Tips to Save Money While Travelling
If you’ve got the travel bug, you’re probably saving up for your next big trip, if you’re not already adventuring.
Although a lot of the best experiences you have on the road are free, money does, unfortunately, make the world go round. You’re going to need it to eat, sleep, get around and, eventually, get yourself home again, whether that’s weeks, months or even years down the line.
Although some people do manage to travel for nothing, exchanging their skills for food and board, making friends and hitch-hiking or cycling, for most of us, travel will involve spending a pretty hefty chunk of money.
Once you’re on the road, however, you’ll start to realise how far your dollars can actually take you. Obvious as it might seem, you’ll realise that the less you spend the longer you can keep travelling for.
But how can you eek that hard-earned cash out for as long as possible?
There are plenty of things you can do to keep costs down at all stages of your trip. There are things you can do when you’re packing, planning your itinerary, and when you’re actually on the road to make sure both you and your money go as far as possible.
When You’re Planning
When it comes to a budget trip, never underestimate the importance of the planning stage for saving money when you’re actually out in the big wide world. Here are a few tips to bear in mind when you’re making those all-important plans.
1. Slow Travel For the Win
A lot of people seem to try and move as quickly as possible, cramming as many destinations as they physically can into a short space of time. They’re under the impression that a good way of seeing a lot of the world on the cheap is to do it on the double, with flying visits to lots of places, never sleeping in the same bed twice.
A typical example is someone from a huge country like the USA or Brazil looking at the size of Europe and thinking they can easily see the whole continent in a month.
This theory really doesn’t really work out. As you’re never really able to relax and get into the swing of things and get to know the places you’re in, you’ll never figure out where the cheap eateries can be found.
You won’t have a chance to discover your own tricks for keeping things cheap and seeing things you want to without breaking the bank.
You’re likely to end up spending more money on guided excursions as you won’t have the time to ask around for advice and find out how to do things under your own steam. Make sure you aren’t too ambitious with your itinerary when you’re planning.
2. Go With the Flow
Whilst a vague itinerary is great for an extended trip and it’s always a good idea to have accommodation sorted for at least the first couple of days whilst you find your feet, having everything locked in isn’t a good idea when it comes to keeping things cheap.
If you book everything from home, you may turn up and realise you’re actually paying far over the odds, and that the hostel next door is far cheaper but just as good.
As long as it’s not high season in your destination, if you turn up somewhere without booking ahead you can often get better deals on rooms or bunks than you would online. Also, you can actually inspect the accommodation for yourself and make sure it’s worth the money, rather than trusting pictures.
Being locked into an itinerary can also get expensive if you, for whatever reason, have to change your plans and cancel accommodation, trips or flights.
3. Travel Overnight
When pencilling in transport from one destination to the next, look into whether a night bus might be a good option.
Whilst this won’t be a great idea in all countries, in lots of places, like most of South America and Mexico, you can hop on an extremely comfortable bus in the evening and arrive at your destination the next day.
There’s often a choice between the ultra-budget regular bus and the still-cheap fancier buses with reclining seats and even ‘in-flight’ entertainment.
You probably won’t be as fresh as a daisy, but you will have saved yourself a night of accommodation. You’ll soon figure out a few tricks for getting the best night’s sleep possible on a bus.
4. Track Down Bargain Flights
As you’ll already be well aware, the flights will probably be the biggest chunk of money that you’ll spend on any trip. If you know what you’re doing, though, you could cut the price of your flights in half.
As well as old favourites like Skyscanner and Google Flights, try apps like Hopper that will help you track down cheap flights and let you know when is the best time to buy.
Another secret weapon for those on a budget in the UK is Jack’s Flight Club. You can sign up for free and get sent a weekly email with amazing flight deals that Jack and his team have tracked down. You can also pay for a very reasonable yearly membership and get even more emails with all the very best deals in them.
Be prepared to put some serious time and energy into your flight search and it’ll pay off.
5. Work Exchange
If you’re hoping to spin out your time as much as possible and get under the skin of the places you’re visiting, try one of the many sites where people advertise for help, like WWOOF, Work Away, or Help Exchange.
In exchange for food and board, you’ll work for 4-5 hours a day, and you can end up doing pretty much anything! Just be sure you don’t get taken advantage of by some sneaky people out there who like the idea of cheap labour.
