We asked 3 experienced travelers to share their tips on budget travel and how to get where you want without breaking the bank
When Feige and I traveled to New York for the New York Marathon we did it via Europe, with an airline that sporadically gave out paper cups of water during a 10-hour flight; and a connecting flight that felt like it was on a shrinking plane because the seats were so squished. But it was considerably cheaper than any other option and got us to where we wanted to go. On our return we simply bought bottled water at duty free, so we wouldn’t dehydrate on the way home and gave thanks for our short genes which make squishing into small seats far more pleasant than for those blessed with height.
When it comes to travelling on a budget, there’s a balance between finding the best deal and still giving yourself the best experience. I thought I did it well, but I’m only scratching the surface when it comes to budget travel. I spoke to three traveler who’ve pretty much perfected the art of travelling on a budget and asked them to share their secrets. Read on and then plan your 2019 travels.
Luci crunches numbers for a living, is a health and fitness enthusiast with a heavy metal edge who shares regular updates and tips on fitness, healthy living and travel on her blog Fit Metalhead and her Instagram @fitmetalhead
Set a savings goal and commit to your trip
Sometimes we need just one push in the right direction to start working and saving towards that dream trip. Whether it’s going buying a ticket to a massive music festival overseas or making the commitment to book flights or accommodation before a certain date, it will motivate you to cut down spending on unnecessary expenses like clothing sales, eating out or that daily coffee habit.
What helps me is to compare whatever I want to buy in that moment to what I COULD have spent it on for my travels e.g. “That dress is amazing but damn that would be a quarter of a flight ticket, or a night’s accommodation in Paris.”
Weigh up your options
The internet is right at your fingertips and once you start planning, you will be faced with information overload that [can be confusing].
For European trips, I have found that planning it by yourself without a travel agent can save an immense amount of money. Plus, you will be able to explore the beauty of each city you’re visiting on your own terms. Nothing ruins the experience like rushing about to find a tour bus about to leave and you haven’t taken in the sites yet.
For Island trips, I always investigate and compare prices should I book directly with the hotel and book flights myself vs what the agent offers. All-inclusive is a must for island trips as their functional currencies for tourist are mostly in USD or Euros. Do not forget to ask the agent for the correct details so you can compare apples with apples.
You will also need to check whether you want to visit your destination in or out of peak season as out of season can also save a lot of cash.
My go-to booking websites
I’ve always used booking.com to book most of my accommodation for Europe. Over the years I’ve done reviews for each place and have managed to work my way up to their “Genius” member level which enables me to book special deals and accommodation with massive discounts. With the rise of Airbnb, you can get away with booking places in your biggest cities for a steal, so shop around.
For flights, I’m a huge fan of Skyscanner and have managed to book flights numerous times to Europe return per person for under R5500 each! This does require some planning and a degree of flexibility around your travel dates but once you see those green marked flights in the app, be sure to book them. African airlines such as Taag and Ethiopian Airlines have upped their games immensely in terms of their service offering so don’t doubt them because they are not the Emirates or Qatar’s of the world.
A huge tip I can give is to NOT search your SAME flight dates to see whether the costs go up and down over a few days. With cookies on your browser, it tracks your activity and it will push the demand for those dates up, and so the prices too. If you are happy to pay the price, book away.
On your trip
Use Public transport as much as possible and walk if the distance is short enough. Exploring a city on foot can be one of the best experiences about travel while immersing yourself in the day to day activities of the locals. Do your research to see if there’s a travel card for a week that will allow you on trains, trams and buses that’s specifically for the locals. In Paris, we got offered a “tourist deal” but it ended up being double what the local public transport card was.
Avoid eating in tourist districts where you will most likely pay a premium just because it’s in that district. You will be surprised to find hidden gems on the outskirts of the cities. When renting self-catering accommodation, you can shop at the local supermarkets and eat some meals at home or prepare snacks for a picnic to be enjoyed at parks and other tourist sites.
My Saving Strategies
Pay off your debt asap
I’m talking about personal loans, credit cards and store credit especially. The interest rates on these short term tools are ridiculously high and the potential of landing up in a debt trap due to this, happens to many younger folks in their 20’s. Always put a portion of your salary towards your debt to pay it off faster, and if you are fortunate enough to receive a bonus over the holidays, use the bulk of it to pay off your debt. If your debt’s managed efficiently, start saving a portion of your salary every month, not only for travel purposes but also for rainy days.
