The fact that I’m writing this doesn’t mean I went through all these efforts (this time round). It’s safe to say that my post-yachting-season-bank-balance has allowed me to live relatively well throughout my time in Spain. However, I am aware that saving when you have a lot of money is easier than doing so when you have a little. So my approach has not been an ideal one in terms of making my yacht-money go far. Let’s just say I’ve been treating myself after a summer of doing something I wasn’t loving.
It’s not always as easy as following a set of guidelines on ‘how to keep your travel costs down’. There are always factors that will influence the amount of money you spend. Even if you’ve done all your forward planning. If you’re super strict on yourself and don’t allow other people to affect your decisions, you might end up spending the daily amount you’ve limited yourself to. But then you could be missing out on a lot. So how do you achieve the ‘win-win’ situation where you’re spending a reasonable amount and not missing out on all the fun?
Staying at a hostel is one of your cheaper accommodation options when travelling. But since the hostel life can tend to revolve around meeting new people and socialising, you often find yourself spending more money than you otherwise would if you were, say, a loner and not keen on mingling. Going out for coffee, heading to pubs and clubs, hitting up the sights and doing all kinds of activities together will eventually take its toll on your wallet.
There’s no point in trying to avoid these hidden costs altogether because it will mean avoiding the making of great memories. Just try to pick and choose your indulgences rather than joining everyone and doing everything. This is if you’re attempting to make your money go far. If you’ve had two pricey days in a row, take a break and lay low for a while. Do things by yourself that are free or cost very little.
The next point is somewhat related. It’s very important if you’d like your money to stretch further that you don’t eat in restaurants all the time. It may not seem like it at the time but spending money on a meal in a restaurant even once a day is way more expensive than cooking something for yourself (and possibly others- always a cheap option). Unless you’re in India where you might feel like and actually might be a millionaire.
Think twice before booking transport between places. Maybe there’s a cheaper option- shop around. Sometimes a bus or train ride might not cost you that much less than a flight. This is the case around Western Europe a lot of the time. Saving time AND money- score! Booking transport (and accommodation) in advance almost always saves you money too.
Even cheaper options and something that can be an absolute life saver in places like Europe where you might (and probably will) get sick of spending so much money on long haul journeys, are car-shares. Blablacar.com is an absolute winner for this. I have touched on it in a previous post but for those who are still in the dark…. Type in your city of departure and desired destination. A list of lift offers will appear from people already doing that trip in their own car. You then contribute the amount sited to join them on their journey. This can more than halve your travel costs (and force you into a conversation with someone potentially awesome or influential).
I think it goes without saying that when you cross the border and leave your home country you’ve GOT TO turn off your mobile data. That is unless you’re a fan of spending exorbitant amounts of money on surfing the internet. (Or even just checking the odd email or Facebook message. You’ll be surprised just how much it will cost you). Just do it ok. This is not a fun mistake to learn from. You’re better off buying a sim card in your destination country, with which you can most likely buy credit with mobile data or even just mobile data.
Try your best to avoid changing currencies at airports or ferry terminals. You won’t get a very good exchange rate, i.e. you’ll be losing more than you otherwise would (if you’re like me and are often changing the weak South African Rand for a stronger currency like the Euro). These places feed off last minute money exchangers.
Having to stick to a budget is not always a bad thing– it can be a blessing in disguise. Often it will force you out of the more expensive touristy areas and into parts of the country or city that is way more authentic. Couch Surfing is a prime example. By saving on a couple night’s accommodation you are also getting a completely unique view on the town or area you are in.