When I travelled around USA, Canada (Toronto and Montreal), Mexico and Europe earlier this year, I kept a very strict record of all my expenses. I was travelling on a budget as I’d spent the majority of my savings in Canada (all those ski trips and parties emptied my bank account) so my budget at each leg of my trip was around $AUD1000-2000 (for a minimum of 2 weeks).
To be honest, it took a lot of self-control and sacrifice to ensure my expenses were kept within my budget range. Occasionally I wanted to splurge on a succulent meal or purchase a souvenir but in the end, I was glad I managed to suppress my impulsive buying habit.
These are some money saving tricks I adopted while travelling:
1.Be flexible about your accommodation
I know a lot of people are very inflexible or uncompromising with their accommodation; some of my friends need a nice and comfortable bed to sleep in at night, especially if they’re driving the very next day. And that is completely fine. But what saved me a lot of money was not being overly picky about where I slept. Whether it was in Canada, USA or Europe, I was content to sleep in the cheapest hostel and share a room with 5 strangers or if my plane landed at night, I would stay overnight in the airport. In the states, my friends and I camped out in the National Parks for several days and this allowed us to save up and splurge a little in Vegas.
2. Take public transport/Walk
So I know when I go back to China (or anywhere really) with my parents, we would always take a cab to get from A to B. Cabs are generally extremely expensive, and ubers aren’t that much cheaper either, especially when you want to go to the airport or train station. At every destination in Europe, my friend and I took public transport to the airport/main train station and i’m not going to lie, that was tiring as hell. I had two massive backpacks that weighed a tonne and it would’ve been so much more convenient for me to grab a cab but I sucked it up and took public transport (even if it meant I had to run for the train or change trains a billion times.) Also, when touring around the city, I preferred to walk. Even if I ended up walking more than 20km a day, it was definitely worth my time and effort!
3. Don’t impulse buy plane tickets
This my friends, is one of the most annoying things about travelling for me. If I’m planning to go somewhere, I would HOURS researching and comparing different flight prices then decide it was still too expensive and come back the next day. I remember spending a whole week monitoring flight fares from Prague to London and then finally buying the cheapest ticket that I found! Also, be sure to keep updated on sales, discounts (e.g when you download the site’s app, you may be eligible for up to 15% off).
4. Save on foooooooood!
I know we go to different countries to try their authentic cuisine but there are definitely ways to save on food! In the States, the 5 of us would go grocery shopping and cook or make sandwiches for lunch/dinner. Breakfast was either included at the hostel/motel we stayed at or we would find somewhere to grab a quick bite before setting off to our next destination. In Canada, my friend and I cooked very healthy meals for breakfast and dinner every day but would eat out at local cafes for lunch. We would grab brunch maybe once or twice a week but that was it. In Europe, my friend and I splurged once in every country at an authentic diner, but would spend significantly less for lunch and dinner on the other days. Breakfast was once again included in the AirBnB or hostel!
5. Always have cash & DON’T EXCHANGE MONEY AT THE AIRPORT.
I wasted almost 30 Euros in Milan. I had around US$100 on me but no euros as I never got the chance to exchange any in the US/Canada. For some reason on that particular day, the credit card machines weren’t working and since I didn’t have any cash, I couldn’t purchase a train ticket to get to my hostel. I then exchanged money at the airport and had to sign a paper that indicated a significant portion of my exchanged amount would essentially be eaten up as commission. I was so annoyed but obviously couldn’t do anything about it. So moral of the story: ALWAYS HAVE CASH ON YOU.
Obviously there were other things I sacrificed in order to spend within my budget, but these were the main tricks I used!