Updated: Jan 8
Perusing through Pinterest as one does looking to excite your travel senses and you see “The Ultimate Guide to Travelling Europe for under $350”. Since you’re having sleep for dinner tonight but love to travel, your interest is certainly peaked. You eagerly click on the article, hungry for dinner but also hungry for the secrets buried inside this seemingly scrumptious article.
*Fun picture of a girl travelling, hair breezing in the wind.*
“… sleep on the street from 11:01 pm till 8:59 am. Wake up refreshed. Next, starve yourself from 9 am-11 pm. While not eating, drag your weak corpse to the sites on the map that you magically found. Instead of paying the fees to enter, peak through the metal bars of the surrounding gate 100 meters outside the monument and marvel from a distance. Use your awkward high school flirting techniques when scrambling to put your camera away as a security guard glances your way…”
*Picture of a girl having the time of her life looking fresh.*
Wow thanks for that, Tips Magee, why not tell me something useful like don’t eat apple sauce while drinking milk because it tastes like monkey ass. Please. As IF that girl is sleeping on the street and that isn’t even advice. It is rubbish. Now I don’t promise you can travel the world for under 350 dollars, heck, a plane ticket alone would cost more than that but I can promise you don’t have to scrounge for wild berries in a residential dog park to sustain yourself while travelling.
TIP: If you do find yourself foraging for berries: eat the fruit higher up since often animals pee on the lower, bottom bushes.
Here is some actual advice/ common sense statements so there is no reason to continue reading.
Travel can be as cheap as you want to make it. If you have no choice but to sleep on your friend’s floor, hitchhike and only eat day old bread from the supermarket then that’s what you have to do.
TIP: Often in the evening the bread of the day in bakeries and supermarkets goes on sale and that is when you should purchase it.
In fact, if you genuinely have a passion for travel, you will do that. And I have. I have slept in a run down car for a month. I have eaten PB & J sandwiches every day, for every meal, for weeks. I have gone without “proper” showering (ocean water is where it’s at but please don’t ruin the environment with shampoos and soap, just let the saltwater work its magic) or not doing laundry for longer than I wish to disclose (6 days). And you know what? It is so worth it. The sites I saw, the people I met were unreal. Sure I wish I spent the 10 pounds on that Edinburgh dungeon photo since the lighting was too dark to take a decent photo of the actual photo on the screen. And sure, having a proper meal would have been lovely but I spent money on the things I wanted to. I’d rather snorkel the Great Barrier Reef than dine at a fancy restaurant with small portions every other day. I do have tips on how to be frugal which I encourage you to check out but if you are the type of person who can only stay in a five-star hotel then unfortunately it is impossible for you to travel cheaply. I am going to be slapping you with some more cold hard truths so stop your crying.
Leading up to your next trip, if all your efforts go into saving for travelling you can save more than you think. For example, when you’re at a pub with your friends you opt to drink free water instead of a beer or you go to the library instead of buying a book. I also wrote about some free things to do to pass the time until your next adventure.
In the end, any travel budget you can find online isn’t a good estimate since you have no idea what type of traveler they were. Whether it was high or low season, what exchange rates were at the time, interests, and spending habits of the person all need to be taken into account. Hiking on free trails and camping is obviously cheaper than going into every “museum” in a city. So it is cheaper to be fit than an alcoholic. GASP
I spent around $3000.00 Canadian inclusive of my flight to Greece from Vancouver for a month in the high season in 2007. I know people who have spent 3 times that. Our dollar was a bit weak compared to the Euro. Alcoholic is such a strong word so I won’t use it. But at the time drinking was my forte. We didn’t go to any sites because we didn’t know they existed and we shared one meal at a restaurant the one time we went and ate chips (crisps) for lunch. But boy did we have fun!
I managed to spend only 7000 Canadian dollars in 6 months in Australia and Indonesia. At the time in 2011, the Australian dollar was sort of strong so I didn’t get as much bang for my buck. For reference, I have heard that normally people would spend more than $15 000 for the same travels. I snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef twice, went to Fraser Island, Magnetic Island, and Moreton Island. I did a sailing trip around the Whitsundays. I rented a car and travelled around Tasmania and spent almost 2 weeks in Indonesia. I just impressed myself. Did I use beach showers as my own personal shower? Yes. Did I eat bland meals and accidently become sort of vegetarian since meat was expensive? Absolutely. Did we park in sketchy truck stops to sleep? You bet we did! It is possible to travel on a little amount. Anything is possible if you are cheap enough. Now that is a lesson to teach your children.
TIP: Children are expensive and can hinder travelling so if you want to save money don’t have kids.
