How to Travel on Budget
To travel on budget is a stressful thing to many people, and can unfortunately deter some possible travelers from exploring exotic places and experiencing once-in-a-lifetime adventures. One may say that winning the lottery is the only way to travel the world but, that’s not true! I am here to show you how you can travel on a budget without missing out the fun.
While traveling, transportation usually consumes a large portion of your travel funds. I’m going to provide you with some options that can help you cut back on transportation costs:
1) Book Flights in Advance
Hunting down the cheapest airfare can be an easy thing to do, if you know some basic things. Firstly, you need to book tickets in advance, meaning that you shouldn’t be too late NOR too early. Four months to three weeks prior to your trip is the ideal period to get a good price. It is obviously a huge stretch of time but whatever you do, don’t wait until the last 2 weeks to book the tickets. The closer you get to your departure date, the more expensive the tickets get. And keep in mind; Tuesday and Wednesday are the cheapest travel dates, whereas Sunday is the most expensive.
2) Find the Cheapest Tickets
Finding the cheapest flight requires that you research a lot, in order to find the airline with the best prices. Make sure that you get an overview using a website such as Skyscanner.net that will show you the cheapest flights available during the period you’re searching. Other flight search engines are Priceland.com, Hipmunk.com, Kayak.com, Expedia.com and more. If you know where and when you want to travel, sign up for online alerts so they can email you whenever a good deal pops up. Also, if your travel time is not limited, consider an indirect flight. If you’re willing to spend some hours on a city other than your destination, you could save a really good amount of money. Keep in mind that the cheapest fares are often less direct, less conveniently scheduled and may involve and airline you’ve never heard of before. Once you find a good deal, make sure that you double-check it directly with the airline’s website. Last but not least, no matter how appealing the Business Class may seem, fly economy; there’s no need to spend so much money if both seats will get you to your destination!
Tip: Did you know that websites can track what prices you’ve searched for in the past, so they can make things competitive and cheap? Well they do, and the best way to avoid this is to use an incognito window when looking for flights.
3) Choose an Off-Peak Time to Travel
As you already know, traveling during tourist seasons can be really expensive. Pick your travel dates wisely and make sure that you plan around the high prices and tourist crowds. Travel away from public holidays, especially when it comes to flights. In general, travel during the so-called “shoulder” season, which is right before or after the “best-time-to-visit” your destination. Hotel and airline prices are usually much lower during this period in order to attract visitors. But, keep in mind that what is considered to be an off-peak season in one country might not be in another. Do your research and make sure that you know what your destination’s shoulder season is.
You can also save a lot of money if you travel overnight. Overnight bus rides are usually cheaper than daytime journeys. Choose an overnight bus or train and you’ll save money both on transportation and accommodation too. How? The ticket prices tend to be much lower for overnight journeys plus you will sleep during your trip and you won’t have the need to pay for a hotel.
4) Use Travel Cards and Passes
Not a lot of people know this, but you can often take advantage of travel cards and passes designed to help you save a lot of money on transportation. Despite the fact that student discounts are also valid abroad, it is better to get an ISIC (International Student Identity Card). It is an internationally recognized card that is valid in 133 countries and it doesn’t have any age restriction as long as you are a student. ISIC can also issue youth cards for under-26s who aren’t students and cards for teachers, all of which offer similar discounts on city transport tickets, plane tickets and more. There are also passes that help you save money on public transportation and are different in each country. For example, London has the Oyster Card and the Weekly Travel Card, Hong Kong has the Octopus Card, and so on.
5) Use Public Transportation or Rent a Bike/Car
Always try to use public transportation instead of taxis in the country you visit. Renting a bike allows you to get around on the cheap and it is an easy way to blend in with the locals. Some of the top bike-friendly tourism cities are Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Seville, Barcelona, Dublin, and many more.
In tourist cities where the distances are big and public transportation is expensive, consider renting a car. Renting a car for two days will be much cheaper than taking a taxi twice.
6) …Or Just Walk
Arrange your sightseeing in a city in such a way that you can easily walk from one place to another. A good plan like this can save you a lot of money on bus, tube, and taxi fares. Besides, most popular cities like Rome, Paris, Vienna, Prague, and more, are compact.
