Travelling on a budget

…I mean a strict budget! Rent, uni, deadlines, work and whatever else: a lot is usually going on but let’s be realistic students (usually) have a lot of free time. How you decide to use it is the key question!

Whilst studying in Utrecht last semester I took advantage of a less chaotic timetable, as well as being able to work remotely by travelling as much as possible. I didn’t earn a lot once bills and food had come out of my monthly budget but I made what I had go a long way. I made key decisions about places to go, and places to leave until a point in the future when I have more disposable income to have the most fun, and best trips possible. In most places I stayed for a long weekend and didn’t fly at all. So, as the summer holidays are well and truly here, this week I thought I’d share my little tips and tricks for travelling on a budget.

Destination

If you’re on a budget like I am then your travel destinations might have to be a little flexible. I don’t want to crush anyone’s deepest desire to go somewhere specific-if you’ve got a dream destination in mind, start packing your bags whilst you continue to read(!) but it does help the purse strings to be open to a few different options. When I was travelling, I once had the opportunity to go to Denmark and Sweden. Whilst this sounded really appealing I thought realistically about the ‘daily cost’ of being there rather than somewhere else. My flexibility when it came to destination allowed me to do lots of trips at a more appropriate price point.

Time

A Friday to Sunday trip is going to be more spenny than travelling on certain days. Think savy, if you can then do a mid week trip or even consider travelling through the night. I’m not saying it will be the most comfortable night of sleep you ever have but if you need to save some pennies then this is a key way to do that. As I said most of my trips were about 4 days long and I think this is a really good amount of time to explore a city. If you’re paying for transport there and back anyway, I’m a big believer in waiting for your trip when you have an appropriate window in your calendar rather than rushing it and feeling like you’ve missed out. If you’re on a really strict schedule and only have a day or two then just make sure you do your research in advance and pick out the key things you want to do and your priorities!

Transport

Forget planes. When based in Europe with all the train connections and bus travel companies, usually there’s no need to. Sometimes flying will be cheaper but for me anyway, once I’ve factored in the cost of getting to and from the airport at both ends, it quickly becomes apparent that it isn’t worth it. Make sure to check websites like Omio to find the best option of getting from A to B and if you’re in Germany always look for trains using the Sparpreis-Finder. Usually there’s always savings to be made here.

I’m not a fan of flying, it’s always been one of the biggest challenges for my anxiety and we all know it’s pretty horrendous for the environment too so easy decision! Travelling by public transport gives you opportunities to see places you otherwise may never have stopped in and help you to do your bit for our world.

Accommodation

Hostels…but not always! Don’t just presume that hostels are the most budget-friendly option before looking into alternatives too. Sometimes Airbnb or even sites like Booking.com can give you a surprising deal which you might not otherwise expect. Sure hostels are great for meeting other young people along your travels but through sites like Airbnb you’ll usually manage to get a little room or pad in a key location surrounded by local life.

Do it yourself

Although tour companies can advertise trips which looking incredible value for money, unfortunately sometimes it really is too good to be true. Believe me, I learnt this the hard way in Poland! In our experience the cheap trip actually made the whole experience pretty stressful and unenjoyable. We would’ve -in hindsight- much rather paid a bit more to do the whole trip ourselves and really get out of the week exactly what we’d aimed we would.

Priorities

A budget doesn’t mean you cant do some big things. You’ve just got to try and plan them in in advance-or if they’re more spontaneous decisions then maybe reign it in a little the next day. In Paris, with the weather tuning against us, we decided to splash out one evening and go and see Chicago. I’m so glad we did and it turned out to be my favourite part of the whole trip. We weighed up if the cost would be worth it and decided ‘YES!’, and I’m not ashamed to say that we made sure we ate as cheaply as possible that day in order to justify the expense. Totally worth it!

-Aimée

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