You’d love to travel more, but you don’t have enough money! That was my situation fresh out of university with $198 in my bank account and $28,000 in student loans. But I still managed to travel – for 2 1/2 years to be exact! Here’s how:
Admittedly, I haven’t been in university for quite some time, but for the last 20 years or so, I’ve been accumulating and testing tips that allow me to travel more, while paying less.
Here are the winners that have stayed with me for years that allow me to travel more for less money:
- Reconsider what you really want from a vacation. Maybe you really want to go to Australia. Now Australia, while lovely, is not exactly the cheapest destination, especially if you consider the cost of airfare. Ask yourself why you really want to go to Australia. Is it for the beaches, or because you want to learn how to surf? If so, then perhaps you can find a cheaper destination that has nice beaches and great waves – like Costa Rica. Your money will last much longer in Costa Rica and I’d bet you could very easily surf in Costa Rica for at least 3-4 times as long as you could in Australia, allowing you to travel more for the same price or less. Too often, what we think we want, is not what we really want.
- Be flexible when you fly. I love Skyscanner‘s Find Cheapest Month and Whole Month search feature. Take a look at how much a flight from Munich, Germany to Calgary, Canada costs in July – anywhere between $520 and $930. That’s a difference of $410, just for a one-way flight! You can save hundreds of dollars by being flexible when you fly.
- Consider going during the week, instead of on a weekend. This can make a huge difference for saving on hotels. For example, I’ve been doing research for my upcoming summer vacation in Banff, Canada. On Booking.com, the Buffalo Mountain Lodge, costs €316 from Friday to Saturday (July 8th-9th), but €270 from Monday to Tuesday (July 10th – 11th). That’s a savings of €46 just for one night!
- Consider alternative accommodation. Here’s where the savings can really add up! Let’s go back to our example of Banff, an expensive summer destination in the Canadian Rockies. You can book a cabin in the town of Canmore, just a 20-minute drive away, AND with a mountain view for €98! That’s a saving of €172 off the cheapest option for the Buffalo Mountain Lodge. Often, just staying slightly outside of your target area can result in huge savings.
You can often save even more by staying in an Airbnb property, especially if you’re willing to just book a bedroom, and don’t mind sharing the rest of the place with a host. I found one private room in a shared apartment directly in Banff for €59! Alternatively, or at the same time, you can consider renting out your place on AirBnB while you’re on vacation, helping to offset your costs and enabling you to travel more!
- Don’t skimp on travel insurance, but don’t pay a fortune either. The last time I didn’t have travel insurance, I ended up paying over $2500 for a hospital visit in Bangkok. That was at a time when I was an intern at the Thai-Canadian Chamber of Commerce and made $12,000 a year! It was a very expensive lesson I learned early on in my travels, and it’s a mistake that I’ve never repeated. Kanetix.ca, is a great site that lets you compare insurance from different providers, and could result in up to 66% savings!
- Check out the days when museums are discounted and or free. Despite London being an expensive city, many of its museums are free all the time. In Munich, where I live, many museums only cost €1 admission on Sundays, saving over €5 on each admission ticket, than if you went on a different day!
- Consider a City Tourist Card. You’ll find these in many major cities around the world on the tourism page for that city. For a fee you’ll receive either free entrance or a discount at major tourist attractions and free public transportation. They’re often a good deal and can you save you a lot of money, but you need to do your research first. It’s also important to be realistic about which of the free/reduced fee attractions you’ll actually visit.
- Use a free or cheap walking tour app instead of a guided tour. Many cities have free or very reasonably priced walking tour apps. In addition to saving you money, you’re free to explore on your own, and if you’re not interested in a particular attraction, you can simply bypass it. I often find these preferable to large guided group tours of 20+ tourists where it’s difficult to hear the guide. This can easily save you over $10 per person.
- Travel Slightly Off Season. Now, I’m not suggesting that you visit Europe in the dead of winter, although the Christmas markets are lovely, but traveling slightly off season can can save you hundreds of dollars on flights and hotels. In addition, it’s often a much more pleasant experience. Many travellers visit Europe in August. That’s the worst possible time in my opinion.That’s when many Europeans take vacation, especially Italians and the French. As a result, many small mom and pop stores are shut down in August, and these are often some of the most charming places, which tourists end up missing out on. Not only that, but everything is so busy. Lines to popular attractions can easily be several hours. I think Europe is most beautiful in either spring, April through June or in fall, September and October. You’ll still benefit from the hopefully nice weather, but flights and hotels will be a LOT cheaper. Depending on your vacation, travelling slightly off season could easily save you $1000 per person!
- Travel longer by travelling less. You can save a ton of money by staying in one place. I’m not suggesting that you stay home, but by staying in one place, you may easily be able to extend your stay by several months or even by several years. One way to do so is by volunteering. In exchange for your labour, many places will give you free room and board and 1-2 days off a week to explore. helpStay is one site that lists a lot of worldwide opportunities, including helping out a camel farm in Australia! WWOOFing is another great opportunity in which you will work on an organic farm in exchange for room and board.You may even be able to extend your stay to a couple of years as I did by teaching English as a Second Language, first in S. Korea, then in Thailand, followed by an internship in Bangkok. Other alternatives could include working on a cruise ship, at a ski resort, becoming a dive instructor, or as an Au pair.
Alternatively, you could start your own location independence business and choose a low cost place to base yourself for a few months or years at a time, such as Chiang Mai, a popular destination with digital nomads. As a travel blogger, I can work from anywhere, but choose to make Munich my base. After living here for six years, I’m still grateful that I’ve been able to find a way to travel more without the high costs of a vacation!
I’d love to hear what your tips are for travelling more for less money! Let me know in the comments below!