How to Travel on a Budget
In most people's minds, when you travel you have to have and spend a lot of money. I like to think that I proved that wrong on several of my trips. I went on a ten day, four country trip for less than $700. I also went on a 14 day, 5 country trip for less than $1000. Honestly, you can spend less than that if you really watch what you're spending your money on. I want to share a few tips on how you can travel on a budget but still get the most out of your trip abroad.
1. Stay in Hostels
My biggest, biggest tip (especially for Americans!) is to stay in hostels. I can't express this enough. If you want to spend less during your travels and meet other people - Hostels is the BEST way to go.
When we stayed in Poland, we spent $8 on a hostel. Not joking. $8!! I remember paying the $1 deposit on Hostelworld and I couldn't believe how cheap it was. I grew up in the states where travel is expensive. (am I right?), and hostels have a scary connotation to them i.e. reference the Hostel movie.
When I first told my mom I was staying in a hostel - she hated it. She hated the word, hated the thought, hated it BECAUSE of the negative connotation surrounding hostels that the states has created. So, for a while I would just call them hotels or BnB's but after a while of doing this I would just be like "No, I'm staying in a hostel because it's cheap!" Why would I spend £100 on a hotel PER night versus the $8 I spent on a hostel in Poland. I'll be honest - a few of the hostels I've stayed at were a little sketchy but the others were amazing! The one in Poland had so much character and it was probably one of our favorite hostels we stayed at. My hostel in Switzerland was like a log cabin nestled between the Swiss Alps, reference picture below, and it only cost around £18. Which, for Switzerland, is unreal. If you'd like to stay at this hostel, it's called the Valley Hostel in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland and I could NOT recommend it more!!
All of this to say that hostels are the way to go when you are on a budget. The most expensive part of traveling is lodging and transportation. So this has taken care of that for you!
Where to search for hostels: Hostelworld
2. Use the metro/underground/tube & the bus!
Depending on where you go, the underground has different names. For example, in London it's the tube and in New York it's the subway. Either way, it's all underground/metro and I highly recommend using this form of transportation if you are on a budget.
I'll give you an example as to WHY you should use either the metro or a bus: when I went to Ireland with a few girls from my class, we flew into Dublin and were going to spend a few days there. When we arrived at the airport, I normally, would have taken a bus for around €6 to the city center. Instead, we ended up taking a taxi that costs around €50. That BLEW my mind. WHY did we do that? Is what I kept thinking the entire time. I am not a luxurious traveler and I don't stay in 5 star hotels normally, so taking a taxi was so out of the norm for me.
After that, I swore to myself that I wouldn't ever do that again - and I haven't (except when I spent £25 for an uber from my flat to the bus station, whatever). Point is, you can save a lot, a lot of money by NOT taking taxis and other expensive forms of transportation, which I will touch on next.
3. Use budget airlines instead of trains (sometimes)
Now this is probably the most important tip I can give you - don't think that train travel in Europe is the cheapest way to travel, because it's not. It's not, it's not, it's not.
I'll give you an example: in March, I was planning on going to Paris. I booked the flight via EasyJet and it was £60 for TWO people. Not bad, right? Well, on the way to the airport (and it just so happens we were going to the furthest airport in London) I got a notification saying our flight had been cancelled due to French Air Traffic Control Strikes. I was at a loss. I started googling other flights that left that day to Paris and sure enough it had affected every airline. So, EasyJet offered to pay for our hotel if we stayed in London and left the next morning (which wasn't a guarantee because who knows how long they were going to strike for). So, we politely declined and headed to catch the EuroStar over to Paris. This was the worst purchase I've ever made in all my time of traveling. I was sooooooo not happy to pay THAT much for a 2-3 hour train ride to Paris. It was around £150 a person. I'm going to let that sink in for a minute...
£150 a person versus the £30 a person flight I had ALREADY booked. Now, I got my money back from EasyJet but it didn't even cover the train I had to take to Paris. The only reason we opted to do this is because we had something booked for that night in Paris and couldn't miss it. Hence, the rush to get over there. It also didn't help that the airport was about a 2 hour train right from central London, so we basically lost 4 hours of our day for nothing.
Anyways...my point in saying all of this is that sometimes, most times, budget airlines are the best way to get from country to country. Sometimes even city to city. My advice? Look at Skyscanner and see what your options are for travel. We flew from London to Glasgow for £10 one-way, I flew from London to Shannon, Ireland for £10, and many more instances like these. What I'm saying is that the hassle of the airport is often worth it in order to slash your travel budget in half.
4. Buy a filtered water bottle
Listen, I'm all for indulging and having a great meal or a glass of wine with your friends, however, doing so in Europe can be a little expensive. I learned pretty quickly that London didn't do re-fills and that you have to pay full price for a second drink if you want one. Also, you have to specify that you want TAP water - otherwise, they will charge your for a water bottle that basically is tap water but they put it in a bottle and put a price on it.
So, I can't express this enough - if you want to travel cheaply and be able to indulge every now and again - buy a filtered water bottle! I took mine on every single trip and if we ate out (which drinks are rung up separately they don't really do MEAL deals over there) I would just drink out of my water bottle! I filled up my water bottle wherever I could, be it the hostel or a public place - it helped out so much and saved a lot of money!
This isn't a make or break for you to travel cheaply but all of those €2-£3 refills or "second drinks" will add up by the end of your trip, trust me!
This is a filtered Brita water bottle that will come in super handy during your travels!
The last tip that I have for traveling on a budget is to backpack. Whenever you travel, whether it be in Europe or anywhere else in the world, checking in bags can get expensive. This is especially the case if you are traveling on a budget airline such as RyanAir or EasyJet. You will want to be able to take your belongings on the plane with you and store them in the overhead bins.
Spirit Airlines, in the states, isn't as friendly as the airlines across the pond. They still make you pay for a carry on as well as a checked bag. Even weirder, the carry on is more expensive than the checked bag is. However, in Europe it's a little different. If you can fit in in the overhead bag and it's not super huge - you can bring it on the plane with you. This is by far the easiest and most convenient way to travel while you are abroad.
I want to stress though that this is advice for singles and couples. I am fully aware that people with families will need to check in bags and bring more belongings but if you are younger and traveling solo or as a couple - backpacking is the way to go!
This 40L backpack is similar to the one that I traveled with while I was in Europe. It fit all my needs and was perfect as a carry on!
If you are looking to get a new backpack check this one out!
So there you have it...these are my tips for how to travel on a budget. I will probably do another post similar to this one (kind of a part 2 I guess) because there are things I know that I'm forgetting that would be helpful!
However, hopefully this is a good start for you and maybe you've learned some things that you didn't know!