These thirty-something tourists have been to: 5 continents, 37 countries, 80 cities and counting. If you’ve been wondering how to afford travel, read on. We are sharing some of the things we do to keep our travel costs low and help us travel more often. So, you too can do the same.
1. TRAVEL OFF-SEASON
This earns the top spot on this list because this is honestly one of the best ways to actually afford a trip. A European getaway in the dead of winter? Sign me up! Truth is that winter is actually my favorite time to travel. Flights and hotels are cheaper and tourist attractions are much less crowded. I once hiked a historic fortress in Eastern Europe and had to share the entire site with 4 other people. It’s like having your own private tour but without the private tour price tag. I get that off-season travel may not give you the best weather, and this can be off-putting for some people. But there are plenty of destinations around the world that are beautiful all-year-round. Even in winter.
2. FIND OUT IF BUDGET AIRLINES FLY TO YOUR AIRPORT
If you’ve been searching for ways on how to afford travel, budget airlines can be your friend. They’re big in Europe and a lot of these companies have added more and more routes to the US over the years.
Budget airlines are no-frills airlines that flies you from point A to point B, no mas.
That means you have to pay extra for everything else. Inflight meals?─extra. But, who cares? A lot of airline food (for the most part) are lousy anyhow.
Pack up some subs and splurge that savings on a nice meal by the Seine later.
Level, Norwegian Airlines, West Jet, French Bee are some budget airlines that I’ve used and where I scored some of my cheapest flights to Europe.
3. TRAVEL LIGHT
I don’t do check-in luggage. Period. It doesn’t matter if I’m traveling for one week or one month.
The affordable prices offered by budget airlines (see tip # 2) comes with a caveat: no check-in luggage. If you do need to check-in some luggage you will start to rack up fees, which may just cancel out your initial savings when choosing a budget airline.
Packing light gives you the flexibility and mobility to hop on and off city buses, metro stations and regional trains without constraint. This is particularly helpful when country-hopping in Europe and if you’re planning on covering as many cities as possible.
Also note that regional trains in Europe have limited luggage overhead space. Lugging a heavy suitcase on the cobbled and hilly streets of Lisbon? No bueno. I did this mistake on my first Euro trip and maybe a few times after that. Overpacking is such a hard habit to break, but I did it. And traveling, especially for long-term, has been so much smoother.
4. STAY IN HOSTELS
You want to know how to afford travel? Stay in hostels. Hostels offer shared rooms (bunk bed style) for the fraction of the cost of a regular hotel. Which will enable you to travel cheaply and for longer. Depending on the type of room and the price point, you could be sharing the room with 2 – 8 people (or more).
When you travel off-season though, a lot of these beds will remain empty and if you are particularly lucky you might just end up with the entire room to yourself; saving you lots of money in the process. Hostels are also a great way to meet people specially if you are traveling solo. I’ve met a bunch of great people staying in hostels.
As a thirty-something tourist though, I like my privacy, so I rarely stay in hostels anymore. But every now and then I still do, if only to meet other like-minded travelers. Not sure if staying in a hostel is right for you? Check out this great post by Nomadic Matt on why he prefers to stay in hostels.
5. DITCH THE SOUVENIRS
Or at least keep it to a minimum. Buying souvenirs for every person and family member can be a money pit. And may even get you to exceed your baggage limit if you’re not careful.
The day I adopted the “no check-in luggage rule,” was the day I stopped buying souvenirs for myself or anyone else.
If my friends or family wants to know what it’s like in Egypt, giving them a miniature marble pyramid or a small piece of papyrus with their Egyptian name on it will simply not do. They have to go there and see Egypt’s marvels for themselves. But that’s just me. And I’ve been able to keep my travel cost low that way.
People always tell me they can’t go on a trip because its expensive, but a lot of times it’s the needless spending that makes a trip expensive. Must you really buy all of your family, friends, neighbors (including their dog) souvenirs? No wonder it gets expensive.
6. EAT WHERE THE LOCALS EAT
Venture away from the tourist crowd and find out where the locals eat.
Restaurants around touristy places will have overpriced menus.
It just comes with the prime location. Walk a few blocks away to where the locals hang out.
Don’t write off holes-in-wall type —those are sometimes the best places to eat. This is true whether you are traveling in another country or in your hometown.
7. SIGN UP FOR TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS
I’m only going to advise this if you are particularly savvy with credit card use. When you use your debit card abroad, every single transaction that you make will incur “International Transaction Fee.” As the name implies, this fee is charged by your bank for every purchase done overseas. Booked a hotel in Paris? That will incur a fee. Ate at a fancy restaurant by the Louvre? —fee. What about that € 3 latte you purchased while waiting for your flight out of Charles de Gaulle? Yup, that too.
This counts for every transaction done on foreign soil. The higher your purchase price, the higher the fee. Travel credit cards wave this fee. That’s one of its perks. Now let’s talk about free mileage. Using your travel credit card on regular purchases also means accumulating travel miles which you can then use to get free flights.
8. BOOK A HOTEL RIGHT BY THE CITY CENTER
Whenever I’m in Europe, I try to book as close to the historic city center as much as possible where most of the city’s historic sites and attractions will be a short walk from there. Saving me time and money on transportation.
Now, of course, this is not always the case in every city and country. A fair bit of warning: A lot of the hotels by the city center are historic buildings (read: old) and being right by where all the action, tends to be noisy, even late into the night. Take this into consideration when booking a hotel close to the city’s center.
Looking for fun and affordable places to travel to? Check out my favorite budget-friendly destinations in Europe
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