Is travelling on a budget possible? Of course! Many years ago, my friends and I made friends with an American girl who was travelling around Europe on her own. She was only 19 years old, and her stories from Bulgaria and Italy and Portugal and France were endlessly entertaining. This was late in the year, and before long she was waving her goodbyes to hit the open skies once more, this time travelling to Australia to spend New Year’s Eve on a small private boat in Sydney Harbour.
I had to ask. How on Earth was she funding her travels? As it turned out, she was raised by her grandparents, who had recently passed away within months of each other, leaving her as the sole beneficiary of a large estate. I had caught the travel bug from her, but I couldn’t hope to match her spending power.
I looked into budgeting (see here for an example of a budget calculator) and I managed to save a little bit of money. But my plans for global domination needed greater funding or less ambition. That’s when I looked into other ways to make my trip a little more budget-friendly.
If you're willing to forgo a bit of comfort and some amenities, like a meal, in-flight entertainment, and large baggage allowances, you can sometimes save very substantial sums of money by opting for low-cost flights. I personally favor them for short-haul journeys on which I don't need to bring as much luggage and don't mind doing without some standard plane 'luxuries' for a few hours.
Europe, Asia, and South America in particular have a fantastic choice of low-cost airlines that can take you to most intracontinental destinations for attractive prices, sometimes as low as $10. Keep an eye out for these airlines' frequent promotions to snap up the best fares when they get released.
Read more: How to Travel Cheap: Save Money on Flights, Hotels, and Meals
Want to know another nifty trick I like to use to book a spontaneous getaway? If you're simply craving a vacation or a weekend break somewhere and are pretty open to the destination, the Skyscanner website allows you to conduct an open-ended search. Enter your point of departure, but leave your destination blank. The search engine will then list all available destinations in order of cost, from the cheapest to the priciest. This is a great hack to identify the most affordable options for your vacation!
You can reach me by railway…
That said, bear in mind that cheap flights aren’t always what they seem. Here’s why. First, there’s the usual hustle you can expect over baggage and booking fees (a cheap ticket accompanied by a ridiculous hike in booking fees and an incredible liberty being taken regarding the cost of storing any baggage in the hold really isn’t much of a cheap ticket at all).
Next, cheap flights often don’t operate out of ‘main’ airports. The cost of landing at these central airports pushes the prices of tickets up. That’s why cheap flights often land some way away from your desired destination. Don’t believe me? Take Oslo, for example. Cheap flights to “Oslo Torp Airport” may catch your eye. Oslo is a beautiful city with a rich Viking heritage and a spectacular opera house. Highly recommended. But landing at Oslo Torp means you’ll be landing no fewer than 110km from Oslo (see other examples).
Why is this so important? You might end up spending the money you save on your flight on travelling into town. Travel by train or coach wherever possible. Besides, rail or bus journeys are also a lot more scenic and much greener. So by making this choice, you'll be good to the planet, your eyes, AND your bank account!
Last-minute travel is cheap travel
If you really have your heart set on visiting a specific country/city, you will need to work around finding the cheapest deal. Keeping an open mind means that last-minute travel can save you a small fortune.
Read more: Ultimate Tips When Traveling On a Budget with Family
Hotels need people. Without people, hotels go bust, and fast. That’s why last-minute cancellations get sold super cheap - and you can be the one who benefits. Check out last-minute travel websites like Expedia, Opodo or Lastminute.com (to name but a few) for great deals, and be ready to go at a moment’s notice. You can do this!
Look for budget accommodation
Today, there are many types of accommodations available for all budgets and styles of travel. Hotels are not the only option. For those travelling solo or as a group of friends, I'm a huge fan of hostels. Nowadays, they're often clean and vibrant, social places where you can meet people and make friends, partake in fun activities, and get an introduction to your destination.
Guesthouses, motels, and Airbnb rentals can also be smart alternatives. In some of the world's most expensive cities, like New York, renting a room in a shared Airbnb apartment will avoid setting you back over $100 a night.
5 Types of Accommodations for Travelers
How to Find Cheap Hotels: Best Apps to Find Your Hotel
If you're into the outdoors and a bit of an adventurer, you can of course also travel with camping gear and cut down on costs by sometimes pitching your tent instead of renting a room.
As you can see, there are many ways to cut on your costs while travelling and to make your budget stretch further! From personal experience, I can emphatically state that travelling on a budget can be extremely rewarding and does not mean that you will have a lesser experience or a less enjoyable vacation.
In fact, many of my best travel memories stem from my years travelling the world on a shoestring as a backpacker! Journeying by bus or train, staying in hostels, and eating in local restaurants gave me lots of opportunities to meet locals, engage with the country's culture and way of life, and make friends with fellow travelers.
How to Travel the World on a Budget
Holiday in Europe in Style: Tips for Affordable Luxury Holidays in Europe
Learn How to Become a Master Traveler
Do you have more tips for travelling on a budget to share? Leave them in a comment below!