For flights, I know people who have done that credit card thing where they sign up for a paid Visa or American Express card but then they earn air miles for next to nothing (1 point for every 1 dollar spent). They often give you bonus miles for signing up which is normally in the thousands. The reality of it is you need to spend a certain amount on the credit card or keep an “active” card for months before they will even release the points to you. So yeah, the 200 dollar a year card will earn you enough points for a 1200 dollar flight to London but be aware you need to spend 3000 dollars on the card within a certain amount of months before the points will surface. So if you are going to spend 3000 anyway then it may be worth it.
I have read blogs upon blogs that specify when you should book your flights such as Monday between 2:01 pm and 2:13 pm and I have come to the conclusion that it is BS. I used to work for an airline and they said a computer calculates the prices using these crazy smart algorithms and updates them every few minutes even if it is only by a few cents. The only consensus I can find is that low season will have cheaper flights than high season and that you should clear your cookies or book using an incognito browser. Apparently, if you frequently check the same flights, the internet knows and will charge you more. That last one may not be a thing but I believe it so it must be true. I usually book roughly 3 months in advance for long-haul flights (North America to Europe etc.). That being said, I have a rule where once I book it, I won’t ever look at the current prices because that would be torture so I’ve never actually measured if the prices fluctuated a significant amount. Booking one-way flights don’t really save you money. Normally, they are about half of what you would spend on a return flight. In some cases, you can get a free stopover with your cheap flight so keep that in mind. You may be able to travel to another country for less. I always book with Skyscanner. If you are not picky where you go, such as if you are backpacking through Europe, use the Everywhere feature on Skyscanner when typing in the destination field since it lists the countries by price. Within Europe, with low-cost carriers, you can find deals a few weeks before leaving, even in the summer. We booked our Venice flights for about 70 each roughly 3 weeks before leaving. Obviously, Ryanair flies into the lower- taxed, middle of nowhere airports.
TIP: Always check to see how easy it is to get to the main city/ your final destination along with the price of transport since you can spend 40 on a flight only to get waxed by the cost of transport.
If you arrive late at night, a taxi may be your only option. Also, keep in mind some low-cost carriers in Europe may charge you if you have not physically printed off your boarding pass. So if you don’t have printer access, you may find yourself paying an extra 15 dollars at the airport per ticket.
For accommodation, your current monthly rent may be cheaper than what you will pay abroad in Western Europe and Australia, unless you are living in one of the most expensive cities in the world like I am. Obviously, if you’re going to South East Asia this may not be the case since you can find luxury places for $10 a night for two people. You can give up your current rental situation which will save you money but if you’re only travelling for a month it may not be worth it since you would have to find a place to put your stuff etc. Western European hostels nowadays can be about 20 euros and up a night. If you are doing Interail, there are some very uncomfortable overnight trains. I did one from Amsterdam to Dresden and then from Dresden to Vienna and then back to Amsterdam all in 3 days, never having to pay for a night to sleep (you can read this tale here). I could have paid more for a sleeper chair but to me, that defeated the purpose of saving money on not having to pay for a hostel room. I used to book on hostelworld.com but a hostel owner informed me that if you book directly through the accommodation’s website you can save a bit of money since hostelworld takes a percentage fee. Hostels are more social but if you are travelling with a group and don’t want to talk to other people, you can rent an entire apartment which can be cheaper on the per person value. If you Couch Surf or stay with friends then it’s a different story. A more exciting, cheaper story. That is how I saved so much in Australia. I stayed with extended family and distant acquaintances. I then rented a single room with a double bed that my friend and I shared for a month snuggled up close. Then I slept in a car. I did stay in a hostel for a few nights here and there but they were like 28 Dollarydoos a night or more. It is about damn time that they started a petition to change the name of Australian currency to that and you can sign that here.
For monuments, remember not all of them are worth going into. You will save heaps if you choose not to enter the 3rd castle of your trip. London Eye is apparently not great. The Ice Bar in Amsterdam is the most un-Dutch thing I have ever not gone to. I’d rather sit in a Brown Café with a cider and bitterballen. So choose wisely. Get recommendations from locals or people that know a lot about good things. Free walking tours are a good value. They aren’t exactly free since you are supposed to tip them. Some people give about 10 euros so depending on how strong you are at not giving in to death stares you can give less.
TIP: Don’t be a complete dick.
Even during the summer, sometimes museums will have free entry if it is, say, National Monument Day in Athens and I have heard in Italy the last Sunday of the month certain museums are free. National museums in London have free entrance. In Cordoba, the Mezquita offers free entry before it is open to the public from 8:30-9:30 am apart from Sundays. A security guard will usher everyone out before it opens at 10:00 am. So if you wake up early you may find yourself getting free shit in Europe. Check Groupons or pre-booking discounts online as well. You can save 10-20% on bike rentals in San Fran if you book early.
As I said, all of this stuff isn’t advice but more reiterating the obvious so I apologize for getting your hopes up.