How To Travel On A Budget

by - 16:42:00

I love to travel; if I could, I'd wake up in a different city everyday. Sadly, my garden's missing a money tree but I do make it work with what I have. The fact is, where there's a will, there really is a way. It might be a bit more work or take a bit longer to achieve but it can be done. So let's jump in shall we?

Fly For Less

Airfare is perhaps the costliest element of going away. Depending on where in the world you want to travel to, you could be looking at a bill of £500 plus. When money's tight, this is likely to take a huge chunk out of your budget which is less than ideal.

As it stands, airfare can be one of the trickier things to save money on. Fares tend to fluctuate, so unless you're checking frequently you'll never be able to guarantee the cheapest fare. If you've an idea of how much you would like to spend (be realistic here), Skyscanner has a useful tool which will basically do all the work for you. It will alert you of both price drops and rises and you can act accordingly. There's no guaranteeing you'll get a flight at your estimated price but you'll at least have an idea of what's cheap and whats's not. 

If waiting for e-mail alerts isn't you and you like to be more proactive, you might want to consider splitting your trip into a few different legs. Skyscanner and Expedia will both do this in order to find you the cheapest fare but you can also do it yourself and pick your stops. The pre-arranged flights tend not to be great in terms of layover times and such but if you have to pinch the pennies, just consider it all part of the fun. 

Last but not least, join a frequent flier scheme. While this won't really pay off on your first trip, when you come to booking other flights you will often find that you'll get money off. From two flights to JFK (which cost £450) I managed to get £100 off my next flight. It definitely took the edge off the costs of returning I'll say that much. 

Stay For Less

Unlike airfare, you're pretty much guaranteed to be able to save some cash on your accommodation. There's really something for everyone and if you're willing to share, a bed in a hostel can cost as little as £3 a night in some places. 

Hostels aren't for everyone though, so what do you do when you want a nice room all to yourself? My go to site is actually but anything similar will do the job. These sites have listings for pretty much every type of accommodation and every budget. With their discounts, you might also be surprised at just how far your money goes. I booked all my accommodation in Thailand with and it cost me £400 total. I spent 25 days staying in pretty nice places and I had a good chunk of my budget left to play with. 

If you're looking for something a bit more niche, try Air BnB. I've never personally used them but I've done a few searches and the properties tend to be reasonably priced. With this site, you're also able to hire whole apartments or homes, so if you're travelling as a group it's a great way to whittle the cost down. 

My last tip is a little risky but there are some places where it's pretty much foolproof. Just turn up. I'm of the opinion that it's always better to have a reservation but I know people who've saved more money by not booking anything. I wouldn't recommend this for most places but I could definitely see this working in the Far East. When wandering the islands, you're likely to see many vacancy signs and they'll probably give you a good deal too. An empty room isn't making them money after all. 

Eat For Less

This will definitely be easier in some places than others. In America for example, neither are particularly cheap so it's a case of doing your research. In Asia on the other hand, food and drink are obscenely cheap so you can pretty much eat/drink as you please. Bearing that in mind here are some generic tips to bear in mind. 

One of the best tips I've been given is to eat where the locals eat. The food will likely be authentic and the prices should be reasonable (non-tourist) too. When you're out and about don't be afraid to ask the locals; chances are they'll be happy to help and you might have the best dinner ever to boot. 

This one's sort of on the same lines but try and avoid well known chains. I've been to a few McDonalds on my travels and I've never really saved any money (I did get ill once though). In fact in some places, it seemed like a fancy thing to actually be at a McDonalds. If you're after a taste of home, they're great for sure but they definitely come with a cost. In Bangkok we got the equivalent of two meals and it cost us a little under £20. Safe to say we didn't go back. 

The next thing to do is to try and stick to local dishes. While you might be craving a juicy burger, there's a good chance it will cost you up to twice as much as a local dish. In Phuket for example a Pad Thai went for around 90baht; if you wanted a more western dish you'd be looking at paying at least 200baht. In pounds it's not that big of a deal but if you're on a budget the pennies really do start to count. 

The last thing I'd recommend to do is hit up the supermarket for things like water and snacks. When you're out and about you'll pay a premium for items like these, so it's good to be prepared. It's also good to have a bottle of water at your accommodation as it's possible you might not be able to use to local water for drinking and such. Also, if breakfast isn't included where you're staying, you could also pick up fruit, cereal and pastries to make your own. Either way, there's a good chance you'll end up 7/11 reliant by the end of your trip (it's definitely become a habit of mine anyways). 

 If you've got a sensitive stomach however, you might want to give this tip a miss though. It's definitely not worth being ill in the name of trying to save money. 

The Day To Day

This tip will definitely not be for everyone but it's one that I use no matter where I'm travelling to. At the start of the trip I basically divide up my currency by the number of days I'm there. This gives me my daily spends (told you it was a lame one). By giving myself a daily budget, I'm pretty much safe in the knowledge that I won't find myself without any cash later on in the trip. Carrying around all your money isn't advised anyway, but if you have it on you, you'll be more tempted to spend it. Carry what you need and you won't waste any of your cash. You'll be fed, watered and you'll enjoy a few trips to boot. I often find myself surprised at how much I have left at the end of the day. Any overage gets added to the next day and I'm free to treat myself. 

If you're not on a budget, spend as you will but if you are, this is a tip you'll keep coming back to. It's definitely not a cool tip but it's definitely important to manage your money and keep a track of what you're spending, especially if you're away for an extended period. 

Fail to Prepare; Prepare to Fail

All of the above is good and well but to pull it off there's no doubt you need a plan of some kind. Start with how much you'd like to spend, where you'd like to go and work from there. If you still can't afford it, wait till you can. Would you rather wait and have a great trip or go on a shoestring and spend the whole trip worrying? I think we both know the answer to that one. 

My trip to Thailand took a full 6 months to plan and book and I wouldn't have done it any other way. So if you are on a budget, take your time and enjoy the process. The result should be a cracking trip that didn't cost you the earth. 

Now you've took in all my tips, happy planning and happy travels guys! 

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