Who wouldn’t want to travel full-time? We know we would. That said, part-time travel has its perks. Thanks to our day jobs, we get to enjoy the mid-range traveller life which is generally budget-conscious but with the occasional splurge. But in order to be able to travel frequently, we do save money in many ways. Both in our every-day lives and during our travels. Do you want to know how to afford to travel more frequently too? Here’s our ultimate guide with all the money saving tips you will ever need to know.
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Learning how to afford to travel means adopting the right mindset
Before elaborating on the practical ways in which one can save money for travel, we feel the need to break (or at least try to break) the omnipresent, everlasting and utterly obnoxious stereotype that travel is expensive and those who travel have loads of money in their pockets and not a single other worry in their heads. How on earth can you afford to travel so often? is the commonest question we get. Both from total strangers and people close to us alike. Seriously, even my own mother has asked me that a couple of times.
To begin with, asking that question is rude to the core. We don’t ask other people what they do with their money, why would anyone care what we do with ours? However, it seems that people who travel a lot are constantly judged for this choice of theirs. As if what they love doing is absolutely worthless not to mention the most expensive thing in the world. Well, it’s not. Travel is way more affordable than other every-day life habits such as shop till you drop or drink till you drop. To cut a long story short, it’s all a matter of priorities. Our number 1 priority is to see as much of this world as possible. To this end, we have sacrificed many of life’s other pleasures. That’s our secret. Not our paychecks. Come on, we live and work in post(?)-financial-crisis Greece. Fat paychecks is a joke.
Therefore, the very first step to save money for travel is to adopt the right mindset. Nowadays, everyone can travel. It’s not the privilege of a select few like it was decades ago. All it takes is a little effort on your part and a strategy. Let us show you ours.
How to save money for travel in your every day lives
Don’t wait until the time comes to actually travel to save money. It doesn’t work this way. Saving money for travel means that you need to adjust your every-day lives to a new reality. It takes a bit of sacrifice. But if travel is your number 1 priority, it’s totally worth it.
1. Don’t buy stuff that you don’t really need
We all love to buy new things all the time. Each and every one of us. Whoever says they don’t, they’re lying. But the hard truth is that we don’t need all this stuff. Really, we don’t. Growing up in a consumer society, we have fallen victims to a system that has deliberately made us believe that we constantly need new stuff. In reality, we desire it. Let me give you an example. Do we need clothes? Of course we do, what are we cave people? Do we need to buy new clothes every week or month? Definitely not. If you really want to save money to travel, you have to stop spending money on things you don’t really need.
For instance, you don’t need 30 pairs of shoes for each season, a new car every five years or new cushion covers twice a year. Avoid shopping sprees and your impulse to walk inside shops when you don’t really NEED something to buy. Changing your shopping habits won’t be easy. Nor will it happen overnight. It helps to start by writing down all the things that you think you need to buy. Groceries, shoes, clothes, home stuff, gadgets, keep everything written on lists and sleep on them. When you revisit your lists, you will most probably find out that you can live without one or two items on them. Keep eliminating and then go shopping with your new, hopefully shorter, list in hand.
2. Go shopping during sales
Normally and if something unexpected doesn’t come up, you can wait until sales season to go shopping. There are many major sales throughout the year so make sure you keep an eye out for them. Similarly, make the most of Black Friday offers for online as well as physical purchases. Black Friday used to mark the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the USA but now it’s synonymous to crazy sales and offers all across the globe. While Black Friday itself is on the fourth Friday of November of each year, sales can last up to an entire week.
3. Cut all unnecessary expenses
Raise your hands if you buy take away coffee and lunch every day at work. Now take a pledge not to do it ever again starting first thing tomorrow. Jobs are meant to fill our pockets not empty them. Hence, why spend money while at work? A take away coffee and a salad every day add up to at least 120€/month. You can find return tickets for that city break you always dreamt of for less than that. So, make your own coffee at work and pack a lunch from home. Other expenses you could avoid include gym subscriptions (walk instead) or take away dinner at home (cook instead).
4. Keep your nights out to a minimum
Are you party animals? Well, we’ve been there and we know that it’s not easy to let go of this particular habit. When we did, it felt as though we grew old(er) all of a sudden. But we appreciate the money we save and our livers are also very grateful we cut down on alcohol and partying. Apart from drinks, eating out should also be kept to a minimum. Cooking at home with friends is equally fun and way more affordable. Last but not least, one of the hardest things for us is going to the cinema less. Yes, actually that hurts a lot. But it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make. Therefore, embrace Netflix and go to the movies only on special occasions.
