Budget travel

Budget travel: 10 tips for budget holidays

Many of us want, even need to travel. Our curiosity, our need to learn, our need to escape and discover push us to sometimes look elsewhere, where people are different, where it’s hotter or colder, where the streets smell of spices or dried fish, where the lights are golden or blue. We want to know what exists on our planet, how others think and what they eat.
But travelling has a cost, even if it’s a necessity. In this article, I’d like to give you a few tips for a budget travel. These tips are based on my own experience. You will certainly find other ideas and good deals on the Internet, so it’s up to you to make your own decisions.

The main expenses

Before I give you my 10 tips for budget travel, let’s talk about the main expenses when travelling. This list will give you an idea of which items of expenditure to tackle in order to save money.

  • Plane, boat or train tickets: this is a major item of expenditure, so the choice of means of transport and company is important.
  • Accommodation: there are many different types of accommodation, which we’ll look at in this article.
  • Meals: potentially one of the smallest budgets of your trip, as long as you do your homework beforehand.
  • Transport: this includes transport before (e.g. to the airport), during and after the trip.
  • Car hire: this is often (but not always) the most flexible and least expensive way of getting around during a trip.
  • Cafés and snacks: a small budget, but one you should bear in mind. In some countries, a coffee costs up to 5 $.
  • Souvenirs and gifts: a small souvenir, gifts for friends and family, these small expenses should not be neglected.
  • The unexpected: it’s rare to have a trip without the unexpected, it’s all part of the game, so you need to set aside a small budget just in case…

10 tips for budget travel

1- Budget travel starts with good preparation

The more you prepare for your trip, the less likely you are to encounter unforeseen circumstances. And during a trip, the unexpected often means extra expenses!

Preparing a trip means finding out about the tourist season and the off-season, the busiest areas and those where tourists are absent, the cost of living, accommodation, transport… in short, having all the keys in hand to decide where, when and how to go.

For most destinations, airfares vary according to the season. So don’t hesitate to take a look at the fares month by month to see how they fluctuate.

Another effective way of preparing a trip and saving costs is to browse discussion forums. The forums are full of questions that others have asked before you, and the answers will be useful to you. You can also write to travellers, particularly on Instagram, to ask them questions. The aim of this time is to learn from other travellers experiences to avoid making the same mistakes.

Finally, once you’ve made your choice of destination and period, don’t hesitate to book your plane ticket well in advance – you’re sure to save a few dozen or even a few hundred dollars.

2- Bivouac

Granted, bivouacking isn’t the most comfortable accommodation option. But you won’t find cheaper! If you value your comfort, then you can move on to the next tip. Otherwise, let’s talk about backpacking!

To bivouac, you’ll need three things: a tent, an inflatable mattress and a sleeping bag. If you want to be even more economical, you can take a burner and a cooking pot with you. This way of travelling is rootsy, but you’ll have the advantage of being self-sufficient and considerably reducing accommodation and meal costs.

However, even when bivouacking, you need to find out about the rules in force in the country you are visiting. For example, in Scotland you can bivouac anywhere, whereas in Switzerland or Iceland there are places reserved for bivouacs. These places generally charge a fee, in exchange for showers, toilets and a cooking area.

Finally, when we talk about bivouacs, we often think of nature, mountains, etc. But it is perfectly possible to bivouac in the city. Major cities such as Berlin and Stockholm offer campsites for travellers who want to pitch their tents. If comfort is not a priority for you, then don’t hesitate to try your hand at bivouacking!

3- Hitchhiking

Some countries are better suited to hitchhiking than others. Personally, I did a lot of hitchhiking in Scandinavia and the waiting times were always very short (around 15 minutes). It was also a great way for me to meet the locals.
On the other hand, in the countries of southern Europe, including France, I’ve always had trouble being picked up hitchhiking. People generally don’t stop, mainly out of mistrust. If you’ve tried hitchhiking in the USA or the UK, please feel free to comment on this article and tell us how it went for you.
Let’s talk about safety. Don’t get into a car if you don’t feel safe. Some women only hitchhike with women, which is a good way of avoiding taking risks.

Hitchhiking is a way of getting from A to B, but it’s not the only way! For example, I remember hitchhiking across the fjords of northern Iceland, without really knowing where I was going or when I was going to get out of the car. I simply asked for a lift when I was interested in the place.

On the other hand, travelling by hitchhiking requires flexibility. You’ll lose time waiting, possibly getting off at the wrong place, finishing on foot, etc. If your journey is short and you want to visit as many places as possible, then hiring a car or taking the train will make more sense.
If you plan to travel far and wide, some countries offer monthly season tickets, which can be cheaper than individual tickets.

