15 tips for budget travel
The price of travel can add up quickly. Here are some tips that will make traveling a bit more affordable for people on a budget (like myself)!
Keep in mind – a couple of these tips are specifically for European travel, but most can be related to travel anywhere in the world.
1. Stay in hostels
Don’t waste your money on hotels or resorts. They are incredibly overpriced, and while they might be much more aesthetically pleasing and extravagant than a hostel, you will actually be more likely to meet people and make friends while staying in a hostel and in the long run, have a better time. In hostels, you stay in dorm rooms that sleep 4 – 12 people typically (some go up to 26 people in a room, but that isn’t as common). I always make sure that the hostel I am booking has personal lockers for my belongings, because theft isn’t something anyone wants to deal with. Being in the dorms is the best opportunity to meet other young travelers, and it is honestly not scary at all. I don’t think my traveling experiences would have been as memorable as they were if it weren’t for some of the great friends I made at the hostels I stayed at.
When choosing the right hostel for you, make sure that the location rating is high. If you are out of the way and not in the area of the sites you want to see, you’ll end up spending more money than you planned to on public transportation and getting to where you want to be.
2. For larger groups, check out Air BNB
Air BNB is a website where people all over the world put their homes, apartments, and rooms up for rent for travelers and vacationers. While hostels are the better choice for solo travelers, or people traveling in smaller groups (it’s cheaper as well as easier to meet people), if you’re traveling in a larger group, Air BNB is probably the better option. You can all split the price of the rental, and have a unique place to call home for a few days.
3. Book your rooms in advance
As a traveler, you save a lot of money by booking things in advance. And not only that, but you end up in better rated hostels. When you book right before you stay, the better hostels have no more occupancy available, and even the ones that are available have boosted their prices.
4. Use cheap airlines
Skyscanner is a great website to search for tons of different flights, as it compares flights on hundreds of different airlines as well as third party booking websites. Ryanair, Vueling, Easy Jet, and Norwegian Air are great European budget airlines, and
5. Get a Eurail Pass (for European travel only)
With a Eurail Pass, you can save a ton of money on trains, buses, and ferries. They have different types of passes to choose from, but the best is the Global Pass. The Global Pass gives you access to 28 different countries. Even within the Global Pass, there are SO many different choices for how you want to spread out your travel days. You can purchase a Continuous Pass that allows you to take an unlimited number of trains (or buses and ferries) for a continuous amount of days, or you can get a Flexi Pass that gives you an allotted amount of days within a certain period of time. For European residents, use the Interrail Pass.
6. Take night trains and buses
When you make use of night trains and buses, you’re not only saving precious daytime exploration hours, you’re also saving yourself the price of accommodation for that night.
7. Take advantage of complimentary breakfasts
Many hostels will offer a complimentary breakfast. It’s usually nothing too spectacular, but take what they give. Even a small croissant or a bowl of cereal will fill up your stomach enough to hold you over for a few hours. In general, just accept any and all free food that you’re offered! (Just not from sketchy people on the street).
8. Take advantage of grocery stores
I know that all these new, delicious, and foreign restaurants can be EXTREMELY tempting, but they can also be the quickest way to spend all your money. A meal in a restaurant will typically be $10– $15. Even if you’re only eating out once a day, either for lunch or dinner but not both, you’re still looking at at least $70 a week, but that’s if you’re lucky. Don’t do that to yourself. If you buy small amounts of simple food items at the grocery store, you can make a little bit of money go a long way and save some serious cash. (Cheese, jam, and crackers? PB&J sandwiches? Spaghetti?) Quite a few hostels have kitchenettes where you can keep your food, and most guests are respectful of other peoples food. If you stick with grocery stores for the majority of your trip, it’ll be much better on your bank account. You can still treat yourself with meals out at restaurants, just do it sparingly. You’ll end up appreciating those meals out that much more.
