We all have moments of daydreaming about our escape, the tropical beaches, amazing food and exciting adventures and then you wake up…the reality sets in and the realization that money is needed to fulfill this dream hits hard. To travel on a budget is a daunting thing to many people, and unfortunately can prevent the dream from becoming a reality. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Budget travel is a broad idea. The majority of us travel with a budget in mind, sure these budget’s can range massively but there are steps you can take to make sure you stick within your budget.
As the title suggests, before even getting to the tips, you need to budget. Why budget? Because you need to understand how much money you have to spend. Having a number to work will allow you to align where you want to go and for how long. Researching the cost of living in these destinations will help. Thinking about travel between places will show you that taking the 12 hour coach is 80% cheaper than the one hour flight. Think about using a budget calculator to help figure out these numbers.
The key to budget travel is being prepared! Research before you travel will minimize the amount of financial surprises.
One of our favourite trips started in Europe, budget blowing Europe! We managed to travel around on less than 150GBP a day including travel, accommodation, food and excursions.
How did we do it? If you’re looking for the top tips for travelling on a budget, the secrets to budget travel or how to save money when you’re travelling, then you’re in the right place. I love a good bargain, especially when it comes to saving money when travelling!
Here are our tips and strategies for budget travel.
Planning your budget travel
What do you want from your travel experience?
Try new restaurants, wine, A/C rooms, private tours, a bed, tickets to all the big sites, off the beaten path etc.
Know where you are will to spend the money and where you can save. This will be different for every family. If you are looking to save money, what area can you be flexible with?
The best budget family travel starts before you have book. When the idea is just becoming to form is the perfect point to start your research.
Generally, we start with inspiration, through travel guides, family travel blogs and family accounts on Instagram (did I mention we have a very good inspirational family travel account?).
This is the tricky bit. It takes quite a lot of time and can seem overwhelming with the amount of choices you can make, but it will save you lots of money! Planning the journey, can be part be part of the fun, right?
Consider your destinations
Where you decide to go will have a big impact on how much you will spend. Head to a destination with a low cost of living to keep your expenditure down. Although the idea of staying in your country, driving and camping seems like it would be cheaper, sometimes international travel will actually work out better for your budget. We used Budget your trip to help figure this out
Spend more time in the cheap places and less in the expensive. Here is a list of the cheapest destinations to travel to in 2023 from Rough Guides
- 1. Thailand
- 2. South Africa
- 3. Vietnam
- 4. Uruguay
- 5. Cuba
- 6. Prague, Czech Republic
- 7. Greece
- 8. Guatemala
- 9. Bulgaria
- 10. India
It’s all about the shoulders
Well, the shoulder season. Travelling outside of peak season offers several advantages; more options, more availability and most importantly, more affordability. Peak season means high demand for flights, accommodation and trips and unfortunately a lot of the peak season will fall in the school holidays! Avoid high season and big festivals and events. Make sure you check out the weather for your destination and pack for it We love the maps from Culture Trip which visually show the peak and off peak times to visit different destinations around the world.
Keep things flexible
Flexibility is king here. There are many tips available for finding the best deal.
Here are some recommended sources to find the flights. Shop around to make sure you find the best bargains.
FULL BLOG POST HERE Is this the secret to the budget flight finder- Skyscanner
Works with airlines directly and provides a variety of options for booking the flight. They have a month calendar view so you see which dates are cheaper. You can also search departure and arrival airport by country which again will show the cheapest city to fly in and out of. Finally a search everywhere feature which will find the flights to any destination.
Check out our full Kiwi.com Blog posts here
This is the most flexible flight search engine we have found. Your search can list a variety of countries or even areas of the world. You can choose anytime travel, specific dates or even a date range. It’s fun to play around with using the different filters and map features. They also can provide hacker routes to find the cheapest way to travel to a destination.
Similar features to the others although it does create a lovely little price graph to show cheaper dates and a variety of trip lengths. Google doesn’t seem to carry a lot of the budget airlines so rarely gets the best price for us.
We use a variety of tools when looking for flights but our go to is Skyscanner. See our post on our technique using Skyscanner but things to consider are;
Day of flying
Day of booking
Using a VPN when searching
Signing up for price drop alerts It’s smart to track fares prior to purchasing. The sites mentioned above can help you identify the perfect time to buy, usually two to three months in advance of your trip.
Budget airlines run throughout Europe and Asia each one is trying to take all your money. Don’t let them. Carry on luggage only, make sure you check in online, and don’t book seats together (you can check where you will be ‘randomly placed’ when you check in online and make a decision based on that).
Another tip is to make sure you work out and so that bag that weighs 5kg over the allowance looks as light as a feather! Here is our travel luggage. We have two 40kg Osprey Bags bags for the adults plus two day bags of 23kg. Indi carries 18kg and Beau has a 15kg bag. All these bags are carry on size which most airlines allow for free. Budget airlines now seem to have added a fee for the carry on and some will charge you your soul…no names mentioned.
Also, I HATE packing. Absolutely despise it! I can gather, I can sort but the actual placing into a bag drives me crazy. The benefit of travelling light is that there are not as many things to place into the bag, a small glimmer of hope for me. That’s why I gather the stuff and Jak packs the bags. Teamwork makes the dream work!
Check Reviews! Are they pretty consistent? Recent? Relevant? If everything sounds good bar that one review that wasn’t happy with the shower curtain (we have all read those kind of reviews) then think about how much that shower curtain will impact your trip.