5. Avoid using your car
The only reason we own a car is because we love road trips. Also, driving is almost always the most affordable way to get to the airport. Had it not been for these two reasons, we wouldn’t even have a car. If you don’t use your car for travel or if you don’t have kids, consider ditching it altogether. However, if you do want to have a car, try to use it only when it is absolutely necessary. You can walk, cycle or use public transport instead. This way you can save money and help the environment at the same time.
6. Record your expenses
So, let’s say that you mastered the previous five steps and you have already started saving money. First of all, well done! Secondly, now is the right time to take your money saving strategy to the next level. Start keeping track of your expenses (and earnings) by recording them in a spreadsheet. This way it will be easier for you to have a clear picture of your money saving profile. Keeping a record of your expenses will enable you to apply your strategy more efficiently by deciding in which areas you can reduce your expenses even more. Similarly, keep a separate spreadsheet for your travel expenses. This will enable you to figure out your average daily cost per trip which, in its turn, will help you budget your upcoming trips more accurately.
7. Open a new bank account
It’s one thing to cut down on your expenses and another to finally hold on to your precious savings until you actually travel. The best way to avoid spending your hard saved money is to open a brand new bank account just for that: the money you saved for travel. In this account, you will also deposit all extra money you receive on a monthly basis. A bonus from work? A x€ banknote from your sweet grandma for your birthday? All unexpected money, no matter the amount, should go in this travel account of yours. That’s what unexpected is all about, after all. You didn’t know you would receive this money so why spend it on rent/groceries/car service or other mundane things? You would pay for all this stuff from your paychecks anyway. Unexpected money is sacred and by sacred we mean it’s to be reserved for travel.
One last thing, though. Please open a bank account rather than keep your extra money in a piggy bank. I used to keep my travel money in a piggy bank until that awful day when burglars smashed it and emptied it of my life’s dream to visit Cuba that same year.
8. Invest in a travel credit card
Inevitably, we all use credit cards. So it would be wise to research which cards offer travel related benefits. For example, some travel credit cards offer the opportunity to collect extra miles for certain airlines with every purchase you make. These miles then translate to free or discounted air tickets. Not bad, is it?
9. Keep an eye out for travel related giveaways
OK, that’s a long shot but if you like hanging out on social media anyway, why not check out hashtags such as #travelgiveaway or similar and enter contests for a chance to win free trips. You never know, right?
10. Educate your friends and family
If your parents, grandparents, spouses, siblings, friends, anyone ask what to get you for your birthday, graduation day, wedding, promotion etc, there should be one answer only: travel gift vouchers. Be it an airline, a hotel or a tour operating company, travel gift vouchers will save you considerable amounts of money and will help you get a step closer to taking that long-awaited trip of yours.
11. Consider finding an extra source of income
If the travel bug starts itching too much, you may want to consider sacrificing some of your free time as well. Working on side projects on a freelance basis is among the most effective ways to save money for travel fast.
12. Move in with a good friend
Now if the itching gets unbearable, maybe it’s time you took radical measures. If you live by yourselves, moving in with friends is by far one of the best ways to save on every-day life expenses such as rent, household bills, grocery shopping and the like.
How to save money at the planning stage and during your travels
Once you’ve done everything in your power to reduce your expenses at home, it’s time to apply a set of simple money saving rules while planning your travels as well. Then the final stage of mastering your money saving skills is learning all the tricks you need to know to spend money wisely during your travels themselves but without the risk of missing out on unique experiences that will render your trips all the more memorable.
13. Keep an open mind
Let’s be honest here, some destinations are less affordable than others. We do understand that you’ve always dreamt of travelling to New York, Iceland or Scotland. We want to go there too. However, waiting and waiting until you have enough money to travel to one of these destinations is actually a painful waste of time considering there is a whole wide world full of beauties out there. Keep an open mind and go for destinations which may be less popular, thus a lot more affordable, yet equally fascinating. If you can’t afford Paris (yet) why not plan an escape to Warsaw instead? If planning a trip to Vietnam seems impossible budgetwise, Sri Lanka and its reasonably priced treasures await.
