Expanding my budget while traveling was basically how I could travel through Europe. As a student and not much money, I had to figure out ways to cut expenses. There is no way I can make your trip inexpensive. The reality is you are going to spend some money cause, you know, traveling. But what I can do is give you some tips and tricks on what I learned on the way so that your budget lasts your whole stay. So, let’s fo this.
1. Make a budget plan
First, I’ll start with the most basic and maybe obvious one, but I need to include it cause many people forget about this. You should 100% have a budget plan when traveling. If you don’t, you will (I’m telling you, you WILL) spend more than you should or have. Traveling is so much fun. You visit lots of new places and see a lot of stuff that you want, but many times don’t need it.
Making a budget will help setting straight what you can and can’t spend. You can start by prioritizing. If you know souvenirs always get to you, then you know that you should cut expenses on other things on the list so you have enough for what you want. Just don’t be so strict on your budget that you stress about it and lose the fun of it.
My list always goes:
1. Food (my priority)
2. Activities + attractions
3. Public transport
One of my top things to do, before I travel, is researching where I’m going. The best cheap places to eat, how much everything costs, how to get around, etc. You don’t want to be surprised when you get there and a cup of coffee costs 10 euros. This way you can plan ahead on how to go around your budget for that city. You can also research the places locals buy their goods. It’s a great way also to see the place you’re visiting as a local would.
When I started traveling through Europe, many people asked me “How did you do it?” referring to the money. My answer was always hostels. It cuts SO much money from my trips. The thing is, people’s reactions when a hostel is mentioned aren’t the best.
Based on movies and other reasons I’m not sure of, people generally don’t like the idea of hostels, especially when traveling alone. I get it, you should take precautions when traveling, especially (and sadly) as a woman. But there wasn’t one hostel I stayed in that I didn’t like. Many of them where basically like a hotel room but with several beds.
Since traveling now is much more common for young people, hostels have been taking on in many places through Europe, and now the world. They’re easy cause at the end of the day, you only use the place you’re staying at to sleep, so why spend so much money on a hotel room, when a hostels does the job perfectly fine.
Now, if you’re a girl, I know what you’re thinking. But good news is, almost every hostel has female-only rooms. You get to meet a lot of girls that are also traveling, and make friends from around the world. You expand your budget while making friends. It’s a win-win situation.
4. Pack smart
Try to not pack stuff you don’t need. I get that sometimes we get carried away with our trip, and want to take many outfits, shoes, makeup, etc. But in reality, many times you return home with a lot of stuff in your luggage that you didn’t use. When packing light you make sure you won’t get charged extra, but also it will be much more comfortable when getting from airport to hostels. Especially if you’ll be moving to different cities and hostels. Make your life easier.
5. Avoid tours/packages
This trick is not for everyone or everywhere. But I’ll let you know my take. When visiting places, there are many agencies that offer packages which include different activities and transport and other amenities. The problem with this is that they charge for the service, of course, cause its a business. So it could cost even double what it would be if you did it on your own.
Many cities have great public transport (we’ll get to that later) plus doing it on your own won’t tie you to a specific schedule.
Now here’s why it is not for everyone or everywhere. Many people like the idea of having everything set, and not have to worry about scheduling and ticketing. And that’s a valid point. That’s why making a budget is so important. You make these tours a priority and then go around that to set the other expenses on your budget. Also, there are cities that aren’t safe enough for you to go on your own, so you need a tour to do the trip you want. Safety is always first, so go sign up for your tour and send pics.
6. Get out of touristy areas
Usually, we tend to go towards the main attractions in cities, which means they are tourist attractions. This isn’t a problem, of course. You can’t go to Paris and forget about the Eiffel Tower. But this means everything becomes expensive. We all know it, places with more tourists around means paying more for what you get. The good thing is, you can always get out of touristy areas to find good and cheap places to eat and even buy souvenirs. This goes along with the research. Find where locals buy their stuff. You’ll be surprised by the awesome places you find maybe for half the price you would pay near the tourist attractions.
7. Public transport + walking
Now, hear me out. I know renting a car, or getting a taxi, Uber, Cabify may seem easier when traveling. But the amount of money you spend on it doesn’t make up for the time you’re saving. Especially in Europe, almost every country has a great public transport system that can get you anywhere. Not only that, but it’s efficient and makes the experience a lot better.
Another great way of getting by is walking. There’s no way to get to know the city than by walking and even getting lost in your way. You’re saving money plus getting the whole city experience.
8. Bring your reusable water bottle
Okay. Something I can accept I used to spend a lot of money, in the beginning, was bottled water. I’m walking constantly, not at the hostel until night, so I found myself buying too much bottled water. This changed when I started trying to live a zero-waste life, but soon I realized not only was I not producing trash, but also I was saving money by carrying with me my water bottle.
Depending on the country and how their water system works, you can even fill it up in the faucet. Expand your budget while you save the planet!
9. Student ID cards + credit card rewards
One of the best things about still being a student (aside from having an education) is the discounts it comes with it. Many places, either museums, parks or even public transports offer student discounts. Just don’t forget your ID at home (like I did in Spain and had to pay full price tickets).
Also, some credit cards offer rewards and/or discounts on your travel purchases. You can be one Google search away from having all these benefits that you didn’t know about. Expanding your budget is becoming easier with every trick, isn’t it?
10. Adapt to culture
This is the last one, but for me is the most important one. Something that changed the way I travel is adapting to whatever culture I’m in. And no, this doesn’t mean you should go around appropriating anyone’s culture for the sake of your trip. But I’m telling you, adapting to other cultures will help you expand your budget.
I’ll give you an example of what I mean. In Barcelona, a normal breakfast could be a croissant and a coffee. Buying that in the local bakery was 2.50 euros (approx. 2.75 US dollars).
Instead of going to the American Breakfast/Brunch place (which is inevitably more expensive cause it’s made for tourists) and spending 15 dollars on my meal, I preferred going with what locals ate. That way you begin to understand other ways of life other than what you already know of, in something as simple as breakfast.