We are also not huge fans of a hotel room. There is nothing worse than the kids falling asleep at 8pm and the adults hanging out in the bathroom whispering to not wake them. Apartments work best for our family, having the extra space is essential for all our sanity. It also, usually’ allows more flexibility to cook for ourselves. We use Booking.com primarily and AirBnB (check additional fees) and have had good experiences with both.
TrustedHousesitters is way to secure free accommodation. Paying a yearly membership fee, you are able to apply for housesits all over the world. If you have a plan in mind, it can sometimes be tricky to line up sits but if you are flexible you can work your trip around the stays. You will be volunteering to watch someone’s house, pets, and/or plants in exchange for a free stay.
Some other sites which we haven’t used are Mind My House and HouseCarers. You may need to pay an annual fee to be able to contact the homeowners but as long as you do a sit, the likely hood is it would be cheaper than accommodation.
We volunteered in Italy in 2014 for three weeks, staying with a local family ad working and helping on their farm. Indi was 18 months old for this trip and we had a great experience being a part of the families day to day life. There are thousands of opportunities all over the globe. Finding stays for a family is a little trickier but they do exist.
Alternatively there is Worldpackers which allows you to travel in exchange for your skills. It markets itself as being the safest community for finding volunteer travel opportunities.
Alternatively, there is an option to save on accommodation costs if there is a chance to travel overnight. Many long trains with have a sleeper route as will some of the longer coach route in South East Asia and South America.
Location, location, location
Travel like a local
Use local transport, the exception here is airport transport. It can actually work out cheaper to get a taxi for four people rather than the airport bus, especially when using Uber or Bolt. Our transfer to the airport in Croatia was 190 Kuna and the bus would have cost 65 Kuna each (no discount for kids) with a walk to the bus stop and set times to leave. It comes down to a bit of research again.
Check out local services such as Bolt, uber and Grab for local taxi services. Install the apps before you go. I sometimes use it just to compare the cost of a particular route. Taking local transport at a destination will always be cheaper!
In Asia we use 12GO for our transport to get from point A to point B trouble-free and with a high-quality service.
Getting off the beaten path, away from the tourist destinations can also reduce the costs.
Food and Drink
Outside of Asia, feeding yourselves at home will be cheaper. Shopping at local markets and cooking local style food will keep your costs down.
Our non-negotiable are tea and coffee. Teabags are on the essential list and Jak has an Aeropress. He has started a mission to find beans in each country.
If we do eat out, it’s usually grabbing a take out. Occasionally we will book a hotel with free breakfast, this can sometimes cover lunch too and just a snack is needed. We carry water bottles and try and fill up from home before we head out.
Finding the local food markets is an amazing experience. I highly recommend taking a trip for the sensory experience if nothing else. The hustle and bustle of a busy food market is exciting and the vast array of local delicacies will entice even the most cautious of foodies.
In all the excitement you realise you need a new bag, hat, jacket, camera etc…BUT do you? As mentioned before, anything you need, you can pick up on your travels. You will have more of a sense of what you need while travelling. Everything you buy, you need to carry.
That’s not to say deprive yourself. You don’t want to regret walking away from something but approaching this with this mindset ensures nothing is done on impulse.
Check out our packing list to get some tips.
A key mindset is to switch experiences for things!
Free things to do
Find all the free activities to do through simple searches and pin them on your google map. Search for museums, parks and local events for free ways to spend your days. Most museums in London are free to visit and has the most amazing parks. Lots of cities will have a free walking tour like the Harry Potter walking tour in Edinburgh. check out the local museums to see if they have a free entry day. Many do. We do a lot of walking around new places and will always stumble upon one of these pinned places which can add a nice detour to the day. We always manage to find the car garage areas, not sure why, but if we need new spark plugs our internal navigational will send us that way!
ATMs and Money
Be smart, select the right way to access your money. Before travelling look into specialised cards to use when you travel. This might be an online account with great rates or cashback on spending or a card which gives free international cash withdrawals. There are great credit card offers (especially in the US) which can reduce your travel expenses hugely.
Having online access to your accounts is a great visual reminder of your spending. It is the online version of an envelope of cash.
“Would you like to pay in your currency or the local currency?”
Always go local. If you choose to convert, the retailer does the currency conversion – but rates can often be poor compared with letting your card issuer do it.
Check your regular cards and find out what it charges before you go, if needed, find a cheaper alternative, so you’re armed with the cheapest way to spend before you set off.
Pick up a local sim card
Roaming using data can be crazy expensive. You can usually pick up a local sim with a data package for a much lower price. Having a local number makes contacting local properties and services much easier.
The flexibility and convenience of eSIMs allow for seamless connectivity across multiple destinations. We could have enjoyed instant activation upon landing, saving precious time and eliminating the hassle of searching for local SIM vendors.
One crucial advantage of eSIMs that we missed out on was the ability to keep our original phone number. Many online services and platforms rely on phone number verification, and constantly changing our number with each new SIM card caused difficulties in accessing these services. With a virtual SIM card, we could have retained our original phone number, ensuring seamless access to important verifications, messaging apps, and other services that require phone number authentication.
Airalo is a super popular option and one that we have tried and liked.
The faster you travel the more money you spend. Spending longer in one destination will minimize transport costs, leaves you more options for negotiating a longer stay at the accommodation and gives you the opportunity to relax and enjoy where you are.
It also means you don’t need to repack the bag as much which is always a huge bonus. Our kids enjoy slower travel, they settle into a routine with a destination and like the familiarity of the local shop, or the tuk tuk driver that always says hello.
The list of tips for budget travel could go on and on but we think we covered the most important. These are some of the things we do to keep our costs down. What do you use to keep your costs down when travelling?
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