7) Contact with the Locals or Other Travelers
Locals can really help you save money on transportation. Blend in and ask the locals what is the cheapest way to reach a place. Locals know all the off-the-beaten-paths that turn out to be hidden gems as you discover them. This way, you will avoid the tourist traps along the way that can cost you a lot; however, make sure that you double-check any information that you are given. Other travelers are also an excellent source of advice since they have been there before. Knowledge is experience, so do not hesitate asking other backpackers that you meet in your hostel or out in the streets.
How Can I Save on Accommodation?
A lot of money can be saved on accommodation if you are willing to sacrifice some of your luxuries. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to stay in a grungy place in the middle of nowhere; but it doesn’t mean that you will stay in a 5-star hotel either. Luckily, there are many ways to find cheap accommodation when you travel and here are some ways to do so:
1) Stay in the Center
There is no point in staying in a cheap hotel outside of town if you have to pay a lot in transportation costs. It is better to stay in the center or an area close to it where public transport (bus, metro, tube) is easily accessible. This way you will have the ability to get out and walk to most things.
2) Look for Free Accommodation
There are two ways to get free accommodation: swap your house or stay with someone who lives where you’re going. There are many websites that make both options possible and guarantee huge money savings. But how do they work? Sites, such as Homeexchange.com, Homebase-hols.com or Homelink.org.uk, let you lend your house to others while letting you borrow someone else’s. As for the second option, you can stay with a local who shares his house with you and can offer local information and a person to hang out with. This is a huge cultural experience that can be achieved through Couchsurfing, Global Freeloaders, Hospitality Club and more. Not only will you save money on accommodation, but you will also interact with a local and get to learn about the local culture.
3) Stay in a Hostel
Hostels are another option for budget travelers. The hostel network worldwide is extensive and the quality is ever increasing. It’s not just dorm rooms for backpackers but can also be private and family rooms at low cost. Ignore the myth that hostels are dirty, gross places for young people because such thing doesn’t exist. You can choose between a dormitory room that you will share with other guests and a private room with shared or private bathrooms. It depends on your budget and comfort but keep in mind that, the bigger the room, the cheaper the cost. Websites such as Booking.com and Hostelworld.com show the hostel rooms available at your destination and all the deals offered by the hostels.
You can also use discount cards, such as the HostellingInternationalCard, which gets you reductions on thousands of hostels around Europe. The only disadvantage is that these hostels are usually located outside the center of the city. This card also offers reduced price admission to museums and cultural centers at home and overseas.
4) Consider Airbnb
Airbnb and similar agencies are flat rentals that allow people to stay in furnished apartments while traveling at a low cost compared to hotel prices. You’ll get all the comforts of home but it can be a bit expensive for a solo traveler. However, if you’re traveling with company, this is your ideal accommodation option.
5) Camp in a Garden
So, you’ve heard about camping but never of backyard camping, right? Well, such thing exists and is made possible by the help of websites such as Campspace.com. The so-called micro campings are places where you can camp for a small amount of money and can be an abandoned rooftop, a lush jungle, a beautiful beach, or even a house’s backyard.
How to Save Money on Food?
Food is obviously on the top 3 expenses during travel but like the rest of them, it is one of the areas where you can cut costs by following some basic tips:
1) Bring a Water Bottle
It is advisable to bring with you a reusable water bottle which you can refill every time you go sightseeing. A water bottle usually costs around $1, but if you add up all the water purchases it can turn out to be a significant amount of money.
2) Avoid Tourist Places
Look for restaurants that do not have English menus and are not placed in tourist areas. In general, the restaurants located near tourist attractions usually do not have worth-tasting dishes nor are they cheap. So, try to find places that are “hidden” in the streets or the cities and the best way to discover them is by asking for advice from a local. It is also a good idea to look for restaurants near universities. Areas like that tend to be cheaper since students worldwide have little money for eating.
3) Shop at Grocery Stores
Find out where nearby groceries are to the place you will be staying and get supplies from there to create your own meals. If your accommodation has a kitchen, you will be able to cook more options for yourself. In addition, you can buy snacks for the time you will spend exploring the city. Cooking will save you loads of money on food but it is important that you also spend some money on reasonably priced traditional food!
