It is one thing to know How to Save Money For Travel – it is another skill to be able to make that money go as far as possible. This article will be looking at how to reduce your travel expenses while still getting the most out of every destination. Doing these things will reduce the savings needed before you depart or alternatively, allow you to extend your trip (yay!). I will be breaking up this article into tips for each of the main costs of travel – accommodation, food, optional activities and the inevitable splurges.
Every budget travel article you read will highlight the importance of hostels in reducing your travel costs and undoubtedly I have spent a majority of my travels in hostels. There are a few insider tips to cut costs even more however, because unfortunately some hostels do take advantage of the fact that many people just assume they will be the cheapest options.
1.1 Never book directly through third party sites like HostelWorld or HostelBookers
While I have used search engines like Hostelworld and Hostelbookers almost every time I have booked a hostel to navigate and compare hostel prices and locations (the map view option is the best!), I rarely book through these sites. This is because about 2 months into my trip I realised that the prices are often more expensive on third party websites and there are usually small booking fees. While this may only be an extra $5-$10 per hostel, when you are travelling permanently this does add up. I have found the cheapest price you will get is booking directly through the hostel website.
1.2 Do not assume that hostels will be the cheapest accommodation option
Hostels are not always the cheapest accommodation option, especially in peak seasons. Hostels will capitalise on the fact that backpackers will pay more for a social environment where they can meet like-minded travellers, particularly in party cities that are packed in summer. While this can sometimes be worth the extra money (in cheaper cities like Prague where the price difference will not be that much), in cities like Amsterdam it can be the difference of hundreds of dollars. As I traveled for the duration of peak season in Europe there are a few things I would say to keep in mind.
Air B n’ B – I stayed in some amazing Air B n’ B apartments during incredibly expensive times (like Ocktoberfest) for the fraction of the price of hostels.
Hotels – By using search engines like HotelsCombined (then booking directly through the hotel website) I was able to find some amazing deals on 2 and 3 star hotels. This was also great way to take a break from hostels every once and a while.
Staying in private accommodation does not mean missing out on the social environment of hostels!
This is probably the most important point. Hostel bars are almost always open to the public. So for example, in Amsterdam you can go to St Christopher’s Bar without staying at St Christopher’s Hostel (which is one of the most expensive hostels in Amsterdam in summer). While I was in Amsterdam I went to this bar because it had an amazing atmosphere to meet new people, but I was in fact staying in a 2 star hotel (that saved me sooo much money).
1. 3 Take into account travel costs to the attractions from your accommodation
A lot of people will see really cheap accommodation that is a little bit further out from the attractions and think that it will be worth the savings. I would recommend googling the exact price of public transport before taking this risk, because often the cost coupled with the effort of waking up earlier and getting home later can outweigh the savings.
I absolutely love trying authentic local cuisines, it is one of my favourite parts of travelling and is something that I always prioritise. People often equate price with quality however and from my experience, this is not always the case. I use apps like Urbanspoon and Tripadvisor to research local restaurants that have local reviews to avoid ‘tourist trap’ restaurants. Both of these websites have a handy language translation option and the more good reviews in the local language, the more likely I am to visit!
Street food and markets are also always one of my favourite ways to eat while travelling. I am yet to find a food market that I was disappointed in! Another thing to keep in mind is that hostels and Air B n B’s almost always have kitchen facilities. This meant that a lot of nights I would go grocery shopping.
Grocery shopping in itself is an experience that I really enjoy overseas because I liked noticing all the little differences in each country (which is such an ordinary activity to do at home). It can also be a great group activity. For example, In Spain a group of us bought ingredients and made a huge batch of Paella. Grocery shopping is by far the best way to save money on food and I would often pack myself lunches and snacks for the day (which also was convenient ‘on the go’ so I had more time to sight see).
In every city there will be countless things to do and experience, here is how to save money while seeing as much as possible –
3.1 Free city tours
Free city tours are invaluable way to learn about the history and culture of a destination without having to pay huge amounts of money (free tours work on a tip basis). They are also a great starting point to get a feel for a city and to decide what you would like to prioritise during your time there. This means that instead of just saying yes to whatever pops to mind or is suggested first, you have a list of things that are most important to you meaning your money is being spent well.
For example, during my time on Busabout there were a lot of optional activities offered that I felt were a bit overpriced and probably not something I would be interested in. I decided to save this money and put it toward activities like sailing and skydiving which were more expensive, but I was super eager to participate in them so I did not regret the purchases.
3.2 Travel independently
Another way to save money on activities is organising the excursions independently rather than through a tour. A really common example of this that will save you a lot of money is taking the train to Pisa and visiting it yourself.
3.3 Free Audio Guides
Worried about missing out on the educational side to sites when visiting by yourself and not with a tour? My absolute lifesaver when traveling – the free Rick Steves Audio Guide Books! I downloaded these at my hostel in the mornings and they were amazing for places like Pisa, Rome and even more obscure places like Cinque Terre. Rick Steve Audio Guides come with maps and are really informative. You can also skip parts you are not interested in and wander at your own pace. The fact that these are free makes it even better!
It is really important to take into account activities or items that you know you will want to splurge on during your travels. This way you do not have to stress about the cost when it comes time to make the purchase. It is also really important to let yourself have these splurges every once in a while because if they are important to you, they will be worth every penny!! Examples of times I have splurged on my travel include – skydiving over the Swiss Alps, a 5 star cruise along the Nile in Egypt, diving between the tectonic plates in Iceland and Sailing the French Riviera. These were all expensive activities (compared to the way I usually travel) but ended up being some of my favourite travel experiences.
I hope these suggestions help you travel on a budget and save money to either reduce your overall costs or extend your trip! Remember that making an extensive budget before you leave is in my opinion, the key to not stressing about money when travelling for extensive period of time. Also check out Top 5 Tips To Save Money For Travel and How I Afford To Travel: 45 Countries at 21 Years Old for more travel related financial articles!
Feel free to comment any questions or queries below 🙂
Suitcase And I was not commissioned to write this article and as always, the opinions in this review are my own.