We all love to travel the world, but we also like to be able to pay rent and eat food for the rest of the year – so often our travel plans can get shelved as we budget for less exciting aspects of millennial life.
And when we do get actually away, we often blow the budget while we’re on vacation. Which is great right up until we (literally) have to pay the price when we get back home and cry over our credit card bill.
But going on holiday doesn’t have to break the bank; all it takes is a little pre-planning. Whether you’re away indefinitely, for a few months, or just have a week of vacation – using some of these simple tips can really ensure you get a lot more bang for your buck.
Crash on Someone’s Couch
Don’t worry – this is much less energetic than it sounds. Couch Surfing is a great option for budget travellers, where you can stay as a guest at a host’s home for absolutely free. Not only will it save you a huge chunk of your holiday budget, your host will probably have tons of advice for you about the local area. You can also try Global Freeloaders and Stay4Free.
For a million and one reasons, do NOT pack five pairs of shoes for a summer vacation. But in terms of holding onto your dollars, pack light to save some money on flights. More and more airlines are beginning to charge for checking bags, so if you can fit everything into your hand luggage you’ll save some dough and make moving around between places a breeze compared to that hefty suitcase. Not only that, the smaller the suitcase you have, the less tempted you’ll be to fill it with new purchases.
Cook (At Least Some of) Your Own Meals
You would NEVER eat out for 14 days in a row while you’re at home, so why on Earth would you do it now? Declaring ‘YOLO’ at every meal on your trip is a) very annoying and b) isn’t going to help once you’re back home reading credit card statements and sobbing into instant ramen noodles for the fifth evening in a row. Choose somewhere that has a kitchen and find the nearest groceries store.
This applies to the before and during of your trip. If you can, book your trip on the magic day – 54 days before your trip. Also, try to avoid going during peak times. when there is a huge festival or holiday occurring, or even just try flying home on a less popular day travelling day (I’m looking at you, Tuesday).
Obviously this one should be approached with caution and it’s really best to do this with a friend so you’re not putting yourself in danger. But in some countries, like New Zealand, where it’s a little devoid of transport options, and people are friendly, it’s legal to hitchhike and comparatively safe.
Get Free Air Miles
Signing up to a few participating airline credit cards can rack you up some serious mileage over time, and eventually you can save up enough to get a completely or partially free flight. There are lots of sites (like The Points Guy) for tips on how and where to get miles and deals when travelling.
Dine with the Locals
Avoid getting ripped off in the typical tourist traps by eating where the locals go. On a scale of one to stabby, if Nobu is 1 and that shack down a poorly-lit alley where that guy with the facial tattoo just headed scratching his balls with a knife is 10, pick an establishment around three or four. Not only will it be more authentic, it’ll also be a lot nicer to your wallet.
Don’t Let Cheap Flights Dazzle You
Try to think of the bigger picture when planning your trip. Just because an airline is having a flash sale to mainland Europe does not mean the discounts will extend beyond touching down on the runway in Paris, London, or Amsterdam – they’re still costly destinations. Many places in Asia and South America may cost more to get fly to, but once you arrive you can pretty much do everything on a shoestring.
Budget an Extra $10 for Guide Book Eats and Stays
The locals weren’t born yesterday – just because they’re smiling innocently at the nice tourists in their restaurant, don’t think for a second they don’t know the significance of the coveted “Featured in the Lonely Planet” sticker in the window. Once the travel bible’s caught a whiff of a local eatery or guesthouse, they’re almost guaranteed to hike up their prices – and if your current copy is even slightly out of date you’d do well to take those quoted prices with a handful of salt.
Find Cheap Withdrawals
Don’t change your money up at the airport, where you’ll get a poor exchange rate. Find out where the cheapest place to withdraw money is ahead of time, as a bank might not always give you the best rate, depending on where you are. You spend half your life on the internet– you might as well use some of it to research.
Research Your Transportation Options Ahead of Time
‘Go with the flow’ is a very overrated, and a much more expensive philosophy than it sounds. Arriving late night or very early morning at an airport or train station is the time when you’re most likely to throw money at the problem so you can get some sun/food/sleep. But there’s almost always a cheaper option than getting a cab, and if there’s not (or it’s shifty as all hell) pay a little extra to arrive in daylight so you can use public transport. Remember people – bigger picture.
Don’t be a total dick about it – but just know that there is a tourist price and a local price in a lot of countries. We’re not suggesting you barter to death with the lady in the market who has two young mouths to feed, but you should be able to strike a balance between the two. And don’t think that you can only do this for items in the bazaar – in a lot of places the price of food and accommodation is also negotiable.
Make Friends (and Future Hosts) While Travelling
Even if you’re not alone when you travel, making friends will not only make your vacation more memorable and enjoyable – it could actually hook you up on subsequent trips. One of the best things about travelling the world (other than actually seeing the world) is making pals all over the globe. Besides, what better time to pay a visit to that German guy you met on your travels than during Oktoberfest?
Work for Board and Lodging
Accommodation usually constitutes a large chunk of your budget, so if you’ve got a bit of time to spare consider working for part of your vacation for free bed and board. Workaway connects travellers with hosts, so they can work a few hours a day in exchange for food and accommodation. Be it planting, babysitting, or farm work that you do, it saves you money and it’s a great cultural trade-off – because all the best stories start “This one time when I was sheep-shearing…”
Discount Cards and Coupons
For those of us lucky enough to still qualify for student or young person discounts, you may well be able to snag yourself a reduction in price on the cost of entrance to a museum or attraction. And if you’re not young enough to take advantage of this, try Groupon or GrabOne for discounted activities and dining. If you’re visiting the UK, sign up for a free 30-day trial of TasteCard to get 50 per cent off meals.
Go on Free Tours and Museum Free Days
Many city museums will have a specific day a week or selected hours when they are free to visit. Check it out ahead of time and plan to go on these days to save yourself the cost of admission. There are also tons of great walking tours that people put on completely free (normally you’re just asked to tip at the end of the trip what you thought it was worth).