4) Eat Street Food
Eating street food is usually the cheapest way to feed yourself on a budget. You can actually see how traditional food is being made and engage yourself even more in the local cuisine and culture. Prefer the stand that has a steady – kind of long – queue and fresh food.
5) Save on Drinks
Local drinks and wines are usually a lot cheaper than the more well-known brands. Besides, local drinks are nearly always better than many others on the list. In addition, seek out happy hours, when some bars offer drinks in half-price or offer free food whenever you order a drink.
6) Fill Up at Lunch
Lunch prices tend to be lower, so focus on filling up at lunch and not dinner, which can be much more expensive. Eating lunch at a restaurant is your chance to taste the local cuisine especially if there is a good lunch deal. This way you can save up to 50%.
Eat smart. If breakfast is included in your hotel room’s price, get advantage of it by eating as much as you can. It doesn’t have to be an expensive hotel to have this benefit included; many hostels offer baked goods, pizza nights and load more. Stock up on free eats to take with you while you’re off exploring for the day!
For more advice on where you should eat during your trip, read our article on How to Find the Best Places to Eat While Traveling.
So, we have talked about saving money on the 3 most important expenses while traveling. Below, I will mention some additional tips that will help you save on other expenses that will appear during your trip. Consider:
Bargaining is a must! It may not feel comfortable but it is normal in many cultures around the world to bargain a price down. When dealing with tour operators, travel agents, hotels or street vendors, negotiate. Make sure that you keep the atmosphere light and friendly and think of it as a game. Hide the true extent of your interest in the product, room, ticket or whatever this is, and try to lower its price. Avoid insulting the quality of it during bargaining because it will probably bring the opposite results. It is important to know where to stop and pay a decent price you feel good about.
2) Earning While Traveling
It is possible to live the travel dream for several months or even years while working. Teaching a language in China or being a bartender in Australia can offer you the money you need to explore the countries you are working at. If you’re lucky enough to freelance while traveling, you could work “on the go”.
3) Visiting Museums
Do not pity paying for a museum entrance; you paid money to get in this city and you never know when you’re returning. So, take this opportunity and visit the cultural wonders that are worth it without thinking about the money. However, you can save money through some discount cards and passes. As already mentioned, the ISIC and the Hostelling International Card offer free passes to many museums in several cities of the world. There are also museums that only request a donation but are completely free. And last but not least, consider visiting the museums that one day of the month that are open and free to all.
4) Buying a SIM Card
Before visiting a country, check traveler forums and Facebook pages in order to get informed about the phone services of your destination. Another option is to contact your company and ask about the special rates to use in the mobile abroad. However, it is guaranteed that the cheapest option is buying a SIM card in your new destination. Find online phone tips about a specific country before acting.
5) Minimizing Money Transactions
Avoid changing money at hotels and exchanging offices because they typically charge you since they are usually located at popular tourist places. Always compare before changing money and find the bank or post office with the best rates. In addition, make sure that you use all your coins because they cannot be easily exchanged. If you don’t use them, they will probably turn into souvenirs when you leave the country.
How to Calculate the Cost of My Trip?
First of all, you must calculate exactly how much you can afford to spend in total during your trip. Then you must decide on the maximum duration of your vacation and calculate how much money you can spend per day. The next step is to create a shortlist of destinations that you would like to visit on your budget. There are sites, such as Wherefor.com or Google Destinations, that offer suggestions of destinations depending on filters such as dates, budget, etc. The results will theoretically be destinations that you can afford to visit.
So, now you need to estimate more accurately the daily cost of places. You can either create your own list on notepad or just use an online calculator, such as Prepared For Travel Calculator, Travel Budget Calculator and so on. But how could you estimate the daily costs in a city? Visit a website that provides the average daily costs, including food and drink prices, tourist attraction prices, transportation prices, etc. Priceoftravel.com and Budget Your Trip are websites that will help you estimate the daily costs in your possible destinations. Once you’ve followed these steps, you’ll be ready to take a decision about where you can afford to spend your vacation.
Edited by Eleni Gkovedarou
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