9. Consider flexible flight days
Many airline booking sites have an option for you to check ‘flexible dates’ during your search. If flexible dates are even a slight possibility for you, check that box. What that does is it searches days near the date you chose to see what day around the one you picked has the cheapest flights. You might end up making small adjustments in your itinerary, but if it doesn’t affect what you want to do too much, the cheaper flights will always help.
10. Be conscious of when you’re booking your flight
Before I buy a plane ticket, especially a major long-distance one, I’ll typically get pretty obsessive about checking that flight all the time, waiting for the price to drop. The problem with that, is COOKIES. The cookies on your computer will recognize that you’ve just searched that flight and it will typically be more expensive if you’ve just looked the day prior. Wait a bit before you look again to book. And this might just be coincidence, but in my experience, flights happen to be cheaper when booking on a Tuesday…
11. Use your credit card rewards
Credit card rewards are SERIOUSLY awesome. It’s literally free money. Just use your credit card for all your purchases and the points will add up like crazy. I know some people are nervous about credit cards because they’ll end up spending more money than they’ve got, but it just takes being smart. With my credit card, I pay it off about twice a month, which is unnecessary in terms of what they require, but it helps me to keep track of how much money I’ve actually got, and helps me make sure I’m not spending more money than I should be. Get a credit card with no foreign transaction fee, and make sure you hit that sign up bonus to get all those extra points!
12. Sign up for Frequent Flyer Miles
Again… Free money. Or rather, free flights. Signing up for these bonus accounts doesn’t cost you anything, and maybe at first you won’t have that many miles on your account. But if you sign up now, you’ll start building up and it will eventually add up to something that can make a huge difference for you! And don’t just sign up for one, because you fly on more than one airline. Sign up for all the airlines you fly! You never know when it could end up benefiting you. I currently have over 10 Flyer accounts and plan on signing up for any new airlines that I end up flying.
13. Make foreign friends
Meeting people, making friends, and building relationships is one of the greatest things about traveling. The fact that these relationships you build are with people from all over the world is just the icing on the cake. You can learn so much just from spending time with people from other countries and cultures. Something that I find so interesting about friendships I’ve made during travel is that you can get so close to people so quickly and feel like you’ve known them for so long, when it’s really only been a few days. Maybe it’s because you spend so much time together in such a short period of time, or maybe it’s because people traveling all have a different mindset from the typical, but whatever it is, I love it. But what can foreign friends do to help your tight travel budget? They can let you crash at their place if you’re ever in their neck of the woods! The last thing I say to everyone I become friends with as we’re saying goodbye is “If you’re ever in California, you know you’ve got a place to stay with me.” All my friends I’ve met through travel know that they can absolutely crash on my couch, and I’m sure the same applies for me if I’m ever in their home country.
14. Don’t pay for cabs
You’ve just gotten off your flight, it’s late, it’s dark, and you just want to get to the hostel? Yes, take a cab. You’re running late to somewhere that you’re supposed to be on time? Yes, take a cab. You don’t want to walk to the tram stop? Don’t take a cab. In fact, if you don’t want to walk to the tram stop, why are you traveling? There is no traveling without walking. At least not in my experiences. Do not waste your money on overly priced cabs. Cab drivers are constantly ripping off young, naive travelers like you and me. When you take public transportation, you’re getting a much more realistic feel of city life wherever you’re at. But even better than taking public transportation is WALKING. If you’re going somewhere that is in reasonable walking distance, and you aren’t on a time crunch, WALK. You not only don’t spend money on even the cheapest tram or metro, but you get to absorb the city in a way that would be impossible in a quick moving vehicle or especially underground. When you walk, you can take in everything around you, and really appreciate the foreign area you’re in. And if you see a cute little bookstore or park or something? Awesome, take a detour. Definitely can’t do that on public transport. Also, walking is great exercise!
15. Bring your student ID
Many places that charge an entrance fee will give either free or discounted entrance to people with a student ID card!