“For my next vacation, I’m staying in a pristine palace that I booked through my travel agent. I’m going to be dining on caviar in between massages on the Caribbean coast. A private tour guide will be chauffeuring me through the entire island so I can become more cultured.” If this is what you think you need to sound like in order to travel, then you are highly mistaken (I mean, who says that?).
You don’t need to be filthy rich to travel or be some fancy-pants man or woman. You just need to be clever. Are you clever? I’m sure you are.
There are a lot of ways to travel the world on a budget. How exactly? I’ve created a list on how I travel on a shoe-string budget. It helps that travel is my priority, so it’s easy for me to save money for it. If you were a car lover, I’m sure you would be saving all of your money up to buy a nice car. If you want to travel, then save, save, save, and use the following tips to help you budget travel.
The most expensive part of any trip- but it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m SkyScanner’s biggest fan, always posted up and bookmarking flights to be the first to get notified of a price drop. Finding a cheap flight is a fun challenge, one that I love taking part in more than a 21 year old probably should.
SkyScanner: Flexibility is key. If you have dates that you cannot change it’ll be a bit harder to find cheap tickets, but it can still be done. Are you looking to just get away for a while, and you don’t care where or when? SkyScanner is perfect for this. Take a look.
Flexibility with destination (step by step):
- Enter your home airport
- Enter “Everywhere”
- Enter “Whole Year” or “Whole Month”
- Wa-lah! There will be an entire list of round-trip (or one-way) flights for you to choose. It’ll show you day by day as well, so you can visibly see that flying on one day is $568 one way, while the next day, it’s $230 (true story).
Flexibility with days:
- Enter your home airport
- Enter your destination airport
- Enter “Whole Year” or “Whole Month”
- It’s the same thing as above. It’ll show you the day by day dates and the price differences. I once found round-trip flights to Beijing, China, for around $450 from JFK, NY. I had to arrive and depart on specific dates, but I still gave myself a tap on the back for finding them. All of the other dates were $1,000+.
Momondo: Similar to SkyScanner in that it searches the internet and finds cheap flights and shows you the day by day prices. You can’t put in “Everywhere” in the destination search, however. Use Momondo to compare prices to SkyScanner.
Expedia: I’m sure most people have heard of Expedia. I personally love Expedia, however, have not found as cheap flights on Expedia as I have on SkyScanner. I usually use Expedia as another search engine (hell, I use all of them).
Orbitz: Orbitz has an awesome cancellation policy: Cancel before 10 p.m. CT The following day and you get your money back. Why don’t all websites have this?! Anyway, if you’re not 100% sure about your destination, then book a flight through Orbitz just in case.
EasyJet: This is only available in Europe, but it’s wonderful. I flew from Copenhagen to Lisbon for $70, which is still on the expensive side. If you don’t mind a bright orange airplane and feeling every bit of turbulence, then EasyJet is great!
RyanAir: Similar to EasyJet, RyanAir is only available in Europe and also offers dirt cheap flights. My friend once got a flight from Dublin to London for $20! What?! RyanAir isn’t available in Copenhagen, but is in a lot of other European countries.
Hostels: Cheap, cheap, cheap! “Did I just hear a bird?” Nope, you heard a beautiful word that will save you that precious cash. Hostels are a sure way to meet people and save money. Even in expensive Costa Rica, one bed in a 14 bed room was only $15 a night. Hostels are an amazing way to meet fellow travelers and make new friends. I still keep in touch with a few people I’ve met in hostels.
Hostels are also great if you’re traveling by yourself. Research the hostels in the area you’ll be traveling to in order to gauge what your experience may be like. Reviews are very helpful!
If you’re staying in one city for an extended period of time, it wouldn’t hurt to ask the hostel manager to help out with the hostel in exchange for a free bed and free/discounted food.
Couchsurfing: Free, free, free! Looking to save a ton of money, meet a local, and live as the locals do? Couch surfing is the perfect way to do that. I Couchsurfed in Costa Rica and had an amazing time. Join Couchsurfing.com, join the community, meet hosts, and read reviews. Do what your gut tells you for this one- if you have a bad feeling, don’t go. I’ll only stay at someones house who has a lot of good reviews.
