, blue wildebeest, Cape buffalo, civet, crocodile, giraffe, hippopotamus, hyena, leopard, lion, puku (a vulnerable antelope), savanna elephant, and zebra, amongst others. Cherish Travel and Tours vacation packages is a premier budget-friendly tour that offers great value for the quintessential safari experience.


14. Ballooning – Watch the earth float away below you as you rise hundreds of feet into the atmosphere. It is an exhilarating feeling. For one of the best, most highly rated hot air balloon travel deals in the US, check out the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Ride at Sunrise by Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloon for the adventure of a lifetime. Ask for their onsite coupon code to save even more. Instead of spending thousands of dollars for a helicopter tour, for only $165 per person you can enjoy breathtaking vistas of Albuquerque from a hot air balloon early in the morning, when the sun's first rays light up the dramatic Sandia Mountains landscape. You'll dip through the mighty Rio Grande while your pilot provides commentary on the environment and geology of the area. Afterwards, you will land where a delicious breakfast and sparkling wine await you, topping off the morning's exhilarating events. 

Hot air balloon

15. Horse riding – Canter across green fields or gallop through forests. For this excursion, there's no better way to enjoy the affair of seeing the Great Smoky Mountains on a guided tour by Sugarland Riding Stables in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Take a peaceful trip through the Great Smoky Mountains on the back of a well-trained horse and encounter a chance to glimpse a flock of wild turkeys, a herd of wild deer, or even a black bear climbing a tree. Whether you are a novice or an expert rider, Sugarland Riding Stables guarantees you a wonderful horseback excursion.

Horseback riding

Booking Your Adventure Tour

1. Search for the best budget-friendly adventure tour vacation packages on websites like TripAdvisor, MapTapo, BookingBuddy, and the ever popular Great Value Vacations. Use keyword searches to find unique activities that interest you. Also consider looking at blogs written by travelers who have done similar trips. TripAdvisor is a great place to conduct your research and develop a plan for authentic adventures for budget travel. 

2. Contact local tourist boards and ask about outdoor classes offered by schools. They often offer free admission, so you don't need to spend money to try something out. Check the schedules before visiting though – many programs fill up quickly!

3. Consider joining a local travel club. A simple Google search of “travel clubs near me” will return a surprising number of results where you can find great deals on memberships that offer great savings to normally expensive trips. Some will even help you plan your vacations and organize outings with groups or without. 

group tours

Pros and Cons of Small Group Tours

Whether you decide to strike out on your own or team up with a small group for an excursion, there are pros and cons to both when it comes to saving money. First you must take into consideration what you value most from the tour, such as gaining access to private “hot spots” that a small group tour can offer, or researching on your own and planning the trip yourself. Each requires more or less time, and cost for that matter. If you're trying to stay on a budget, the less costly option is to do the research yourself and explore the destination or activity without the help of a guide. This is a good option if you're an active traveler and routinely do your own research and planning anyway.

If you're reluctant to strike out on your own without the help of a guided tour, whether you're a newbie to adventure travel or just a bit uncertain about the location, you can opt to pay a higher cost and simply leave it to the “professionals'' who've made a living off of tourists and adventure seekers to provide you with the best experience. Private guides give you personal attention and show off particular attractions they know well. But if you're confident in your abilities and not afraid to try something new, rolling as a solo adventure seeker can be exhilarating and possibly more enjoyable with the freedom you'll have to roam about and explore.  Before you decide, read the list of "pros" and "cons" and save yourself the headache.

“Pros” of Adventure Travel Tours

1. More personal attention. You get to know others in your tour group well.

2. You get to know others going on the trip, so you aren't alone. If they're having fun, you will likely join in.

3. You'll meet people from all over the globe. In some cases, you might even end up becoming friends with people traveling around the same time.

4. The company usually organizes transportation, accommodation, and food. So you won't have to worry about any of those costs.

5. Better value for money, and a "one size fits all" at a lower rate.

“Cons” of Adventure Travel Tours

1. The tour may not be suitable for everyone. For example, if you don't like crowds, then maybe an organized excursion isn't best for you.

2. A large number of people also means more competition for activities, food & accommodation.

3. You might feel uncomfortable because people speak different languages than you do.

4. Fewer options. Less Freedom. Time constrained as you go where and when the group does.

carry on luggage

Why Carry-on is the budget-friendly way to go

Whether you're traveling to an exotic steamy rainforest or river-cruising through the mountain valleys, there's the right way to travel and the wrong way. So what to pack while traveling cheaply? However you choose to adventure travel, packing just the essentials is key. If you can pack all of your essentials into a carry-on luggage from Nomatic, you'll save money from checked baggage fees at the airport, while maintaining control of your bags so as not to inadvertently get lost or misdirected to another continent, which is an unfortunate regular occurrence with checked bags nowadays.

