For those of us that are no longer in the early twenties backpacking crowd, it’s easy to forget the budget travel tips you pick up out of necessity as a broke college student. When it comes down to it, travel is expensive. Period. But there are definitely things you can do to minimize the cost and keep travel affordable (and I swear you don’t have to feel like a broke college student while you do it).
Probably the biggest budgeting hurdle is getting there. If you live in Europe there are all sorts of low-cost flight options and many countries are close enough to drive or train to. In the US and Canada, however, it can be hard to find cheap flights to a neighboring state, let alone a foreign country. A couple of things to keep in mind when booking your travel:
- Travel off-season – If you can travel outside the summer months and popular holidays, the price options may be more reasonable.
- Travel on a Weekday – Booking a flight on a weekday is usually cheaper than leaving on a Friday or Saturday.
- Be flexible – If you’re open to where you’re going then you will have more flight options to choose from and may find a steal!
- Pay more upfront – Consider destinations where your currency is strong. If the destination will be less expensive when you get there, it may make sense to pay more for the flight.
- Travel closer to home – Sometimes it’s easy to forget how many great places are in your own back yard. Exploring nearby places with the eye of a tourist can be surprising, exciting, and may even help you appreciate where you are from more.
Where to Stay
- Visit friends or relatives – Not only is it fun to catch-up with the people you love, but friends and family are the perfect source for free accommodations!
- Avoid Hotels – Check out Airbnbs, B&Bs, and even hostels (not all hostels are aimed at backpackers). You may find that the accommodation is less expensive and potentially more charming than a standard hotel.
- Night Train – If you’re traveling by train, consider taking an overnight train to cut out one night of accommodation.
- Walk Everywhere – Not only will you see more of the destination, but avoiding cab fees and even public transportation can save you a lot of money.
- Public Transportation – When possible use public transportation (or rent a bike) over a cab or rental car. It’s usually more fun, less stressful, and definitely cheaper.
Eating & Drinking
- Eat with the locals – Avoiding restaurants nearby tourist locations can drastically lower the price of your meal and you’re more likely to be eating with locals.
- Have a Picnic – Pick up provisions from the market, grocery, and local shops for a picnic in a park or at the beach. I love seeing what is sold in grocery stores in foreign countries and you can’t beat dining al fresco!
- Skip the tours – Pick up a guidebook or print off content from a blog and make your own tour.
- Enjoy free activities – Most cities have free admission to museums, live music, parks, and hiking trails.
- Don’t over tip – In the US we are used to tipping 15-20% for everything, but in a lot of countries that’s not necessary. Understanding the local customs may save you quite a bit.
- Keep your Souvenirs Simple– photographs, postcards, or a small trinket are great ways to remember your trip by and won’t cost you a fortune.
What other budget tips do you use? I’d love to hear!