4- Exchanging houses or flats

Generally speaking, the biggest cost of a trip is accommodation. So this is an area that should be tackled as a priority. If you have a house or flat, then an effective way of doing this that suits everyone is to exchange it!

Some websites, such as Home Exchange, put people in touch with each other who want to swap their home for the duration of a trip. The principle is simple: you describe your accommodation with photos, and decide when you want to go on holiday. Then the website lets you filter by compatible locations and periods to find accommodation and offer yours.

However, this system comes at a price (around $220/year). But this cost will pay for itself as soon as you make your first exchange.

5- Budget travel means travelling out of season

Prices can double from one season to the next. This applies not only to plane tickets, but also to the cost of living and activities in the country you are planning to visit. Travelling out of season is surely the easiest way to budget travel.

To find out the tourist season for a country or city, the easiest way is to take a look at the annual airfares. The off-peak season is when tickets are cheapest. Generally speaking, costs are higher in summer and lower from autumn onwards.

Travelling out of season is not just a question of price. It’s much more pleasant to visit a place without having to wait in endless queues. You can enjoy the cities and the countryside in complete peace and quiet.
Finally, during the off-peak season, the locals are more accessible and less ‘annoyed’ by tourists. So you’ll have more opportunities to meet interesting people.

6- Wwoofing with Workaway

This is certainly the cheapest way to discover a new place, because it’s practically free! You do, however, have to give up your time. Workaway is a website that brings together people who need help and people who want to help.  In exchange for your help, you will be provided with accommodation, food and laundry. So you spend nothing on the spot!

On Workaway site, you’ll find people looking for help with childcare, farm work or eco-construction. There are also lots of unusual requests, so the trick is to find what you’re looking for.

Working hours during the week are limited to 4 or 5 hours a day, and you are free the rest of the time and at weekends, but everything is negotiable. You need to come to an agreement with your hosts in advance to avoid any unpleasant surprises or conflicts.

If I can give you some advice, list your skills and contact the hosts to offer them your services regardless of what they ask for. For example, I’ve been hosted for over a month in exchange for photos. My hosts were happy to host a photographer, even though their initial request was for work on the farm.

Finally, I can’t think of a better way to quickly integrate a social circle in a new country. If you’re interested in the culture of the people and their way of life, then I can highly recommend this solution.

7- Meet the locals

Being sociable is a considerable asset when travelling. Meeting people is the best way to get yourself invited, on the one hand, and to get off the tourist trail, on the other.

By meeting people on the spot, you can really get to know and understand the local culture and way of life, go out to interesting places, reduce accommodation costs if your friends start inviting you to their homes – in short, there are nothing but good reasons to socialise when travelling.

You should be aware that tourist circuits are designed to make travellers pay as much as possible. Everything is potentially chargeable, whereas this is not the case for locals. In other words, socialising means travelling cheaply!

8- Avoid tourist areas

As I explained earlier, the more tourist areas you visit, the higher the prices will be – there’s no escaping this logic. So, as far as possible, you should avoid places that are too busy with tourists.

Of course, if you’re travelling to Rome or Istanbul, you’ll find it hard to avoid them, unless you leave these cities for accommodation and come during the day for sightseeing.

To give you an idea, this map of the world shows the most popular tourist areas:

Map of overtourism in the world
Map of overtourism in the world

Travelling outside tourist areas is a way of travelling. Personally, I absolutely avoid these areas. Instead, I look for places that have a soul, where you can discover the local way of life and where you can enjoy peace and quiet. You generally learn a lot in these places, whereas tourist areas are just there to make you spend money.

9- Travelling in a group

Travelling in a group means budget travel. Pooling travel costs such as car hire or accommodation can result in considerable savings. A small group of 4 or 5 people is ideal: everyone gets into one car and you can look for a house or flat to rent and share.

But there are other advantages to travelling in a group. Group travel means solidarity! If one person in the group has an equipment problem, for example, the others will be able to help. The same applies when you’re travelling through a high-risk area. You’ll always feel safer in a group.

10- Last-minute holidays

One way for budget travel is to keep an eye out for good deals and last-minute offers. Generally speaking, these kinds of offers are all-inclusive, or at least include flights and accommodation. But there’s nothing to stop you taking advantage of these offers and adapting them to your way of travelling.
That’s where email alerts come in! Don’t forget to unsubscribe as soon as you’ve found what you’re looking for, so you don’t end up being inundated with emails afterwards.

This is not really our way of travelling, but it’s still an effective way of reducing your travel budget.

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