There's an art to going only with a carry-on, and requires the right mindset, but if you're reading this post, you probably already know about packing and traveling light. This is why opting for the best carry-on luggage can save you time, money and headache and quickly get you started on your adventure travel. Choose the best carry-on bag for your situation. While most trips require only one piece of luggage, sometimes multiple pieces are required to accommodate additional items. When packing for an extended journey, consider these tips:

The Right Way to Pack Luggage

• Bring clothes that suit your climate.

• Put the heaviest items at front and back of suitcase and fragile items in the middle. 

• Keep clothing together. Roll them tightly to save space.

• Only bring what you really need. Make sure you have enough clean socks and underwear to last you in between washings (sink or laundry services).

• Save space and weight by choosing power banks over batteries to recharge digital devices.

The Wrong Way to Pack Luggage

• Avoid bringing bulky items.

• Don't take too much toiletries. It's okay to "rough it" on an adventure. Just the essentials. 

• Do not pack liquids in plastic containers. Instead, use bottle pouches or zip lock bags.

• Consider packing reusable water bottles or collapsible cups that can go flat. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I go on vacation on a budget? 

A: Going on vacation on a budget requires careful planning and smart decision-making. Start by setting a realistic budget and researching affordable destinations. Look for budget-friendly accommodations (like hostels), consider alternative transportation options, and plan activities that are cost-effective or free. Additionally, be flexible with travel dates and consider traveling during off-peak seasons to take advantage of lower prices.

Q: What is considered adventure travel? 

A: Adventure travel refers to a type of tourism that involves exploring new and exciting destinations through physically and mentally challenging activities. It often includes activities such as hiking, trekking, rock climbing, wildlife safaris, water sports, and more. Adventure travel focuses on immersive experiences, outdoor exploration, and pushing one's personal limits to create memorable and thrilling experiences.

Q: How can I travel the world on a budget for cheap? 

A: Traveling the world on a budget requires strategic planning and prioritization. Start by researching affordable destinations and be flexible with your travel dates. Look for budget airlines or consider using alternative modes of transportation such as trains or buses. Stay in budget accommodations like hostels, guesthouses, or vacation rentals. Cook some of your own meals or eat at local eateries to save on food costs. Additionally, be open to experiencing free or low-cost activities, such as exploring public parks, visiting museums on discounted days, or joining free walking tours.

Q: What is the cheapest country to visit? 

A: The cheapest country to visit can vary depending on factors such as exchange rates, local costs of living, and personal travel preferences. However, some destinations known for their affordability include countries in Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia. Eastern European countries like Bulgaria and Romania, as well as parts of Central America, such as Guatemala and Nicaragua, are also considered budget-friendly options.

Q: What is the cheapest country for Americans to visit? 

A: For Americans, Mexico is often considered one of the cheapest countries to visit due to its proximity and affordable costs. Other affordable options for American travelers include countries in Central America, such as Costa Rica, Belize, and Honduras. Additionally, some Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam offer good value for money, with reasonable prices for accommodation, food, and transportation.

Q: Which country is cheapest and safest? 

A: While the cost and safety of a country can vary, there are several destinations known for being both affordable and safe for travelers. Some examples include countries like Iceland, Portugal, Czech Republic, New Zealand, and Canada. It's important to research and stay updated on travel advisories and take necessary precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.


In order to be successful on any adventure trip, whether you want to take an air tour in the Southwest USA or swim in the turquoise blue waters in the Caribbean, you must first understand when you can go, how to get there and what your budget is based on some financial planning. This is the only way to save some money while affording a valuable trip experience. Narrowing down your list, finding opportunities to pair multiple excursions on one trip, and scheduling the window of travel will allow you to have the experience of a lifetime. Considering what to do, when to do it, and the price point that you're comfortable with will ensure that you're checking off all the boxes on your “must have” list for an awesome adventure. We hope you found the content above helpful, and wish you all the best on your adventure. 

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Table of Contents
  1. Budget adventure travel: what you need to know
  2. Popular adventure activities
  3. Booking Your Adventure Tour
  4. Pros and Cons of Small Group Tours
    1. “Pros” of Adventure Travel Tours
    2. “Cons” of Adventure Travel Tours
  5. Why Carry-on is the budget-friendly way to go
    1. The Right Way to Pack Luggage
    2. The Wrong Way to Pack Luggage
  6. Frequently Asked Questions
    1. Q: How do I go on vacation on a budget?
    2. Q: What is considered adventure travel?
    3. Q: How can I travel the world on a budget for cheap?
    4. Q: What is the cheapest country to visit?
    5. Q: What is the cheapest country for Americans to visit?
    6. Q: Which country is cheapest and safest?
  7. Conclusion
    1. Related Articles