The question was put to me over lunch with a friend: ‘How can you afford to keep travelling?’
The question was a fair one. The majority of us spend our lives saving for something, whether it’s a car, a house, or paying off the student loan. So, what happens when travel’s not your saving priority? How can you ensure you have enough money left over for ‘the big trip’?
Travelling on a Budget
Oddly enough, travel isn’t the Kiwi and I’s #1 saving priority either. Hence my friend’s question.
Neither the Kiwi nor myself are on inflated pay-packets and we both aim to own our own home, upgrade the car and keep up with our ridiculous, bat-pig puppy’s eating habit. This year however, we will have visited over seven different countries and counting. So, how do we do it?
As I see it, there are 4 main areas where you can save money on travelling:
Living budget / Supporting yourself on your travels
It’s almost inevitable that at some point on your journey, you’re going to have to use some form of transport. While flying, or taking a train may be a necessity, a bit of smart planning and some prior research can help you cut back on unnecessary transport costs.
The most obvious always applies when booking your flights. Early bookings = savings.
To a point.
Yes, booking 10 months in advance will most often beat booking 10 minutes in advance but not all late bookings necessarily equate to financial ruin. Here are some ways you can save money before the flight:
- If you can be flexible with your travel dates then make sure you sign yourself up to some travel deal mailing lists in advance. The same goes for signing up to airline mailing lists. I’ve signed the Kiwi and I up to everything from package deal agents like Travelzoo, to all the big long-haul flight operators and each day open my inbox to fantastic deals on flights/accommodation. The spam and any repetitive strain injuries you incur from sifting through all the emails will be worth it when you discover half-price flights.
- Be savvy with your packing. Do you really need to pay for hold luggage? Inevitably those fantastic, Pinterest-inspired outfits will be abandoned and you’ll spend your entire trip in those comfy flip flops and tatty shorts anyway, so try and pack only what you need.
- If airport parking is a must, do some research and book in advance to get the best deals. Here in the UK we have a whole host of parking comparison sites to help you find the best price. Money Saving Expert is great for finding info on airport parking deals and if you click on the links through to the comparison sites, you can take advantage of extra discounts. Similarly, if parking is your price bug-bear, why not try parking on a local’s driveway? With permission of course… www.justpark.com or www.parkonmydrive.com are both sites which can help you find a local who’ll let you park on their driveway for a fee. Rates are often cheaper than the official car parks and some people even offer free transfer to the airport.
…should not be feared! Local transport is almost always cheaper than taxis and tour operator transport.
- When it comes to using local transport, prior research is key. Nothing says stressful like trying to navigate a foreign bus network in the 30 degree heat. The internet is the friendly, helpful, queue-free information kiosk you won’t have when you get there, so read up on ticket prices, passes and how to use local transport before you go.
- Many travel bloggers are quick to recommend hitchhiking however, I’m wary of recommending it myself. There seems to be a perception that hitch-hiking is an essential component of the ‘traveller stereotype’. (Think also uncomfortable backpack and cord bracelets). Personally, I think using local transport can add even more to your travelling experience by way of the people you meet. Plus, I’d much prefer to shell out a little extra for a train with a donkey on-board (true story from travelling the Ukraine), than risk it in a stranger’s car.
Is another obvious area to cut costs however, limited budget needn’t mean limited choice.
- If couch-surfing isn’t your thing (think traveller stereotype #2), then don’t worry, there are still plenty of low-budget options that include a room with a bed. For hostels and hotels, sites like booking.com, hostelworld or airbnb.com offer budget-friendly options but booking in advance is key. Be the first to scoop up the cheap accommodation with many places on booking.com offering free cancellation right up until arrival.
- If sleeping on someone’s sofa IS your thing however, then you’re in luck. A stay on someone’s slob seat is free through couchsurfing.com and is a good way to meet locals in your new location.
This is the money you spend while on your trip. Save a little money on what you spend day-to-day, and you might have some left over for more of the fun stuff:
- You can still get to grips with a city without shelling out. Many cities now offer ‘free’ tours with great guides who really know their stuff. Berlin is a great example of this where a lot of their history tours are operated by students who are enthusiastic and passionate about their subject. While still being cheaper than regular tours, these tours aren’t technically free and the guides depend on tips to keep running. Make sure you tip. Don’t be that guy.
- Stay tight on tech and curb unecessary expenditure on expensive items. A good camera is pretty much a must for capturing your trip of a lifetime but as one of the more expensive items in your luggage, can you justify shelling out? Well, you don’t actually have to. You can rent camera gear at a fraction of the cost. The Kiwi and I have hired a GoPro with all of the gear, waterproof case, gimbal, mounts etc. from RedLeaf Hire for our May Croatia trip. Simply choose your dream camera set up and they’ll post it to you leaving you with enough money leftover to spend on what you like. Or to tip that tour guide.
- Work to travel. There. I said it. If you really are stumped for cash then why not pick a base for a while and work? For 9 months I based myself in Tasmania, Australia, earning and exploring at the same time. Options for employment that allow time to travel can include nannying, hospitality jobs, cruise ship and chalet staff.
Check out working holiday visas for your destinations and organise employment before you go. Alternatively, you can earn your food and accomodation volunteering through the WWOOF’ing scheme. Stay from one month to six weeks in countries across the globe, working 4-6 hours on a farm.
- There’s a reason I didn’t want to list the staycation option first. Most people looking to travel on a budget are hoping to find ways of having incredible holidays abroad, living on 50p a day. It almost seems obvious that it would be cheaper to stay within your own country. Yet people still ignore what is on their own doorstep. When the Kiwi and I first moved to Cornwall, we were broke. With our lack of money we travelled our local area and found places equally as beautiful as New Zealand, with water the same colour as the Caribbean. The Kiwi snapped this photo of me last Summer in Porthgwarra, West Cornwall. From rugged Scottish islands, to the Peak District and London – the UK has a varied and beautiful landscape so make the most of cheap travel at home.
- If destination: ABROAD is still the only option then flexibility is key. Sign up to the travel/flight deal mailing lists as before, or join a vacancy in a volunteer scheme. Flights & accommodation can be cheaper by almost half out of season, so check annual average weather forecasts and see if by moving your departure a month, you can save yourself a wedge.
There are lots of ways and areas you can save money when planning your next big trip. Scrimp where you can and you’ll have more money to spend on what really matters to you. Enjoy the reward that comes with knowing how hard you’ve worked for this experience and enjoy the memories that come from working hard on a farm with new friends, swapping stories in a hostel dorm and catching a train with a donkey.
If you’ve got more ideas on ways you can save then show us up and jot them down in the comments below!