As a British citizen living in America, it’s very important for me to travel back to the UK as often as possible. I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to go back to Britain fairly often, as well as visit other countries and explore the USA. Travel is never cheap, and being naturally frugal, I thought it would be apropos to share some of the ways I’ve been able to make these trips happen with less expense
My 5 Tips for Traveling on the Cheap
1. Stay With Friends
When I travel, half my motivation is to see people I love – whether it’s my far-flung family or friends whose lives have taken them afar. Staying with people I know also allows to me to visit places I would not have had the budget to see on my own. When planning a trip, think to yourself: Who do I know, and where do they live? When asking a loved one if you can come to stay with them for a short visit, just be prepared to take “No” for an answer. Living in a coastal destination town myself, I find my house to be a draw for guests, which I love – I’m a hostess at heart and love to entertain. However, there’s been times when the requests to visit came almost weekly, and we had to start declining at times simply due to a lack of time to host friends constantly. So please don’t take it personally if a friend can’t accommodate you this time around!
2. Stay in a hostel
If you want to travel to an area where you don’t know anyone, a hostel is your next bet for cheap accommodation. When I was visiting France for the second time, I spent most of my time in Poitiers staying with a friend who was studying there, then headed to Paris for a few days to explore on my own before catching my flight home. Staying in a shared dorm room with strangers is the norm at hostels, but I didn’t think this was a safe option for me personally, so I sprang for a single room with a lock, which are also available at many hostels. This allowed me the security I needed in a good central location, without shelling out a ton for a hotel – I believe the room ran around 28 euros a night. I know prices have risen since my hostel stay in 2005, but they are still going to be your cheapest bet as far as accommodations go. Hostels.com is still around after all these years, and is the site where I located my Paris hostel.
3. Book during the off-season
This is a tired old tip that I’ve seen many times, but it bears repeating for anyone booking their first big vacation. Consider where you are going and what your motivation is: For me, when I book a flight back to England, I just want to be “Home” for a while and see my family – I’m not there to sightsee. Because of this, I often fly back in November, when the weather is absolutely terrible and most people wouldn’t want to go! 😉 The more flexible you can be with dates, the better, so it’s helpful to book far enough in advance that you can plan around cheaper fly-out days.
4. Eat cheap
I’ve eaten at McDonald’s all over the world – how cultured of me, I know! Fast food restaurants offer reliably cheap food, along with a place to sit down and use the restroom, which can be a premium when you’re spending the day walking all over a new city. I actually have fond memories of eating at the “Golden arches” on the Champs-Élysées, so it can be part of the experience with the right attitude. I know my 21-year-old self certainly couldn’t have afforded the trip if she’d been eating at the finest French restaurants – or my 30-year-old self, for that matter! If you have special dietary considerations, this may rule out most fast food joints, so in this instance you might want to turn your attention to local supermarkets. During my Poitiers stay, my friend and I had a wonderful picnic in the park by snagging items from the local farmer’s market and eating fresh cheeses, tomatoes, and French bread on the grass. Even if it’s just a makeshift sandwich eaten on a bus shelter bench, it can still save you money; packing snacks may even be a wise idea if you have very specific dietary needs.
5. Bring your sense of adventure
This final tip is one of the most important for making the most of your trip. Expect the unexpected when you’re traveling cheap – from dingy hostels with broken showers to eating a cheap hot dog in a baguette by the Eiffel Tower, my trip to Paris was full of the absurd. Personally, I find that these experiences created memories that I still look back on and laugh. I’m actually quite uptight about both cleanliness and organization, so I can certainly get stressed out at times while traveling, but at the same time I am open to the adventures that traveling this way brings, as I feel my self-directed travels lead me to moments and sights I could not have seen on a tourbus. Be prepared to roll with the punches and find humor in the imperfect! Now it’s your turn: What tips do you have for cutting down travel expenses?