One of the privileges of living in this day and age is that almost anyone can travel to almost anywhere in the world in a matter of hours. No longer is it a privilege reserved for the rich and famous as airlines continue lowering their prices to maintain their competitive edge. Nonetheless travelling can often be highly stressful as we are making a leap out of our comfort zones and into the unknown. Questions race through our mind. Will anyone there understand me? Have I planned enough? Can I afford it?
This article shall go over some of the main things you should and should not do if you intend to travel on a budget. This list is not meant to be definitive, but rather to outline some basic steps that one can take to make their budget travel as stress free as possible. We shall be focusing mainly within the context of international travel, though many of these tips could readily apply to shorter day trips.
Do plan a daily budget.
This one is simple really, yet it is amazing how many people don’t do it. For me, the easiest way to plan a daily budget is to first ask how much you are planning to spend overall. From this deduct the transportation costs and accommodation (more on this later). Then divide what is left by the number of days you are planning on going away.
For example, lets say I was going to London for 10 days. I planned to do it with £2500 overall. My airfare costs £600, while my accommodation will cost £120 per night (London isn’t cheap). So for nine nights my accommodation equals £1080. Therefore airfare plus accommodation equals £1680. Take that away from the overall budget of £2500 and we are left with £820. Simply divide that by 10(the number of days I am in London) and you have £82 as your daily budget. For a single person this is substantial. For two or more people the same rule applies if you are budgeting together, except you need to allow for roughly twice as much for your daily budget, not to mention your other expenses will be roughly twice as high.
Do keep track of your daily spending.
So you have a daily budget. Well a budget is absolutely useless if you don’t apply it. Simply take a notebook and pen with you wherever you go and write down every expense that you incur, no matter how small. The fact that while you are travelling, you will often use a credit card or cash, means that your spending can quickly get away on you. By recording your spending by hand you can easily avoid this. It will soon become a habit so do not go anywhere without your notebook.
Another excellent thing about such a recording system is you can carry what you don’t spend onto later days. Say for example, on my first day in London I am £36 under my budget. Then with nine days left it means I have an extra £4 a day (£36/9 days = £4). On the other hand, if I go £36 over budget on the first day, I can work out that I will have £4 less a day.
Do book all your accommodation well in advance.
This one ties into the budget once again, however there are even more practical reasons to this. Once you get to your destination, as a budget traveler the last thing you want is to run around trying to find vacant accommodation that fits your budget requirements. By booking in advance online, not only can you guarantee a place to stay upon your arrival, you can also research, find and book accommodation that suits your needs and requirements.
Do book all your major trips in advance.
By major trips I mean any intercity trips by aircraft, train, bus or boat. Basically any trip that isn’t part of your destinations regional transport system. By booking in advance you can add the expenses to your transportation costs, as such large single expenses would quickly exceed your daily budget. The fact remains that buying tickets at a ticket stand may be cheaper. However, take note of the word “may” as they are often not. When travelling on a budget, you cannot afford such a gamble. Therefore get these costs dealt with as soon as possible so you know what you are getting in to.
Do research your destination.
There are many websites on the internet, where you can get information about your destination. Things that you may want to research include, what are cheap attractions, top attractions, good affordable restaurants, tourist traps, and local scams. Take special note of the last one as many major cities have running scams that, by knowing about in advance, you can easily avoid. For example, Paris has an issue with Roma asking for handouts, then snatching your wallet or camera while you are looking for change to give them.
Do not necessarily go for the cheapest option.
This ties into research. Sometimes it is better to spend that extra £20 on accommodation, when the alternative is a rat infested hell hole. Look around online for reviews of the accommodation you are considering staying at. A single exceptionally atrocious hotel is enough to put a major dent in your holiday enjoyment. Of course, don’t expect 5-star hotels on a budget either.
Do not EVER avoid getting travel insurance to save money.
As was mentioned at the start of this article, when overseas you are a lot more isolated than you would be at home. Likewise, if something does go wrong, if you do not have travel insurance nobody will be there to help you. Your embassy will not fly you home free of charge if you are ill and miss your flight. At the very most your embassy, assuming there is one, will offer advice and allow you to call home. If you cannot afford travel insurance you cannot afford to travel. It’s as simple as that.
Overall plan, plan and plan some more, and have fun while you are there.