As you know, I am an avid traveler, and not too long ago came back from vacation. I love traveling, as I love to go out and explore different places, cultures, people, etc. And the fact that I’m currently living in France, I am truly lucky to have easy access to other countries in Europe, distance-wise (Europe is not a large continent) and money-wise.
That being said, traveling comes with travel expenses, whether on living accommodations, transportation, booking tours, and other little details that quickly add up as you go. I admit, my two big trips so far have been quite pricey, even though they were *relatively* on-budget (and by “budget,” I mean around €800-900). And considering that I don’t earn a lot for my job, money is always an issue when it comes to going places. The struggle…
However, through my experiences so far, I have become more…conscientious when it comes to managing expenses. While not perfect, I can say that I am getting there. 😛 Really, it takes a lot of practice, trial-and-error to efficiently fund your travels- you’ll make mistakes along the way, but they help with future voyages (i.e. what to do, what not to do, etc).
I have compiled a list of ways to save money while traveling; many, if not all, of these come from my own experience, and I hope that these tips will inspire you to plan your next destination away from home! Without further ado, allons-y!
1. Research. …and research early! No good deals will come your way if you don’t make the effort to look. Even a simple Google search for, say, “cheap flights to Italy” will go a long way. Most things can be found on the Internet nowadays…it’s incredible how helpful technology is!
2. Book early. It doesn’t take a genius to know that the best/cheapest transportation and living accommodations get taken early on. Aim to book in advance; there are those who even book up to a year in advance, which can save a lot in cost. Granted, I can’t do that early due to the tentativeness of my job (i.e. when I am working at the collège or lycée that week, when I end classes for the day, etc), but I have been able to still get reasonably-inexpensive deals a month before traveling, so even then could work! 🙂
3. Compare prices. On everything. From different airlines to hotels to restaurants: picking one company to travel or stay in, when there are others for tens, even hundreds of, euros cheaper, can be a missed opportunity. This ties closely with doing research, so take the extra time to do so! More time spent means less money spent: definitely a cost-benefit kind of thing!
4. Find alternatives. If you’re used to traveling places via airplane or even trains (as I have done throughout most of my life, before traveling on my own this year), then you might be surprised to discover that there are less-expensive ways to get from point A to point B; I hear somewhere that it’s considered “trendy” nowadays to take the bus, as it is a significantly cheaper than trains and airplanes (for example, I was able to travel from Paris to Strasbourg on just €15!). However, it depends, so make sure you still keep other modes of transportation in mind. Plus, buses take much longer to get places, so if you’re fine sitting for the whole day in transit, then it shouldn’t be a problem!
4a. BlaBlaCar. Especially if you’re in France (like me) and want to travel around regionally, then BlaBlaCar is a wonderful app for getting places. Consider it as a “carpool of strangers;” I have used it a few times, and it does cut travel expenses by over half, compared with taking the train. Plus, they’re faster than buses- only problem is to find drivers who are actually going to the places you want to go to, as well as on the dates you want to. In the end, though, it’s safe (as long as you research!), and you end up having nice conversations with the drivers along the way!
5. Look for deals. If you’re subscribed to travel agencies and receive their emails, sometimes you’ll receive special deals on certain journeys to-and-from places. For instance, I am subscribed to France’s SNCF train services, and recently received an advertisement for a Paris-to-Frankfurt trip for €29! That’s incredible, considering that normally, it’s twice, even three times, the price! During my last trip to the UK/Ireland, I managed to book a flight from Paris to Dublin- for a mind-blowing €13! Make sure to use websites like Skyscanner to compare deals, and check everyday to see if prices change!
6. Try hostels. I admit, before living in France this year, I had never stayed in hostels. Since then, I have done a total of seven hostels, and I can say that it definitely helps save money. Especially if you’re a solo and/or backpack traveler, hostels are much cheaper than hotels or Airbnbs. You can find ones in Barcelona for as cheap as €8 per night, or those in Amsterdam for €6! As long as you’re comfortable living communally (i.e. sharing rooms, bathrooms, other facilities), then hostel are a good choice.
6a. Couchsurfing. Recently, I tried Couchsurfing during my vacation to the UK/Ireland this past December. Essentially, it is, quite literally, crashing on a stranger’s couch for the night (or a couple). “Couch” can also mean one’s own bed, an inflatable mattress, or the floor. 😛 In any case, it is completely free, and you do end up meeting new people along the way. Again, I haven’t had a problem with safety (so far), but just make sure you read the References of the hosts and trust your judgement before going ahead and accepting them to stay.
7. Budget! Admittedly, I tend to budget my travels after I already book things (albeit having done my research beforehand). But whether you plan your budget before or after booking, make realistic plans on how much you’re going to spend while traveling. I tend to section them into three parts: transportation, accommodation, and personal purchases. Give yourself enough wiggle room on splurges and unexpected (but necessary) expenses (because they’re bound to happen!).
8. Go grocery shopping. This especially applies to longer stays in hostels, Airbnbs, even Couchsurfing! Eating at restaurants and cafés every day can add up very quickly, and it’s not necessary to try all of the eateries in town if a single, solid one is good enough. Buying food at the supermarket will save you money; perhaps you’ll have €5 meals per day, rather than €20 while eating out. Plus, depending where you go, you’ll discover interesting things that are sold at each grocery store- for me, I was able to find, purchase, and try crumpets in Glasgow! 😛
Now, even though I write all of this down, there will always be cases in which these points won’t work for you. For instance, buses are definitely the cheaper (but longer) option, so if you are tight on time to get from place to place, then the convenience of, say, taking the train or airplane would be better (and less tiring!).
There are a ton more things that I could say about saving money while traveling, but I think these points are good enough for now. If I end up thinking of more, then I’ll make a Part Two or something. Any case, I hope you found these suggestions helpful, as I will apply them when planning my next holiday! Take care. 🙂
— The Finicky Cynic
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