Despite what Pinterest tells you, traveling the world isn’t something you need to do to become a whole person. It costs a lot of money, and isn’t going to be in the cards for everyone at the same point in their lives. However, if you have set your mind on travel, it can truly be one of the most wonderful experiences of your life (at least it definitely was for me). However, there’s no reason to drive yourself into debt to do so, so you should be prepared for a long saving process.
I went traveling around South America for five months last year, which required long-term savings and planning. Everyone has different methods of traveling, preferences, and will require a different amount of money to get by. It’s essential to take a hard look at your spending habits, and plan for your needs. I remember talking to friend about my savings plan (and progress), and we briefly discussed the amount of money I had saved. When I told her I saved up about 2,000 Euros, she responded, “oh dear, that won’t get you very far.” However, it did indeed last me about two full months.
What works for one person will not always work for someone else. I knew there were ways to make my money work harder, go farther, and ultimately get the best possible travel experience for my money. If you are willing to do research, forego a few luxuries, and listen to frugal travel tips, your precious savings can be stretched beyond what you thought possible. Below are my five super easy tips for traveling on a budget, which will make your savings last.
Book Accommodations With Kitchens
Cooking your own meals can save you serious money (which is no news to a regular TFD reader), but this doesn’t have to exclusively take place in your own kitchen. When booking hostels, make sure you select ones that have a kitchen you can use.
This will come in handy especially when booking a long-term stay. Use it to cook at least a few meals a week yourself, and the money you save on restaurants will be able to extend your stay. While there is obviously a time and place to try local cuisine (which you should!), going to a chaotic food market and searching for ingredients to recreate flavors yourself is an equally unique and enjoyable experience. You can cook your favorite comfort food after being on the road for a while, and it will taste even better than it does at home.
Take It Slow
When you stay in budget-friendly hostels or hotels, transportation can often be the most expensive factor to take into account. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to choose for less frequent stops, but explore the places you visit thoroughly, and take your time. Taking it slow means you can really get to know a town, national park, or area of a big city without having to limit yourself to quick visits to the main attractions that require frequent transportation.
Opting for long (and admittedly, sometimes horrible) bus rides instead of short flights between countries say in Europe or South America for example. This can save you A LOT of money, especially when you do your research to find the best booking times, locations, and destinations. The same thing goes for taking public transport in cities instead of paying for a taxi (which should be obvious). In well-organized cities, taking public transportation is so easy that there is really no excuse not to. While staying in slightly more chaotic less-organized cities, I’ve found it easier to just ask a local where to go and what methods of transportation are best. If you approach people with a friendly demeanor and try to speak in their local language, you’re usually able to get wherever you need to go without trouble.
Learn The Local Lingo And Haggle
While this is very unlikely to work in a European supermarket (but, if you’re not afraid of a challenge, be my guest!), when you are buying items in markets, food stalls, farmer’s markets, souvenir shops, flea markets, etc., haggling is something you should get comfortable with if you want to get discounts on a regular basis. or say a bus ticket in South America (very good deals to be negotiated for there). At the start, it might feel uncomfortable (it definitely did for me) and awkward, but after a few successes you’ll definitely addicted to haggling prices down to save money. It works best if you can negotiate in the local language, so learn as much of the basics as you can. Don’t be afraid to make a fool out of yourself (all the more fun), after all, it’s part of the experience of traveling!
Don’t Rely On Large Booking Sites Alone
Don’t rely solely on the giant travel booking websites. Websites like Hostelworld or Booking.com are great for doing research and comparing prices, but when you’ve made your choice, it might be a good idea to contact the place you want to stay at, directly. Hotel owners pay a fee to be listed on these booking sites, so booking through their website directly, or sending them an email to book, can often result in paying a slightly discounted price.
When you go to a place that has plenty of accommodation options, and it isn’t high season (therefore a lower risk), you can try to find a hostel on the spot. This way, you can easily see where you can get the most value for you money and potentially negotiate a lower price for your stay.
Don’t Discount Couch Surfing!
If you’ve never couch surfed before, it’s time you give it a go. Don’t discount it as an option. I’ve hosted guests a few times before, but on my travels abroad, I only couch surfed once at the very end. It was a great experience that I definitely plan to do again more on my next trip abroad. On top of getting free accommodation, you get to speak with true locals who can give you invaluable info. They will usually be more than happy to give you tips you won’t find in travel guides (and thus avoiding expensive tourist traps).
I’m sure there are many more ways to travel cheaply that I haven’t yet discussed (or even discovered myself), but it’s a start. The Nomads group on Facebook is great to get additional frugal traveling inspiration. Even if you don’t have a bohemian streak, it’s a great way to discover tips!
Happy affordable travels!