As Anthony Bourdain once said, “If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.”
Travel isn’t solely for the rich, the honeymooners, the National Geographic photographers or the aviation workers. It’s for everyone. Including you.
We all seem to know someone who is constantly traveling the world and stirs up the allusive conversation and intrigue over one thing: finances. Statistically across the board, the number one obstacle holding people back from traveling is money. Traveling does not have to cost a small fortune if you don’t want to. In fact, sometimes it can be cheaper than our daily cost of living at home. The following is a quick guide to everything I’ve learned about budget travel from my years navigating the world in my early twenties.
Choose your destination wisely.
Location, location, location. This brings us back to the statement: Traveling does not have to cost a small fortune if you don’t want it to be. When researching your future travel destinations, it’s important to keep the following in mind if you’re on a tighter budget:
1. Currency conversion.
It is important to look up the exchange rate between your country and the country you want to visit. For example: The United States vs Thailand. USD $1 is worth 32 Thai Baht.
2. Cost of living.
While the currency conversion might work in your favor, you’ll still need to keep in mind the cost of living in a country. Countries like Sweden or Switzerland will have significantly higher average prices for things like gas and food. It’s a good idea to look up the cost of living in the country you’re planning to visit so you can budget according to its prices and not that of your own country.
3. Walkability and transportation system.
Another way to cut costs is on your transportation expenses. Is this a country you can easily walk around? Does it have an affordable transportation system? Will you need to rent a car or Uber everywhere?
It’s essential to pick a destination where your money can last longer while traveling on a budget. Ten or twenty dollars can last significantly longer in a country found in Eastern Europe or Southeast Asia versus on holiday in Dubai or Stockholm. Being smart and realistic about where you choose to visit can help you gain more time and experiences while saving money all at once.
Cut down flight expenses.
The cost of airfare is arguably the most expensive part of any travel journey. Optimizing websites and resources that help you find cheaper flights can be extremely helpful while choosing an airline. Websites like Skyscanner or Hopper (app) can help you find the cheapest flight for your journey. Click here for a detailed explanation on how to best use these websites.
Finding a cheaper flight option will sometimes mean giving up other luxuries, including: free checked bags, or meals onboard. Packing your belongings into a carryon bag can help you save costs on baggage fees. Most airlines will allow one checked bag and one personal item free of charge. It’s best to utilize this perk and manipulate how you pack to fit all of your belongings. Here are a few tips to help you with packing:
- Wearing your heaviest clothes on the plane: boots, jackets, sweaters, etc.
- Bringing a versatile closet. Use items you can wear with multiple outfits and mix-match throughout your trip. (Be mindful of liquid sizes. Since you won’t be checking a bag, all of your items will need to be under 3.4 oz. It’s best to keep all of your liquids together in a plastic bag for easy access at TSA in certain locations.)
- Roll your clothes to optimize space.
- Bring a few snacks in your handheld bag for long waits and flights without free food options.
Another large travel expensive is your accommodation choice. Spending money on a luxurious 5-star hotel is not essential to having a wonderful time on your holiday.
Hostels can be a great way to save money and make new friends from around the world. Lots of hostels tend to put on events for travelers, including: free tours, weekly free (or heavily discounted) activities around the city, and most will provide a free breakfast. You can choose between dormitory-style (single gender or all gender options) or private rooms.
You can also find reasonable and local options through AirBnB. If you’re flexible in your travel plans, waiting until last minute to book accommodation can be a great way to secure a last-minute price reduction. Companies or renters will become desperate to book out their rooms and begin to offer significant discounts.
Another way to save on housing costs all together is booking overnight flights or buses while you are traveling through multiple cities and countries. This can be a great way to cut costs while also gaining more time to travel.
Take advantage of free activities.
With a quick Google search of “Free Things to Do In…” you can easily make a list of activities wherever you visit. Museums, parks and cultural events can be a great way to learn about a country’s history and discover new areas. Some destinations will allow free entry for visitors of a certain age or on certain days of the week.
For example: Paris will allow any EU citizen under 26 into their national museums and monuments free of charge.
Traveling should be a way for us to learn about other cultures, try new foods, meet incredible people from around the world and to expand our own world view. Not only will this guide help you travel longer but it can also help you experience a more local way of traveling while immersing yourself into the way of life of the country you’ve chosen to explore.