Traveling on a budget
It doesn’t matter what you do, travel is expensive. I make an average salary and I feel like I live somewhat frugally. I still have to do a lot of shifting and planning in order to make big trips work with my budget.
But, if you had told me a couple years ago that I would be going on like 10 trips in one year, I would have assumed I had won the lottery (I haven’t, just to be clear).
Here are some things that have helped me out on trips so far:
1. Plan WAAAY in advance - This is especially true for international trips, but I can see it working for all kinds of travel. If you can find a good flight deal, go for it, even if it’s months and months away. This is what happened with both Spain and London for me. I booked the flights for these at least six months ahead of time because we found great deals. On one hand, it does suck to have to wait that long for the trip. On the other hand, you really have time to plan it out, buy tickets for what you want to do at a gradual pace, pay off accommodations, and save for anything extra. I was concerned about Spain ruining my finances, but it actually didn’t hurt me too much because I had so much time to get everything together. It also helped me enjoy the trip more because I wasn’t internally panicking about how I was going to afford everything. I had a good chunk of it paid for already.
2. Monitor cheap flights - I’ve said before that we use Scott’s Cheap Flights, which really is an amazing resource. So many people are getting to explore the world in ways they never thought possible because of Scott’s. This isn’t an ad. It’s just really that great. At the end of the day though, you can also do what Scott’s does for yourself. Obviously, it takes lots of time to find great deals, so I still definitely say Scott’s is worth it. But, if you have some extra time, I recommend doing some hypothetical flight searches with Google flights. Sometimes really great deals happen to pop up, especially if you are giving yourself lots of time before you are wanting to do the trip.
3. Airbnbs - If you are going somewhere that allows Airbnbs, I definitely recommend giving one a shot. Some people are skeptical, but I’ve never really had a bad experience. Most of the time, you are going to get a much better value than a hotel. Sure, you might find a hotel room in a similar price range, but it might not have a kitchen or a washer/dryer. These can really come in handy on somewhat long trips. It’s nice to have the option of one meal per day in. This is usually breakfast for me. In Spain, we just bought a couple of boxes of cereal, some cheese, bread, and coffee. That was our breakfast most days, which really helped save some money in the long run.
I've also heard hostels can help you save a lot of money, obviously. However, if you're looking for something a little more upscale for a good price, I'd stick with an Airbnb. I've heard great things about some hostels and some not so great things about others. Personally, I just feel like I'm not social enough to be around other people in a shared living space for very long and that's probably why I've never tried one. It all depends on your personality and what you are hoping to get out of the trip.
4. Try your hardest to use just a carry-on - I know this one is controversial, especially for us ladies. You are going on an awesome trip and you want to look amazing everyday. That usually means having several outfit choices, makeup options, hair tools, jewelry, the list goes on. All of this is hard to fit in a carry-on. My argument is that it is literally around $120 for one person to check a bag internationally. It just seems crazy to me when I’ve already paid hundreds for a ticket. My usual solution to this is to try my hardest to plan out what I’m going to wear each day. Try to pack some things that can be worn on a few different days. You probably won’t be offending anyone if you wear the same pants a few days on the trip. Also, as mentioned above, if you are lucky enough to find an Airbnb with a washer, that can cut down on what you need to bring. As far as souvenirs, think small or ask yourself if you really need anything. Most of us have phones that are capable of taking great pictures. Those have always been more valuable to me than anything in a souvenir shop. Another rule I have is that if it’s something I can easily get at home, I’m not getting it on a trip. Unless somewhere has great deals on unique clothing that I can’t get in the States, I’m probably not going to go for it.
I never want to make it seem like travel is something that is easy or instantly attainable for everyone. It’s not. Even with these cheap travel tips, it is still a lot. But, if you are in a position to make travel a priority, I can really see these helping out.