Change up your transport
Fuel is one of the biggest expenses for households these days with our petrol price increasing each month. With that the cost of food and general groceries increase too and as soon as you know it, you have nothing left at the end of the month. With car repayments increasing due to our economy and that interest rate, just keep in mind that the vehicle you drive depreciates over time so never see as car as an “investment”. Rather look for alternatives ways to commute such as public transport or a scooter.
The single biggest life changing decision I made a good 6 years ago, was to start commuting on a scooter. Yes, it takes getting used, yes, it is dangerous at times, but it teaches you focus (I took an advanced driving course when I started riding), saves you a lot of time and of course money. My commute to work and back is 32km every day, my tank of fuel which cost me R70 lasts about a week. Compare that to your average weekly spend on fuel and you will be shocked at the difference. The value this has added to my life has been priceless.
Unsubscribe from store emails
At the start of 2018, I made the decision to unsubscribe from a lot of online websites’ newsletters. These alerts tempt us to spend because items are on sale and it’s hard to resist a good deal. By unsubscribing, I’ve spent less on clothes and items I don’t need (ONE DAY ONLY!) and started saving more towards my bigger goals such as our annual trip overseas and my studies.
Louwrens is a story teller, traveller and amazing photographer. He creates digital content and shares his photography shot in numerous locations on his Instagram @louwlemmer
Be as approachable and friendly to people as possible. You might just score a couch to crash on. Disclaimer do not approach this from a misuse point of angle – always be genuine.
Lose the Stars
You’re on a budget, which means you don’t need any stars. Go for the Airbnb or Bed and Breakfast approach.
Cook for yourself when you can
I know you’re not at home. But take the home-cooked meal approach – you’ll save loads.
Travel for Shorter
Book a shorter trip. If you split your budget over fewer days, you’ll have more cash to spend on an exciting time.
Walk as much as possible. Cutting down on unnecessary Uber/taxi costs will free up more cash while also ensuring a healthy workout.
Don’t buy gifts
You don’t always need to buy gifts. Yes, your loved ones are important. But, if you’re on a budget, a hug and a kiss will have to do.
Leigh van den Berg
Leigh is a freelance writer and editor of the Lifestyle and Beauty Blog, Lipgloss is my Life. She spent nearly 8 months of 2018 travelling through South East Asia which she hilariously documented through her twitter and Instagram accounts @lipglossgirl and @lipglossgirlxoxo
Having spent almost eight months travelling through South East Asia I picked up several budget travel tricks, all which relate to that area.
Choose your season carefully
There’s a huge difference in hotel prices between high and low season. High season is November to March. Obviously, you don’t want to go slap bang in the middle of the low season because it’s very rainy, but if you travel just outside the high season, in October and April, you’ll have decent weather and pay half of what you would for the same hotel during peak tourist time.
Don’t book all your accommodation at once
If you plan on spending a long period of time over there, don’t book all your accommodation upfront. It feels like there are more hotels than there are people over there so you never need to worry about being bed-less for the night.)This way, if you arrive and discover things about your hotel you don’t like, be it an uncomfortable bed or a pool that never gets sun and is nothing like the pictures, then you’re not committed and can move on. You’ll also be in the area, so you can personally vet your new hotel and take advantage of all the brilliant last-minute price drops served up by Booking.com or Agoda.com. I travelled this way, moving to a new spot every week, and it allowed me to experience lots of different areas and enjoy a string of 4-star hotels from as little as R180 a night.
Remove “free breakfast” from your searches
Never let the fact that a hotel offers free breakfast or not be a deciding factor for you. If you tick the ‘free breakfast’ box when searching, you limit your options and the price jump between ‘with breakfast’ and ‘no breakfast’ is often as high as R150. This is madness considering that, in the East, you can get a delish breakfast from any restaurant for R50 or less.
Know the local apps
If you’re in Thailand or Vietnam, download this app called Grab. It’s basically Asian Uber and you might be surprised to learn it’ll cost you more than half of what it would to ride around in tuk tuks or other metre taxis. In Bali, you can use Go-Jek which is essentially the same thing.
Fancy yourself a travel budget whiz? Share your tips in the comments below
Main Image: Zissy Lewin; Profile Images: Luci, Louwrens, Leigh; Graphics: Feige Lewin
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