Put your skills to use or learn some new ones, sleep and eat for free and have a great time whilst you’re at it. You normally have to commit to these for at least a couple of weeks, but that shouldn’t be an issue for those who are looking to spin out their trip. Be sure to apply to things in advance to get the best projects to work on.
When You’re Packing
There are a few things you can shove in your suitcase that will help you save money once you’ve got going, and travel gear needn’t be as expensive as you think.
1. Take a Tupperware and a Knife
Take your own little packed lunch kit with you so that you aren’t forced to pay over the odds for food at tourist spots, but can pick up food at the supermarket and take some sandwiches with you on your day trips to keep the wolf from the door.
2. Take a Bus Journey Survival Kit
You’ll be far more tempted to pay more to fly next time if you have a bad experience on a bus, so do yourself a favour and prepare for your bus journeys.
Even if you’re only headed for warm climates, they can tend to whack up the air conditioning on buses to an unreasonable level, so make sure you pack a warm and comfy layer, and long trousers or leggings. Take a warm pair of socks to keep your toes cosy.
Have a read of this guide to find out about all the other things you should take with you to keep you comfortable on buses.
3. Take Washing Powder/Soap
Getting your washing done or paying for a laundrette is extremely cheap in a lot of places, but these things still add up over time.
Taking along some (preferably eco-friendly) soap for your clothes will mean you can wash your underwear, socks and a few vital garments in the shower or sink, so you don’t have to get a wash done as often.
Shove in a piece of string for a make-shift washing line, or even use your dental floss!
4. Raid the Charity Shops
Despite all the packing lists out there telling you that you need the latest gear, there’s no need to go out and spend hundreds on the kit before you go.
Make do with the things you already have, borrow anything you can from friends and family, and if you’re short of something, like a rain jacket or walking trousers, then try looking in the local charity shops before you go out and buy it new. Good for the environment and your wallet!
If all else fails, take advantage of sales and offers to buy the most expensive items on your packing list.
When You’re On the Road
When you’re actually on the road, every little decision adds up. Get into some of these good habits to help you travel for as long as possible.
1. Take Packed Lunches
If you’re off on a day trip somewhere where the only food will be at overpriced tourist spots, then be sure to plan ahead and take a packed lunch with you.
Take leftovers from a dinner you’ve whipped up in the hostel kitchen the night before, or make yourself a sandwich with a few basic ingredients. Make sure it’s filling, especially if you’ll be traipsing around churches or ruins all day!
I always throw in a couple of extra snacks too, just to be on the safe side.
2. Rent an Apartment
If you’re really committing to the slow travelling and like to spend a few weeks or months in one place before moving on then don’t keep paying hostel prices for a dorm bed.
Look online and ask around and find a place to rent so you can really get comfortable in your new surroundings.
3. Eat Out When It’s Cheaper
The idea that eating out might be cheaper than cooking your own food might be a foreign one to some of you, but in many countries, the high prices in supermarkets and low prices of street food might mean you end up spending far more if you try the DIY approach and cook in your hostel.
This varies a lot from place to place, so try and figure out what the best approach is within a few days of arriving somewhere new.
If you’re staying somewhere for an extended period, however, and have started renting an apartment then you can do a bulk supermarket shop, that will almost always work out cheaper.
4. Friends Who Eat Together…
Made some new friends at your hostel? You could suggest that you all chip in to buy the ingredients for a meal.
It’ll work out much cheaper between you than if you were just cooking for one, and cooking together is a wonderful way of bonding with your new-found travel buddies.
5. Easy on the Alcohol
If you’re a beer drinker, it can be really easy to get into the habit of drinking it with every meal when you’re travelling in lots of cheap places. Even if it’s incredibly cheap compared to the prices at home, it all adds up.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t relax and have fun, as you’re meant to be able to treat yourself a bit whilst you’re travelling, but give your wallet and your liver a couple of days off a week and stick to water instead.
When going out, if it’s cheaper to buy a bottle amongst a group and split it than it would be to pay bar prices, pre-drink before you leave and then don’t drink much when you’re actually at the bar. Dance instead!
5. Work As You Go
Don’t just save money whilst you’re travelling, earn it! If you keep the cash flowing in, you can extend your trip indefinitely.
There are dozens of ways to earn money, whether you work from your laptop or get temporary jobs in the places you travel to as you go.
Have we missed anything? What’s your top tip for saving money whilst travelling? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.