THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO TRAVELLING ON A BUDGET

A lot of people ask me how I manage to take so many holidays while studying full time for the last 5 years. Throughout my travels, I have developed a mental list of money saving rules that I force myself to adhere to when I decide a holiday is in order. One of the key components of saving for a trip is being able to plan properly, so I’ll try and cover as many planning tips as I can in this post as well. I hope some of these will help you save some extra cash for your next trip away

RESEARCH IS KEY!

The first, and most important, thing I should mention when planning a trip is to do your research. The more research you do, the more money you will save, and on top of that your trip will run a lot smoother. The main things you should research include:

  • Things to see and do – research this the most until you have a long list
  • The best and cheapest ways of getting around
  • How to get to each attraction you want to visit (may not be as straightforward as you think)
  • How far away the attractions are and entrance fees
  • Visiting restrictions like open hours or days

Often the most incredible places are far away from the main cities and difficult to get to. Doing this kind of research will help you determine which spots are worth seeing, and which ones aren’t. You may find that a group tour, such as Topdeck, Gecko or G Adventures, will provide the best option in regards to transport.

MAKE AN ITINERARY

Once you’ve decided where you want to go, plan it all out. I usually make my plan in excel and I use this to budget what I’ll need money for while I’m away. During this part of planning you’ll have to decide which attractions or sites you’ll be able to fit in and are worth visiting, and which you’ll have to leave out.

BE FLEXIBLE WITH FLIGHTS

If you have dates are flexible, say you want to travel to Thailand for 2 weeks and can go any time in the month of March, search flight costs for every possible date combination in March. My favourite websites for flight searching are Momondo, SkyscannerExpedia, STA Travel if you’re a student, and Cheap Flights. If you’re willing to have a few more stops or long layovers on your flights, you’ll save even more.

If you live somewhere like Adelaide or in a smaller city, it’s also worth searching for flights separately instead of connecting flights. For example, if you’re going on holiday to the USA and you live in Adelaide, there’s a high chance you will save a couple hundred dollars if you book an Adelaide to Sydney flight separately, giving yourself a few hours (I would suggest at least 5 hours) layover in Sydney, and book a separate Sydney to Los Angeles flight. There is a risk in doing this however; if the weather is preventing your flight leaving from Adelaide, and you miss your flight from Sydney to Los Angeles, you won’t be able to get on the next one as they’re not connecting, so you will lose that flight. Therefore do this at your own risk! I have done this multiple times, however, and never had any problems or missed any flights.

BOOK EARLY

The earlier you book your accommodation, flights, day trips, entrance fees (if possible), the better, and for 2 reasons; the first being that the listing price will be cheaper and you’re likely to get better options, and the second being that once you’ve booked it, that money will no longer be sitting in your account tempting you to spend it. As soon as you can book something and pay for it, do it. Just make sure you are 100% sure about your plans and won’t need to cancel or change them later. 

OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND

Take out large amounts of cash from an ATM, and store in a money box and leave it somewhere you won’t see it regularly. If the money’s not in your account, you won’t be able to spend it. If you’re still tempted to spend it when it’s sitting at home, give it to your parents or a close friend you trust to hold onto.

PLAN AND STICK TO YOUR BUDGET

Once you’ve created your itinerary and factored in all costs associated with food, accommodation, transport, attractions etc., add up the total cost – this is your trip budget. Don’t forget to factor in travel insurance (I often use Travel Insurance Direct), visas, vaccines, sim cards, extra luggage costs if you’re taking any domestic flights (checked luggage usually isn’t included) and any new gear you might need before you go. Always try and save a little extra to take with you as a backup, I would say around 10-20% of your total budget’s worth.

MAKE A SAVING PLAN

Once you’ve determined your total trip budget, calculate how much money you will need to save per week to reach your budget. Here’s an example:

  • Your total trip budget is $10,000.
  • You earn $700 a week, minus $200 a week for bills = $500 per week leftover
  • Let’s say you have planned a trip for 8 months time, which is 32 weeks away.
  • $10,000 divided by 32 weeks = $310 per week that needs to be saved.
  • This leaves your weekly allowance after bills as $190.

So, every week, either take $310 out of your account in cash and put it into your money box, or put into a savings account that you don’t touch! When it comes to booking flights and accommodation, deposit the cash you’ve taken out and book immediately after it has gone in to resist temptation of spending the cash elsewhere.

GET A BAR JOB

This obviously won’t be applicable to all of you, but for those who are studying, especially in Australia, bar work is probably one of the best jobs you can do regarding flexibility and pay. I’ve been doing bar work the entire last 5 years during my degree, with occasional promotional work on the side, and this has afforded me most of my ventures. If you haven’t worked in a bar before, it may be a bit of an adjustment working weekends, but you will save a hell of a lot more working instead of spending lots going out on weekends.

FIND ACCOMMODATION WITH FREE CANCELLATION

I regularly use Booking.com to book my accommodation as well as Air Bnb. Couch surfing is also a good option, but comes with a bit of a higher safety risk, as you aren’t paying to stay anywhere. I search regularly leading up to my trip, and often book places with free cancellation up until the day or few days before, so if I find something better later on I can cancel and book the better option. Doing this continuously can get you some great accommodation at a really good deal.

TAKE OVERNIGHT TRANSPORT

This is a really good one for traveling around Europe. If you’re on a really tight budget, overnight trains and buses are a great way of getting around saving you on accommodation costs. I used Flixbus multiple times through Germany and Switzerland; overnight trips range from around 10-30 euros, and the buses also had onboard WiFi. The unfortunate downside is the lack of comfort, so if a luxurious, 5-star holiday is what you’re after, this post probably isn’t for you.

SPEND LESS ON FOOD

Again, something that may not be applicable to everyone, but if you’re there to see the sights, you’re much better off spending your money on that than food. Budget yourself a set amount for food each day, and if you want to treat yourself with some fine dining for one or two days of the trip, then factor that into your budget.

INVEST IN A LUGGAGE WEIGHER

If you’re someone that struggles with over packing, invest in one of these bad boys. You can grab one for under $20 online, and it will guarantee that you don’t go over the weight limit on your flights, avoiding those hefty excess baggage fees.

I hope these tips will help you plan your next adventure, happy travels!

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