In our previous post we discussed some lifestyle changes you can make at home to save some easy money for your next trip, so it’s now time to jump into the fun part.
You’ve worked hard to save up for that dream adventure, but it’s crucial to make sure you do the things necessary to make your money last.
Between flights, accommodation, transportation, food & alcohol, and fun money there are many expenses that can drain your bank account very quickly if you’re not careful.
When a once in a life time opportunity such as skydiving, or hot air ballooning in an exotic place arises during your vacation, don’t let bad spending earlier in your trip determine whether you can participate or not!
If you follow these tips below, you’ll save money and travel longer than you ever thought was possible:
Finding Cheaper Flights
The art of finding a cheap flight and playing the airline system is a fickle son ova gun, one that I’ll describe in more detail in future posts, but there are indeed some proven stats to follow. Book your ticket 47 days before your flight and fly on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturdays while avoiding Friday and Sundays for the cheapest rates.
Know where to look. Skyscanner and Momondo are two of my favorite search engines that scour through all of the airlines and spit out the best price out there.
Know the cheap cities to fly to and from. Copenhagen, Moscow, Stockholm, Oslo, Dublin, Istanbul, Milan, and Barcelona are the cheapest in Europe thanks to budget airlines like Norwegian Air.
From the US, check out other cities nearby to see if they have cheaper flights. I took a $15 bus to New York from DC to save hundreds of dollars on my flight to Europe. If possible, also consider flying out of Canada. Flights from Toronto are much cheaper to Europe than a lot of cities in the US.
Lastly, use budget airlines to your advantage. As long as you prepare properly by packing lightly and checking in on time, you won’t be hit by those surprising fees they everyone complains about. Consider this: New York to Athens, $800. New York to London, $500 then London to Athens for $40 on Ryan Air. Easy $260 savings just like that!
Ryan Air, Easyjet, Monarch, and Vueling will be your best friends, don’t let anyone else tell you differently! Sure, you won’t have the most leg room or luxurious experience, but you get what you pay for. London to Barcelona – $35, Paris to Lisbon – $26, Rome to Athens – $26. Seriously, what more could you ask for!!
Skip the hotels and save money using hostels and AirBnB, no surprises here, end of story. $10-30 a night in hostels can add up though, so let’s look at some free options.
If you plan on staying in a city for at least a few days, volunteer at a hostel. In exchange for a couple hours of work a day most hostels will give you a free bed, sometimes food, and sometimes free excursions that the hostel offers to guests. You’ll grow closer to the hostel community and have a better understanding for a place if you stick around longer.
Use Couchsurfing. I’d consider myself a seasoned Couchsurfing user and have nothing but amazing things to say. For those who aren’t familiar, Couchsurfing is a website that connects travelers with locals willing to open their doors to visitors for free. It isn’t a hotel, you spend time with your host and have the chance to see their city from the eyes of a local. My favorite way to travel, I’ve had Incredible Couchsurfing experiences and have made several good friends because of this community.
WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) offers free food, accommodation, and opportunities through volunteering with organic and sustainable projects. Work on a grape farm in the Italian countryside for a month while learning about local culture and not spending a penny, yes please!
Workaway is a similar concept but offers a larger array of volunteer opportunities such as working at a hostel, teaching English, or volunteering at an orphanage. I met tons of WHOOFers and Workaway people while in Europe that all had great experiences to share.
Knowing the Transportation Options
Like we already mentioned, don’t underestimate the power of a cheap flight. $30 can get you all across Europe with Ryan Air and although you need to be on your A game to avoid extra fees, you can’t beat the prices.
Next, compare the costs for trains and buses. Trains are typically more expensive, which is why I found myself catching a bus most of time – all personal preference. Trains are more expensive and often sold out if you wait last minute if traveling around Western Europe, so if you are looking for more flexible travel this might not be the best option.
Buses are my go to choice. From the luxurious bus companies in Turkey with monitors, WIFI, and free snacks & tea, to run down mini buses in Bosnia, you’ll have a more true and memorable traveling experience than on a train. Even in the US, companies like Mega Bus and Bolt Bus are astronomically cheaper than Amtrak, it’s absurd.
Do your research, but my personal opinion: DON’T BUY THE EURAIL PASS! Everyone I met with those things regretted their purchase and didn’t realize that Europe is so well connected by bus until it was too late.
Also, take a look at BlaBlaCar, a popular car sharing service all over Europe. A network with over 20 millions members, you can catch a ride with someone from your current city to your next destination for a fraction of the cost of trains and buses. It is the cheapest option in Europe and often the quickest too. I’ve used it several times and have never had a problem – I’m just shocked it hasn’t caught on in the US yet.
Lastly, don’t forget that hitchhiking is always an option. In places such as Turkey and Greece I didn’t have a problem finding a ride, everyone was so friendly and curious I met scores of people with the most fascinating stories; even one guy who had gone all the way from Slovakia to India!
Food & Alcohol
Pretty self explanatory, but these are worth talking about. While budgeting for a trip you sometimes forget about food & alcohol costs, but they need to be taken seriously.
Most hostels and AirBnB’s have kitchens that you can cook your own food in, which will save you heaps in the long run. Cheap street food such an kebabs are ubiquitous around Europe and you’ll never get tired of them.
Alcohol can really make or break your trip. Pre-game hard at your hostel with cheap locals beers (preferably the $2 two liter bottles of beer in Eastern Europe) or boxed wine and skip the expensive drinks at the mega clubs. You can pretty much drink anywhere you want in Europe, so grab those super market beers and find a cool park or public place to hangout.
The goal of this article is to help you make better decisions and save more money on things like flights and accommodation on your trip, that will in turn open up new doors that you couldn’t have afforded before. When traveling you’ll be hit with amazing, unexpected opportunities that you can’t possibly plan for, and you don’t want to miss out.
An open mind, a little creativity, and thriftiness can go a long way. What do you think?