A large part of budgeting for travel depends on this question: what kind of traveller are you? Are you a traveller that wants to/is willing to “rough it”, or would you prefer to stay in nice hotels and go out for dinner every evening? If you’re the former, budgeting and saving for your trip might not be as necessary before jetting off. Many people are far more fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants than I am and are willing to work at hostels scrubbing toilets for free accommodation. As I’m not quite a vagabond enough traveller for that, I prefer to have more of my trip planned out beforehand. The key to travelling is knowing what your limits are. If you require a nice hotel with at least a 4 star rating, then book it. If you’re happy staying in a shared room at a hostel, go for it. There’s no one right way to travel.
I’ve found that the best way to find cheap flights is to be flexible. This is why I like to plan my trips far in advance because it allows me to be more flexible with times and dates. Just to give you an example, while searching for flights to the States, I hit the flexible option and saw that if I was able to fly out two days earlier than the date I entered, it would save me $500. I know there are times when you aren’t able to adjust dates on your trip by that much, but ticket prices can vary greatly even by the hour.
Time allowing, the best way to find cheap flight prices is to play around with dates and times on several different search engines and compare. Some search engines I like to use are: skyscanner.com, studentuniverse.com (this one is especially good if you’re a current student with a valid student email address or under the age of 25 as they give special discounts for students and youth), flighthub.com and kayak.com. I like to search for flights on all of these sites and compare to find my best option.
Searching for flights via a travel search engine also allows you to compare different airline carriers and their prices. If you notice the cheapest option is an airline carrier you don’t particularly like, chances are you can email or call a different airline that is advertising the same flight and ask them to price match. I know that Jetstar will price match flights as long as the flight you’re price matching is within one hour of the comparable Jetstar flight.
The options are vast when it comes to accommodation. From booking a hotel to finding a place on Airbnb, you have many choices. Personally, I tend to first look at what my hostel options are in the city I’m visiting. I’m not quite sure why hostels have gotten such a bad rep, but there are some really great ones out there! For most of the hostels I booked in Europe, I used either hostelworld.com or hostelbookers.com, which both rate cleanliness of the hostel, atmosphere, helpfulness of staff, etc. If you’re a young traveller, I really see no need to book a hotel. Most hostels have private rooms (if that’s why you think a hotel would be better suited towards your needs) and a really nice private room at a hostel may cost you around $50-60 AUD a night whereas even a dingy hotel room would cost you at least $75 AUD a night.
Airbnb is another great option, especially if you’re travelling with a group of people and are looking for more of an apartment or house vibe rather than a hotel vibe. Airbnb also came in handy for me and my boyfriend when we vacationed in Hawaii because we wanted something more romantic than a hostel but weren’t too keen on how expensive the nicer hotels were. Airbnb has an option for every price point and will suit most needs.
At the end of the day, a good accommodation should meet your cleanliness needs and your security needs (safe neighborhood, a safe for valuables, easy accessibility to transportation, etc) and anything else is just a nice extra!
So obviously there’s a reason you’re on this trip. You’re in Rome to see the Colosseum and eat amazing food or you’re in Paris to drink wine under the Eiffel Tower. Whatever it may be, planning for it allows you to see more of the city you’re in and helps to save money. I personally swear by the guide books written by Rick Steves. Following Rick Steves’ advice for Rome, I was able to see Palatine Hill, the Colosseum, Vatican City (which also included hints on how to access a short cut to St. Peter’s Basilica so that you didn’t have to wait in another line to re-access entry) and eat gelato at one of Rome’s most historical gelato joints all before 2:30 pm! And I wasn’t even rushed! If I had tried to navigate all of that by myself, I have no doubt I would have struggled to fit all of that in one day. I also probably would have made the mistake of paying for a ticket at the Colosseum and then for a ticket at Palatine Hill when there’s actually an option to buy a cheaper ticket that allows you access to both sights.
My point being that there’s a reason you’ve planned this trip and you’re going to get the most out of it, and save the most money, by being prepared. Maybe barhopping is more of your thing rather than sightseeing, but even barhopping can be well planned so that it leads you to the best happy hours and the best promotions happening that night in the city! (I will admit that a well planned barhopping trip seems to unravel slightly more with each beer, but that’s part of the fun!)
Food and Bev
Yes, there’s even a way to make this cheaper. While it’s my personal opinion that you should try the food in every city you visit because food and drinks say so much about that culture, I understand that your limited money can’t always go towards lavish meals and cocktails. My advice? If you have limited funds, try and limit your meals at a restaurant to one a day (or none when possible). While I was travelling, I would typically buy a baguette and some lunch meat/cheese to get me through the day and would eat at restaurants rather sparingly. A few hostels I stayed at also offered homemade dinners and you would only have to pay an extra 2 or 3 euros to join in.
This one is important. Always keep emergency cash on you because you never know what can happen. My bank once disabled my card while I was in Paris even though they knew I was travelling to Paris and I was at the mercy of the timezone (I had to wait several hours before my bank was even open and could be contacted) and international calling. I luckily had friends that were able to spot me money until my card worked again, but you won’t always be that fortunate.
At times, booking and planning a trip can seem overwhelming. I’m currently booking a trip to the States where I’m trying to fit a lot into the 3 weeks I’m there and I feel like I think of new stuff I need to take care of every day. Flights, rental car, accommodation, pre-purchasing tickets for events I know I want to attend, etc. It seems never ending. I do know, though, that the reward will hopefully be a stress-free trip because I’m doing all the stressing and budgeting now! Trips and vacations are meant to be a little getaway from day-to-day life, so make the most out of them and have fun! I hope these tips have helped and if you have any more suggestions let us know!