14. Be flexible on your travel dates
Being flexible on your dates is rarely easy while working a full time job. However, do your best to avoid travelling during peak season as both accommodation and ticket prices are too high then. That said, don’t get too carried away by the super cheap off season prices either. After all, what’s the point in visiting, say, the Greek Islands in January when it’s impossible to swim in their crystal clear waters? Try to book your trips a little before or after your destination’s high season. Not only will that strategy save you money but you will also get to enjoy the place while it’s still pleasant in terms of weather but without the crowds.
15. Sign up to airline newsletters
Subscribe to newsletters of airlines, ferry or bus companies and railways that operate from your place of residence. This way you will be notified of deals and offers they run on a regular basis. Also, check out websites such as Skyscanner and set e-mail alerts for price drops regarding the destinations you want to visit in the near future. If you find that the number of e-mails your receive gets annoying, you can create a new e-mail account just for these newsletters so that their frequency doesn’t interfere with the flow of your business or personal e-mail.
16. Pick the most affordable means of transport
More often than not, we can get to our desired destination in more than one ways. Take into consideration all factors regarding your trip, such as length of stay and type of activities and choose the most affordable means of transport each time. For example, while we were planning our 2-week road trip across Puglia in Italy, we had two options. The first was to fly to Bari and then rent a car. The second was to drive our own car to Patras Port and take the ferry to Bari from there. The latter was remarkably cheaper than the former and, given the fact that we had 15 whole days ahead of us, it was OK to take the slower route.
However, if the trip you are planning is short, you’d be better off sticking to the fastest way of travel. At the end of the day, we must never forget that time is indeed money.
17. Act fast
Once you stumble upon an amazing deal online, book those tickets ASAP! You are not the only one looking at those very same cheap flights so if you don’t grab them immediately, someone else will. Don’t think too much, just keep your credit cards handy. Even an hour later can make a huge difference in prices, so better be
safe fast than sorry.
18. Choose accommodation wisely
For the best accommodation deals without hidden fees and unpleasant surprises we can’t recommend Booking.com enough. Try to book accommodation as early as you can so as to get the best possible prices. However, don’t just go for the cheapest option available as this may not result in the most affordable decision in the end. Let us explain.
First of all, you must check the location of the hotel. If it is situated far from the city centre (where you will most probably want to stay for a short trip so as to be close to all major attractions), you will end up paying extra money for your transport to and from the hotel. A room in a central location may seem more expensive but it actually saves you money (and time, which, as we said, is money) as you will be able to go everywhere on foot or, at worst, by public transport.
Moreover, if your room comes with breakfast at a small surcharge, you can save considerable amounts of money by skipping lunch and going straight to dinner. Last but not least, a properly sized room with a dining area and/or a small kitchen is great value-for-money as this means that you can order take-away or even cook, both of which are way more affordable than eating at restaurants every day.
There is also another important thing you should keep in mind before booking your accommodation and this is finding the perfect balance between budget and splurge. Staying at an accommodation type which is unique to the place you are visiting, such as a cave hotel in Santorini or a masseria in Puglia, is literally priceless and you shouldn’t sacrifice having this experience in the name of any budget-friendly accommodation.
Lastly, don’t forget about all the alternatives types of accommodation available. Although we don’t do it ourselves, staying in hostels is a great way to save money. If you travel alone, in particular, a hostel is not just the most affordable accommodation option but also the perfect place to hang out with like-minded people. Similarly, staying at campsites is a fantastic way to save money, especially for nature lovers and people who are not scared of bugs. That would not be me.
19. Visit friends and relatives
Most of us have friends or relatives who live in other parts of the world or different regions within our country of residence. So why not plan a trip to visit them? You still have to pay for tickets, food, sightseeing and, most importantly, a special something to bring as a gift to your hosts, but there won’t be any accommodation costs which is actually amazing. Just make sure you are invited first. Nobody wants to see you suddenly at their doorstep. Don’t take it personally. It’s just that YOU are going on vacation while THEY have to go on with their lives which means jobs, kids and the rest. Tough, right?
20. Pack light
This may seem unrelated at first sight but it’s not. Learning how to pack light is precious for so many different reasons. Travelling with your carry-on alone means that you don’t have to carry any unnecessary weight around. Moreover, you don’t waste time waiting for your bag upon arrival nor do you risk the airline losing your bag. That’s every traveller’s worst nightmare by the way. Budgetwise, packing light means that you don’t pay the, sometimes excessive, fee for checked luggage. That said, if you plan to be away for long and you can’t do without checked luggage, you can always split among your group (e.g. 1 checked suitcase per two people) instead of paying for one piece of checked luggage each.
