I like to switch up my style of travel between indulgence and budget. But more often than not I will choose the budget option if it allows me the opportunity and experiences of travelling.
To be totally honest, every long stint of travel I have been on as been budget backpacker style. At the time I didn’t really have the money to go travelling but I was always at a point in my life where I needed to spread my wings. So I found a way.
There are plenty of opportunities to save money and travel on budget without foregoing a great experience. I have had some great times in the past so I thought I’d share some of my top tips for travelling on a budget.
Always use an incognito browser to search for flights and be sure to clear your cache and cookies on a regular basis. Airline companies could use your internet history to display higher prices on flights. Using the incognito browser is a good way to ensure you’re viewing the cheapest flights available.
I start by using Skyscanner to browse a number of websites and airlines for a combination of different airports and dates. The ‘search by month’ filter is great for gauging when prices are lower.
When I find a flight that suits my budget and plans I’ll then close the incognito browser completely and open a new one. The incognito browsers only save browser history in the session that the entire window is open. So just to be sure I’m not getting a higher price based on this I start again. I then search the airline’s own website as often the lowest prices will be here.
As one final check I call the airline to check the price and see if they offer lower on the phone. It is also worth calling the Flight Centre as they sometimes beat the airlines own lowest fare.
The most common form of budget accommodation is staying in dorm at a hostel. With prices from just £3 a night in some parts of this world, this can be the most budget you can get.
If you prefer some privacy and travelling with others then you can often find local guesthouses for low prices. Those that are fan-only in hot countries, and shared bathrooms, offer the thrifty option.
Another alternative is to try couchsurfing. It has become incredibly popular in recent years with several websites (check out Couchsurfing.com) and Facebook groups (such as this one) offering you the chance to find likeminded people happy to offer a space in their home for a short period of time. Mostly it is either free of charge or for a nominal fee.
Another thrifty accommodation option is to rent an apartment or room via a site such as AirBnB. If sharing with others you can bring the price down further and you get the opportunity to sample local life.
Check voucher websites such as Groupon for regular deals. If you’re travelling in low season, or flexible on dates, you are much more likely to find great discounts on these sites.
Or for something with a more homely feel you could try housesitting. We recently joined Trusted Housesitters and have just secured our first assignment for when we arrive back in the UK this Spring. For a small annual subscription you get access to hundreds, if not thousands, of opportunities to house- (and often pet) sitting assignments all over the world. You get to stay somewhere for free whilst taking care of someone’s home and pets. It’s a great way to get know a new area and offers more of the home comforts you might be used to.
Travelling can get super expensive when you factor in all of the attractions. But there are plenty of free activities to be had.
Firstly, get onto Google. It’s your best friend. There are so many travel bloggers out there sharing what they find and a good number of them post about the free things to do in a city. So simply do search for ‘free things to do in …’.
Next, check out the local websites for your destination. Often the tourist boards will have a section for free or low cost activities. A great example is the Visit Britain website.
Facebook Groups for travel are a fantastic resource for meeting other travellers going to your region/country of choice. There are groups around style of travelling so ideal if you’re looking for budget ideas. Search for terms such as budget, nomad, bootstrap, or backpacker.
Another great way to save on cash is to offer up your services. Volunteering is a great way to share your skills, connect with local people and save on money. Do be aware that some volunteering opportunities are paid for schemes. However, it’s not unheard of for travellers to volunteer in a hostel in exchange for a free bed and food.
Travelling with another person will help lower your costs. You can split accommodation costs, share on taxi prices and even the simplest things like sharing your shampoo can save you precious pennies.
It almost goes without saying but travel during the off-peak season at any given destination and you are likely to find you can get cheaper deals on everything from flights, hotels and even tours. Sure, the weather may not be optimal but that’s what jackets are for, right?
There used to be a day when you could nab the best prices for a flight but leaving it until the last minute. In fact, whole websites were built on that principle. But I’ve found in recent years that the best deals can be found if you can book in advance. Whether it’s booking that 4 star hotel during their low season promotion, or securing that flight during the slow weeks, you generally get the best deal with some forward planning.
Speaking of flights, if you have the time (and sometimes, the stomach) using alternative public transport methods to travel is where you can save loads of cash. Of course, there are the extreme folk who insist on driving from Holland to Thailand (yep, we actually met a couple of did that) but otherwise simply getting the bus, coach, train or boat can be 10 times less than flying.
Finally, start getting creative with your current habits. For instance, we are big foodies but when travelling we have to try hard to limit the amount we eat out (unless it’s £1 chicken-on-a-stick from Bangkok). Every time we are away we find the local supermarket and conjure up a budget meal with what’s on offer there. There’s something quite fun about eating a picnic on your hotel bed in Paris!
What have I missed off this list?
What other tips would you share on how to travel on a thrifty budget?