By Melissa Stevens
Travelling on a budget is something everyone in our generation wants to be able to do but there’s this misconception that travel is always extremely expensive. When we want to plan a budget-friendly trip, even then the thought of an empty wallet comes up in our minds and deters us from embarking on an epic and educational discovery of the planet.
I’ve compiled a list of my best budget travel tips to “stretch your dollars” so to speak and allow you to plan amazing adventures and still have money in your account!
Top tips for budget travel
- Travel by bus/train rather than flying
- Travel with carry-on only
- Fly during the week
- Eat away from popular tourist attractions
- Stay in a hostel
- Travel off-season
- Avoid buying souvenirs
- Have a Picnic
- Walk to where you need to be
- Take a free/tip based walking tour
- Always have breakfast
- Look for free activities and attractions
- Buy a city attraction pass
- Make use of your student discounts
- Learn to bargain
- Join group trips – Contiki
- Buy local food and drink from local restaurants
- Make use of hotel swimming pools
- Use Private Browser windows
- Sign up to Revolut
#1 Opt for a bus/train rather than flying
Although for some trips a flight will wind up cheaper than ground transport, sometimes, especially when travelling within continents, opting for a bus or a train will work out to be the most cost-effective option. Overnight buses, even though sometimes slightly uncomfortable, are very cheap options.
I know you’re thinking “but a flight is so much quicker than a long train ride!” Maybe so, but it will save you a couple of bucks and it saves time in other ways too! Don’t forget with flying you need to be at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight for check-in and baggage drop.
Plus sometimes just sitting back and relaxing on a long train journey can be a nice break!
#2 Travel with Carry-on Only
We all know the struggle of dragging heavy suitcases around airports, into transport and hotels.
If you’re looking for a really budget-friendly trip, save yourself the hassle and the cost of check-in luggage by only taking the necessities in the cabin with you.
You could also invest in a sturdy backpack that you can comfortably wear on your person. Plus you can easily take a small carry on size shampoo bottles and the like! (or better still, an eco-friendly shampoo bar #savetheplanet!)
#3 Fly on a weekday
Book a flight for a weekday rather than a weekend.
Everyone tends to want to travel on weekends so flight prices are bumped up. Airline companies struggle to find customers during the week so they drop prices and that’s where you swoop in with your budget travel savvy thinking and grab them!
#4 Eat away from popular places
Naturally, popular landmarks are where tourists tend to flock to when visiting places, so they can charge more hefty prices because they know that tourists are often unaware of local prices and they’re here to spend money anyway.
So, if you are budget travelling, try to walk maybe a few streets back to save your money! You may even end up finding some hidden gems that are often overlooked.
#5 Stay in a hostel
I am a massive fan of a good hostel and for good reason.
They are almost always cheaper than standard hotels and they’re great places to meet new people, especially if you are solo travelling. They have a fun vibe, and they often provide a ton of handy information about the area you are in!
#6 Travel off-season
Costs of travel are going to be bumped up majorly during the peak season.
If you don’t mind visiting slightly offseason, you can generally save a hefty sum of money (and hey, sometimes you might just be lucky with the weather!)
I visited Thailand last year in March after the peak season, and personally, I thought it was a brilliant time! Not too crowded and perfect weather!
#7 Avoid buying souvenirs
Other than taking up more space in your suitcase, souvenirs are another one of those tourist traps intended to encourage oblivious tourists to spend ridiculous amounts of money on small trinkets that are way overpriced.
In my opinion, memories, experiences and photographs are worth far more than any physical trinket.
If you must, however, look for souvenirs in grocery or department stores rather than a “tourist shop”, they will be much cheaper!
Sometimes you might even find an outlet store even cheaper, for instance, in Salzburg I found a super cheap outlet store where I stocked up on Mozartkugeln (traditional Austrian chocolate).
#8 Have a Picnic
Back to the food scene again, why not head to a local supermarket and stock up on food to take to a park and experience the outdoor atmosphere of the place you are visiting.
Even if you’re keen a chill day, after lots of running around, it’s always better to be outdoors taking in some fresh air than huddle up in a room somewhere!