Airbnb: Airbnb is great if you’re by yourself, with one other person, or with a group of people. I used Airbnb in Paris, Amsterdam, and Bethlehem, PA, and had a great experience every time. It’s similar to Couchsurfing in that you stay at someone’s house, but instead, you pay them, and some of the time, you have their house to yourself.
I had a whole Parisian apartment to myself when I was in Paris. There I was, strutting down the street near the Arc de Triomphe, swinging the key in my hand, nodding at locals as if I had known them for years (I did not look that cool).
Public Transportation: A lot of the time, public transportation is the way to go. I took a two hour bus ride in Costa Rica for a little more than $2. A cab was $60! No thank you.
I love taking public transportation in other countries. Not only do I get to live like a local, but it’s a challenge (yay, more challenges!). I have no idea where I’m going, everything is in another language, and I have to be aware of where I’m going at all times….
For some reason I made it sound horrible and difficult, but trust me, it’s so much fun. When else are you going to be bouncing on the back of a bus, as your driver drives with one hand and holds a toddler in the other, while you silently pray he stays on the road? This is another true story.
Cabs: If you have a bigger budget, then cabs are a more comfortable way to go. Cabs are also useful if there is no public transportation to your destination. They’re convenient if you’re with a friend because you are able to split the costs between everyone, making it more affordable.
Trains: Trains are faster and sometimes more efficient ways of getting places. They can sometimes be cheaper, too. A lot of the time there may not be a train directly to your destination, though. Countries such as Europe and Asia have convenient train systems.
I’ve taken trains a few times through Europe (which I highly recommend) when it was cheaper than flying. I saw a lot of the country and ate my weight in bread and cheese. I finished each bite off with a generous swig of red wine. Warning: This behavior may make it difficult to navigate your lubricated ass out of the train station in a new country.
Hitchhiking: I’ve never personally hitchhiked, but I know plenty of bloggers and travelers who have. If you need to hitchhike, do it with at least one other person for safety, and trust your gut. This is a free way to get from point A to point B, but like I said, be very careful.
Street Food: You get a taste of the local cuisine and save a ton of money. Street food can be dirt cheap. When I was in Berlin, I ate street food the entire time, and never spent more than 4 euros on any given meal. If you’re also adventurous with your food, then street food is perfect. Sometimes, you just don’t know what you’re getting…
Grocery Shopping: Grocery shopping in another country is one of the things I actually look forward to! All of the foods are in a different language, and each country’s grocery store seems to have a unique personality.
Cooking your own food is a great way to save a ton of money. A lot of the time, your hostel will have a kitchen. If you’re Couchsurfing or using Airbnb and staying in someone’s house/apartment, then there may be a kitchen available for you to use. I usually end up buying breakfast and lunch in the grocery store and then eat dinner at a restaurant. Some of the time, though, I’ll also cook dinner.
Keep track of costs: I have a few pages in the back of my journal where I write down everything I’ve spent so far. This helps me keep track of my budget and also allows me to tell you how I’m spending as little money as possible!
Make a per-day goal: $30/day, $10/day, whatever your goal is, make one and try to stick to it. If you can’t, then try to stick to it as close as possible. Having a goal lets you visualize everything and keeps track of your spending so it’s not a crazy free for all.
ATMs: I either exchange a good amount of cash at the bank before I depart, or I take out cash when I get to the airport from the ATM. I stopped using the currency exchanges at the airport after I was ripped off $60. Not only do they not have an accurate exchange rate, but they charge you for it. ATMs usually only have a few dollars in fees (but not all of the time- beware!). Make sure you use an ATM in a public area, such as a hotel, airport, or restaurant. Be wary when you use ATMs at night, and don’t use an ATM if someone is hanging around it, looking like they’re waiting for something.
I like to take out money at the ATM in bulk so I don’t have to pay the withdrawal fee as often. This isn’t always the best idea when you consider theft. To help prevent theft, I hide my money in different places in both of my bags.
Do you have any more suggestions on how to budget travel?