Ok everyone, it is time to make travel dreams come true!!!
As I’ve never had a trust fund or parents who could afford to send me on expensive trips to around the world I have had to become best friends with budget traveling. Having spent some time traveling around Europe, these are some of the things that help me save money while still having amazing travel experiences. Hope it helps!
1. Travel with cheap airlines:
Norwegian Airlines, Easyjet, and Ryanair all offer ridiculous prices for flights. No, it will not be the best flight of your life, but personally I rather be cramped for a couple of hours and spend the extra money on actually seeing whatever city I’m going to.
You should constantly look out for good deals and keep in mind that sometimes flight prices make no sense: my flight from Bordeaux to Copehaguen was more expensive (335USD with Easyjet) than my flight from Copenhaguen to Miami (285USD with Norwegian). So don’t rule out any options and don’t be afraid to look at cities that are far away.
With Ryan Air I’ve gotten 55 EUR RT tickets Paris- Barcelona, 40 EUR RT Paris-Rome, and I know people who found 5 EUR tickets to Croatia (but that’s the luckiest find ever). Whenever you’re bored make it a point to scour the sites for prices!
However, keep in mind that all of these airlines charge for checked bags, and Ryan Air only allows you one personal bag (yeah, they charge you for your carry-on). So if it’s a trip where you’re going to have to take more than a backpack, make sure to compare the prices to other more comfortable airlines.
2. Check out alternative airports
Sometimes it is better to fly into an airport that is far from your destination. I flew to Morocco for 17 EUR by landing in Nador rather than Fez (our original destination). From there we just took the train to Fez and it turned out to be much, much cheaper than flying straight into Fez since Nador isn’t as big of a destination. Granted, it meant that it took us around 13 hours to get from Chartres, France to Fez, Morocco but it was worth it for 17 Euros!
3. Consider Coaching-it:
It can be extemely cheap to travel by coach bus. The cheapest I’ve found is Eurolines. You can get from Paris to Bordeaux and vice versa for 25 Euros, not even Bla Bla Car can beat that price! It will take longer than anything else so consider the pros and cons carefully: How long do you have in the city you are going to? Is it worth it to loose time there? Is the price difference significant enough that it warrants a longer, more uncomfortable trip? For me, sometimes yes and sometimes no. When I can get 37 EUR tickets to Paris on train I rather pay those extra 10 EUR, but if the difference is more than 20 EUR I reconsider.
4. Use your network like there is no tomorrow:
Crash that couch people! Contact everyone you know that might possibly let you stay with them, even people’s friends of cousins of friends of ex-wives. It’s really useful and it saves you sooo much money. After I leave Europe in two weeks I will have gone to a total of 13 cities in 6 countries and will have only paid for my stay in 4 of those cities.
Of course, this is definitely not always an option. I have had the privilege of living abroad before and knowing people in different countries, but sometimes you can find a distant connection if you look hard enough.
An alternative to this is couchsurfing!
5. Consider cheaper countries:
It depends on whether you have a set idea of where you wanna go. If your lifelong dream has been to go to London, then go for it and just think of different ways to save money. If you’re flexible, look into cheaper countries like Eastern Europe and Northen Africa. Calculate to see if what you save on food, lodging, and in-country transportation will make up for the money you spent getting there. This is how we ended up going to Morocco instead of London for winter vacation and I gotta say I have absolutely no regrets.
6. Try to be as flexible as possible with dates:
This isn’t always possible for everyone but if it’s possible try to make an effort. Talk to your professor or your boss and see if you can miss a day of class or work, it can make a huge difference! My friend left from Morocco one day before me because of work and he paid 180 Euros for the flight…I paid 55 for leaving the next day! If it can save you more than 100 Euros it is worth it to at least try.
7. Try Airbnb:
If you’re traveling with a big group of friends you could use Airbnb to rent out whole apartments or single rooms. A lot of the times it can come out to be cheaper than hostels/hotels. Even if it isn’t cheaper it can be a more comfortable option. For example, on our trip to Nice (happening right NOW!) we ended up paying 16 EUR/night each, the same price as a hostel would’ve cost us but we have our own apartment and we are able to cook and, thus, save money. I highly recommend it!
8. look for tickets as far in advance as possible:
Even though it can be hard because sometimes you don’t really know what you will be doing in your life, it pays to plan ahead. I bought my tickets Paris - Zurich, Basel-London, and London-Bordeaux 3 months in advance and they were all around 35-40 EUR. Buying ahead also helps you distribute the cost of your trip between different months, which makes it more affordable.
9. Bla Bla Car-it :
Bla Bla Car is a ride share webpage that is revolutionizing the world. People offer you places in their car when they’re going somewhere. Everyone saves money, everyone wins. It’s important to check what the price difference is because sometimes it’s not enough to make it worth it (8 EUR instead of 10 to get to Arcachon on train), and sometimes it’s exorbitant (5 Swiss Francs instead of 35 to get from Zurich to Basel). Also, if you enjoy getting to know people and having interesting conversations this might be the option for you.
10. Try cooking :
Whether I cook on a trip or not depends on several factors (how much money I have, where I am, who I’m with). In Morocco, where there was 30 cent soup and 75 cent amazingly delicious sandwiches, we didn’t cook until our last three days when we had run out of money- and then we spent 6 Euros each on those three days’ worth of food. I managed to go to Italy for a week for a grand total of ~300 euros and a big part of it was only eating out once. Granted, I practically starved and I ate bread with Nutella, madelines, and pasta for a week but it was worth it so I could go to Italy even though I had a really tight budget. On the other hand, we only ate in once in London and that’s because our friend’s mom wanted to have dinner with the entire family. I think part of a trip is the food and some of my greatest memories in London were finding amazing food from all over the world. Evaluate your situation!
11. Find out if your home bank has sister banks:
A lot of banks have partnertships with other banks, which means that you might be able to skip the bank charges for taking money out. For example, Bank of America is a sister bank to BNP (my French bank), which has partners all over Europe and Northern Africa. Do your research! The less bank fees you pay the more food money you have, yay!
12. Groupon it:
There’s two ways Groupon can work while you travel. One, you can get great deals for the city/cities you are going to so that you can enjoy more for less. Second, getting you places.
Groupon has great deals on getaways, I’ll let Hamilton tell you about it…
13. Be Resourceful :
We all know that every penny counts. Being creative and resourceful can really make a trip affordable even when you don’t have much money. I had a three day skiing trip to the French Pyrenees that cost me a TOTAL of 85 EUR by combining a bunch of these tricks. Budget traveling doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy yourself! It just means you have to get creative, and honestly sometimes not being cushioned is part of the adventure and it pushes you to meet more people, form bonds, and learn to be resourceful.
Hope this list helps and happy traveling!!
Do you have any tricks that help make traveling on a budget easier? Share you wisdom and stories!