#9 Walk to where you need to be
This depends on where you are of course but opting to walk, or even cycle, rather than taking public transport allows you to save money whilst having the chance to slow down and take in more things as you pass them.
Who knows, maybe you’ll walk past something interesting that you never would have found if you were taking the train everywhere! It also helps you burn off all that food you’re eating!
#10 Take a Free walking tour
Some cities and destinations offer a free walking tour which is more budget-friendly than a paid walking tour. The guides offering a free tour work on a tip-based service so at the end of the tour everyone tips the guide what they thought it was worth, encouraging the guide to give the best tour possible.
So yes it is not completely “free” but they are always so worth it! What a great way to see many of the main sights whilst also learning the history behind them.
However, if you do want to pay for a tour, Viator has some very reasonable deals and tours all over the world.
#11 Take advantage of breakfast
If your accommodation provides breakfast, make sure you fill up with enough to last you a while, and why not sneakily take an extra roll or piece of fruit with you for a snack or lunch later?! Clever.
#12 Look for free activities and attractions
Who says that all activities to do while travelling has to cost an arm and a leg? There are plenty of free things to do almost everywhere you go!
How about a little hike or walk through nature? A swim in a nearby river? Explore the winding streets of a charming European village?
Many museums and similar attractions around the world also have free entry so it pays to do prior research.
I sometimes even look at Facebook for events in the area I’m going to be in and sometimes find fun activities such as live music shows or a concert in the park. Take a look next time!
#13 Buy a City Attraction pass
This is a popular concept in many cities, allowing visitors to experience various attractions and hot spots in a day for a fixed one-off price.
#14 Make the most of student discounts
If you are a student, do not underestimate the power of what a student ID can get you!
It never hurts to ask if a store or service offers discounts for students because you might be pleasantly surprised to find that they might. Don’t be shy! Your wallet will thank you!
#15 Learn to Bargain
Maybe you couldn’t do this everywhere around the world, however, in places such as south-east Asia and Eastern Europe where it may be possible, make sure you fine-tune those bartering skills to score yourself a sweet deal!
The tip is to ask for the price and then when they tell you, thank them but gently decline and walk away. They’ll almost always come back to you offering a cheaper price.
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#16 Join group trips – Contiki
Group trips like those organised by Contiki are perfect if you’re not into solo travel or if you want to do the minimum planning yourself. The company organises travel tours for people between the ages of 18 and 35 all over the world, everything is included in the package and the prices range across the spectrum!
It’s an amazing way to meet new people and go on new adventures. They’ve got trips catered to different tastes, all the seasons and all lifestyles! This particular company is known to be very safe but you’ll want to make sure you have insurance for wherever you’re travelling to!
#17 Buy local food and drinks
Rather than choosing the most familiar dish on the menu, a budget traveller should instead look for the local dishes and the food items in season.
These will both provide an authentic, local experience whilst also remaining on the cheaper side.
#18 Make use of hotel swimming pools
Many hotels with swimming pools cost more than a basic hotel or hostel. So when you’re living in your budget-friendly hostel, especially around Asia, you will almost always have the chance to use another hotel’s pool facilities, sometimes you just need to buy a drink.
#19 Use private browser windows
This sounds a bit odd but when you search the web for flights, sites will tend to save your browser history and they may actually bump up prices when you next go to check or book.
Save yourself the hassle by opening up a private browser window when the time comes to book!
#20 Sign up to Revolut for a travel card
Save yourself from poor exchange rates and high atm fees from using your overseas debit or credit card, by opting for a travel card!
I personally use and recommend Revolut, which I have had no problems with. There’s a mobile app that’s super easy to use and it even has a budgeting feature that allowed you to plan out your costs! It’s perfect for transferring money as well and can be used almost anywhere around the world. Sign up here!
I hope these tips have given you some inspiration to plan your next trip and has eased some of the worries that you may have had about travelling burning a hole in your pocket!
Never stop dreaming of adventure and here’s to your next fabulous discovery of this beautiful planet!