21. Watch out for crazy bank fees
Travelling abroad means that we have to learn how to cope with different currency than our own. First of all, while abroad, you must keep in mind the approximate exchange rate at all times. Also, before visiting a country abroad, do your research so as to decide if it’s more affordable to exchange currency or to withdraw money from a local ATM once there. The latter is usually the better. However, make sure that you use the ATM of a real bank rather than those omnipresent yellow-blue Euronet ATMS to avoid being ripped off. There is one more thing to keep in mind regarding ATMs. When you withdraw money from an ATM abroad, you will be asked to choose between a with conversion and a without conversion option. Always go for the latter to avoid super crazy fees.
Similarly, prior to travelling, check with your bank and figure out commission amounts regarding purchases made abroad. A 1%-2% of the amount you pay is quite a normal surcharge but avoid using credit cards that will charge you a standard fee on every transaction, regardless of the amount.
22. Turn roaming off
One of the things we love about living in Europe is that roaming is now free everywhere which means that we can use our plans’ data while travelling within Europe. However, the party is over once we travel outside Europe. In order to avoid irrational charges, you will be better off buying a local SIM card once you arrive at your destination. Better still, you can detox from your smartphone by only using it while on WiFi. How does that sound?
23. Check out major attractions websites in advance
If you are visiting some place new, you will most probably want to check out some of its major attractions. Once you choose which ones you want to visit, have a look at their websites for any information regarding opening times and entrance fees. It so happens that entry to some museums, archaeological sites, galleries etc is free of charge or at reduced prices on particular days or times. Plan your visits accordingly so as not to miss those special offers.
24. Use public transport and your feet
The best way to get to know with a new destination is to aimlessly wander around its streets. Walking is also the most affordable way to get around the places you visit. To cover longer distances, use public transport instead of taxis. If you plan to heavily rely on public transport, make sure you purchase a multi-day ticket or card as this will save you even more money.
25. Join free walking tours
We love guided tours. They are by far the best way to learn everything about a destination that is worth knowing, especially when you travel part-time like ourselves. Although we are advocates of the importance of paid tours when it comes to sightseeing, we believe that joining a free walking tour is the most amazing way to have a general overview of any given destination. Free walking tours are available almost everywhere so you shouldn’t miss the chance to see a place through the eyes of very passionate and knowledgeable locals. Tours are indeed free but make sure you tip your guides. They are absolutely worth it.
26. Do your homework before walking inside restaurants
One of the commonest mistakes people make while travelling is eating at the wrong places. This results in both wasting valuable money and, occasionally, ruining one’s stomach. It is of vital importance to check eateries on websites like Foursquare or Tripadvisor before choosing one. This way you can eliminate the possibility of eating overpriced or, most importantly, bad food. Another safe way to decide where to eat is to see where locals eat. If a restaurant is filled with locals, then the food there is definitely good. To check prices, have a look at the menu (usually on display) before actually sitting at a table. Another brilliant way to save money and immerse in the local culture at the same time is indulging in your destination’s street food culture.
27. Remember what souvenirs are for
We all want to have a little something to remember our trips by or bring gifts to our loved ones to show them that we thought of them no matter how far apart we were. But who said that we need to buy expensive things? Neither the value of our memories nor the love for our friends and families can be measured in something as mundane as money. Souvenirs are supposed to bring happy smiles and nothing but. This is why, in our opinion, the best souvenir (which also happens to be one of the most affordable ones as well) is taking the time to send postcards to all your loved ones back home. The feeling that someone thought of them enough to express their loving thoughts on a piece of paper while roaming the world is worth a lot more than the most expensive gift you can think of*.
So, you’ve made it to the end of this massive list of money saving travel tips of ours, yay! We do hope that you now have a clear picture about how to afford to travel more often. Of course this guide is aimed at inspiring people who want to save money to travel more while working full-time jobs. Just like ourselves. However, if you are thinking about taking a career break to travel or, better still, if you want to adopt the oh-so-attractive lifestyle of a full-time traveller, our dear friends Gemma and Craig of Two Scots Abroad have put together the ultimate guide for you to plan your long term travels like pros. We do hope to follow in their footsteps soon. Until then, we’ll make sure our and your part-time travels rock!
*A few years back, our dear friend Spyros reminded us of the magic of sending postcards to both ourselves and our loved ones. For that, Spyros, you will forever receive a postcard from everywhere it is we are roaming about.