One thing I get asked often is how I can afford to travel. Well, it is a combination of things but one of them is that I spend less than the average person when booking my trips, and while I am actually traveling. I thought I would share some tips that I use that might be helpful for your next trip. If you have any other clever ideas to get more on your trips for less share them in the comments. Please be mindful that many of the companies I suggest are based in Europe and that my traveling experiences are in Europe. Thanks.
Travel during the shoulder season
The shoulder season is a time of the year between the peak season and off-season of a location. This can vary depending on where you are traveling.
Speaking in terms of traveling the US and Europe, this is my favorite time to travel anyway because I really dislike extreme heat or cold and also crowds. Nothing spoils a place for me quite like feel like cattle being herded through the streets and standing in line in the blistering sun. But do you know what else is great about the shoulder season? It’s cheaper! Hotels and resorts often run really great deals during this time.
Also, flights are far cheaper. My friends and family ask me why I don’t come home at Christmas or during the summer. Well, I’m not made of money. That’s why. Flights between the US and Europe significantly cheaper during the shoulder season.
Bonuses: Cheaper flights, accommodation, and fewer crowds!
Stay in an Airbnb or hostel
You can find private accommodation with Airbnb or hostels if you aren’t interested in sharing a room.
This is a given for well-seasoned travelers but for the newbies (no shame in it!!) check out hostels for your accommodation. No, you don’t have to stay in a mixed dorm with 30 people. I have stayed in private rooms in hostels or just 3 others in a women-only room. I save so much money opting for a cheaper place to lay my head. It is also a great way to meet people if you are traveling solo.
Airbnb is more preferable now that I travel with my husband. These options can vary to a room in a shared house with other travelers or a family to a whole apartment. I have found some incredible Airbnb’s with views for a fraction of the cost of a fancy hotel.
Bonuses: Experience staying off the beaten path in an Airbnb and get local perspectives from your host!
Shop around for transportation
This is where you can easily overspend so take advantage of every resource and find your sense of adventure.
This is where I probably spend my most time searching deals when booking my travel. I examine all of the different ways to travel to somewhere. I prefer to drive or take a train when possible, and sometimes depending on where you live, this can be a lot cheaper. Get creative because sometimes the journey to a destination can be just as exciting as the location.
As for flights use sites like Skyscanner and Kayak to help find the best deals. Be mindful that often low-cost airlines are not available on these sites so check for their deals separately on their own site. In Europe, this often means airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet. There are also great sites like Rome2rio and Hopper for the more flexible travelers.
Don’t forget when browsing for flights, use an incognito browser, some sites will use your cookies against you and raise the price of flights if you are checking them day after day (I know, what jerks). Another tip is to use a VPN as sometimes purchasing a flight from one country is cheaper than from another.
Buses are highly underrated but are incredibly cost-effective. There are a lot of options like Busabout where you can pay one fee for a period of time and a certain amount of stops. The buses go to 15 different countries around Europe and to many cities I have written about like Krakow, Ljubljana, or Barcelona. Megabus (UK)/Flixbus (Europe) which is popular in the UK for offering very cheap rides, sometimes as low as 1€ also offer an option to do 5 European cities for only 99€. They travel to far more places (1700 destinations in 28 countries) to help you get to the lesser-known towns.
If you are the outgoing type and wouldn’t mind sharing the confines of a car then you can check out carpooling. This can be a great way to get from city to city, even last minute without being crammed on a bus with 100 people. Blablacar runs all around Europe and even offers female-only rides for the cautious. Traveling in the US, check out GAFFL for carpooling.
Unfortunately, train tickets are usually standard, but in some cases booking them in advance will give you a cheaper price. I highly, highly suggest check out The Man in Seat 61 as his site offers everything you need to know about train travel in Europe. Including if it is necessary to book in advance, which companies to use between countries, etc.
Bonuses: Take the scenic route by taking a train, or make new friends through carpooling!
Check if the tourism center has a local card
It is like having a key to the city, and the museums, and the buses…
These little things can save you a lot of money and allow you to do a lot in very expensive places, but also alternatively if you buy them blindly you can lose a lot of money.
For example, in London, one of the cards they have is the London Pass and it costs £75 for one day, £99 for two, etc. With this card you get entrance to 80 + attractions such as the Tower of London, Hop on Hop off Bus, Tower Bridge, Westminster Abby, and Windsor Castle. Sounds great, and for an additional £15 on a one-day pass you have unlimited travel, but if you are only planning to go to one or two of those attractions, and you are planning to only stay in the central part of London then you will lose money by buying this.
Alternatively in Ljubljana, Slovenia they have the Ljubljana Card which is much cheaper at €28 a day for 20 attractions, and also includes transportation, airport transfer, a city tour, free wifi, and I can keep going and going.
Bonuses: Having a city card that includes attractions and transportation can reduce the number of times you need to pull out your wallet or rack up exchange fees on your bank!
Find free things to do
They say the best things in life are free and I am all about free travel!
Using the internet to find free things to do is a great way to get to know the city without spending a ton of money. Some cities offer free daily tours (just be sure to tip your guide, please). Pinterest is perfect for finding articles like this. Search your city + free things to do and bam like magic someone else did all of the work. Alternatively, just simply use Google or check the local tourism’s website. In some cities like Washington DC or London, a lot of the museums have free entrance, or others like Rome they have certain days each month with free entrance.
Bonuses: Free. Did I mention free? Because they are all FREE.
Save money planning your next trip…
I have shared all of the ways that I save money when planning all of my trips. Here is the rundown:
-Travel in the spring or fall.
-Avoid traditional hotels.
-Try carpooling, buses, or alternative transportation.
-Check for deals like local city cards.
-Research free things to do.
I love how helpful the travel community is and I will be adding to this article as I encounter new ways to save. If you have any to share add them below for all of our readers to enjoy. As always, thank you for reading this article and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram for daily adventures.
Owner of wanderinghelene.com. Anthropologist, content creator, castle explorer, coffee drinker, and lover of markets and very old places!