Since graduating from university, I have had the pleasure to travel at least once a year. The first two places I went to were in the US (Washington + Chicago). In 2014 I got the chance to go to India and in 2015, Pakistan.
Over the last one year though, I was able to go to a few more places – Greece, Turkey, Spain, France, England, the US (Orlando this time) and Mexico. Alhamdulillah I have been lucky to do this and hope to continue traveling! The key to being able to travel more is to spend less and stay on a budget.
Here are my top ten ways to keep your wallet and experience happy!
1. Travel during the off-season
Sure, summer is great, but there are also the downsides – higher prices and children everywhere! Choose to go on the cusp of these popular times and you’ll enjoy shorter lines, fewer crowds and cheaper ticket prices. It’s also extremely hot in the summer. We went to Greece in the summer and at one point during the day in Santorini, we actually stood in an covered walkway for about ten minutes to stay away from the heat!
2. Travel with friends
We have yet to do this but are planning something soon and can already see the benefits of costing out cars/cabs/accommodation when doing it in a group.
3. Travel for longer
If you’re going to fly all the way to Europe, take the opportunity to travel within the EU. Last summer, we flew from Greece to Turkey for less that $150 each and only paid about $500 or so to get from Cappadoccia to Barcelona. We would have had to pay much more if we wanted to go there from here. While you may not always have the long vacation time, if you do, make use of it. Sometimes it’s better to go on one long trip instead of two or three shorter ones. It feels much more relaxing this way too!
4. Stay in an Airbnb or with friends/family
Fancy hotels are nice – if you’re planning to spend time in them. We splurged on our honeymoon hotels in Santorini because we planned on spending a good chunk of our time relaxing and just hanging out. We also stayed at a nicer hotel in Barcelona because we had just dealt with a whole ordeal and wanted something fuss-free. Airbnbs offer a lot of options and some of the apartments are even nicer than hotels. They offer a lot more autonomy and can even give you the option to cook if you choose to do that.
5. Use public transportation + walk – a lot!
Always remember to pack comfortable shoes. The best way to see the most of the city is to walk around, get lost, discover new places and meet locals. Whenever we travel, we research the best ways to get around using public transportation. Obviously, there will be smaller places where you can’t always get a public train or bus but you can always arrange for a shuttle to take you to and from the airport and this is usually cheaper than a cab.
6. Pack smart
Sometimes you can get away with a carry-on and other times it just won’t happen! Many flights offer really cheap rates but then get you with their luggage fees. Always read ahead and look into this before booking your flight. At times, it is still cheaper than going with another airline, but again, do your research! Another work-around this is to take one shared larger piece of luggage and a backpack that still meets the dimension requirements and split your clothing into this. Look at ways to minimize what you’re taking by using travel-sized toiletries, wearing a dress instead of a top and pants and reuse bottoms!
7. Avoid shopping
You can be doing really well and then go all out on the last day by popping into a mall – trust me, we’ve been there. There is nothing wrong with buying things when you are away, there are lots of new styles, great deals and different stores! If you do plan to shop, build that into your overall budget and remember you are not always paying in your own currency so the prices will be different than the number you see on the tag. If you do shop, research what the minimum-spend is for tax-refunds. The amount you spend varies by country and you need to get a form from the store in order to get this refund at the airport. If you don’t do it before you leave the country, you won’t get some money back!
8. Stick to your budget!
I can’t stress this enough! Build a budget AFTER doing your research. This way you can have a realistic idea of what things cost, how much is too much and what a local meal can cost you. Having parameters and tracking what you spend will keep you in-check and you won’t go home with a big credit card bill to face. Although it’s easier to track if you take cash, sometimes it’s just more convenient to use your credit card. This way you can check online or have a record of what amount you spent where. Generally, we just jot things down into our phones to get an idea of what we’re at in terms of spending and this way we can ensure we don’t go over budget.
9. Eat like a local
Not only is this a great way to eat different foods, it’s also another way to have a budget-friendly trip. You can’t always eat street food or at Mcdonald’s (you won’t want to!) but there are lots of places that you can dine in that the locals go to on a daily basis. If your hotel has breakfast, eat there and then spend a bit more on lunch. If you have an Airbnb, chances are you will have access to a kitchen and a chance to make your own meals or at least your own breakfast. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy nice restaurants but treat those as ‘date-night’ or a special dinner. We always try to go to one really nice restaurant that is vegetarian or vegan so we can enjoy at least one higher-end meal of that region instead of a series of restaurants with mediocre food and high prices. The two notable places we ate were in Spain and Mexico. In Spain we are a delicious vegetarian tapas dinner with a tasting menu (Sésamo) and in Mexico we ate at a vegan Mexican restaurant by the sea, at night, amongst the stars and untouched forest (Restaurare).
10. Research, research, research!
It all comes down to this! Do your research, take your time and plan your trip. Don’t go somewhere because someone else just went. Go somewhere that you want to explore, somewhere that you know you will have a good time and somewhere that you can learn more about who you are. I always create an itinerary which is very detailed but not rigid. I am happy to explore other options, see what a local might recommend but I always want to have everything I want to get to on my list so that I don’t forget. I don’t always get to everything but that’s what second trips are for! I use online resources such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and travel websites such as Lonely Planet and Rough Guides. I tend to get a rough guides pocket guide or guidebook if available because it goes into every depth and detail and I can mark which parts I want to see or use the maps to create my itinerary based on the physical location of places. Lastly, I like to use Instagram to search things by using the hashtags. This lets you see what other people are doing and you can look into it more.
That’s it – that’s everything I’ve got! I can go into further detail on each of these points if that is something of interest. Let me know in the comments below!
Do you have any go-to budget travel tips? Let me know this below too!