We are living in the golden age of travel! In a time where you can fly across Europe for less than you would pay for a MacDonald meal. Where you can have a bed in a hostel on a beach in Thailand for less than a Gregg’s steak bake. Travelling is so, insanely affordable and I don’t think enough people realise that.
I have managed to get pretty far across the globe on a considerably small budget. A budget that was grown from a minimum wage, zero-hour contract. If you want to find out how I travel on a ‘shoestring’ then keep reading!
There are four main costs when planning a trip: Transport, Food, Accommodation, Activities. Your first job is to figure out which of these you want to prioritise. Know what you want to get out of that trip and then focus your money on that.
Can you slum it in a £1 a night dorm room shared with 11 other backpackers? Are you in Italy because you want to taste the finest cuisine they can offer? Is a 16 hour bus journey worth saving £50 to you? Would you rather do that diving trip you’ve been fantasising about or stay in a 5 star villa with a private pool? Not everyone can afford to do all of those things so sometimes, you just have to value which are the most important to you.
2. Be flexible on flights!
Just go on Skyscanner and search for a flight to ‘everywhere’ on the ‘cheapest months’. You will be amazed at what you can find. I have found flights to Bulgaria from the UK for £3 before. Flexibility on when you travel and where you travel to (and from*) will save you a hell of a lot money.
*fly from the biggest airports to find the cheapest deals
3. Transport- Explore all your options
Bus, ferry, train, flight, taxi, rental car. There are so many options nowadays. Different options are more ideal in different countries. Sometimes good airline deals can be just as cheap as the bus. Make sure you look into the price of every option before you book anything.
One of my dreams is to hitch hike across a county. Which is obviously a great budget option. If anyone has any hitch hiking stories or advice, please leave them in a comment below!
4. Travel overnight
One of the deepest and most relaxing nights sleep I have ever had was my ferry trip from Bari to Dubrovnik. Travelling overnight is not only more pleasant than spending a full, sunny day on a bus… But it also saves you money that would have otherwise gone to a night in a hostel.
5. Take advantage of hostel/hotel breakfasts
Free food! Whether it be a banana pancake, eggs and bacon or a full english breakfast alongside a buffet of fruit and pastries. There is accommodation at all levels that offer fantastic breakfasts. If you want to save money, you need to fill your belly up as much as humanely possible before you leave that table.
When I was working in a hotel in Oxford, I was shocked and appalled by the guests that pay up to £200 a night for a room and then dine on a single croissant in the morning. I try and tell them the cooked breakfast is free but that means nothing to them..
On the other hand, you have me. The girl who used to walk passed Auntie Anns in Eldon Square, just to see if they had free samples. Some may call me a scrounger, I say I’m a survivalist. When I was in Naples I paid £12 a night, which is much more than I had in my budget. The room came with a buffet breakfast. I would have my first bowl of normal conflakes to start and then move on to the chocolate flakes. Afterwards I would eat some of the biscuits they have on offer.
I would then use my purple bandana to carefully wrap up some more biscuits to take with me for my midday snack. This really helped take the edge off my hunger at lunch time which meant I didn’t need to buy a huge meal.
All hostels throughout Europe benefit from a kitchen. Use them! If you stay in an Airbnb, you will often have a kitchen too. When I was in Europe I cooked most of my dinners at the hostels, this saved me a lot of money.
My staple meal was just a simple rice and vegetables, seasoned with garlic and lemon. It would cost pennies to make and was delightful to eat. Cooking was actually one of my favourite parts of the trip.
7. Carry your own water
This may be an obvious one. However it should be said. You are probably going to be walking around all day and that will lead to dehydration if you don’t have water with you. Dehydration might lead to you getting tempted into a 2 euro coke, one you don’t really need.
8. Work for accommodation
It doesn’t have to be a year long commitment to working in Australia or New Zealand (even though that sounds amazing and you should 100% go for it if you are even slightly considering the idea).
There are loads of ways in which you can volunteer in exchange for accommodation and sometimes food too. Harry and I used Workaway when we were in Vietnam. We spent 2 months working in a guest lodge in exchange for free meals, accommodation and surfing!
Workaway is a great site. For 36 Euros a year (48 for a couple) you can create an account that allows you to contact hosts who are looking for volunteers from all over the world. Opportunities include working in hostels, helping out families, animal rescue homes or small schools. Sometimes you can find more rare opportunities such as; helping to build off-grid eco villages or assisting some one on a sailing trip through the Greek islands.
Workaway is an honest organisation to use for volunteering. You can use your skills to actually help people that need you.
Couchsurfing is an international site. Once you have made an account you can search for people looking to host or meet up in the cities you travel to.
Of course Couchsurfing shouldn’t just be seen as a way to save money. It’s a chance to stay with a local and get to know a city from their point of view. It helps you meet new people that can offer you a different outlook on life. People you would otherwise, never encounter.
10. Travel off peak
This applies to nearly everything. In peak seasons prices for everything you will do are jacked up. Save yourself big bucks on flights, hotels and activities by travelling when others can’t.
Off peak travel has all sorts of benefits: There’s no fighting your way through sweaty crowds. No waiting in hour-long queues for attractions you aren’t even that inspired by. You can enjoy the solitude of having the beach all to yourself. You can appreciate the serenity of national parks without the background noise of tour groups. Instead of melting in July’s intense heat you can enjoy the blossom of spring, the different shades of autumn or the magic of a white Christmas.
As you can tell, I am a big fan of off peak travel.
11. Last minute deals
Most hotels will drop prices dramatically if they haven’t got their rooms fully booked the following few nights. If you wait until the night before to find your hotel you might be pleasantly surprised.
Note: It’s not a full proof method and is probably best left for off peak travel otherwise you might find yourself with nowhere to stay
The best advice I can give for saving money is to do your research! Fish all through the web for the best deals on tours and activities.
Don’t be so quick to jump on the tour offered by your hotel. Just think of how you’re not just paying for the activity but also the communication between your hotel and the company so there is an added cost to you.
When considering any tour, always look into what it includes and how easily you could DIY. Sometimes it is not that much extra hassle and you will save yourself a lot of money.
Look at the less popular tourist attractions, in my experience they cost less and are often more impressive. For example, when you are in Vietnam, look into doing a tour of Lan Ha Bay as appose to Ha Long Bay.
13. Thanks for reading!
That’s it! Thank you for reading, I hope you found it useful. I plan on doing more destination-specific budget travel guides soon.
Let me know what you think in the comments below. What do you prioritise when you travel? Do you have any important tips on saving when travelling? Be sure to subscribe so you can keep up to date with future content!
Lots of love to you all,
Elle on Travel