Travels and budget – question your reasons and priorities
It depends very much on the region explored and there are many articles written on this topic. And I’ve probably read many more. Why is mine different? Because it will first of all suggest what not to do and keep you within your budget, to the point.
Why spend a fortune on airfare?
Learning that one of my close friends spent four times the normal price for a plane ticket and hearing him whine about taking only one trip a year makes me want to scream. Nicely put.
You shouldn’t buy the first plane ticket you stumble upon and it’s probably the best idea not to book it during the weekend!
As a rule of thumb, be flexible. Choose flying on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays and always compare prices on search engines online. Then book them in advance directly from the airline company. It may also prove useful to subscribe to airline company newsletters and social media sites, to regularly check the fares to your ‘must-see’ destinations, and to track the flights that seem inviting.
Not flying? Research, compare, and book your train/bus/ferry ticket or rental car, as the case may be. Lower rates are guaranteed if you plan ahead. There are also websites connecting drivers to possible passengers, so keep those alerts current. In Iran, for example, rely on buses, shared taxis, and taxis, without booking. The rates are unbelievably low and the transport infrastructure is amongst the best in the world.
Why pay for the accommodation and not for the experience?
I talk about travels and travelling every day and I hear about actions that I condemn all the time, like staying in the same hotel room, at an exorbitant price, only because, well, ‘it’s your holiday, you want to relax, and the resort is fantastic’. Let’s be honest, will you remember your bed or your shower cabin five years from now?
You shouldn’t spend most of your budget on accommodation and, most of all, you shouldn’t book rooms based on stars or pay them in advance.
Search for places that are clean, cosy, and provide an authentic experience. There are so many budget places oozing personality. We should learn all the time, right? So, be open to it! To interacting and chatting with the owners, to discovering a different way of life. This you will remember! Moreover, think about it – the money you save may be spent on a local experience. Riding? Diving? Rafting? Well, you will afford them this way!
Are you planning not to spend anything on accommodation? Well, there are always couch surfing and house swapping opportunities available online. And don’t forget camping – it could be a budget saver, especially in extremely expensive destinations, like Norway. Here, you may camp free of charge anywhere outside cities, provided that you are 150 meters away from the actual home. A mobile shower, and you’re all set!
Why splurge in restaurants when there’s delicious street food available?
You see a fancy-looking restaurant, you enter, you have a seat. Almost every time, you end up ordering more than you’ve planned. And many times, the food is not as terrific as you’d expect, but costs a lot.
First of all, you shouldn’t choose touristy and commercial restaurants!
Sure, dining abroad can be a very rewarding experience. Enquire, listen to recommendations, go to places frequented by locals – they will be less expensive, with fresher dishes and a more traditional take. Are you looking for a tasty snack? The streets are your solution! I can’t wait, for instance, to experience the Sicilian street food.
There are however places in the world where even street food is very expensive. Turn to Scottish supermarkets for fresh salads prepared by you, drink tap water in Iceland instead of buying it, or book a place with a kitchen and cook your meals yourself in Finland, for instance.
Why use public transport when you can walk?
When, at the end of a trip, you realise you’ve spent too much on public transport and did not quite afford to have fun the way you’ve anticipated or, worse, can no longer afford the final trip of the year, you will realise that even coins add up, in the end.
You shouldn’t take the bus if you’re only 2 stops away from your end-point. You shouldn’t waste your time and your patience waiting for a train if you’re 4 km away from your destination.
There is always something you can do on your own and not depend on anyone: walk. Not only will you get to know cities better, but country life will charm you in a different way.
Is walking not your thing? Well, apart from booking ahead – in case of local trains – there are always day passes, which help you save a lot. Porto, for instance, provides passes and cards for several days and needs, like many other cities. Plus, the geography of certain regions may allow you to exercise and discover at the same time. Don’t be afraid to use bicycles or kayaks to get from point A to point B.
Why not save on attractions if you can?
Picture reaching a certain destination – one you’ve dreamed about – and dismissing your bucket-list attraction based on a too-expensive rate charged for it.
You shouldn’t pick the first activity provider.
Research may again come in handy and save you money and disappointment. You should get student discounts, if applicable [they are quite important in certain countries, up to half off the initial price] and, of course, indulge in the freebies all around the world. Are there more providers? Differences in the rates charged may be up to 50% or more, at the same or better quality.
Is there only one provider? Book online. It may save you time and, once again, money. For instance, opera tickets at Mariinsky Teatr in Skt. Petersburg are pure bargain if booked ahead.
Other ‘shouldn’t’s and one big ‘should’
- You shouldn’t exchange money or use ATMs in countries where paying by credit card a.k.a. no added fees is a piece of cake.
- You shouldn’t be embarrassed to haggle when you are actually encouraged to do it.
- You shouldn’t rely on spontaneity alone if drafting a travel plan made you save time and money and enjoy your stay more.
- You shouldn’t leave document translations, vaccinations, insurances, etc. for the very last minute if taking care of them sooner meant a hassle-free start of your trip.
- You shouldn’t purchase checked luggage if hand luggage is all you need.
- You should reward yourself every now and then – an expensive but delicious gelateria, a higher-rated guesthouse, or an impressive activity that you would normally not afford. It is all part of adventure travelling and it makes sure to keep our passions for globetrotting alive!
Written by Olivia-Petra Coman