I often get asked the question, “How did you afford to take so many trips?!” And although I’m flattered by the underlying compliment, I don’t think I am doing something that anyone and everyone can’t do. Budgeting and having the desire to save goes a long way.
So here is what you do (and what I do) to save money on that trip:
Set a budget – and actually stick with it.
Sometimes it is hard to set a travel budget and actually stay on track with it. I truly believe it is easier for some than others. But as USA Today says, “setting a budget for your travel is the most important part of the vacation planning process.” So Review your finances , and what you can realistically save before your trip to determine a rough estimate for the amount you can afford to spend on a trip. This will help you decided where you can go, how long you can go, and how many stops you can make.
Try to determine a rough estimate of how you can break down your trip: how much will transportation, accommodation, food, souvenirs, etc. cost you? Research the destination and see what others have said about this. This is how you can determine your overall budget.
By keeping this budget in mind, you can now work on the next items…
Know that sleeping arrangements can get expensive.
I absolutely know staying at a fancy hotel can be the best experience. Chocolates on pillows, fancy sheets, 100 channels, and good shampoo in the bathroom are great. But if you are like me, I basically only spend my time in the hotel when I am sleeping. The rest of my time is out exploring. Meeting new people, trying new restaurants and the decadent local cuisine, on a tour of the city’s best landmark. So why would I need to spend a lot of money on a place to sleep when it is only for that – to sleep? So I try to find the safest but cheapest place possible. Safety is always a concern, especially when your traveling solo, so consider safety the first priority, but then think about how you can save a few bucks on your accommodations. Are you into couch surfing? Air BnB? Or maybe the top hostel in Lonely Planet? I have tried them all and recommend them all. It is a great way to save money and meet people at the same time. You don’t need to stay at a JW to have a great experience in any country.
I have even been known to sleep in the airport or random train station if I know it is only going to be for a few hours. Why spend money on a hotel if it is only for sleeping?! I can rest when I’m dead.
Choose food wisely
If you are big foodie, I do not recommend setting a food budget of only $10/day. You know you will go over that! Food and restaurants can get expensive, so try to limit your time at sit down restaurants. Go to the local market or the local street vendor and try what they have to offer. A restaurant is nice, don’t get me wrong, and an important part of traveling. But don’t make every meal about you sitting down to eat, unless that is what you want your whole trip to be about. If not, grab a loaf of bread and get to walking! You have things to see and people to meet! You don’t want to spend your time (and money) sitting inside of a restaurant.
Save money where and when you can
I am all about going on walking tours when I am in a new city. It gives me a lay of the land, and also gives me a bit of background on the most popular tourist destinations. But many places often have free walking tours that you can take, and tip the guide at the end. I would much rather learn and give the money to an expat who is in the country and trying to make it just like you! So google free walking tours if you can.
But on the same note, if you plan ahead for your trip and know a few things you want to do, you may be able to get a good deal on tickets by buying them in advance. This is true for places like the Eiffel Tour. If you know the day you are thinking about being in a particular city, do some planning and I bet you can save a little cash here or there on tours, attractions, and other things you are planning on doing. Planning goes a long way! Which goes back to the budget thing…
Keep a copy of your budget on hand
Take my budget tracking sheet from The Forgetful Traveler with you (in PDF or spreadsheet form) so you can refer to it in case your spending begins to get a bit out of control with all those souvenirs and glasses of vino you are buying. This sheet can be a great reminder to stay on track!
Do you have any ways you save money when you traveling? Comment below!