Most people have this misconception that travelling requires a lot of resources, especially money. I’ve worked as a volunteer, and as we all know, volunteers don’t have a paycheck at the end of the month and I still managed to travel. Most of the time my problem was time, not necessarily the money. Or I was always trying to get the most with the money I had. This is my list of things you can do to save money while travelling:
Whenever looking for a new destination, the biggest hole in the budget is paying for the accommodation.
The more touristic is your destination, the higher the prices.
What do I do?
I check which of my friends live abroad and where are they. And if their location coincides with some of my destinations, I ask them if they could host me for X days. Remember you cannot be picky about the conditions, probably it will not be so comfortable as in a hotel. The goal is to travel as much as possible with as little money as possible and this is one of the things you can do to save money while travelling.
I also signed up on Couchsurfing.com last year, where I was so surprised by the amazing number of people using this service. I’ve met fascinating people using this website and it made it so easy to connect with them because everyone has a public profile and most of them are travel addicts. This website helped me to understand that most people around us are actually friendly and willing to help. We just don’t ask for help.
I’ve never hosted anyone, but I’ve met people just to hang out, visit a museum, grab lunch, and I also used it to find hosts for the cities where I had no friends.
I had only amazing experiences, and friends and couchsurfer hosts are the reason I didn’t spend anything for accommodation during my 1 month of travelling. Cool huh?
2. Plan your holiday yourself
People buying their holiday from a travel agency are lazy people. Sure sometimes they get bigger discounts because of the higher number of tourists, but when you want to go somewhere specific, it may not always be the case.
Planes can be expensive, and some countries don’t operate low-cost airlines.
So take a look on the map.
How can you travel on land? Try taking a train to another city. Check the flights from there, if it’s still too far away. Try different routes and different means of transport. Then compare.
In the end is a matter of money vs. time. Of course, time is the most valuable resource, but when travelling is the priority, take your time and give it all in.
3. Be flexible on your travel days
Everyone is free on weekends and everyone has to go to work on Mondays. Probably that flight to get back home on Sunday is double as much compared to the one on Monday, or even Tuesday.
Try to be as flexible on travel days as possible. Most flight search engines show you the price of the same flight, one to three days before or after the selected day. Some might show you the prices for the entire month.
I designed my holiday based on the cheapest flights, busses and trains, and where my friends are.
I didn’t set any constraints about staying 3 or 7 days in Paris, and I didn’t have a precise itinerary.
4. Travel with just a carry-on (preferably a backpack)
Travelling cheap means also light. Most low-cost airlines have extra costs for checked baggage. Also, pay attention to the carry-on allowed dimensions. If your carry-on doesn’t fit, you will have to check-in your luggage, and doing that at the airport is more expensive.
Let’s say you are visiting a city just for one day and have no accommodation there and everything you have, you must carry it with you. Not funny when travelling with a huge travel case.
Let’s say you decide to put your luggage in a locker in the trains station. Totally doable. The problem is the bigger the luggage, the bigger the locker you need and the higher the price.
More always means more money.
I bet you always realise after a one week holiday, and you brought your entire wardrobe, that you didn’t use half of that stuff. So when in doubt, leave it at home. Whatever you need, you can buy it there. And you always need free extra space if you want to buy something. Read more about the things I’ve learnt in 1 month of travelling.
And it’s so uncomfortable. I have this personal rule to never travel with more luggage than I can handle myself, without help.
5. Use public transport or walk
Travel is not supposed to be comfortable. You want to learn something about that city or country or the people living in it? Just live the way they do. Listen to them speaking, ask for directions. Are they friendly or not?
Travel is about getting out of your comfort zone.
Bus and train station are usually in the city, so it’s easy to get the subway from there. But airports are outside the cities and taxis are expensive. Like one-night-in-a-hotel expensive. Set your priorities and take the bus to get to the city.
Every airport has at least 1 express bus line to the city. Ask around in the airport or just do your research online before landing there. Some airports are connected to the subways. Even better.
Every city has its own transport system, and have multiple transport ticket options. That can include a 1-way ticket, 1/2/3 days ticket, 1 week and 1 month. Check the different prices and see which option is the most convenient for you.
Some cities have a City Card, which is a combination of museums and touristic attractions entry, public transport and some other discounts. That usually can be bought for up to 5 days, so check that out too, it could be one of the things that you can do to save money while travelling.
Whenever the weather is nice, and I what to discover a new city, I walk. I save a bus ticket and I explore as much as possible. That’s why I like to travel light.
6. Skip the restaurants and bars
Yes, it would be a pity not to taste the local food, observe how people cook, and stuff like that. I try to do it once in every place. But it’s crazy expensive. The more central that table is, the more scariest is the price of it.
Look on the map and search for the nearest supermarket to your place. Most receptionists will give you a map to show you a bit around and also point out on the map where is the supermarket. Go there, take a look, but something for the next morning if you don’t have breakfast included.
Or wake up and go buy something and enjoy a nice breakfast in a park, on a bench, watching the swans on the lake, the people running. Find a nice spot and make the most out of this experience. It requires a little planning, but it will pay off.
When you are on holiday, you will want to party. That’s nice but the price for that beer in that bar is crazy. And who drinks only one?! Buy some drinks from the supermarket (pay attention the opening hours) and enjoy them at your friend’s place. Or in a park, if the laws of that country allow it.
7. Drink tap water
If the water is drinkable. Most European countries have good quality water running out the tap. Have a bottle with you and just refill it when you get the chance. Buying bottled water every day can be the price of another day of travel, so why waste the money?
Some cities even have water points on the streets, and everyone is taking water from those.
Research online to find out if the tap water is good because you wouldn’t like to get sick on your holiday. In the countries I’ve been in Europe, I’ve never had this problem.
Also, you can keep your bottle when passing through security in an airport as long as the bottle is empty. Yes, I have filled my bottle in airports too.
8. Beware of age, student and membership discounts
Whenever I hear discount, my eyes sparkle. If you like things you can do to save money while travelling, yours should too.
Every country has different laws regarding discounts. In France, you get a free pass in most museums if you are under 25 and in Belgium everyone under 26 gets 50% off train tickets. Nice.
Most museums and touristic places have discounts for students and seniors. So take your passport and ID cards with you. Some places offer a discount if you have a certain credit card.