I’ve always wanted to travel. It’s like this niggling feeling deep in my stomach that gets excited at the thought of stepping off a plane in a new country or exploring a new culture. It’s something I know I want to do one day but have always come back to the same roadblock. Money. There are plenty of people out there who manage to travel on seemingly nothing. Either taking out loans secured against their own assets, working whilst travelling or simply living a frugal lifestyle.
I personally would never want to take out a loan in order to travel. Staying out of debt and clear of an overdraft is something I’ve always been very mindful of. So instead I choose to work hard and save up.
So what can you do to feed your travel bug on a budget?
Visiting countries during the winter of their off-peak season are often the easiest way to make substantial savings. I visited Athens and Rome during December and although bitterly cold the beauty of the Parthenon and the ruins of Delphi were in no way hampered by the off-peak season. In fact, they were enhanced as there were but a scattering of people at each site, allowing you to get really up close and personal with the history and away from the tourist crowds.
Consider what’s really important to you
I like some creature comforts. I can’t say I get good nights sleep if I’m not in a proper bed and so staying on someone’s sofa or on an air bed through Airbnb is not an option for me. If you don’t mind a communal sleeping area or find you can catch a kip on the train between locations then you may find you can save a fortune on accommodation. There really are options to suit every budget here but what happens when, like me, you like the luxury but don’t want to pay the premium. Well, booking far in advance or very last minute can have its perks. Web sites such as lastminute.com and secret escapes often offer great deals on accommodation that needs booking up last minute or at off-peak times. Check them out.
To be extra sure that you’ve picked a good hotel or bed and breakfast cross reference with review websites such as TripAdvisor. Other guests can give you insights that may make or break your stays such as thin walls or noisy roads. They often also leave tips on local restaurants and the sites to see (or not) as the case may be.
Consider a shorter break
In an ideal world, I would travel for weeks at a time but with work commitments that just isn’t possible. Try to calculate the number of days you’re going to stay at each location and work out exactly what you plan to do, eat and spend at each one. Writing down and sticking to a budget will ensure your money lasts longer and you don’t get any nasty bank balance surprises. Some of the nicest trips away that I have had have been only 3-4 days long. Enough time to soak up the culture, indulge in the food and stay in a nice location without bankrupting yourself or missing out. Going all out for 3-4 can often leave you really tired and you’ll be ready to come home and recharge before your next adventure.
Eat from the supermarket
Eating out at restaurants is unsurprisingly expensive. Instead, try some of the local shops or markets picking up fresh produce and making your own packed lunches. Most hotels have mini-fridges, take out the mini bar essentials and replace them with your own stash of food and drink. Saving you a fortune on late night snacks and pre-dinner tipples.
Always keep a backup stash of cash
Fail to prepare and prepare to fail. Perhaps it’s my perfectionist personality but I couldn’t imagine travelling without extra cash put aside for emergencies. This could be something as simple as needing to get a taxi home from a dodgy neighbourhood late one night or something more severe like paying for an ambulance to take you to a hospital (Yes that actually happens). There’s nothing wrong with being cautious so either keep a separate pre-paid card for emergencies or take some spare cash. The general rule of thumb is to set aside around 10% of your overall budget. This makes a healthy figure with regards to the size of your travels and the length of time you will be away for. So for a £300 weekend break set aside £30. If your trip is a £6000 around the world adventure then £600 doesn’t seem too unreasonable. Also, brush up on the health care laws for the countries you are visiting. Knowledge is power.
Money definitely is a restricting factor for us budding travellers but we can find ways around it. What are your favourite money-saving travel tips?